In August 1861, tens of thousands of Irish immigrants took part in a “Monster Irish Festival” on Manhattan. Organised to benefit the widows and orphans of Irish men who had fallen at Bull Run, its scale and scope were considered by many to be unprecedented. In the new post, we explore why this event was organised, what acts performed there, what it was like to attend, and who it benefited. 

24 August 61 Jones Wood Ad

An advertisement dated 24th August 1861 to publicise the “Grand Monster Festival” to be held at Jones’ Wood (New York Irish-American)


The move to support the families of 90-day servicemen who answered President Lincoln’s call was in full swing by the end of April 1861. In New York, groups such as the Union Defence Committee were expected to assist the dependents of volunteers, but many units also received direct aid from among their communities. Hundreds of dollars had been subscribed for the families of 69th New York State Militia by the time April turned to May, and on the 9th of that month a formal committee was established at 599 Broadway to aid the Irishmen’s families. The story of the 69th’s Relief Fund will be the topic of a detailed post in the future, but the need for it was demonstrated by the following letter, printed in the New York Irish-American of 4th May 1861:

The 69th having responded to the call of duty with such commendable alacrity– now that they are “off to the wars,” would it not be well for those of their countrymen in New York to take some active measures to see about providing for the families of such of them as may require assistance, and I have no doubt there may be many of them, during their absence. One of the brave fellows called on the writer of this the day before their departure and said, “Captain, I’m going away tomorrow with the 69th, and there is seven of our old company, the “Guyons,” going in the same company.” “Well, God speed the boys,” said I; “and I’m sure ye will give a good account of yourselves.” “Yes, Captain, you may be sure we will do our duty.” After a pause he added, “Captain, my poor old mother is dependent on me: she is old and helpless; but then duty”– and here the poor fellow stopped and choking with emotion, rushed out to join his regiment. His name is John Broderick, formerly Orderly Sergeant of Co. D, Guyon Cadets, 9th Regiment Irish Volunteers– the best shot in the Company. Cannot a subscription list be opened to assist such as Broderick’s “poor old mother.” I will give $50 towards it.

Yours truly,

GUYON. (1)

The Return of the 69th New York, 1861 by Louis Lang. Thomas Madigan had been anticipating such a homecoming before Bull Run (New York Historical Society)

The Return of the 69th New York State Militia after the Battle of Bull Run, 1861, by Louis Lang. (New York Historical Society)


By the end of July, the 69th New York State Militia were back in New York, having endured heavy fighting at Bull Run. With the men discharged at the start of August, attention now turned to providing financial aid to the families of those who had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner during the battle. Included among their number was the mother of John Broderick, who had not survived the fighting of 21st July. With adequate development of the pension system still months away, committees such as the 69th Relief Fund aimed to do what they could. They were not alone. Among the others who sought to lend assistance was the Committee of the Convention of Irish Societies. The Committee, which met weekly, was composed of delegates from a wide range of interest groups such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish benevolent societies, abstinence societies, Irish militia companies, Irish worker’s protective unions and Catholic societies. They decided that they wanted to raise funds by organising a major Irish-themed excursion. The location they picked was a place called Jones’ Wood. (2)

Although Central Park had been established in 1857, it proved difficult to access for many on Manhattan. Roy Rosensweig and Elizabeth Blackmar in The Park and the People: A History of Central Park have noted that the park also discouraged activities that were popular among the city’s working-classes and immigrant groups. Their research indicates that in the early 1860s communities such as the Germans and Irish in New York were more likely to select Jones’ Wood for their events. Part of a private estate on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Jones’ Wood contained a commercial picnic ground that offered– among other attractions– a dance pavilion, bowling alleys, a billiard saloon and a shooting range. (3)

International Caledonian Games 1867

Jones’ Wood was popular among many immigrant groups, particularly the Germans. This image depicts the Scottish International Caledonian Games there in 1867 (Library of Congress)


The Committee of the Convention of Irish Societies held a number of meetings with officers of the 69th Militia before finalising their plans. The date for the excursion was set for Thursday 29th August 1861. The proprietor of Jones’ Wood agreed to provide the venue for free, donated $100 to the cause, and undertook to construct the necessary stages and platforms for the event. It was determined that the price of entry would be set at 25 cents. All that now remained was to secure some attractions. (4)

