I have just returned from a visit to the Gettysburg battlefield, a journey that will be the subject of a number of posts over the coming weeks and months. While there I had the opportunity to stay in the wonderful Doubleday Inn, which is located on Oak Ridge, part of the first day’s battlefield. The hospitality of Christine, Todd and Cooper while we were there helped to make a memorable few days even better. Each morning I looked from the door of the inn at the monument and flank markers of the 94th New York Infantry, situated directly across the road, and each morning I took the opportunity to spend a few moments there. I wondered about the experiences of the Irishmen in that unit, who went through the horrors of battle only yards from where I now slept. In this post, I tell part of the stories of two of them, who more than 150 years ago experienced Oak Ridge at its worst.

The Doubleday Inn on Doubleday Avenue, Oak Ridge, Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

The Doubleday Inn on Doubleday Avenue, Oak Ridge, Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

James Dolan was almost 40-years-old by the time of the Battle of Gettysburg. He had enlisted from Rochester’s Fifth Ward in December 1861, becoming a private in the 105th New York Infantry. The iron moulder had married fellow Irish-emigrant Mary Sullivan in Rochester on 9th October 1842; in 1860 they lived with their 17-year-old son Michael, a gas-fitter, 13-year-old Julia, 10 year-old Eliza and 4-year-old James at 40 Hand Street. They were not well enough-off that Mary did not have to supplement the household income, and she worked as a seamstress. James had seen some hard-fighting with the 105th in the early part of the war, and in March 1863 he and his remaining Rochester comrades were consolidated into five companies and transferred to the 94th New York. It was as a soldier in Company G of that regiment that he marched onto Oak Ridge on 1st July 1863. There is little doubt that he should never have been there. Just prior to the commencement of the Gettysburg Campaign, James was suffering severely from diarrhoea and ‘camp fever’ at the regimental camp in Aquia Creek, Virginia. Although he appeared to recover, the arduous march in pursuit of Lee’s Army in June caused a major relapse of his illness. On the 29th June, as the regiment arrived in Emmitsburg, Maryland from Frederick, James’s Captain ordered the Irishman into an ambulance and told him to report to the regimental surgeon, David Chamberlain. Chamberlain was fatalistic about what he saw. In his analysis, James’s ‘constitution was broken and he was hopelessly used up by reason of his exposure and service.’ Not only that, but in his assessment Chamberlain ‘did not expect he [Dolan] would live but a few hours and was much surprised the next day [30th June] to see him alive.’ By any measure, James Dolan should not have been in the ranks at Oak Ridge. Indeed, his very presence there was in defiance of the odds, with his own regimental surgeon considering him to be at death’s door. But James Dolan does not appear to have been the type of man to let his comrades down, particularly when he knew a fight was coming. (1)

The 94th New York Infantry Memorial, Oak Ridge, Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

The 94th New York Infantry Memorial, Oak Ridge, Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

Something of the measure of James Dolan can be gleaned from what his officers said about him. After Gettysburg, his Captain, John McMahon (a native of Co. Cork, later Colonel of the 188th New York and Brevet Brigadier-General), recalled how ‘Dolan refused to leave the ranks and kept on with the regiment.’ McMahon was among the captured at Gettysburg, but in his estimation Dolan ‘was as good a soldier as ever served.’ His First Lieutenant, Isaac Doolittle, felt that he ‘was as good a soldier as ever left the City of Rochester.’ His determination to join his regiment on the field of battle on 1st July 1863 certainly suggest he was a fine serviceman. What became of him? Private William F. Dart was with James on Oak Ridge:

…he received a gunshot in the hand at Gettysburg…[Dart]…was in the same front rank with…Dolan when he was so wounded and while assisting…Dolan to the rear… he was again shot through the right shoulder by the enemy..[Dart]…got him (with assistance) to the rear of the Cemetery at…Gettysburg where he left him…[and] rejoined his company…he did not see…Dolan again until the until the fourth…he was then in a barn near said Cemetery…Dolan with others of the wounded were sent to Philadelphia on the night of the fourth… (2)

James Dolan was admitted to Saterlee Military Hospital in Philadelphia on 5th July. He seemed to recover quickly from his injuries, and on the 15th July he applied for, and was granted, a five day furlough to go and see his family. He never made it. Within days his body was returned to the hospital, his cause of death unspecified. Presumably he had succumbed to a combination of his original illness and his Gettysburg wounds. On 20th July a telegram was sent to his brother informing him of the fateful news. (3)

The telegram sent to James Dolan's brother informing him of his death in Philadelphia (National Archives/Fold3)

