Memorial Day: The Irish-American Dead of Cold Harbor National Cemetery

During my recent trip to the United States I visited a number of National Cemeteries, including Glendale, Fredericksburg, Antietam, Cold Harbor and Arlington. Many of the headstones in these cemeteries stand as testament to the extent of Irish and Irish-American involvement in the American Civil War. In each cemetery I photographed many graves where ‘Irish’ surnames were in evidence- a random sample based upon where I wandered. The numbers were staggering. Worse still these are only the small percentage lucky enough to be identified. Although we have largely forgotten these men in Ireland, thankfully they are well-remembered in the United States. To mark Memorial Day weekend in America, I am sharing the images from one of the smaller cemeteries- Cold Harbor. Behind every headstone lies a personal story- behind every cemetery an army of friends and relatives who mourned the loss of these men. Behind some is a tragic end to what many emigrants hoped would be a better life than the one they had left in Ireland.

I have not researched these men beyond their entries on Find A Grave, but if you have information on any of them please do share it in the comments section.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Memory

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

Follow Irish in the American Civil War

Follow Irish in the American Civil War via Social Media

11 Comments on “Memorial Day: The Irish-American Dead of Cold Harbor National Cemetery”

    May 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Nice post Damian. 

    US Grant wept after the battle known it was a horrible mistake to make the charges against the Confederate fortified positions. 

    The Confederate soldier defending their positions called it “Simply Murder.”

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

      Hi Joe,

      Many thanks for the comment. It really was a disaster at Cold Harbor, particularly for units like Corcoran’s Legion. 1864 saw slaughter on a massive scale.

      Kind Regards,


  2. Bob
    May 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Well done Sir.

  3. Thomas F. Meagher
    May 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    Damian: Thanks for this. Tom Meagher

    • June 1, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      Hi Tom,

      No problem at all, many thanks for reading!

      Kind Regards,


  4. Kathleen Craney
    June 3, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Thank you for this. I am interested in the grave of Lawrence McGrath as that was the last name of my Great Grandmother, from Ireland. I hope to find out if he was family. Glad to have this brought to my attention.

    • June 9, 2014 at 9:54 am #

      Hi Kathleen,

      I am glad you found it of use! I have no more detail on these men at present but it might be possible to find out more, have you access to ancestry and or/Fold 3?

      Kind Regards,


    • Brendan Hamilton
      May 30, 2017 at 1:41 am #

      Hi Kathleen– Lawrence McGrath (or Magrath) served in the 25th New York Infantry and was killed in the Battle of Hanover Court House on May 27th, 1862. The muster roll abstracts indicate he was about 23 years old when he enlisted in New York City on Sept. 4, 1861. His father William filed a pension application, indicating his son was a native of Fanningstown, Owning, County Kilkenny.

  5. John Murphy
    May 30, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

    A fitting tribute to our Irish ancestors. As I may have mentioned before I found the unmarked grave of a great grand uncle, Michael Glynn in Malden, Massachusetts. He left Ireland in the mid- 1850’s, fought in the Civil War and then lived until 1930. His grave was the only one without a stone in the GAR section. Through the help of the local Veterans Affairs office a stone was placed last Memorial Day. Can’t seem to attach a photo to this message but it is similar to those you posted.
    Tried to find any connections in Rye Hill, Galway on my visit last July to no avail.
    Thanks always for your posts.
    Your East Cork friend.

    • July 1, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

      Thanks John! You did a great job getting that stone placed, a credit to your ancestor!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: