The latest in the Storied Tombstones series looks at some of the Irish American graves I encountered during my brief visit to Gettysburg National Cemetery. As regular readers will be aware, the premise behind the series revolves around photographs I take of probable Irish American graves that I randomly encounter during wanderings in these graveyards. Afterwards, I try to uncover the stories of some of the men and their families in order to share them on the site. To date, the series has examined men interred in Soldier’s and Airmen’s National Cemetery, Alexandria National Cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery, Annapolis National Cemetery, Cold Harbor National Cemetery, Fredericksburg, Antietam and Cold Harbor National Cemeteries, Cambridge American Cemetery and Glasnevin Cemetery. I hope in the future to return to Gettysburg and add more men to the grouping below. Among the featured men whose journey ended at Gettysburg in July 1863 are emigrants from Clare, Cork, Down, Offaly and Westmeath.
Patrick Sullivan, 73rd New York Infantry, Excelsior Brigade
Patrick Sullivan was 39-years-old when he joined up on 20th August 1861. By the time Gettysburg came around, he had risen to First Sergeant in Company K. In 1854 he had married his wife Margaret Heffernan in St. Peter’s Church, New York. When Patrick was shot down in the vicinity of the Peach Orchard on 2nd July 1863, he also left behind his young son John Joseph, who had recently seven. As was often the case when faced with the economic consequences of widowhood, Margaret quickly remarried.
Thomas Lally, 73rd New York Infantry, Excelsior Brigade
Thomas was a 19-year-old apprentice carpenter when he enlisted on 29th July 1861. By the time of Gettysburg he was also a sergeant in Company K. His parents Mary and James had been married in Co. Offaly at the start of the 1830s. When Thomas’s father had died in January 1855, the young man had become a major support for his mother, a duty that increased after two of his brothers and sister married. When he was killed near the Peach Orchard on 2nd July 1863 she received a pension based on his service.
James Doran, 136th New York Infantry
Irish emigrant James Doran was a 24-year-old farm laborer when he enlisted in Covington, New York on 13th August 1862. He was described as 5 feet 9 inches tall with grey eyes, black hair and a light complexion. Since his father John’s death a few years prior to the war James had looked after his mother Mary in Pearl Creek, Wyoming County. During his first days in the service at Camp Portage, Wyoming County, she had come to visit him, and he had give her $30 of his bounty, telling her she “should never want as long as he was able to earn a dollars.” James was killed in action on 3rd July, not far from the National Cemetery where he is now interred.
Daniel Mahoney, 69th New York Infantry, Irish Brigade
The 21-year-old from Ireland had enlisted in the Irish Brigade on 19th September 1861. Daniel was from Innishannon, Co. Cork, where his father Thomas had died during the Famine, around the year 1848. The family home in New York was in the “third house in Third Avenue about 88th Street”, where Daniel had lived with his widowed mother Johanna and younger brother. Two older brothers were in California, while Daniel also had married sisters. Daniel was killed in action in The Wheatfield on 2nd July 1863.
John Clark, 65th New York Infantry
John was nearly 40-years-old at the time of Gettysburg. He had wed Mary Farrell back in Co. Westmeath in 1848, before heading to the United States to start their family, which eventually grew to five children. John took work as a hostler, and they made their home in New York’s 15th Ward. He was described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, with dark brown eyes, a dark complexion and dark hair. John was with the 65th New York in reserve on Culp’s Hill when the position was attacked on 3rd July. His comrade, Louis Thirion, related his fate to Mary:
Your husband was laying on his back calmly talking of the “Union” when a fragment of a shell struck him nearly taking both legs off.
Acoording to Louis, John was “universally beloved”. Another comrade, William Haverly, felt that “a better soldier, companion or friend was not to be found in the Regiment”. You can read a more detailed recounting of John and his family’s story here.
John Allen, 140th New York Infantry
John had enlisted in Rochester on 22nd August 1862, when he was 18-years-old. Born in America to Irish emigrant parents, by the time of the war his mother Ellen had been widowed and remarried, wedding another Irishman, Michael Mulqueen. Michael had been broken down by a life of hard labour, and John did all he could to help support his family through his work as shoemaker. That commitment to his mother’s financial wellbeing continued into the war, as was demonstrated through this hurried note, written just over a month before his death:
Camp near Falmouth Va 28th May 1863
I write you a few lines for to let you know that I received 2 months pay of which I send you a check of 20 dollars of which I want you to let me know as soon as you receive it no more at present But I remain your affectionate son
John was killed in action on Little Round Top on 2nd July 1863, along with his regimental commander, Patrick Henry O’Rorke from Co. Cavan.
*Though there have been some claims that John may have been as young as 16 when he died at Gettysburg, that seems unlikely, as he is recorded at that age on the 1860 Census in Rochester’s Fifth Ward.
Robert Shields, 140th New York Infantry
Robert was 23 when he joined up on 22nd August 1862 in Rochester. He had emigrated to the United States with his family from Killyleagh, Co. Down. By the time of the Civil War both Robert’s parents had died, and Robert was helping his step-mother with the upbringing of his sister Mary and half-sisters Martha and Fanny, who were 13, 5 and 4 at the time of Gettysburg. His younger brother William also did his bit for the family, and at the age of 18 followed Robert into the 140th New York Infantry a week after his older sibling’s enlistment. As was often the case, the brothers tented with fellow Irish emigrants in the army. One of them was John Campbell, who remembered Robert sending money home frequently for his “little sisters”. Robert was killed in action at Little Round Top on 2nd July, a death presumably witnessed by William, who served in the same company. A little less than a year later, William entered Saunders’ Field at The Wilderness with the regiment, and did not re-emerge.
John McCormick, 10th New York Infantry
John had been born in New York to Irish emigrant parents. He had enlisted at the age of 22 on 20th August 1862, giving up his job as a clerk to join the army. By the time of the war his father was dead, and his mother Rosanna and siblings were living in Brooklyn. At Gettysburg, the much reduced “National Zouaves” were serving as a Provost Guard for Hay’s division when the bombardment that presaged the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble assault began on 3rd July. John was one of only two men of the unit to lose his life during the fighting.
George McMahon Doherty, 73rd Ohio Infantry
Our final Irish American is not buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery, but one of his old gravemarkers is on display at the battlefield, at Seminary Museum. George M. Doherty today rests at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York. George was a native of Ballynacally, Co. Clare. His parents had married in Kildysart in 1828, and during the war George regularly sent back some of his pay to Ireland to help support them. He had mustered into the army at the age of 23 on 19th October 1861, rising to the rank of Captain of Company F in December 1862 (his brother John also served). George was mortally wounded on 2nd July 1863 near Cemetery Hill, and died 11 days later. His father had died in Kildysart just six months earlier. Some of the money George had earned ultimately went towards his mother’s passage to America in 1865, where she joined some of her other children and Clare chain migrants around Dunkirk.
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