There are only two conflicts in Irish history which have seen close to 200,000 Irishmen in uniform. One is the First World War, which has undergone a welcome rehabilitation in Irish memory over the past 15 years– books on the topic abound, memorials are located around the island, and the State, media and Irish historians are devoting significant attention to it for the 100th anniversary. This is as it should be. The other of these two conflicts is the American Civil War.

In 1860 there were 1.6 million Irish-born people living in the United States, with many hundreds of thousands more first generation Irish-Americans. In New York, one in four of the population were Irish-born. During the war, c. 180,000 Irish-born fought for the Union, 20,000 for the Confederacy. The majority of Irish who fought and suffered through the conflict had endured the Great Famine– the American Civil War represented the second great trauma of their lives. Although the Irish experience of the conflict receives significant attention in the United States, in Ireland it receives little. There are few books published on the topic in Ireland, and the 150th anniversary passed with relatively little recognition. This is symptomatic of a wider issue regarding how the history of the Irish diaspora is dealt with– little time is devoted to the story of Irish people once they leave these shores. Though we frequently discuss the Famine, we rarely follow its emigrant victims beyond the port to examine what further horrors lay in store for many.

The American Civil War affected the lives of Irish-Americans until well into the twentieth century. Although it may seem like the distant past, the last known Irish veteran of the conflict was still alive in 1950. It is time that we in Ireland recognised the scale and impact of the conflict on people from the island of Ireland. For those Irish counties worst impacted by Famine emigration, the American Civil War almost certainly represents the largest (in terms of numbers who served and were killed) conflict in their history.

My name is Damian Shiels and I am a professional archaeologist who specialises in ‘conflict archaeology’, particularly where it relates to Ireland. I currently work with a commercial archaeology company, Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd, but have also spent time as one of the curatorial staff at the National Museum of Ireland where I worked with the military collections and in the design and preparation of the award-winning Soldiers and Chiefs military history exhibition. I have published a book on the Irish experience of the American Civil War with The History Press Ireland which you can buy from sites such as Amazon here and the Book Depository here. If you would like to find out more about the type of papers I have published and talks I have given you can see details on my academia.edu page here.

I have had a long-standing interest in the Irish experience of conflict regardless of period or location, and the American Civil War is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating topics in this sphere. The sheer scale of the Irish involvement in the conflict and its affects not only on the soldiers at the front but Irish civilians at home have captivated my attention. This blog has been set-up to fulfill a number of aims. I hope to tell the stories of Irish men and women caught up in the Civil War in an engaging and informative manner, along the way providing information on different people, units and places. As part of this I want to highlight the wider impact of war- taking family stories beyond the battlefields and into the decades that followed 1865. It is also intended that resources for those interested in the Irish experience will be built up over time, to act as an aid for those who wish to find out more (check out the ‘Resources’ tab at the top right of the site to see what is currently available). Finally I hope the site makes some small contribution to raising awareness in Ireland of the Irish experience of the American Civil War, particularly in light of the 150th anniversary.

If you would like to contact me please email me at:


97 Comments on “About”

  1. July 29, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    This looks to be a very interesting blog. Good luck with this endeavor!

  2. Laura
    December 17, 2010 at 12:43 am #


    I’m hoping you can tell me a reference for the following in your blog post on Rowan. I’m hoping to locate the original correspondence:
    “On 10th April Rowan was able to report to Welles from off Cape Henry, informing the Secretary that he was at sea having been delayed somewhat by an easterly gale. ” Thank you!

    • December 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

      Hi Laura,

      No problem at all- that correspondence (and all the correspondence in the Rowan post) are from the ‘Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion; Series I – Volume 4: Operations in the Gulf of Mexico (November 15, 1860 – June 7, 1861); Operations on the Atlantic Coast (January 1, 1861 – May 13, 1861); Operations on the Potamac and Rappahannock Rivers (January 5, 1861 – December 7, 1861)’. That particular report is to be found on page 243. If you want to access an online version of these records you can find them at the ‘Making of America’ site at http://dlxs2.library.cornell.edu/m/moa/ which is an excellent resource- a search for Rowan should so the trick. I hope this is of some use, and I if I can be of any more help please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Kind Regards,


  3. March 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    Dear Damian,
    Thank-you for all your amazing work on the Irish in the American Civil War! I am writing a history of the Portland, Maine Irish and have now also started writing a history of the Irish in Portland during the Civil War which I hope to complete in a few months (a side book!). Many interesting Portland Irish fought in the Civil War, including John E. Anglin, son of Cork City emigrants, and second-youngest Medal of Honor winner; Patrick R. Guiney; 1st Lt. Michael C. Boyce, killed at Gettysburg; and Thomas O’Dea, who did the famous Andersonville Prison image.
    Well, keep up the good work! I have not seen Susannah Ural Bruce’s book, how does it rate? Thanks.

    • March 1, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

      Hi Matthew,

      Many thanks for your kind words! Your book sounds really interesting, and I would love to review a copy of your civil war one when it is finished, and read the stories of some of Maine Irishmen. Susannah’s book is one of the best I have read on the topic of the Union Irish- she travels beyond the battlefield to explore the motivations behind the men who fought and why they did it- their dual loyalties to the Union and Ireland really comes across, as does the Irish community’s declining enthusiasm for the war from late 1862 onwards and their overwhelming support for McClellan and the Democrats in the 1864 election. I strongly recommend it. I hope you have continued success with your books!