The majority of the line-up for the excursion– now being referred to as the”Grand Monster Festival” and “The 69th Regiment Festival”– was quickly confirmed. The star-attraction was to be none other than Thomas Francis Meagher, the great orator who had led Company K of the 69th at Bull Run, and who would soon march off to war once more at the head of the Irish Brigade. For the occasion, Meagher decided to take as his topic “The National Cause– Its Soldiers and Its Martyrs.” Another attraction was to be  “Bryant’s Minstrels”, a black-face minstrel troupe who were among the most famed exponents of that form of racist entertainment so popular in the mid-19th century. Included in their compliment was Thomas Dilward, an African-American dwarf who went by the stage name “Japanese Tom”, and who was one of only a handful of African-Americans performing with white minstrel groups at the time. For the occasion Bryant’s artists were not going to perform in black-face, but rather “drop their “sables” for the nonce, and face their audience under their proper and natural color.” Other entertainers were soon signed up. Music publisher John J. Daly agreed to set a patriotic chant to music, which would be sung by a choir on the day, while P.Q. Connell and his band would also perform. So too would John T. Bonnell and his company of singers, together with a new song they had written specially for the event, “A Call from Corcoran.” Yet another musical attraction came in the form of famed Irish piper Charles Ferguson, recently returned from a tour of Canada. (5)

John J Daly

“Long Live the Sixty-Ninth”, the music by John J. Daly for the Jones’ Wood Festival (Library of Congress)


When the day arrived, the Committee made sure that large numbers of people could attend, particularly those coming from New York and Brooklyn. Visitors could chose to travel by via the Second and Third Avenue railroads, or elect to journey by boat, some of which were specially chartered for the occasion. The steamer R.L. Mabey and the barge Cleveland had a busy day, picking up passengers at Fulton Street, Brooklyn at 9am and 12.30pm, at Gouverneur Street, New York at 9.30am and 1pm, from South Fifth Street, Williamsburg at 10am and 1.30pm, and from Eleventh Street, New York at 10.30am and 2pm. The vessels would bring everyone home from Jones’ Woods at 5pm and 8pm, with the cost for a return ticket 5 cents. For the same price would-be attendees could also choose the steamboat General Arthur, leaving from the Peck Slip, Manhattan at 10.30am, 1.30pm and again later in the afternoon (for those who just wanted to hear Meagher’s oration). It called at Gouverneur Street, Broome Street and the foot of East Tenth and East Twenty-Fourth Streets en-route, with passengers treated to a band which played aboard for the duration. (6)

The event proved wildly popular, with estimates placing the crowds who attended at anywhere between 30 and 60,000 people. The New York Times reckoned it “one of the largest gatherings of holiday folk…it has ever been our good fortune to witness” with the venue “crowded to an excess which can scarcely be described without apparent exaggeration.” Their reporter described the scene:

Every avenue leading to them was lined with human beings, and every inch of ground that could bear wheels was beaten by the hoofs of horses…From the point where the Third-avenue cars deposit their living freight to the portal where a plethoric Celt– borne down with pockets of silver and other current coin– demanded a quarter for admission, there was not only a stream of human beings, but a degree of animation which can only be compared with a European fair. He who made the run of that gauntlet passed through the fire of a class of traders who had a joke for every stranger. (7)

Bryant's Minstrels in 1865

Bryant’s Minstrels in 1865. This black-face troupe was run by the Irish-American O’Neill brothers, and were among the most popular of their type (Library of Congress)


The tradespeople were well aware of why the crowds had come, and sought every means to exploit their sympathies in an effort to turn a profit. The New York Times continued:

Everything edible or palatable was proffered with a delicate Hibernian reference to the gallant Sixty-ninth, and a hint that the exigencies of Bull Run demanded its immediate purchase. All the lager-bier was from the brewery of Bull Run; all the water-melons were from the nursery of Bull Run; all the ice-creams, weighing-machines, side shows, and cider barrels were from the same locality. The second word that you heard on each side was Bull Run. (8)