The telegram sent to James Dolan’s brother informing him of his death in Philadelphia (National Archives/Fold3)

Another Irishman who marched onto Oak Ridge on 1st July was James Ratigan of Company E. In his case, we know precisely where in Ireland he was from. His parents Thomas Ratigan and Mary Kelly had married in Kilcormick, Co. Longford on 15th March 1821. Mary had died in Ireland in September 1839, and almost immediately afterwards Thomas emigrated to New York. Among those he had in tow was his infant son James. As was so often the case, Thomas Ratigan had not emigrated in isolation– he had gone to be with fellow immigrants from Co. Longford. They had settled in and around the town of Scriba, Oswego County, and it was there that Thomas started a new life, running a 20 acre farm. As the years passed, rheumatism impacted Thomas’s ability to work the land, and he increasingly relied on James to help him with it. That ended in February 1862, when 24-year-old James enlisted at Sackett’s Harbor. We know that the young man retained a strong interest in Ireland, as did many men in the 94th Infantry. Previous work I have carried out on those men who donated portions of their army wages to be sent to the relief of the poor in Ireland in 1863 (see here), only weeks before Gettysburg, identified a number of soldiers of the 94th New York, including James. The names, contributions and ultimate fates of those who contributed are available in Table 1 below. Aside from James, a number of other donors from the 94th were killed or wounded on the field at Gettysburg:

Allen, Thomas 94th New York $1.00 June 1864 (P.O.W.)
Ball, John 94th New York $1.00 Five Forks (K.I.A.)
Barry, John 94th New York $1.00
Bates, Jacob 94th New York $1.00
Boyce, Richard 94th New York $1.00
Boyne, Richard 94th New York $2.00 Five Forks (K.I.A.)
Brennan, Edward 94th New York $1.00 Deserted
Burns, James H. 94th New York $1.00
Calvin, John 94th New York $0.50 Disability
Canty, James 94th New York $1.00 Weldon Railroad (P.O.W.)
Carey, Calvin G. 94th New York $1.00 Gettysburg (W.)
Carroll, Peter 94th New York $1.00 Weldon Railroad (P.O.W.), Salisbury (D.D.)
Chamberlain, David C. 94th New York $2.00
Clemens, William 94th New York $0.50 Weldon Railroad (P.O.W.)
Congor, Edward 94th New York $0.50
Connors, Patrick 94th New York $1.00
Curtain, Jefferson 94th New York $2.00
Coyle, Patrick 94th New York $2.00 Petersburg (W.)
Croaker, Albert 94th New York $2.00 Weldon Railroad (P.O.W.)
Creelie, Thomas 94th New York $1.00
Delaney, Michael 94th New York $1.00
Donohue, Michael 94th New York $1.00
Donovan, William 94th New York $2.00 Deserted
Fitzgerald, John R. 94th New York $5.00 Weldon Railroad (P.O.W.), Point Lookout (D.)
French, George 94th New York $5.00 1864 (P.O.W.), Five Forks (K.I.A.)
Friend, A 94th New York $1.00
Galvin, Michael 94th New York $1.00 Weldon Railroad (P.O.W.)
Graham, Owen 94th New York $1.00
Haggerty, John 94th New York $1.00
Hayes, E. 94th New York $1.00
Heary, Matthew 94th New York $1.00
Hickey, M. 94th New York $5.00
Howell, John 94th New York $1.00
Jacobs, Michael 94th New York $1.00 Deserted
Johnson, John 94th New York $3.00 Court-martialled
Kerns, James 94th New York $2.00
King, John 94th New York $2.00
Kinsella, William 94th New York $1.00 Gettysburg (W.)
Mackey, Alexander 94th New York $1.00 Deserted
Mangan, James 94th New York $1.00
Mapey, William 94th New York $1.00
McArdle, James 94th New York $1.00 Weldon Railroad (P.O.W.)
McCullagh, P. 94th New York $1.00
McDonald, Robert 94th New York $1.00 Weldon Railroad (P.O.W.)
McGlinn, Francis 94th New York $1.00
McGuire, John 94th New York $1.00
McKee, Robert 94th New York $1.00 Deserted
McKendry, William 94th New York $2.00 Gettysburg (K.I.A.)
McKenna, Charles 94th New York $2.00 Gettysburg (W.)
McLarney, John 94th New York $1.00 June 1864 (W.)
McMahon, John 94th New York $10.00 Gettysburg (P.O.W.)
McMaster, Charles 94th New York $1.00 Petersburg (W.)
McMackin, James 94th New York $1.00
McQuickin, H. 94th New York $1.00
Mulligan, Patrick 94th New York $1.00 Deserted
Nichols, Alexander 94th New York $0.50
O’Donnell, John 94th New York $1.00
O’Donoghue, Florence 94th New York $1.00
Pringle, George 94th New York $1.00
Rattigan, James 94th New York $1.00 Gettysburg (K.I.A.)
Rogers, J.H. 94th New York $1.00
Rooney, James 94th New York $1.00
Sard, Thomas P. 94th New York $1.00
Slattery, Michael 94th New York $2.00 Weldon Railroad (W.), Disability
Sullivan, John 94th New York $1.00
Sullivan, Patrick 94th New York $2.00
Sunman, Thomas 94th New York $1.00
Taylor, Steadman 94th New York $1.00
Thrasher, George 94th New York $1.00 Deserted
Turim, Daniel 94th New York $1.00
Whalen, Daniel 94th New York $1.00
Winn, Patrick 94th New York $1.00

