Photographs of Wounded Irishmen from the American Civil War

The sometimes captivating, sometimes horrifying images of wounded soldiers taken in Washington D.C.’s  Harewood Hospital in 1865 have featured in a number of posts on this site (see Looking into the Face of a Dying Irish Soldier, One of Our Brave Men Twice Wounded: An Image of Corporal William Kelleher, 125th New York Infantry and Recruited Straight off the Boat? On the Trail of Emigrant Soldiers from the Ship Great Western). These are far from the only Irishmen to feature in this remarkable collection. I decided to take a look at another four images of New York Irishmen, to see what could be uncovered about their stories and injuries through an examination of their lives via a range of sources.

Surgeons and Hospital Stewards at Harewood Hospital, Washington D.C. (Library of Congress)

Surgeons and Hospital Stewards at Harewood Hospital, Washington D.C. (Library of Congress)

Thomas Barry (Berry)

Thomas was born in Ireland in 1842. He was a 22-year-old laborer when he decided to enlist, becoming a substitute for Thomas Davies. He joined up in Poughkeepsie, New York on 8th August 1864 and was described as 5 feet 8 inches in height, with blue eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. Serving as a private in Company E of the 61st New York Volunteer Infantry, he spent his service with the Army of the Potomac outside of Petersburg, Virginia. He was shot in the left hand during the Confederate attack on Fort Stedman on 25th March 1865, a wound which caused him to be admitted to Harewood General Hospital in Washington D.C. on 1st April, where the image below was exposed. The second metacarpal bone and one of his fingers had been amputated on the field (bilateral flap) prior to his arrival. On admission into the hospital he was described as being in a good constitutional state, and was reportedly doing well when he was transferred to the U.S.A. General Hospital in Philadelphia on 8th April 1865. Thomas filed for an invalid pension dated from 13th June 1865, which was granted. I have yet to locate a further record of him.

Thomas Barry (National Museum of Health & Medicine CP 0960)

Thomas Barry (National Museum of Health & Medicine CP 0960)

Martin Burke

Martin was from Co. Sligo and was a career-soldier, having enlisted in the 1st United States Infantry on 11th September 1858. He served with them in the Western Theater until his term of service expired on 11th September 1863. He was 27-years-old when he joined the 15th New York Heavy artillery only six days later, on 17th September. Mustering in as a Corporal in Company K, Martin was described as 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall, with blue eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion. He was promoted to Sergeant on 1st December 1863. On 25th June 1864 he was wounded in front of Petersburg, necessitating the amputation of his left arm at the upper third, a surgery which was performed at Lincoln Hospital in Washington. He had been in a good constitutional state when that operation had been performed, but an infection set into his arm which spread through his chest. His stump became gangrenous and there was a considerable amount of dead tissue shedding from it. A further operation saw the complete removal of the shaft at the shoulder joint on 29th March 1865. Still not out of the woods, the bone became necrotic nine months after the amputation and several abscesses formed on the stump. Martin was admitted to Harewood General Hospital on 13th September 1865 when this image was exposed. When the photograph was taken he was still in good health, but several fistulous openings which were discharging pus remained. He was being treated with disinfectant, astringtent lotions and the liberal use of internal iron. Martin sought and received an invalid pension on 4th January 1866. He was recorded as dying on 12th April 1900.

Martin Burke (National Museum of Health & Medicine CP1099)

Martin Burke (National Museum of Health & Medicine CP1099)

Timothy Deasey

Timothy was born in Cork on 13th April 1847. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census records him living with his family in Manheim, Herkimer County, New York. His 35-year-old father John was a day-laborer, his mother Mary (née Tobin) was 38. Timothy was then recorded as 12-years-old; he had an older brother Owen (14), and younger siblings Thomas (9), John (5), Michael (3) and Ellen (2). As the youngest three children had all been born in New York, it suggests the family emigrated in the early 1850s. Timothy was recorded as a 17-year-old Carder when he enlisted in Little Falls, New York on 26th July 1862– he was clearly significantly younger than this. He was described as 5 feet 5 inches in height, with grey eyes, dark brown hair and a fair complexion. The Cork youth mustered in as a private in Company H of the 121st New York Infantry. He was confirmed as being present at battles such as Winchester, Fisher’s Hill and Cedar Creek. Timothy was injured in the action at Fort Stedman, Petersburg on 25th March 1865, receiving a gunshot wound to the hand which fractured his right carpus and meta-carpus. He was admitted to Harewood General Hospital in Washington on 2nd April 1865, having first been treated at City Point, Virginia. When this image was exposed he was suffering from severe inflammation of his wounds, causing great swelling of his arm and hand which gradually subsided. His treatment was supported by a simple dressing, and by the 26th May his wound was nearly healed, though he did have to live with a permanent deformity. Timothy filed an invalid pension claim which was granted dating from 14th August 1865 and seems to have returned to live in Herkimer County, where he is recorded on the 1890 Veterans Schedule. His widow would later claim a pension based on his service after his death, until her own passing in Little Falls on 1st February 1913.