Once inside, competition for picnic space proved fierce, with the shady areas at a particular premium. Aside from the music and dancing on offer, visitors could also enjoy the delights of “Nixon’s mammoth equestrian booth”, or listen to oratory at one of the speaking stands scattered around. But there was no doubting the main attraction. Fully a quarter of the crowd were estimated to have thronged around the grand stand for Thomas Francis Meagher’s much anticipated contribution. His speech at Jones’ Wood (reproduced in full at the end of the post) was the first in a series he made to encourage Irish recruitment, most particularly in what would become the Irish Brigade. The crowd apparently loved what he had to say, with the Irish hero “applauded at the end of every sentence” and at the conclusion of his talk cheers were given for the “New 69th and Mr. Meagher.” According to some reports “the more respectable part of the gathering took its departure” after Meagher finished, but for most the festivities continued. They extended long into the night, and as the alcohol flowed, the event witnessed a number of fights, including some clashes with the police. But the majority were there to enjoy the occasion. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle observed the merriment:

There was dancing at various parts of the Wood, and so determined were the dancers to enjoy their favorite pastime, that innumerable parties footed it on the green sod encircled by clouds of dust to the music of wandering minstrels, performed on every possible variety of instrument. (9)

Thomas Dilward Japanse Tom

Thomas Dilward, known by his stage name “Japanese Tom” or “Japanese Tommy”, who performed at the Monster Irish Festival at Jones’ Wood in 1861 (Library of Congress)


When the event was over, its organisers were encouraged to pass on the monies raised to the 69th Relief Fund, but elected instead to dispense the finances themselves. On 1st November, the “Relief Committee of the Jones’ Wood Festival” assembled at the city arsenal on the corner of Elm and White streets to begin formal distribution (though some had already received aid). The money was earmarked for the families of the killed, wounded and missing, as well as those injured during the fighting. A number of officers of the regiment were on hand to make sure those who came could be vouched for, and a record book was kept by committee member John McGrath. Each applicant was asked a series of questions:

  • Name and residence?
  • How many have you in family?
  • What are the ages of your children?
  • To whom do you refer?
  • What relationship did the soldier bear to you?
  • Was he killed, or wounded, or is he a prisoner?

Once they had answered these questions to the satisfaction of those present, the applicant was presented with a cheque for the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, made out to a value deemed appropriate by the Committee. Between 10 am and 4pm a stream of people made their way to the arsenal, receiving a total of $380. (10)

The New-York Irish American Weekly published a transcript of John McGrath’s notes from this first distribution of the Jones’ Wood money, detailing the individuals who received it, their association to the soldier, and the amount they were given. That information forms the basis for the table produced below.

