Author Archives | Damian Shiels
Annapolis National Cemetery (Damian Shiels)

A Walk Among Storied Tombstones: The Irish of Annapolis National Cemetery

Whenever I get an opportunity to visit the United States I always try to make it to one or more of the National Cemeteries dating to the American Civil War. I walk the long straight rows of white grave markers, looking out for Irish names, and pondering the events that led to the end of […]

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Men of the 3rd Rhode Island at Fort Pulaski in 1863 (Photographic History of the Civil War)

“Your husband was torn almost to pieces”: A Cork Woman Learns of her Roscommon Husband’s Death

The site regularly returns to the topic of letters written to inform families of the death of a loved one (see Communicating Death & Creating Memory on Fredericksburg’s Streets). As we have seen, these communications occasionally didn’t hold back in providing the gruesome details of an Irish emigrants demise (e.g. Imagining the Horrors of Death: […]

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"Answering the Emigrant's Letter", an 1850 painting by James Collinson, depicting an English family replying to correspondence from Australia (Manchester Art Gallery)

The Death of a Regular: Revealing an Ireland/New Jersey/Missouri Emigrant Network

The key focus of my research is on examining the letters of Irish emigrants in the Widows Pension Files. These letters, and the stories which surround them, have an incredible amount to tell us about Irish emigrant life. One of the most important aspects concerns how emigrants maintained communications both between Irish-American communities in the […]

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A young Illinois soldier in the Civil War (Library of Congress)

“Hoping you will not take it to heart”: The Final Days of an Irish-American Boy Soldier

The site has consistently returned to the many members of the Irish community in the United States whose nativity was neither Irish or American. Many of these Irish-Americans had been born during the process of step-migration, in places such as Britain and Canada. Thousands of such men fought during the conflict, and generally identified with the Irish-American […]

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Map 2. Widows & Dependents in Receipt of American Military Pensions, Mainland Europe, 1883. Concentration Heatmap (Click on image to explore map)

Mapping Britain’s American Civil War Widows & Dependent Parents: An Online Resource

This is the second instalment of the ongoing mapping project detailing every widow and dependent parent in the world outside of the United States receiving a pension in 1883, and concentrates on Britain (you can see the first, looking at Mainland Europe, and learn more about the project here). In order to explore the maps, click on the […]

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“She Hates Men”: An Interview With A Troubled Irish Famine Emigrant

Perhaps the greatest value of the Widow’s and Dependent Pension Files is in what they can tell us about the lives of female Irish emigrants in the 19th century. There is surely no other source that provides the same level of detail on Irishwomen in this period, particularly with respect to those who had fallen […]

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The Phelan Family Register (NARA/Fold3)

Document Focus: The Story of the Phelan Family Register

The last post (see here) was the first in a series called Document Focus, highlighting specific documents that are of interest in both their own right but also served a specific purpose in building the claim of a prospective pensioner. In this second post on that topic, we return once again to the Irish of Ohio, […]

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The Corporal Warrant for Joseph Donovan (NARA/Fold3)

Document Focus: The Story of the Corporal’s Warrant

Many of the pension files I explore contain one or two particularly interesting documents or pieces of evidence. These tend to be historically eye-catching in their own right, but also always served a very specific purpose in the case being built by a prospective pensioner. Such documents were usually included to provide proof on a particular aspect […]

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Hubert & Mary McNamara (Ruth Davis-Hastler)

Picturing the McNamaras: Images of the Irishman whose final letter home was cut from his body at Cold Harbor

On 2nd June 1864 Hubert McNamara of the 155th New York Infantry, Corcoran’s Irish Legion, prepared a letter for his wife. He was aware that the following morning he would be going into action; he was among the men of the Army of the Potomac then preparing to assault the Confederate lines at Cold Harbor. […]

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The Crater as it appeared in 1865 (Photographic History of the Civil War)

“I am so heartily sick of this life”: The Civil War Letter of Daniel Crowley, Part 3

I am pleased to bring to readers the third and final instalment of Catherine Bateson’s guest posts charting the correspondence of Cork’s Daniel Crowley, who served in the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, Irish Brigade in 1864-5. If you have missed the earlier articles, you can catch up on them here and here. As the protracted operations […]

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