      Kind Regards,


      • Matthew Jude Barker
        September 2, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

        Dear Damian,
        I very much enjoy your site! I am sorry I am replying to a message of yours from 2011, which I just saw! I must purchase a copy of your new book! Congrats! As I told you in 2011, I was working on a history of the Portland Irish during the Civil War. Well, in the meantime I was contacted by the History Press who wanted me to do a general history of the Portland Irish, which I did…it came out in January, entitled, “The Irish of Portland, Maine, A History of Forest City Hibernians.” Now I am in the process of finishing the Civil War book!! I also have a website online on Portland Irish: maineirishheritagetrail.org, where I do mention some Portland Irish Civil War veterans…keep up the great work and look forward to reading your book! Yours, Matthew Jude Barker

  4. Jimmy Kelly
    March 27, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    Hi Damian,

    Been doing genealogical work on my Kelly’s… I have a possibly related Great Uncle I’m tracing. The information states he was in the 99th NYV and I’ve verified this. I have mailed away to the National Archives to receive his whole file… My hope is that the file will provide actual birthplace or will have information that I can use to link him as the man I believe he might be…
    Do you know of any other resources where I can look for more information on Civil Soldiers and their records, etc.?

    To imagine the children of dear Holy Erin landing in American after centuries of oppression and experiencing the recent genocide of British created famine always wells up emotion especially when I think that these men were then thrust into a war… A war they fought willingly to gain the respect of their new nation either Blue or Grey and most importantly to prove as Celts we do not fear death as it is just a continuum…. but we do fear the yoke of our own slavery that was inflicted by the british…

    • March 29, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

      Hi Jimmy,

      The information you get from the National Archives should provide with you with all the direct information on your Great Uncle. I would recommend you check out the New York State Military Museum website if you haven’t already done so though, it is a fabulous resource with information on all of the New York units. The 99th New York page has their history along with the battles they engaged in and casualties they suffered, along with newspaper clippings relating to the regiment and a roster of all the men of the unit. It also has a suggested reading list. You can find it at http://dmna.state.ny.us/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/99thInf/99thInfMain.htm. I hope this is of help- I would be interested in finding out how you get on with your research!

      Kind Regards,


  5. David Quinlan
    April 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Dear Damian, I am trying to gain information on Lt Col james Quinlan. He was born in Clonmel, Ireland and a member of the 88th Irish Brigade. I am trying to find out if he is related to me as my family came from that part of Ireland. Where do I find his military service records?

    David Quinlan

    • April 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi David,

      Thanks for getting in touch. David Power Conyngham has brief biographies of the main officers at the end of his Irish Brigade history which would be worth checking out if you haven’t already done so- there is a link to the online version of his work on the ‘Books’ page of this blog, and James Quinlan is included. The National Archives should hold his Compiled Military Service Records and you can order these remotely- check out http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/pre-ww-1-records.html#nwctb-list for more details on this. His pension records should also be available from this source, and once you specify who you are looking for and his service details they should be able to get the material for you for a fee. I hope this is of some use, but if you have any other queries don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Kind Regards,


  6. Patrick McHugh
    April 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    Hello Damian, How are you doing ? Been a like a coon’s age since I last had a chance to talk to ye.
    During some research here in America / Baltimore dealing with the First bloodshed of the Civil War we have found out a number of Irishmen Killed on April 19th, 1861. Some of the names as follows were; Robert W. Davis age 36 from County Tyrone, Ireland, a man known as only Flannery, William Maloney age 25, John McGann, John McMahon, & a Michael Murphy. These men we plan to research further to find out more details about them in the near future.

    • April 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      Hi Patrick,

      How are you? Great to hear from you! That is some fascinating research I would be interested in finding out more about them when you have had a chance to get more details. As you can see I have thrown myself into the Civil War these days in anycase! I was up at the exhibition recently and all is still looking good there, they are getting a lot of visitors through which is good. Be sure to keep in touch!

      Talk to you soon,


  7. Patrick McHugh
    April 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Hi Damian,
    I was going back thru your blogs again to find your writeup about the 69th NY and Ken Powers and Myself that you had written about the ” Soldiers and Chiefs” exhibit but i couldn’t find it. I was hoping to save and print out a copy. Remember how you and Lars made a comment about how much “stuff ” I had relating to the Civil war that I could practically have my own museum. Well since Late 2007, I have been exhibiting a large number of my artefacts and documents at ” The Baltimore Civil War Museum” and I actually have a title with the Museum as a whole as Curator. I also organize Living History Programs and for the past 10 months was in charge of the Gift / Book store too. As of late we have been averaging around 110 or more vistors per day with tour groups of 40 to 80 + persons on weekends and occassional weekdays too. We have a facebook page ” Baltimore Civil War Museum” too which i have been updating from time to time.
    I hope to hear back from ye soon,

  8. April 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Great blog! Added you to my roll: http://www.soldierstudies.org/blog

    • April 26, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      Many thanks Chris! I have also added yours to my roll, looks good!

      Kind Regards,


  9. Joseph Hamilton
    April 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Epic site!

    • April 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

      Many thanks Joseph! Glad you enjoy it.


  10. Denis Ryan
    May 15, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Happy Birthday! Love the site. Thanks.

  11. August 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Damien, Learned about your blog from a comment your father made on mine, http://www.mahermatters.com. This is wonderful! You have really set an example of all a blog can be. I’ll be back! Thank you.