WidowMatilda, widow of John Dunphy, killed at Bull Run; one child, aged seven months$10
WidowAnn, widow of Hugh Reynolds, killed at Bull Run; one child, aged 3 1/3 years$5
WidowCatharine, widow of Patrick Lilly, killed at Bull Run; five children, aged, severally, 10, 8 1/2, 5, 4 and 3 years$10
WidowMary, widow of Patrick Keating, killed at Bull Run; three children– aged, severally, 5 and 3 years and 4 months$10
WidowRebecca Jane, widow of Charles Crosby, killed at Bull Run; one child, aged one year$5
WidowMary, widow of James Mullany, died in prison at Richmond; four children– aged severally, 6 1/2, 5, 3 and 1 1/2$30
WidowBridget, wife of Patrick Coffee, died in prison at Richmond; no children$5
WidowCatharine, widow of Cornelius O'Neill, killed at Bull Run; two children– aged 6 and 2 years; is enceinte [pregnant]. Directed to send to the Treasurer as soon as she was confined, and they would render her such assistance as she may need$10
WidowMary, widow of ––––– Jackson, Co. C, drowned at Annapolis; three children– aged 4 and 2 years and 2 months$10
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerAnn Doyle, husband a prisoner and leg amputated; has one child, aged two monthsNot specified
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerElizabeth Quinn. Husband a prisoner and wounded; has three children– aged, respectively, 7, 4 and 2 yearsNot specified
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerJulia Shortall. Husband a prisoner and wounded; has four children– aged, respectively, 15, 11, 9 and 6 years$10
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerAnn, wife of Color Sergeant John Murphy, prisoner; has three children– aged, respectively, 9, 7 and 2 years$10
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerMary Carr. Husband a prisoner; has three children, aged 9 and 5 years and 2 months$5
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerMary E. Reynolds. Husband a prisoner; no children$5
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerMary Blake. Husband a prisoner, has four children– aged 10, 8 and 6 years and 11 months$15
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerCatharine Shaughnessy. Husband wounded severely and a prisoner$10
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerMargaret Fitzgerald. Husband wounded and a prisoner; has five children– aged 10, 8, 6 and 3 years, and 10 days$30
Wife of Wounded/PrisonerBridget Herbert. Husband wounded and a prisoner; has one child 14 months old$10
Wounded and Sick SoldiersThomas McQuade, lost a leg, is unable to work, and is the chief support of an aged mother. Committee intended to consider the propriety of purchasing an artificial leg for him, estimated at $100.$10
Wounded and Sick SoldiersWilliam Casey, lost three toes; has a wife and two children aged 3 and 1 1/2 years$10
Wounded and Sick SoldiersMichael Kane, sick of disease contracted in Virginia; has a wife and one child, aged four$5
Wounded and Sick SoldiersHugh Fisher, lost a finger of right hand; has a wife and two children, aged 16 and 12 years.$10
Wounded and Sick SoldiersPatrick Dunphy, wounded in the left arm, has a wife, no children$10
Wounded and Sick SoldiersPatrick Reilly, wounded in right hand, which he cannot use– is single$10
Wounded and Sick SoldiersOwen McCarthy, wounded in right leg, supports his mother– is single$10
Wounded and Sick SoldiersJohn Sullivan, wounded in the foot, supports his father (83 years old) and aged mother$10
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsJohanna, mother of John Murphy, who died of his wounds in this city; has one child aged 17, and is disabled$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsElizabeth, mother of Edward Falls?, who was her chief support, he returned from Bull Run, but died here. This poor woman has four children– aged 18, 16, 14 and 13 years, who are all without work$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsMartin, Father of Martin Flynn, a prisoner at Richmond; is sickly, has a wife and three children– aged 14, 12, 10, 8 and 7 years$10
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsCatharine, mother of Jno. Mulrooney, wounded and a prisoner at Richmond; has five children– aged 14, 12, 10, 8 and 7 years$10
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsBridget, mother of Patrick Drennan, wounded and a prisoner, has three children27/09/2017 aged 13, 11 and 9 years$10
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsCatharine, mother of Jeremiah Peters, wounded and a prisoner; has a child aged 16 years$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsSarah, mother of Thomas Hughes, a prisoner– no family$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsBridget, mother of Charles King, a prisoner– no family$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsMary Quinlan (widow, with two children, aged 5 and 3 years), sister of Edward Dalton, who contributed to her support. Specified that as they were an extreme case they would be given $5, but there would be no future payments$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsCatharine, mother of John Nugent, aged 17, a prisoner; has three children, aged 21, 16 and 18$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsBridget, mother of Daniel Cassidy, a prisoner, has a daughter aged 18 years$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsBridget Meyers (has a sister and two children, aged 6 and 4 years), sister of Geo. M. Desney, who supported her, she being in delicate health. Specified that as they were an extreme case they would be given $5, but there would be no future payments$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsEllen, mother of Michael Coleman, wounded and a prisoner– no family$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsEllen, mother of John Broderick, who was killed at Bull Run– no family$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsMary, mother of Thomas Madigan, who died in hospital at Richmond, after amputation of his leg; has three children, aged 17, 14 and 9 years$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsPatrick, father of Jeremiah Costigan, a prisoner. This son was the sole support of his father and mother and two children, aged 14 and 13 years$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsCatharine, mother of John Hussey, a prisoner. Is a German and can speak no English; has two children, aged 14 and 13 years$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsJohn, father of James McGrath (who was the support of his parents), a prisoner at Richmond$5
Fathers/Mothers/Other RelationsRobert, father of Peter Murphy, wounded and a prisoner. His age is 60, and that of his wife 55; no other children$5

The Relief Committee of the Jones’ Wood Festival continued to make regular distributions of funds into at least the summer of 1862, frequently accounting for the money they handed out and listing those who benefited (though it is unclear if a full tally of the funds collected on 29th August was ever recorded). The development of the Federal pension system in 1862 would eventually seek to formally provide for wounded soldiers and the dependents of the dead. Many of those who received money as a result of Jones’ Wood Festival obtained these pensions (you can find the story of one of those families, the Madigans, here). In the interim, efforts like those of the Union Defence Committee, the 69th Relief Committee, and the Convention of Irish Societies “Monster Festival”, however imperfect they might have been, played a vital role in sustaining those in need.

