Author Archives | Damian Shiels
The fields over which the Union assault on the Mule Shoe salient took place at Spotsylvania, as dawn breaks on the 150th anniversary of the battle, 12th May 2014 (Damian Shiels)

“I am so well accustomed…I don’t care about dancing on the bodies of dead men”: The Civil War letters of Daniel Crowley, Part 1

Friend of the site Catherine Bateson of the University of Edinburgh has previously contributed a guest post on her work relating to Irish Songs in the American Civil War. I am delighted to welcome her back, this time to share some research she has carried out on the fascinating letters of Daniel Crowley, a young Cork […]

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“The Forgotten Irish” Event at The National Archives, Washington D.C.

As many readers of the site will be aware, the majority of my work concentrates on material from the widows’ and dependent pension files of Irish Civil War soldiers held in the National Archives, Washington D.C. This was also the source material on which my new book The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America […]

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Inscription on package of letters in James Nugent pension file (NARA/Fold3)

“Tell Poor Mama”: Draft Riots & Texas Prisons– Letters From The Gulf Blockade

In 1895, thirty years after the end of the American Civil War, Ann Nugent went in search of a pension. The 75-year-old Irish emigrant had lost her son James to the conflict in 1864. A Second Class Boy aboard the USS Granite City, he had been just 16-years-old when he had joined up, and only a year older […]

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Podcast: Beyond the Irish Brigade with The Rogue Historian

Last week I had a conversation with Dr. Keith Harris who runs The Rogue Historian website and podcast. Keith will be known to many readers for his very well-received book Across the Bloody Chasm: The Culture of Commemoration among Civil War Veterans published by LSU Press. We spent what was for me a Cork evening […]

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An Appeal for Civil War Descendants

I have been involved of late in assisting Mind the Gap films here in Ireland with a proposal to examine the Irish of the American Civil War, particularly with information in the pension files. Mind the Gap are eager to hear from descendants of Irish emigrants who served during the conflict, and have asked me to […]

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Cork Harbour as it appeared in the early 1870s (Library of Congress)

“My Cousin told me…that all my family were in America”: A Search for 1860s Cork Emigrants

The widows and dependent pension files often give us an extraordinary insight into 19th century emigration. Occasionally these are from the perspectives of those who remained in Ireland. I recently came across just such a letter, written in late 1863 by Dan McCarthy in Cork to his brother Ted in America. Its detail reveals just how […]

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Forgotten Irish Booklaunch, Hodges Figgis, 26th January

I am delighted to announce that the official Irish launch of The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America will take place in Ireland’s oldest bookshop, Hodges Figgis of Dublin, on Thursday next 26th January at 6pm. The publication will be officially launched by Dr. Myles Dungan of the RTE History Show, who has himself […]

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Seamus Condon with the handwritten and handillustrated memoirs of his grandfather, Andrew J. Byrne, 65th New York Infantry

The Distant Past? Ireland’s American Civil War Grandchildren

I have had the good fortune to deliver dozens of lectures around Ireland discussing local connections to the American Civil War. Wherever I am, I always highlight two factors; the reality that for many Irish counties, the American Civil War saw more locals in military uniform than any other conflict in their history, and the […]

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An African-American soldier photographed with his wife and daughters (Library of Congress)

North Carolina Slave, Union Widow, Liberian Emigrant: The Journey of Nancy Askie

My interest in the remarkable information contained within the widows and dependent pension files extends well beyond just those claims associated with Irish-Americans. The files are of major importance for the study of all immigrant groups, as well as native-born Americans. However, there is one category of pensioners for which the files are undeniably more […]

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Irish Púca (Celtic Mythpod)

Fairies, Púca & New Year’s Eve: An 1860s Irish Folktale for Irish-Americans

Tales of mythological creatures like fairies and púca remained popular in Ireland well into the 20th century. Many 19th century Irish emigrants carried a strong tradition of these stories with them to the United States. Traditional storytellers, the seanchaidhthe, kept these legends alive in the community, and many Irish-Americans remained eager to hear them even after their arrival in their […]

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