Table 1. 94th New York donors in 1863 for the Relief of the Poor of Ireland (Damian Shiels) (4)

Looking south along Doubleday Avenue on Oak Ridge and the memorials that mark the First Corps line. The 94th NEw York memorial is located just before the woods (Damian Shiels)

Looking south along Doubleday Avenue on Oak Ridge and the memorials that mark the First Corps line. The 94th New York memorial is located just before the woods (Damian Shiels)

No details survive as to how James Ratigan met his death at Gettysburg, but it likely occurred not far from the regimental memorial on Oak Ridge. Unsurprisingly, his loss left his father in dire straights. He turned to the community of Longford emigrants in Oswego to help him secure his pension; people like Michael Connor, who testified in 1870 that he had lived in Scriba for 34 years and had known both Thomas Ratigan and his wife Mary in Longford, and Elizabeth Fineran, who in 1868 related that she had lived in Oswego County for 30 years but had known the Ratigans for 40 years, having emigrated from Longford two years before them, in 1838. By so doing they revealed the Ratigan’s reasons for selecting Oswego County as their new home, a decision which ultimately led James to Oak Ridge on 1 July 1863, some 23-years after his departure from Ireland. (5)

Both James Dolan’s wife and James Ratigan’s father received Federal pensions based on their service, from which much of the above detail has been gleaned. They demonstrate the impacts on just two Irishmen and their families of the fighting on Oak Ridge- just two experiences among the hundreds that affected Irish emigrants in the fields of Gettysburg, spread through innumerable units. They are a further example to us that if we want to fully explore the Irish experience resulting from engagements like Gettysburg, then we must look beyond just ethnic Irish units such as the Irish Brigade and the 69th Pennsylvania, and seek to uncover the stories of the majority- those who did not march into history beneath a green banner. (6)

The official New York Roll of Honor records the names of fifteen men of the 94th New York Infantry who died as a result of the fighting at Gettysburg. Aside from James Dolan and James Ratigan, the names of a number of others suggest they were Irish-American. The full list is as follows:

Company A: Sergeant John Stratton

Company B: Private Albert E. Dickson

Company C: Sergeant Henry Saunders, Private William L. McIntyre

Company D: Private Michael Donohue, Private John Glaire Jr.

Company E: Private William McKendry, Private James Ratigan

Company F: Sergeant Lawrence Hennessy

Company G: Private James Dolan

Company H: Corporal James Cooney, Private William Bastian, Private Lemon T. Miner

Company K: Private Benzette Fuller, Private William H. Wydner (7)

At the 94th New York Memorial, the first memorial I visited at Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

At the 94th New York Memorial, erected in 1888- the first memorial I visited at the Gettysburg battlefield (Damian Shiels)

* None of my work on pensions would be possible without the exceptional effort currently taking place in the National Archives to digitize this material and make it available online via Fold3. A team from NARA supported by volunteers are consistently adding to this treasure trove of historical information. To learn more about their work you can watch a video by clicking here.

(1) James Dolan Pension File, 1860 Federal Census; (2) James Dolan Pension File; (3) Ibid. (4) Thomas Ratigan Pension File, Donors to the Irish Relief Fund; (5) Thomas Ratigan Pension File; (6) Ibid.; (7) New York Monuments Commission 1902: 223;

References & Further Reading

WC140100 Certificate of Thomas Ratigan, Dependent Father of James Ratigan, Company E, 94th New York Infantry.

WC143641 Certificate of Mary Dolan, Widow of James Dolan, Company G, 94th New York Infantry.

1860 United States Federal Census.

New York Monuments Commission 1902. Final Report on the Battlefield New York at Gettysburg, Volume 1.

Gettysburg National Military Park.

Civil War Trust Battle of Gettysburg Page.