5 July 62 Jones Wood

Jones’ Wood remained a popular destination for Irish excursions. Here two advertisements from 5th July 1862 publicise separate events there for the Emerald Benevolent Society and the St. James’ Roman Catholic Total Abstinence & Benevolent Society (New York Irish-American)


The National Cause– Its Soldiers and Its Martyrs, delivered by Thomas Francis Meagher, Jones’ Wood Monster Festival, 29th August 1861.

In the dew of the morning as it melts in the sunbeam– in the brightest river hastening to the depths in which its fresh life is lost– in the loftiest mountains as the darkness of the storm covers them and night and they become inseparable– in the budding of the greenest leaf– in the tranquil glory of the fullest star that is set in heaven– in everything that is visible on the earth, above it, or below– there is an admonition which reminds us of the waywardness and instability of human fortunes and the certainty of death. The very stones that are planted to commemorate the goodness, the rank, the achieved honors, the illustrious mind, the brave or the beneficent career of people we have admired and extolled while living, or which simply register a birth and a decease, leaving the story of the dead, if worthy of it, to be written in a book the characters of which shall never fade– these very stones, far more forcibly than the losses they record, teach the lesson that our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. Be it marble, be it granite, be it the sternest stone or mettle, the letters and emblems with which it is wrought grain by grain decay, and the day comes at last when some strange creature, whose communion is with the past, and with the past alone, peering and gleaming through his spectacles, searching keenly and fiercely almost, with brain and chisel, vainly strives to rescue a solitary epitaph from the confusion and mystery into which it has irrevocably passed. Such, then, being the lesson taught by the brightest, the strongest, the grandest forms and voices, whether in the sky, the land, or sea– such the lesson taught by the very stones which man, in his love, his vanity, his courtesy, or gratitude, erects as enduring memorials of his race– no wonder that here, this day, in the midst of all these games and pastimes, through the heart of this healthful and joyous crowd, over all this blended splendor of foliage and sunshine, above all the shrill tumult of the boats that vex the river on the rocks of which we stand, and the music to which these waters, sweeping there before us, have seemed to leap– no wonder that a broad shadow from the hushed battlefield should rise and overspread us.



There are eyes clouded and gushing with bitter sorrow in the desolation of spirit in homes where Winter has settled in the zenith of Summer, while we stand here blessed and gladdened with all the warmth and beautiousness, with all the promise and fruitfulness of this propitious hour and consecrated scene; and there are little hearts that have grown big and heavy in darkened rooms, waiting and praying for footsteps which once were cheerier to them than the songs of the birds that greet the rising sun, but which shall never wake again the echoes of the expectant house.



In the name, for the sake, in tenderness and compassion, in proud regard and duty to those whose husbands and fathers, fighting in the ranks of the 69th, were slain in battle, sealing their oath of American citizenship with their blood– whose doorways are now hung with blackest mourning, and whose tables miss the industrious hands that once furnished them with bread– in the name of the widowed homes of the dead soldiers of the 69th, we, who claim these soldiers as our brothers, and though they were the poorest of the earth would be prouder of them than the haughtiest princes are of their ancient diadems and domains.



With this purpose and these emotions we have assembled here today, and hence it is I have said that this was propitious hour and this a consecrated scene.–



High above these banners, these trees, these pillars– gathering all– the youngest, the fairest, the hardiest and the oldest, the rude, the gentle, white hairs and glowing cheeks, the extremes of society, life and character– into one great edifying and benignant throng, the Angel of Charity extends his wings; sanctifies the pastimes and pleasures of the hour; refines, illuminates, ennobles what might otherwise be rough, boisterous, frivolous or idle, and linking with rays of divinest light and luster the living and the dead, breathes into every Irish heart at least the assurance that they shall never be forgotten who fall in a just cause, in vindication of laws that are unimpeached and unimpeachable, and in sustainment of a Government which, while it is the least exacting, the most encouraging and beneficent the world has ever known.



This is the lesson, the purpose, the inspiration we acknowledge here; and hence– to repeated what I have already said– this is a propitious hour, and this a consecrated scene.



Peacefulness, and joyousness, and glory– such as no home on earth, however blessed confers, nor the most affluent city in the fullness of its gratitude and grandeur can decree– be for eternity to those who fell, on that terrible Sunday of July, in the tempest which swept with flames, and beat back on a deluge of carnage and consternation the army that had advanced to restore in an insurgent State the supremacy of the national authority.