    • August 8, 2011 at 9:02 am #

      Hi Janet,

      Many thanks for your kind words! Your blog looks really interesting I am looking forward to reading it, and if I can be of any help please dont hesitate to contact me.

      Kind Regards,


  12. August 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm #


    Came across your blog today and am enjoying reading your posts! Irish involvement in the Civil War is certainly a rich and fascinating topic. I wrote my senior thesis in college on Irish involvement in the Civil War Draft Riots in New York City and have been interested since. Looking forward to future posts!

    ~ Emma

    • August 18, 2011 at 8:44 am #

      Hi Emma,

      Many thanks! The Draft Riots are a fascinating topic, I hope to have a few posts about them over the coming months. I had a look at your blog as well it looks like an exciting project I look forward to reading how you get on!

      Kind Regards,


  13. November 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Hi Damien, I recently came across your site and I think it’s fantastic. I have returned to college to study tourism but I have a keen interest in both irish and american history. Most of my viewers to my blog are from America and I would like to mention your website if that was cool with you? Hope to hear from you soon


    • November 25, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

      Hi Sinead,

      Glad you like the blog and many thanks for your kind words! That would be no problem at all please do- what is your own blog I would love to have a look?

      Kind Regards,


  14. November 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi Damien, that’s great. My Blog is http://speccy-four-eyes.blogspot.com/
    terribly nerdish posts on tourism news in Ireland though I also tend to gravitate towards any heritage news/attractions as I think the two are very much married to each other.

    Anyway’s I will send you the link to the post once I have it up on the blog



  15. January 3, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    very interesting… Im the author of “The Irish and English in Italy’s Risorgimento” and mention the connections of Ireland and the US Civil War on my blog http://50yearsinitaly.blogspot.com/2011/02/ireland-and-italy-share-common.html

  16. Conan Thomas Michael Croghan
    March 27, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Hi Damien, I am looking for Croghan as a surname within the civil war, It had many anglecised versions from MacConnCruachan, including crohan, croughan. I know some of us served in the war of independance like Col George Croghan buried at Fort Croghan. I wondered if on your travels in time you had met a few of my spiritual ancestors. I would be grateful for information regarding any of my tuatha. Most were skilled tradesmen – blacksmith, farriers, with some educated men and a few biataghs who were exiled for Fenian ways or dispossed by landlords. Any help would be gratefully assisted. Go Ndeireagh Dia Leat Mo Chara, Conan Mac ConnCruachan (Conan Croghan) Roscommon Town, Co Roscommon, Ireland

    • March 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      Hi Conan,

      Your best starting point is to look at the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database here: http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/. I had a quick look and 37 men with the surname Croghan served in the army so you could take it from there to see if you can find out more about them- the database is an excellent starting point so let me know how you get on!

      Kind Regards,


  17. April 17, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Hi Damian
    Thanks for an enthralling Lecture tonight and look forward to seeing you again soon..Brilliant
    Regards, Robert Reid South Tipperary Military History Society

    • April 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

      Hi Robert,

      Many thanks for your kind words I am glad you enjoyed it! I had a fantastic evening and really enjoyed meeting everyone- your society deserves every success!

      Kind Regards,


  18. May 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    I found your site just today and I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner! All of my Civil War veteran ancestors—the Reillys, Cavanaghs, Burns, and McDonoughs–would be very pleased with it.

    • May 5, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Many thanks for your kind comments! Do you know much about their service in the Civil War? I would love to hear their stories!

      • May 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

        Hi there! Apologies for the delay in replying–I do know a bit about their service, they served in regiments from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. One of them was killed (and is buried) at Gettysburg, one was in the officer’s prison at Andersonville and came home after a prisoner exchange, and the others mustered out after a mercifully uneventful tour. Unfortunately that’s pretty much all I know.

  19. Lisa
    June 20, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    Hello Damien. I came across your article “Who Shot General McPherson? The Fifth Confederate at Bald Hill.” It was highly informative and well-written. I wanted to share with you the following excerpt I found about my 3rd great grandfather’s brother Hugh Ruston Duke:

    from reprint of “Clarke County Historical and Biographical Record” by Lewis Publishing, 1886. p. 89.

    HUGH R. DUKE, of the village of Woodburn, was born in Clarke County, Virginia, November 28, 1836. His parents, Thomas and Sidney (Johnson) Duke, were born and reared in Virginia. His grandfather was one of the patriots who served in the war for American independence, and his father served in the war of 1812. He was in the garrison at Fort Henry, Baltimore, at the time of its bombardment by the British forces.

    In 1853 the family removed to Logan County, Ohio, where the father died in 1855, aged sixty-three years. Hugh, being the eldest child at home then had charge of the family. They moved to Jefferson County, Virginia, and lived on rented land.

    July 18, 1861, Hugh enlisted in Company K, Seventh Iowa Infantry, in defense of the Union. His first action was at the battle of Fort Donelson; next in the terrible two daysÂ’ battle at Shiloh, and later the siege of Corinth. He was in the battle of Iuka and Corinth in 1862. In Middle Tennessee the regiment was doing hard duty until the relief of General ThomasÂ’ army at Chattanooga. The regiment then joined the Fifteenth Corps, under command of General Logan, and became a part of ShermanÂ’s grand army in its campaign against JohnstonÂ’s army; and at Atlanta, in the heroic campaign that followed, the Seventh bore an honorable part. In the battles that occurred between Chattanooga and Atlanta the Seventh also bore an honorable part, being nearly sixty days under fire. July 22 the regiment was engaged at Atlanta where General McPherson was killed; Sergeant Duke saw him fall and carried from the field. It was at the battle of Jonesboro; following the banners of Sherman to the sea; up through the Carolinas, and in the line of the grand review at Washington. While at Petersburg, Sergeant Duke was permitted to visit his sister, Mrs. Emily Writt, at Sutherland Station, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. He was honorably discharged July 22, 1865. The service of Sergeant Duke was honorable in the highest degree. He was in the hospital at BirdÂ’s Point, in October, 1863, two weeks; participated in all the battles of his regiment, terminating only with the surrender of the rebel General JohnstonÂ’s army.

