Author Archives | Damian Shiels
A Union soldier and his instrument (Library of Congress)

Four Years of the Irish at War in Poetry & Song

As we discovered in the excellent recent guest post by University of Edinburgh scholar Catherine Bateson (see here), poetry and song could be extremely important methods for Irish-Americans to communicate their views and experiences. Readers regularly sent in their efforts to be printed in newspapers like the New York Irish American Weekly, allowing us to chart how key […]

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Andersonville as it appeared on 1st August 1864. Drawn from the memory of another Irish prisoner, Thomas O'Dea of the 16th Maine Infantry (Library of Congress)

The Keegans of Bray: Reconstructing the Story of A Famine-Era Emigrant Family

Regular readers will be aware that I have become captivated by using Widow and Dependent Pension Files to reconstruct the stories of mid-19th century Irish emigrant families. Naturally, given the material available, these stories can never be more than partial, incomplete windows into aspects of their lives, and need to be treated as such. Nonetheless, […]

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Last Letters Home: Revealing the Pension File Correspondence of Union Irish Soldiers & Their Families

Over recent years I have been compiling a database of those widows’ and dependents pension files which contain primary correspondence from Irish and Irish-American soldiers and their families. As regular readers are aware, these letters feature frequently on the site, but I have only been in a position to share a handful of the 100s […]

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The Mud March as described by William McIntyre, drawn by Alfred Waud in 1863 (Library of Congress)

Mud Marches, Radical Abolitionists & River Assaults: Letters from the Last Campaign of An Irish-American Soldier

The widows and dependent pension files occasionally include groups of letters written by individual soldiers over a period of months or years. These can sometimes provide significant insight into the motivations, fluctuating morale and political allegiances of these Irish-American men. One such example are the writings of William McIntyre, a young Irish-American from Philadelphia. Through […]

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Picking up the award for Irish in the American Civil War at the Blog Awards Ireland (Blog Awards Ireland)

Irish in the American Civil War Named Best Arts & Culture Blog at Blog Awards Ireland

Last night I attended the Blog Awards Ireland awards at the Tivoli Theatre in Dublin. Having spent much of the week working on an archaeological excavation on Bere Island off the West Cork coast, my day started with a ferry journey back to the mainland,  before covering the near 400 km to the capital. However, […]

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Patriotic letterhead on one of James Finnerty's wartime letters (Fold3/National Archives)

Grieving for an Emigrant Son: The Story of the Finnertys of Galway City

This week I will be continuing my county-specific examinations of the Irish experience of the American Civil War, when I give a lecture in Galway City Museum on the impact of the conflict on the Tribesmen (and women!). I come across large numbers of Galway people in my research, and have little doubt that the […]

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The Rotundo in Dublin, which later formed part of the Ambassador (William Murphy)

The ‘Polopticomorama’: Bringing the American Civil War to Life in Irish Theatres, 1863

When Mathew Brady exhibited his photographic images of the dead of the Battle of Antietam in New York in 1862, throngs went to see the exhibition. The shocking sight of the dead of the conflict caused the New York Times to remark that if Brady ‘has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards […]

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Pat Murphy of Meagher's Brigade (The British Library)

‘In This Song I Will Make Mention of the Sons of Erin’: Researching Irish Songs from the American Civil War

From early in the American Civil War songs began to emerge focusing on aspects of the Irish experience of the conflict. Many of these tunes remain familiar to us today, but beyond their often rousing lyrics, what were they originally intended to convey? To explore this further I am delighted to welcome a guest post […]

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The medical image taken of Robert Jenkins after his wounding in 1865, only months after arriving in America (National Museum of Civil War Medicine)

Recruited Straight Off The Boat? On The Trail of Emigrant Soldiers From the SS Great Western

The medical images of Civil War soldiers taken towards the end of the war are undeniably compelling. Friend of the site Brendan Hamilton has previously explored the story of one of these men in a guest post, which you can read here. It was while researching another wounded Irishman that Brendan uncovered an extraordinary link […]

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Congress Avenue looking towards the Capitol in Austin, Texas. John Hannon died on this street. (Wikipedia)

‘Tears Ease the Heart’: A Teenage Galwegian Civil War Veteran in Texas, 1866

Many Famine emigrants found themselves on the front lines of the American Civil War. Others watched as the children they had taken to America in search of a new life marched off to war. One couple who endured this was John and Mary Hannon, who saw their underage son, John Jr., ride to Virginia in […]

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