Peacefulness, and joyousness, and glory be to those who fell in this great endeavor, wherever they may have been born, at whatever altar they may have worshiped, to whatever school of politics they may have belonged.–



Peacefulness, and joyousness, and glory, eternal and supreme, be to those who venturing here from Ireland–



–conceived in her womb, nourished at her breast, nurtured and emboldened as her children only are– went forth without a thought of home, of reward, of danger, of any ties however dear, of any compensation small or great, of any consequences, however desperate and fatal they might be, to maintain in arms the authority of the Government to which they swore allegiance, and in the perpetuation of which their interests, as emigrants driven by devastating laws and practices from their native soil, are vitally involved!



As this prayer goes forth, the scene before me seems to pass away. Dense white clouds rise from the earth and intercept it. Lightnings sweep through those clouds, and in the brightest sunshine that can bless the earth a tempest opens which shakes the forests and the mountains with its thunders, and floods the meadows with a rain that turns to red their greenest blades of grass.



Again the scene changes. The storm has ceased. On the glowing horizon the mountains of Virginia blend their grand forms with a sky of speckless blue, and, silent as the pyramids of the desert, overlook the wreck and ravages which the exhausted storm has left behind it.

Nearer to me– their vast webs of emerald interwoven with the golden skeins which the sun flings out– in their restored freshness and beauty, the woods, where the storm most fiercely raged, deepen and expand for miles. The grass of the meadows grows green again, and the streams, which had been troubled and stained like them, pursue their old paths in peacefulness and purity, as though no flashing hoofs and wheels, no burning feet pressing in thousands to the charge, no shot or shell had harrowed them. But on the silent fields which those noble mountains overlook and those deep groves shadow, I see many a strong and gallant soldier of the 69th whom I knew and loved, and they there in the rich sunshine discolored and cold in death.–



All of them were from Ireland, and as the tide of life rushed out the last though that left their hearts was for the liberty of Ireland.



Prominent among them, strikingly noticeable by reason of his large, iron frame, and the boldly chiseled features, on which the impress of great strength of will and intellect was softened by a constant play of humor and the goodness and grand simplicity of his heart– wrapped in his rough old overcoat, with his sword crossed upon his breast, his brow boldly uplifted as though he was still in command, and the consciousness of having done his duty sternly to the last still animating the Roman face– there lies James Haggerty {For more on James Haggerty see here}



– a braver soldier than whom the land of Sarsfield and Shields has not produced, and whose name, worked in gold upon the colors of the 69th, should be henceforth guarded with all the jealousy and pride which inspires a regiment, whenever its honor is at stake and its standards are in peril.



But what of the cause in which our countrymen fell that day? Was it urgent, was it just, was it sacred? Never was there a cause more urgent, more just, more sacred.



The assertion of the national authority, derived, as it is, from the free will and votes of a majority of the citizens–



– the conservation in its integrity of that magnificent expanse of country over which a common Constitution has thrown its shield, and along the frontiers and at the gates of which a common treasury has planted forts and custom-houses, and the flag which no foreign hand as yet has questioned with impunity–



– the enforcement of the laws of Congress, the sworn compact of the States, the inviolability of the ballot-box, and the decision that proceed from it, the sanctity of official oaths, the accountability of the public servants, the most precious fruits of the Revolution, the claims of posterity, the progress of democracy, its consolidation and ascendency, the glory of the New World.



Behold the cause in which those lives were offered up.



Never, I repeat it, was there a cause more sacred, nor one more just, nor one more urgent. No cause more sacred, for it comprehends all that has been considered most desirable, most valuable, most ennobling, to a political society and humanity at large. No cause more just, for it involves no scheme of conquest or subjugation, contemplates no disfranchisement of the citizen, excludes the idea of provincialism and inferiority, aiming only at the restoration of franchises, powers, and property, which were enjoyed by one people and one republic, and which, to be the means of happiness, fortune, and renown to millions, must be exercised and held in common under one code of national laws, one flag, and one Executive. No cause more urgent, for intrigues, perfidies, armed legions, the hatred and cupidity of foreign courts assail it, and every reverse with which it is visited serves as a pretext for the desertion of the coward, the misrepresentation of the politician whose nation is in his pocket, the preferred compromises of men who, in the name of peace, would capitulate to treason and accept dishonor, encouraging the designs of kings and queens, and knaves, to whom this great Commonwealth, with all its wonderous acquisitions and incalculable promise, has been, until within the last few weeks, a source of envy, vexation, alarm, and discomfiture, presenting, as it did, nobler scenes of activity and progress than their estates could show– sheltering and advancing the thousands whom their rods and bayonets had swept beyond the sea, and, like the might genius of the ocean confronting the ship of Vasco di Gama, uprising here to repel intrusion which would establish on the seas and islands of the New World the crowned monopilies and disabling domination of the Old.



