Brigadier-General Michael Corocoran was one of the most famous Irish Americans of the 19th century. He led the 69th New York State Militia at Bull Run, and in the months of captivity that followed he became a hero of the Union. Upon his release, he formed Corcoran’s Irish Legion, which joined the Irish Brigade as the only other ethnic-Irish formation of that size in the conflict.

As many readers are aware, Michael Corcoran was born in Carrowkeel, near Ballymote, Co. Sligo in 1827. In 1846 he joined the Revenue Police, a force whose primary task was to crack down on illicit alcohol production. Michael was posted to Creeslough, Co. Donegal, where his interactions with local Ribbonmen saw him become increasingly radicalised (you can see Creeslough and some of the other parts of Michael Corcoran’s Ireland here). He ultimately joined them, and when the Revenue Police grew suspicious of his activities in 1849 he decided to leave Ireland for America. The rest, as they say, is history.

Some time ago I took the opportunity to have a look for Michael in some of the Revenue Police records, which have been digitised by Find My Past. The future Union General is recorded a number of times in the Minutes of Appointment of the organisation. I am sharing three of the entries below, all of which were significant milestones in Michael Corcoran’s life. They provide us with a glimpse of some of the earliest historical references to the man who would soon become such a leading figure in the world of the New York Irish.

The day it all began. List of men appointed as privates in the Revenue Police on 17th January 1846 as proposed by the Chief Inspector. “Michael Corcoran Ballymote” is the fourth name on the list (Revenue Police Minutes of Appointment)
Donegal bound. Order dated 31st December 1846 assigning Michael Corcoran (second from bottom) to No. 12 Party of the Revenue Police. His time with this party in Creeslough would change the course of his life (Revenue Police Minutes of Appointment)
America. The entry recording that Private Michael Corcoran of No.12 Party had relinquished his position in the Revenue Police. Dated to mid-August 1849, by month’s end Corcoran was on board a vessel bound for the United States, and a new life in New York City (Revenue Police Minutes of Appointment)

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