    He returned to Jefferson County, and June 13, 1867, was united in marriage with Miss Mary Frush, daughter of George Frush of Clarke county. She was born in Guernsey County, Ohio, August 3, 1841. In 1870 Mr. and Mrs. Duke went to LaBette County, Kansas, intending to remain, but being unable to get a good title to the railroad land upon which they had settled, they went to the northwestern part of the State and located a soldierÂ’s warrant. After the loss of several successive crops by grasshoppers, Mr. Duke abandoned all hope of living in Kansas and returned to Jefferson County.

    In 1881 he removed to the village of Woodburn. He owns ninety-three acres, all within the corporation of Woodburn. He is a member and Adjutant of Davenport Post, No. 385, G.A.R. and both are members of the Methodist Episcopal church. They have five children living–Orrin D., Elmer E., Mary E., Ida May and Clyde Otho. Roscoe J. died of croup in February, 1881, aged two years and three months. Mr. DukeÂ’s mother died in 1874 in Jefferson County, aged seventy-four years. One brother, Thomas, and sister, Emily, live in Virginia.Two brothers, David and William L., live in Jefferson County. A sister, Mrs. Sarah Johnson, lives in Woodburn, and Mrs. Mary Jane Drenner lives in Kansas. In politics Mr. Duke is a Republican.

    (Hugh’s father Thomas Duke fought in the War of 1812 and was present at the bombardment of Fort McHenry Thomas Duke’s father was James Duke, who emigrated from Newry Parish, Ireland in 1774 and was a soldier of the U.S. Revolution.( A Genealogy of the DUKE-SHEPERD-VAN METRE FAMILY from Civil, Military, Church and Family Records and Documents. Compiled and Edited by Samuel Gordon Smyth 1909).

    • June 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      Hi Lisa,

      Many thanks for providing this excellent information about your ancestor, he had quite an impressive record- it is fascinating to see the story from the other side! It is also interesting that he had an Irish connection, it seems they were never far away during the American Civil War!

      Kind Regards,


  20. Lisa
    June 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Yeah, I had no idea how involved the Irish were in the Civil War. Researching genealogy has really helped me to look at historical events differently. By the way, the Smithsonian Channel just aired a program called “Fighting Irish of the Civil War” in case you are interested.

    • Michael Mac Namara
      October 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

      Hi Lisa. My g-grandfather was with the 2nd us lt artillery at Atlanta and they suffered losses and the unit was captured. He was right beside where McPherson was killed and very likely witnessed it.

  21. Martin Molony
    July 29, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Hi Damien,
    I looked at your list of Medal of Honor awardee’s and I noticed the Pte. Patrick Moloney is
    not mentioned. He was awarded his Medal for bravery in capturing Brig. General Archer
    at Gettysburg. (2nd Wisconsin, Company G.) Killed in action, later in the battle.
    Martin Molony.

    • August 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

      Hi Martin,

      Many thanks for getting in touch. Patrick’s story at Gettysburg is a fantastic one and one I hope to tell- I have seen references to him being awarded the Medal of Honor online but have not come across him on any of the official lists has receiving been in receipt of it, hence his absence here. Do you have any references to it that I could have a look at?

      Kind Regards,


  22. Betsy Morris
    August 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    Damian, just found this blog and enjoyed reading the posts. The Irish in the CW has been a subject that has kept me busy for years! I look forward to hearing more stories and can post some info on some soldiers as well. The newest pension filed I’ve received was for James O’Donnell who was from Lettermacaward Donegal. He was a private in the Pa. 96th Regt. This man left the far west coast of Ireland about 1850 only to plant himself in the coal mines of Schuylkill Co., Pennsylvania. He married in Pa. to Ann McGeehan who was also from same place in Donegal. He applied in 1872 for a pension due to illness but after almost a year of acquiring affadavits etc he was turned down. At that time he and his wife had 8 children, 5 of them died young, leaving only 3 daughters. James O’Donnell was only able to occassionally to peddle some wares as his health was poor. Again in 1882 he applied for pension..and again refused! At that point the family was near destitute and he took his life by hanging himself and found by his wife upon her return home from mass on a Sunday morning. There was some question about him being murdered but it appears it was suicide according to this pension file. Ann O’Donnell was then able to apply for his pension and had that to live on for the next 20 yrs of her life. He is buried at old St. Jerome’s cemetery in Tamaqua, Schuylkill Co., Pa. at the head of Black Jack Kehoe, the head of the Molly Maguires. He does have a govt issued headstone that marks his burial place. His life on this earth went from bad to horrific..may he RIP.