Will the Irishmen of New York stand by this call–



– resolutely, heartily, with inexorable fidelity, despite of all the sacrifices it may cost, despite of all the dangers into which it may compel them, despite of all the bereavements and abiding gloom it may bring upon such homes as this day miss the industry and love of the dead soldiers of the 69th, but in some measure to console and succor which the festivities of this day have taken place.



For my part, I ask no Irishman to do that which I myself am not prepared to do.



My heart, my arm, my life, is pledged to the national cause, and to the last it will be my highest pride, as i conceive it to be my holiest duty and obligation, to share its fortunes.



I care not to what party the Chief Magistrate of the Republic has belonged.



I care not upon what plank or platform he may have been elected.



The platform disappears before the Constitution, under the injunction of the oath he took on the steps of the Capitol the day of his inauguration.



The party disappears in the presence of the nation,



and as the Chief Magistrate, duly elected and duly sworn, is bound to protect and administer the national property for the benefit of the nation, so should every citizen concur with him in loyal and patriotic action, discarding the mean  persuasions and maxims of the local politicians–



–and substitution the national interest, the national efficiency, the national honor, for the selfishness, the huckstering, or the vengeance of a party.



To me at all events, the potency of the National Government, the honor and glory of the national flag, are of infinitely higher value than the Regency at Albany, the Tammany Wigwam, Mozart Hall, or the Pewter Mug.



Nor shall outcries on behalf of the liberty of the press, or the liberty and immunities of the citizen, restrain me in the active allegiance I owe to the nation and its Executive, now that the rights and authority of both are jeopardized.



The integrity of the national domain, the potency of the National Government, the reputation of the national arms, the inviolability of that tranquil system of election, without which no popular government can have legitimacy, consistency, and force– these considerations are far dearer to me, and I claim them to be of far more vital consequence than the liberty to promulgate sedition or the liberty to conspire.



Such liberties must succumb to the demands of the crisis, the public safety, the discipline and efficiency of the army, and the attitude of the revolt.–



Within the range of the laws, the police, the courts, the proprieties and interests of the community, let them have full swing to the days of peace. Such days have their peculiar sanctities– more than this, they have their recognized and favored abuses of popular institutions and prerogaties; and the fieryist or foulest sheet that is scribbled in the coalhole or the garret, as well as the most faithless citizen among us, may be permitted, the one to scatter broadcast, and the other to drop in crevices and corners, the seeds of disaffection against the government, without the commonwealth incurring any detriment.–



But in time of war– above all, in the time of civil war– the supremacy of the Government should be the sole object–



– and to this and martial law should be the higher law–



– and the only one in undisputed force.



Who speaks about his rights as a passenger– about his bag of money, his chest of books and clothes, the photographs of his wife and children, his live stock of bales of merchandise, when the steamship has met with a collision, threatens to go down, must be cleared of every embarrassment and dead weight, and all hands are summoned to the rescue?



You know it well. I assert it without fear of contradiction from any quarter, and those who have had most latitude and impunity; were they frank and generous, would be the first to own it. The National Government has suffered more from the patience, the magnanimity it has practiced towards its enemies, and those who are in sympathy and league with them, than it has done from the courage, the science, the fierce energy of those who have taken the field against it, and victoriously shaken the banner of revolt and repudiation in its face.



The masked conspirators of the North are infinitely more criminal and mischievous than the bold and armed recusants of the South–



– and Democrat as I am–



– spurning the Republicanism of the Chicago Convention as a spurious creed–



– having no sympathies whatever with the men in power other than those which should subsist between the citizen and his government



I would promptly and cordially approve of the severest measures the President might adopt to paralyze the treachery which in this and other cities, under various liberal and beneficent pretences, has been, and is still at work to undermine and overthrow the legitimate magistracy of the nation.



Do I not speak in the name of the Irishmen of New York– and they are counted by tens of thousands– when I speak these sentiments, and declare in favor of these rigorous but imperative proceedings?



