Author Archives | Damian Shiels
St. Anthony's Church, Scotland Road, Liverpool (John Bradley)

The Forgotten County: Exploring the American Civil War Service of Britain’s Irish Communities

The widow’s and dependent pension files reveal the stories of Irish families from counties up and down the island of Ireland. But the files also provide an insight into another, rarely considered element of Irish service in the American Civil War– the contribution of the Irish of Britain. Although we know that many Irish emigrants to […]

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The Illinois Monument at the Dead Angle, Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield (Damian Shiels)

Tired of the Killing of Men: An Irish Family’s Story of Assisted Emigration, Missing Children & Letters Under Fire

The nature of the Widow’s and Dependent’s Pension Files means that the stories they tell are most usually ones of sorrow. The experiences they relate generally pertain specifically to the Civil War, but on occasions the information within them can be combined with a range of other sources to provide a much wider picture of […]

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Patrick Henry Jones: Irish American, Civil War General and Gilded Age Politician by Mark H. Dunkelman

Book Review: Patrick Henry Jones, Irish American, Civil War General and Gilded Age Politician

In September 2011 I had the great pleasure of meeting Mark Dunkelman and his wife Annette in Cork, Ireland. Many readers will be aware of Mark’s exceptional and inspiring work on the 154th New York Infantry, which is surely unsurpassed by any other regimental scholar of the Civil War. Mark’s incredible grasp of the history of […]

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Union soldiers find remains of their comrades on the Second Bull Run battlefield, 1863 by Edwin Forbes (Library of Congress)

‘His Death is an Uncertainty:’ Two Irish Women Search for Missing Husbands after Second Bull Run

As I am currently on a few days leave I have been taking the opportunity to catch-up on some reading. A book I am particularly enjoying is John J. Hennessy’s Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. I was struck by the savage intensity of much of the fighting on 29th August, 1862, […]

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A log boom on the St. Croix River, Maine (National Archives)

‘The Flag that Has Given Protection to Persecuted Countrymen’: An Irishman’s Service to Union & Parents

Perhaps one of the best known of all Irishmen to serve during the American Civil War was Buster Kilrain of the 20th Maine Infantry. Buster plays a major role in Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels, and was portrayed by actor Kevin Conway in the film Gettysburg. Kilrain, a loyal soldier and confidant of Joshua […]

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26. A final general view from the Observation Tower incorporating the Sunken Lane at left (marked by fence line) and the field across which the Irish Brigade advanced at right.

The Irish Brigade at Antietam: A Photographic Tour

Many of the posts on this site explore elements of the Irish experience at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War, fought on 17th September 1862. Many of the widow’s pension files that I now concentrate on were created as a result of those day’s events. It was also a […]

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The last words written by Hubert McNamara, hours before his death at the Battle of Cold Harbor (National Archives/Fold3)

‘Goodbye For A While’: An Irish Soldier’s Last Letter Home, Found on his Dead Body at Cold Harbor

On the 8th June 1864 Captain Dexter Ludden and his men from the 8th New York Heavy Artillery were picking their way through corpses. They had been assigned the unpleasant task of burying some of the many, many dead who had fallen assaulting the Confederate works at Cold Harbor. By then the bodies they were […]

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Cavan and the American Civil War

Major Event in Cavan to Remember the American Civil War

I regularly come across Cavan natives during my pension file research. They are men Like James DeLacy of Templeport, who left behind a dependent mother when he was gunned down along with many of his Irish Brigade comrades at Antietam; men like Mathew Henry of Lattoon, whose immigrant experience in America was cut short when […]

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Refugees from fighting with Native Americans in 1862 (Library of Congress)

Scalping, Big Braves & Butchery: An Irish Indian Fighter Writes Home to His Mother in Dublin

I recently came across the remarkable letters of Sergeant Thomas Mangan, which are here transcribed for the first time. The 22-year-old Dubliner was a recent emigrant from Ireland, who within a year of arriving in his new home found himself in the midst of the savage and brutal struggle for control of the Western Plains. […]

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Ayer's Pills were a popular medication for stomach complaints. This is a post Civil War advertisement for the product (East Carolina University DIgital Collections Image 12.1.23.13)

Meagher’s ‘Drunken Freaks’ & Old Abe ‘Astonished’: The Last Letters of John Doherty, 63rd New York, Irish Brigade

Corporal John Doherty of the Irish Brigade wrote a series of letters home to his family from Virginia and Maryland in the summer of 1862. Transcribed here for the first time, the letters detail John’s pride in the Irish Brigade– ‘the envy of the rest of the army’– but likewise suggest that the realities of […]

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