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Maids draw water from a well, 1864. Johanna spent the majority of her life in domestice service in Ireland and America (Oscar Gustave Rejlander)

Johanna Barry: The Story of an Emigrant Domestic in Ireland & America, 1836-1916

On 17th September 1862, 27-year-old tailor Denis Barry from Dunmanway in West Co. Cork ventured into Antietam’s West Woods with the 19th Massachusetts Infantry. He never came out again. One of the legacies of Denis’s death is the extraordinary detail it has left us about the life of his wife Johanna, covering her time in […]

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Looking into the Face of a Maimed Irish Soldier

At the close of the American Civil War, a photographer of the Johnson & D’Utassy company paid a visit to De Camp General Hospital on David’s Island in New York Harbor. He was there to capture images of surgical cases then being treated at the site, to preserve a record of the wounds and their […]

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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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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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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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Excelsior Brigade Memorial, Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

Time to Move Beyond the Irish Brigade? The Problems with Studying Ethnic Irish Units– A Case Study of the New York Irish at Gettysburg

When we think and examine the Irish of the American Civil War, we often consider first and foremost ethnic units; formations such as the Irish Brigade, Corcoran’s Legion or regimental level contingents such as the 9th Massachusetts and 69th Pennsylvania. Such units have undeniably been the focus of attention for both scholars and enthusiasts (this […]

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The monument to the 65th New York at Culp's Hill, Gettysburg, which I took the opportunity to visit on my recent trip. Both John Clark and John O'Brien died as a result of artillery bombardment not far from this spot (Damian Shiels)

“Mother many a good man wint acrost the river but never come back, it was murder”: An Irishman at Fredericksburg & Gettysburg

I am currently working through the New York unit casualties at Gettysburg to draw together all those of Irish-birth or Irish ethnicity who lost their lives as a result of that engagement. Four men of the 65th New York Infantry (1st United States Chausseurs) died as a result of the fighting that July– almost certainly […]

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The 94th New York Infantry Memorial, Oak Ridge, Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

‘Pro Patria Mori’: The 94th New York Memorial & the Irish of Oak Ridge, Gettysburg

I have just returned from a visit to the Gettysburg battlefield, a journey that will be the subject of a number of posts over the coming weeks and months. While there I had the opportunity to stay in the wonderful Doubleday Inn, which is located on Oak Ridge, part of the first day’s battlefield. The […]

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One of Fort Donelson's River Batteries (Hal Jesperson)

‘Beyond the Power of My Feeble Pen’: The Fate of a Limerick Octogenarian’s Sons in the West, 1862

Limerickman Patrick Vaughan had lived a long life by the 1860s. He was born sometime around 1783, the year that the conflict between the American Colonies and Britain had finally drawn to a close. When rebellion broke out in Ireland and French troops marched to their support in 1798, Patrick was a teenager. He was in his […]

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Portraits from the New York Irish-American Weekly: 1861

Every week the New York Irish-American brought it’s news to Irish readers not just in The Empire State, but all over the United States. Many Irish soldiers at the front remained loyal readers of the newspaper throughout the Civil War. From time to time, the Irish-American printed portraits and illustrations of famous Irish-Americans, Catholics and […]

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