    Betsy Koen Morris

    • August 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Betsy,

      Many thanks I am glad you enjoy it! That is quite an amazing story and a really poignant one- do you carry out the research out of interest or are you helping other families find out about their ancestry? The story reflected in the file is one that really needs to be told, what happened these men and their families after the war (and indeed those families that lost their main breadwinner during the conflict). This is something that affected countless thousands of Irish people in the U.S. in the 19th century and had a dramatic affect on their fortunes and wellbeing. Thanks for sharing his story with us, I would love to hear more about the work you are doing!

      Kind Regards,


  23. Betsy Morris
    August 12, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Damian, thanks for the interest in the woes of James O’Donnell. I enjoy the civil war era and try not to get to engrossed in it as I would become consumed! I do it mainly for my owne interest and of my family but have done some research of the Scullion’s of So. Derry area in the CW as well. Now there’s some really interesting tales there as well. There are a few Scullions in Bellaghy who are really interested and I did it for them.

    I do have a wonderful letter written in the early 1900’s by the wife of a Capt William Byrnes. He was first generation Irish American and she tells her story about her young life and meeting her soon to be husband

    It’s 10 pages long and not suer how I could send it. She wrote this as her husband was dying and ends it “final taps have sounded for Capt Byrnes”

    Betsy Morris

  24. lisa
    August 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Betsy, very interesting story about James O’Donnell from Donegal. Thank you for sharing it. I am a related to another James O’Donnell from Arranmore Donegal who came to Beaver Island, Michigan. The Irish have a very interesting history on Beaver Island, which was once home to a Mormon Kingdom led by James Strang. After Strang was murdered and the rest of the Mormons chased off the island, Beaver Island became heavily populated with Irish immigrants. My great great grandma Mary O’Donnell (child of James O’Donnell and Katherine Gallagher) was born there.You should check out this documentary… http://www.moondance.tv/broadcast_island.htm

    • March 30, 2016 at 12:34 am #

      Hi my grandmother was Annie O’Donnell, her father was called Paddy Rua O’Donnell from Arranmore Island, Co. Donegal. Which James O’Donnell clan are you from? My name is Angela Dannette Boyle

    • Joyce
      April 3, 2016 at 7:37 am #

      Lisa…..just came across this post. I am searching for this very same James O’Donnell. Is there a way to contact you?

  25. November 14, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    In fact the numbers here are low for the Union and high for the Confederates. Over 200,000 Irish born served in the Union army and navy. Only about 10,000 could have served the Confederacy since there were only about 17,000 Irish men of military age in the South in 1860 and of these only about 60 percent would have actually served. The 150,000 estimate serving the Union mentioned here is a number taken from the Sanitary Commission Report estimate for immigrant soldiers in the volunteer units. It does not include the volunteers from California and the territories (90,000 in all), the state militias, nor does it include soldiers in the regular army and the Navy, branches of the service that were very heavily Irish. Of course there were as many or more Irish in the Union service who were born in the US, Canada, Scotland and England.

    • November 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      Hi Jim,

      Many thanks for the comment. I tend to agree with you regarding the Irish in the Union military, I think it is a figure that needs some detailed additional work. Also perhaps in this war more than any other the Irish born in in the US (and indeed Britain and Canada) who served really should be included, as they were often full members of the Irish-American community. One only has to look at men like James Mulligan and indeed Peter Welsh, that famous member of the Irish Brigade, both of whom were born in the US. The Irish in the navy have been largely forgotten, and at least 20% of the men who served in it were of Irish birth. In terms of Confederate service I think the figure of 20,000 is a convincing one, it is the product of detailed and reasoned analysis by David Gleeson, the leading Irish historian of the South. He goes into how he arrived at that number in some detail in his new book on the Irish in the Confederate States of America, which is well worth a read.

      Kind Regards,


  26. Kate Atkeson
    November 21, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    Hello! I am a high school junior doing a research project on the Irish in Boston in the second half of the 1800s. I would like to include some information about how the irish joined the war effort. In my paper I am mainly talking about Irish politics and discrimination in Boston, but I’d like to have maybe a page on the Irish effect in the War. Could you give me any key information (specifically pertaining to Irish Bostonians) that could help me? Thanks! :)

    • November 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Hi Kate,

      Many thanks for the email- if you search Boston and Massachusetts on the site you should get a few posts that will help you- also on the ‘Books’ page there are links to a couple of histories of the 9th Massachusetts that are available to read online and might be of use. The 28th Massachusetts served in the Irish Brigade and so a couple of the links will be of use relating to them. The letters of Patrick Guiney, edited by Christian Samito, give a great insight into the Boston Irish as well. Hope this is of some use and good luck with your research!

      Kind Regards,


      • Boudinot Starring
        October 6, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

        Interesting subject. A bit late I’m afraid, but a balanced view might have included the New York draft riots and explored the political complexities.

  27. Steve Brickse
    December 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    Hello Damian,
    I noticed with great intrigue your very recent article about Brig. Gen. Michael Cochran of U.S. Civil War notoriety.
    I am putting together a Family History for a cousin of mine, of whom has the surname of Cochran in their family ancestry. Realizing that this surname is a fairly common name in Ireland, and those who came to the U.S., bearing it, I only have hope that this Michael Cochran is related, SOMEHOW within my cousin’s ancestry.
    I am at a brick wall in locating any connection with Michael and that of the ancestor in the lineage of my documentation. That ancestor is David. D. Cochran, b. 1818, in Ohio., marrying Eliza (nee Smith).
    In the article/blog, you mention that Michael Cochran was born in Ireland, and not, any mention of his parentage, nor his children, if he had any…nor how he translocated to the U.S.
    Can you point me to your sources which you’ve (no doubt) consulted in your facts ?
    There seems to be (upon checking there) no listing of this Michael Cochran, in my research at Ancestry.com. (OR, it just hasn’t “made it” to that site, at this writing.)
    Appreciating any/all assistance you may be able to afford.
    Best regards,
    Steve J. Brickse

    • January 5, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Steve,

      Many thanks for the comment. It is a different spelling although it may be the same family name- his was spelt Corcoran. If you search his name on the site there are a few articles about his origins that may be of use- his father was a British Army veteran and they originally came from Co. Sligo. I hope this is of some use in getting you on the right track, let me know how you get on!