Were I met with a negative, I should remind my countrymen that the English aristocracy



– which is the dominant class in England– to which the Navy, the Church, the Army almost exclusively belong, and which is, in fact, the political opinion, the Parliament, the scepter, and the sword of England



– I should remind my countrymen that this aristocracy is arrayed against the government at Washington



– and that as it was dead against the Revolution, out of which arose the liberties and nationality of the United States, so it is now in hot favor of the revolution which sets at naught those liberties, and against that nationality directs a fratricidal blow.



A revolution that has the flattery and patronage of an aristocracy to which for generations Ireland has ascribed her social wretchedness and political disorders, and which has scoffed at and scandalized her before the world, can surely never have the heart and arm of any Irishman who has learned the history of the stars and stripes.



– valued the blessings and protection they insured, and who, in the frustration of the schemes of this incorrigible aristocracy, its chastisement and downfall, forsees a healthier and stronger life for England, and the liberty of Ireland.



Be it with Irishmen, at all events, the lesson, the incentive, the animating conviction, the rallying battle-cry in this tempestuous time. Every blow that, with the shout of “Feac and bealac”



– clears the way for the Stars and Stripes, and plants that flag wherever it has a prescriptive right to float, deals to this English aristocracy a deadly mortification and discouragement–



– depriving it of new allies and resources–



– and thus so far– avenges and liberates the island of which it has been the persecution, the crippling fetter the recurring famine, the pervading blight the social cancer, and the rank source of the poverty and slanders, in spite of which her children make their footing good and assert themselves abroad.



Which being so, let us who hail from Ireland–



– we who have taken an oath of loyalty, not to New York–



– not to Alabama–



– not to Florida–



– not to Kansas–



– not to any one isolated State, but to all the States–



they built up the powerful and resplendent Union which the sword and counsels of Washington evoked, which the philosophy of Jefferson approved, which the headstrong honesty and heroism of Andrew Jackson, preserved, which the great arguments of Webster, rendered more solid, and which the loving patriotism of Henry Clay whose precepts and examples still animate the sons of old Kentucky



commended to the heart of every true American– let us, at all events who hail from Ireland stand to the last by the Stars and Stripes



the illustrious insignia of the nation that of all the world, has been the friendliest sanctuary of the Irish race



and in going forth to battle for the American Union against domestic treason and the despotism of Europe, let the Irish soldier take with him the assurance, which the scene here before us justifies, that, should he fall neither his wife nor little ones shall be forgotten.



Stephens Jones Wood

Jones’ Wood saw thousands of Irish return in April 1866 for the reception of Fenian leader James Stephens, as depicted in the 2nd June 1866 Harper’s Weekly (Harper’s Weekly)


(1) Irish-American 27th April 1861, Irish-American 4th May 1861; (2) Irish-American 3rd August 1861, Irish-American 2nd March 1861, Irish-American 17th August 1861; (3) Rosensweig and Blackmar 1992: 233-4; (4) Irish-American 24th August 1861; (5) Irish-American 24th August 1861, Irish-American 31st August 1861, Brooklyn Daily Eagle 23rd August 1861, Brooklyn Daily Eagle 30th August 1861; (6) Irish-American 31st August 1861; (7) Brooklyn Evening Star 30th August 1861, New York Times 30th August 1861; (8) New York Times 30th August 1861; (9) New York Times 30th August 1861, Brooklyn Evening Star 30th August 1861, Cavanagh 1892: 413, Brooklyn Daily Eagle 30th August 1861; (10) Irish-American 2nd November 1861, Irish-American 9th November 1861; (11) Brooklyn Evening Star 30th August 1861;


Brooklyn Daily Eagle 23rd August 1861.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 30th August 1861.

Brooklyn Evening Star 30th August 1861.

New York Irish-American weekly 2nd March 1861.

New York Irish-American Weekly 27th April 1861.

New York Irish-American Weekly 4th May 1861.

New York Irish-American Weekly 3rd August 1861.

New York Irish-American Weekly 17th August 1861.

New York Irish-American Weekly 24th August 1861.

New York Irish-American Weekly 31st August 1861.

New York Irish-American Weekly 2nd November 1861.

New York Irish-American Weekly 9th November 1861.

New York Times 30th August 1861.

Rosensweig, Roy and Blackmar, Elizabeth 1992. The Park and the People: A History of Central Park. 

Cavanagh, Michael 1892. Memoirs of Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher.