Author Archives | Damian Shiels

“I want to see you before I die”: Last Letters of Ulster Emigrants in American Civil War Pension Files

Two years ago I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Ulster-American Heritage Symposium in Athens, Georgia. The Symposium alternates between Ireland and North America every two years, and this year was back at its spiritual home, the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American Folk Park outside Omagh, Co. Tyrone. I was […]

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The Academy of Music was an impressive venue. This was the Russian Ball held there, only a few months after McClellan's speech, in November 1863 (Library of Congress)

“I Sprung from A Kindred Race”: George McClellan Cultivates the Irish Vote, 1863

The Irish of the North overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party during the period of the American Civil War. Many had little time for Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans, and in the 1864 Presidential Election most rowed behind George McClellan– the former commander of the Army of the Potomac– who was hugely popular among the Irish. Though […]

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The "Down Hill Road", an 1878 image which highlighted the dangers of alcohol (Library of Congress)

“I Not Onley Loved You But I Adored You”: 19th Century Irish Emigrants Speak of Love, Loss & Alcoholism

On 13th October 1863 Irishwoman Margaret Martin of 84 Fourth Street, East Cambridge, Massachusetts applied for a widow’s pension. Her husband Michael, a private in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, had lost his life at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 3rd May that year. Margaret’s file demonstrates the range of information that can be found in […]

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The Battle of Opequon (Third WInchester) by Kurz & Allison (Library of Congress)

The Ties that Bind: An Emigrant Derry Community & Those Left Behind

The google image below is the modern view of a rural laneway in Ballyriff townland, near Magherafelt in Co. Londonderry. Over a century ago, it was a road that was well known to Thomas McKinney. He had spent his entire life walking it, making a living for himself and his family in the surrounding fields. […]

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Officers on the deck of the U.S.S. Onondaga. The identity of the Irish correspondent, 'Garryowen', has not been established (National Archives)

“Our Ironclads on the James River”: The Collected Correspondence of “Garryowen”

During the Civil War, newspapers frequently published correspondence written by soldiers and sailors at the front. Some servicemen took the opportunity to act as quasi-reporters for particular publications, ensuring that their views and opinions regularly appeared in print. In May 1864, letters from an Irishman who went by the pen name Garryowen began to appear in the […]

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U.S. In Ireland during WW1

Over Here: Researching U.S. Military in Ireland during World War One

Although the main focus of this site is (and will remain) the Irish experience of the American Civil War, I thought readers may also be interested in some work I am conducting on a later aspect of the U.S. military, exploring the impact on Ireland of the thousands of Americans who were stationed here during […]

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Kieran Phelan (NARA/Fold3)

Whats in an Alias: Civil War Widowhood, Remembrance & Identity in the Words of an “Old Irishwoman”

On 6th September 1864, Private Kieran Fitzpatrick of the 11th Connecticut Infantry lost his battle for life at the 18th Corps Hospital in Point of Rocks, Virginia. His wife Elizabeth sought a widow’s pension based on his service; a lack of documentation meant it would be 1869 before she received it. Then, 35-years after her husband’s death, […]

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Irish in the American Civil War YouTube

Video: Diaspora Ireland- Cobh & The American Civil War

I recently decided to launch a YouTube Channel associated with this page. My intention is to explore sites in Ireland specifically from the perspective of the diaspora, and to explain something of these diaspora connections to viewers. This weekend we travelled to Cobh (formerly Queenstown) in Co. Cork, Ireland’s main emigrant port, to discuss some of the town […]

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"Ships in Fog, Gloucester, Massachusetts". Painted by Fitz Henry Lane in 1860, the same year John began his fishing career in Gloucester. Currently part of the Princeton University Art Museum (Fitz Henry Lane)

“As If they Were Shooting Ducks:” An Irish Nova Scotian Gloucester Fisherman at War

Many of the Canadians who fought in the American Civil War were of Irish ancestry, often members of families who had first made their homes in British North America before slowly moving down to the United States. In the early 1850s the Cunningham family made the move from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia to Gloucester, […]

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The Famine Irish

The Famine Irish: Emigration and The Great Hunger

Back in 2013 I was privileged to speak at the Third Annual International Famine Conference at Strokestown Park House, Co. Roscommon. The theme of the event was The Famine Irish: Emigration and New Lives, and it was an excellent couple of days. The focus of my paper was to examine the impact of the American Civil […]

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