      Kind Regards,


      • Steve Brickse
        January 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

        Damian, Your response was welcomed. Thanks for this (Cochran/Corcoran)name-spelling being brought to my attention. Will pursue different avenues, in this respect. Kind regards, Steve Brickse


  28. Conor Robison
    May 3, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    Dear Damian, Greetings,
    Your posts are magnificent, indeed they reveal so much as to the Irish involvement in the War and I thank you for it. I was wondering if you could in anyway write an article, or provide some illumination on the Shields Guards of Chicago in the 69th New York? To be more specific, forty two men of the 23rd Illinois, led by the then Lieutenant Timothy L. Shanley, traveled east to New York, after the 23rd’s disbandment following Lexington, ultimatley they volunteered for the 69th at Fort Schulyer NY and afterwards created company D of the 69 NYV, serving with the regiment from the Peninsula to Apomattox. This is unique in that these Irishmen wee from Chicago, being south side born myself, I was hoping that you may provide some detailsbas to their service.
    Conor Robison

    • May 20, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      Hi Conor,

      Many thanks for the comment and your kind words! That is an extremely interesting story and one I will certainly see can I look into. I did some work on the nativity of men in the 23rd Illinois https://irishamericancivilwar.com/resources/regimental-nativity/23rd-illinois-infantry/ which also forms part of my book. Have you had a look for them on the excellent Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls Database? It can be found here http://www.ilsos.gov/isaveterans/civilmustersrch.jsp and is the best I have seen for any State online thus far. it provides detail such as county of origin in Ireland where that was recorded, so these men could be cross-referenced. Thanks for bringing this story to my attention- something I am certainly going to try to find the time to explore furter!

      Kind Regards,


  29. LongIslandMichael
    June 5, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    I just found this site. It was referenced on a Catholic blog I read. I have been reading through some of your posts. Absolutely great stuff. I am looking forward to your book and further post.

    • June 9, 2014 at 9:43 am #

      Thanks Michael I am glad you are enjoying it!

      Kind Regards,


  30. Eileen Moore
    August 31, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    Damian, I so enjoy reading your blog. As we imaged these records, we had no time to read them. It is wonderful now to read their stories and learn of their quiet sacrifice. Since my great grandfather was Irish, this all means so much to me to have this history preserved. Thank you very much for sending us your book. It will always be a treasure to us.
    Best Regards, Eileen

  31. Jacke Walton
    December 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Dear Damian,
    Great site! Thank you for doing this.
    I am trying to gain information on Col Michael Cochran. Family lore has it that we are directly related. We have heard stories about him for generations but I am having difficulty proving familial relationship. I also need his service records. Any ideas where/how I can trace lineage and get his service records?
    Thank you and keep up the great blog!

    • December 11, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

      Hi Jackie,

      Many thanks glad you enjoy the site! If you search for ‘Corcoran’ in the searchbar for the site there are a number of articles here on him, and a number of descendants of his have posted on some of them- that might be a good starting point to see if they have any info!

      Kind Regards,


  32. Timothy Fay
    March 13, 2015 at 2:39 pm #


    Have you considered going to the next step with your research and exploring the impact of the Irish diaspora in North America on the subsequent fate of Ireland in the later 19th and early 20th century? I am a student of the American Civil War, and I am currently taking a two-year course which reviews Irish history, literature, and archaeology for the past 3000 years (approx.) through the University of Ireland, Galway. I see strong connections between the events of the Great Hunger, emigration to North America, involvement in the American Civil War, and the subsequent political and financial impact directed back to Ireland from the diaspora. The insular attitude that you mention in your blog, and the apparent complete disregard for the enormous suffering and later contribution of the diaspora after the famine, is baffling to me. I believe that an exploration of the history which follows the American Civil War, particularly those events which lead to the Free State, may help to explain the disassociation to some extent.

    I would appreciate your thoughts on the subject, and wanted to know if you plan to pursue this subject further into the 20th century and beyond.

    Kind regards,

    Timothy Fay

    • March 23, 2015 at 10:22 am #

      Hi Timothy,

      Many thanks for the comment. I would love to, although I do it all in my spare time so there are not enough hours in the day! There is some interesting work being done on this period, particularly the links between the U.S. back to Ireland. I suppose fundamentally Ireland appears interested more in Irish-America where it historically contributed towards events in Ireland than in Irish-America in general, though that is not to say much good work hasn’t been done in that area. I do think we need to free ourselves from the need (in Ireland) to see all historical inquiry into the Irish as in some way having to be associated with what goes on in Ireland itself, though as you suggest, many neglected areas did indeed influence Ireland. For example many Irish Civil War soldiers actively sent funds back to help the poor of Ireland.