Timothy Deasey (National Museum of Health & Medicine CP1001)

Timothy Deasey (National Museum of Health & Medicine CP1001)

John Devlin

John was a 22-year-old laborer when he enlisted in Albany on 19th September 1864. He had blue eyes, brown hair, a dark complexion and was 5 feet 6 inches in height. He became a private in Company I of the 91st New York Infantry and was admitted to Harewood General Hospital in Washington on 12th September 1865. His left thigh had been amputated in the middle-third following a shell wound. The operation had been performed on the field using Teale’s method (quadrilateral flaps) by an unknown surgeon and anesthetist. Shell fragments had also severely wounded him on the left nipple and fractured his thumb, index and middle finger of the left hand, causing them to also be amputated on the field– the thumb at the first phalanx and the middle finger at the metacarpo phalangeal articulation (by bilatoral flaps). The index finger had been considerably deformed by contraction of the muscle. When admitted John was in a very good constitutional state and his wound had entirely healed. He remarked that he had been in perfect health at the time of his wounding. He responded well to treatment, which consisted of simple dressings and a nourishing supporting diet. Shortly after this image was exposed he was to be fitted with an artificial limb and he was discharged from the service on 30th September 1865. John applied for an invalid pension on 11th October 1865 which was granted. He entered the Eastern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Veterans in Togus, Maine on 21st July 1869, and was discharged from there on 3rd January 1870. He applied for readmission on 9th December that year, but his refusal to comply with the conditions of the Board of Management meant he was discharged on 2nd April 1872. By 1890 he appears to have been living in Albany, and his widow subsequently received a pension based on his service.

John Devlin (National Museum of Health & Medicine CP1098)

John Devlin (National Museum of Health & Medicine CP1098)

References

Thomas Barry CP 0960 National Museum of Health and Medicine

Martin Burke CP 1099 National Museum of Health and Medicine

Timothy Deasey CP1001 National Museum of Health and Medicine

John Devlin CP1098 National Museum of Health and Medicine

U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938 [Ancestry, database on-line]. Original data: Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1749, 282 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Town Clerks´ Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, ca 1861-1865 [Ancestry, database on-line]. New York State Archives; Albany, New York; ; Collection Number: (N-Ar)13774; Box Number: 18; Roll Number: 11.

Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914 [Ancestry, database on-line]. (National Archives Microfilm Publication M233, 81 rolls); Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

1860 United States Federal Census [Ancestry, database on-line]. Original data: 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.

1890 Veterans Schedules [Ancestry, database on-line]. Original data: Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M123, 118 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900 [Ancestry, database on-line]. Original data: Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts of New York State Volunteers, United States Sharpshooters, and United States Colored Troops [ca. 1861-1900]. (microfilm, 1185 rolls).Albany, New York: New York State Archives.
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Categories: Battle of Fort Stedman, Battle of Petersburg, Photography

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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18 Comments on “Photographs of Wounded Irishmen from the American Civil War”

  1. January 4, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    All without proper anaesthetic.

    • January 19, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

      Hi Sharon,

      Absolutely, these hospitals would not have been pleasant places to be at the best of times, but certainly not after a major action.

  2. Will Hickox
    January 4, 2016 at 11:01 pm #

    Martin Burke joined the 15th New York Heavy Artillery, known as a “German” regiment. I wonder if men like him who served in units predominantly of a different ethnicity felt lonely or unwelcome.

    • January 19, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

      Hi Will,

      I hope all is well and thanks for the comment. That is a good point and one I often wonder about. The level of their ‘Irishness’ is of particular interest here- e.g. how much were they members of an ‘Irish’ community where they lived, and how much did they (or didn’t they) miss that in their service. Of course comradeship often transcends these types of issues, but one area where it might be more acute is in other ethnic formations like German units.

  3. January 4, 2016 at 11:31 pm #

    Would love to find photo of David Hogan, NY 5th Infantry Vet Volunteers.

    • January 19, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

      Hi Gloria,

      Hopefully a reader might be able to help– unfortunately identified photos like that can be so hard to find if they survive, but you never know!

  4. Margaret Flood
    January 5, 2016 at 1:18 am #

    Do u have any info on my great grandfather, Jeremiah Sullivan born March 16,1841 from County Kerry? He joined the Fighting 69th New York Regiment Company F In February 1865 and was wounded on April 2, 1865 in the left foot at Hatches Run in Petersburg, Virginia. He was sent to a hospital in Washinton DC and mustered out in June 1865. He received a pension and stayed in the National home for Veterans in Togus, Maine in 1890. He died in April 1896.

    • January 19, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

      Hi Margaret,

      You should order his pension file from NARA as they will have a lot of detail on him. He received an invalid pension on 24th August 1865 (Cert No. 129,592) and his widow received a pension from 2nd May 1896 (Jeremiah had died on 20th April). The Cert for that was 466,015. You can order these online for a reasonable fee and NARA will copy them for you- details on how to do so can be found here: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/pre-ww-1-records.html – if you do order these I would love to know what you find out!

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  5. John Murphy
    January 5, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    Important to know what these soldiers endured.

  6. January 5, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    Well-written article. Not a pleasant topic, but I’m glad these four soldiers survived.

    • January 19, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

      Thanks Sarah! And absolutely I agree with you there.

  7. Rhonda Kennedy
    January 6, 2016 at 5:54 am #

    regarding John Devlin CP1098 National Museum of Health and Medicine.
    Do you know where he was born?
    Thank you

  8. VirginiaB
    January 10, 2016 at 1:34 am #

    Thank you for reminding everyone of what so many endured. Think of those who died and the many who suffered from diseases contracted in the Civil War, ultimately dying from them. They are not counted in the casualties.

  9. January 12, 2016 at 8:20 am #

    Reblogged this on Lenora's Culture Center and Foray into History.

  10. February 8, 2016 at 6:06 pm #

    Great details of these men’s lives and thier treatment. The wounding & graphic images truly brings home their suffering.Thanks for this post, Damian.

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