  33. Mairead Ni Dhuinn
    April 4, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    Interesting photo to be had here http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/features/photographicproject/enlarged/timothylge.html

    • May 6, 2015 at 9:38 am #

      Hi Mariead,

      many thanks for the link- that is one of his really good ones- no denying Timothy O’Sullivan was a great photographer!

      Kind Regards,


  34. mallorb
    April 30, 2015 at 2:43 am #

    Interesting blog; glad to have found it!!! Can’t wait to dig in to it further!!!

  35. August 30, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    I found your blog via The Silver Voice of Ireland and will enjoy exploring yours. Congratulations on the long list!

  36. September 7, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

    great blog. Congratulations on making the shortlist for the Irish Blog Awards. I thought you might like this piece I wrote: https://ragingfluff.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/diasporational-part-sixteen-captain-brevet-the-fenian-who-fought-at-gettysburg/

    • September 8, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

      Thanks Niall I appreciate that! That is a great book and a good post! He had a very interesting career. It is a pity we can’t buy more of these Irishmen’s memoirs in Irish bookshops but hopefully that will change as people become more aware of the conflict.

  37. Tom Curran
    October 2, 2015 at 12:07 am #

    I have a MA in English and one of my areas of study is Irish Studies, but I never researched my ancestors. I am beginning research on the Currans and O’Gradys in the American Civil War. I know that my great-grandparents were Irish immigrants into NYC and some of the Currans settled in Philadelphia. I have info about the O’Gradys from a cousin’s research, but really nothing about the Currans. I appreciate all of the information here. It’ll give me a good start.

    I was just listening to John Doyle’s 2011 album (on Spotify) Shadow & Light, which contains “Clear the Way” (Faugh a Ballagh) the battle cry of the Irish brigade. It’s a great song about an Irishman’s experience fighting for the Union. Great album…check it out.

    I’ve always been interested in the Civil War. I was born in Pennsylvania and now live in North Carolina, so I’ve got both sides of the story. Here in NC, they’re still “fighting” the Civil War with lots of folks displaying the Confederate Battle flag fully furled on their pick-up trucks. There’s even an official custom license plate with the battle flag on it.

    I’d like to display a flag or sticker with “Faugh a Ballagh” on it to represent the Union Irish brigades who were the winners. The funny thing, which the present-day Confederate flag wavers don’t know is that here in western NC, there were a lot of Confederate deserters…in other words, if they could talk to their ancestors (or read a history book) they would find that they were not too enamored with the Confederacy or at least getting killed for the interests of politicians and large plantation owners.

  38. Jenn Hill
    October 27, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Can I subscribe to your blog?

    • October 30, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

      Hi Jenn,

      There is an email subscription button on the right sidebar if you scroll down, so just enter your email in there and you should be all set!

  39. Jenn Hill
    October 31, 2015 at 12:58 am #

    Thank you!

  40. Jenn Hill
    October 31, 2015 at 1:05 am #

    I believe my great-great grandfather served in one of the Boston Massachusetts brigades. His name was David E. Thompson, from Co. Fermanagh. We have no records of his whereabouts from 1861-1865. We suspect this because he and his wife had two children in succession, then she bore no children 1861-1865. I hope research of the Bonus records in San Jose US Archives will shed more light.

    • November 2, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      Hi Jenn,

      Your first port of call should be the Soldiers & Sailors System here: http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm where you can search for his name and see which units men of that name served under. You can then use that to pick out potential candidates and extend the search into things like the pension files, through portals like ancestry of Fold3. If you have an idea where he might have been living at the time it would help you to narrow down your search.

      Kind Regards,


  41. Alice Morrison
    January 22, 2016 at 8:13 am #

    Hi Damian,

    I am so happy to have found your blog and will follow it. One of my ancestors, John McElhannon from Londonderry arrived alone in Boston in 1768 at age 15. (father was dead) John fought in the American Revolution and was given a pension of $80.00 per year in 1833. He died the following year, age 81.

    Also, my great-great-great grandfather, Stewart McElhannon and four sons, including my great-great grandfather, were in the American Civil War. Three sons were killed in the war and another died after being captured leaving wives & children. I have some records regarding regiments they were in and of one being in Alton Prison.

    I made my first visit to Ireland and Londonderry this past year with my two daughter and loved every minute of it. Can’t wait to return.

    Alice Morrison

    • January 26, 2016 at 4:42 pm #

      Hi Alice,

      Thanks foe the comment and thanks for sharing your family story with us! What units did his sons serve in? I am delighted you got over for a visit, it is a beautiful city and county, a nice part of the country to have roots!

      Kind Regards,


  42. Marilyn Vicuna
    April 20, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    I think it would be interesting to see an article on the song, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, as the original tune was “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye”, an anti-war song.

    • May 6, 2016 at 12:06 pm #

      Hi Marilyn,

      Catherine Bateson of the University of Edinburgh (and who has guest-psoted on the blog) is currently researching such songs, including that one, so worth keeping an eye out for her work!

      Kind Regards,


      • Debbie van Tuyll
        May 6, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

        With regard to the two “Johnny” songs, I’ve read (sorry can’t remember the source, but I could probably find it if someone needed it, that “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is actually the older of the two. It’ll be interesting to see what Bateson’s work when it’s complete.

  43. Debbie van Tuyll
    May 3, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    Hi Damian, I just ran across your site. It’s super well done! I’m presently dealing with John Mitchel and his influence on secession in 1848 (through his writings about why civil war is justified in response to the European revolutions that year) and then his American journalism career. Did you know at one of his sons was in the Confederate units that defended Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg when Meagher’s Irish Brigade made its assault? So ironic, though it seems to me that Meagher and Mitchel never were exactly ever on the same page politically or ideologically. Anyway, I’m glad I found your site. Great stuff! Hope to see you on a future trip to Ireland. We’re not coming south this year, but next year, we’ll be based in Waterford for 5 weeks. Maybe we can meet up then!

    Debbie van Tuyll

    • May 6, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi Debbie,

      Thanks so much! Mitchel actually lost two sons in the war, so sacrificed a great deal to the Confederacy. Oddly enough he and Meagher now both have forts named for them in Cork Harbour. Both are fascinating individuals. Hope we will get to meet again when you are next about- you will have plenty of Meagher-related things to see in Waterford anyway!

      Kind Regards,


      • Debbie van Tuyll
        May 6, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

        Hi — Oh, yes! You can’t get away from Meagher in Waterford — or anywhere else in that region. That’s very interesting that a fort has been named for Mitchel in Cork. I’ve read that he cause a bit of controversy recently in his hometown of Newry when the folks there wanted to use him as the centerpiece of a Republic/Northern Ireland gathering of some sort and some folks objected due to his support of slavery in America. It’s hard to understand the context the Southern slave society and what Mitchel was reacting to and about, particularly if you’re not well versed in Southern history — which has almost as many twists and turns and nuances as I suspect Irish history does.

        However, Mitchel never owned slaves, and his taunt about wanting a plantation in Alabama with a bunch of slaves was actually written in a fit of pique when one of O’Connell’s followers wrote to chastize him and Meagher for not speaking out directly in favor of abolition. His reaction was actually more anti-abolitionist than it was pro-slavery — which is not to defend either Mitchel or slavery, simply to set the record straight. I think Ireland would be very wrong to turn their back on Mitchel. Men (or women) with a passionate devotion to a principle are often difficult to deal with, even in the 19th century when they were more common. But when that principle is national independence and liberty, and when that person is willing to sacrifice what Mitchel sacrificed in the pursuit of Irish nationhood, that is a person to be remembered.

        So I’m very happy to hear about the fort. It’s a well-deserved honor!

        Keep well!


  44. November 19, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    Cognates with your book we have a tourist group in donegal irl with a website http://www.mulroy drive. Com with a history sec detail the Earls of Leitrim you might find it of interest good luck

    • February 18, 2017 at 10:04 am #

      Thanks Paddy- all my family are from Carrigart so I have a soft spot for the area!

  45. November 19, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    Our website gives you some details of the Earls of Leitrim in donegal irl good luck with the book

  46. January 13, 2017 at 6:03 pm #

    Hello Damian,

    We may have met last October in Gettysburg when you were embarking on a tour of the Irish Brigade with Guide John Fitzpatrick. I am portraying Philip Sheridan in a living history group, but before that I portrayed Col. William McCandless. I would like to post his bio here as I have records that he was born in Ireland despite his bio and military records saying he was born in Philadelphia. Can you advise me how to post his information?

  47. Cody Sutton
    February 25, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

    Hi sir. My name is Cody Sutton and I am writing a paper about the Irish brigade for my school. I had previously written a paper for a history competition about the Irish brigade already, but this paper is less narrative and more about finding a debatable topic and creating a paper that argues one side. I am completely infatuated by the Irish involvement in the civil war. I really want to be able to continue with this topic for this next paper, but I’m struggling to find something that is debatable in this area. After listening to your podcast with the rogue historian, I realized you were probably the best person to contact since you seem so k knowledgable. A requirement for the paper is that it is a topic within the civil war. As a historian, can you possibly talk about some areas that you have studied with the Irish involvement in the civil war that you find you clash with other historians or contradict other historians? Thank you so much and I really appreciate all of your help in advance.

    • March 6, 2017 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Cody,

      Many thanks for getting in touch! I hope you get on well with the project. In terms of the Irish and debatable material, you could look at things like race relations, motiviation for fighting, and loyalty to the Union v Ireland as three of the main ones. There is quite a lot on them on the site so if you search through some of the posts you should get a lot of material, but let me know how you get on!

      Kind Regards,


      • John Peterson/ Harkin
        May 4, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

        Hello Damian I have been doing a lot looking at my Irish family history in Inishowen Donegal and have come across the Sheils family name from a Patrick or Paddy Harkin in the IRA 1916 , to marrying into Harkin family name to the NLI from births in Moville parish 1850s , and also one of the killers of the Donegal bad landlords. My family Harkin, Doherty, McLaughlin, Gillen is from Leitrim Falmore Donegal, Carrowmenagh, Moville area.

      • July 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

        Hi John,

        MY own Gallagher side are from Donegal as well- a great county :-)

  48. June 4, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

    I wrote about the experiences of my great grandfather and great uncle, Patrick and John Donohue, who fought in the Corcoran Legion. The War’s impact on them descended down the generations of the Donohue family. I believe it cost the family at least a generation of progress toward the American Dream. The name of the book is HIMSELF, A CIVIL WAR VETERAN’S STRUGGLES WITH REBELS, BRITS, AND DEVILS.


  1. British gun-running in the American Civil War - Page 3 - June 25, 2014

    […] served in the union army whilst 20,000 served in the confederacy. That's 10%. Not bad considering. Irish in the American Civil War | About Sign in or Register Now to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: