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The Academy of Music was an impressive venue. This was the Russian Ball held there, only a few months after McClellan's speech, in November 1863 (Library of Congress)

“I Sprung from A Kindred Race”: George McClellan Cultivates the Irish Vote, 1863

The Irish of the North overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party during the period of the American Civil War. Many had little time for Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans, and in the 1864 Presidential Election most rowed behind George McClellan– the former commander of the Army of the Potomac– who was hugely popular among the Irish. Though […]

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Officers on the deck of the U.S.S. Onondaga. The identity of the Irish correspondent, 'Garryowen', has not been established (National Archives)

“Our Ironclads on the James River”: The Collected Correspondence of “Garryowen”

During the Civil War, newspapers frequently published correspondence written by soldiers and sailors at the front. Some servicemen took the opportunity to act as quasi-reporters for particular publications, ensuring that their views and opinions regularly appeared in print. In May 1864, letters from an Irishman who went by the pen name Garryowen began to appear in the […]

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Captain Thomas David Norris, 170th New York Infantry, Corcoran's Irish Legion, and veteran of the 69th New York State Militia at the First Battle of Bull Run. Perhaps the most major advocate of the Irish language to serve during the American Civil War (New York State Military Museum).

“A Few Spoke Nothing But Gaelic”: In Search of the Irish Language in the American Civil War

In Philadelphia on 13th February 1868, Owen Curren and Mary Curren gave an affidvait relating to the case of Farrigle Gallagher. Gallagher, a member of the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry, had died a Prisoner of War at Andersonville. His wife Anne survived him by less than 6 months, dying– likely of T.B.– in December 1864. The […]

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Holloway's Ointment & Pills, the "Soldier's True Friend," New York, 1862 (Library of Congress)

War Prices! War Prices! Advertisements Aimed at Irish Soldiers & their Families from the American Civil War

We live in an age of seemingly incessant and increasingly intrusive advertising. In a world where algorithms monitor our online browsing to offer us individually tailored ads, it is easy to consider opportunistic advertisement as a relatively modern phenomenon. Of course that is not necessarily the case. A review of advertisements from periods like the 1860s demonstrates just […]

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The grave of First Sergeant William Jones, Fredericksburg National Cemetery. A native of Wicklow. (Damian Shiels)

A Walk Among Storied Tombstones: Some Irish Dead in National Cemeteries

In 2014 I was fortunate enough to walk a number of the Eastern Theater battlefields of the American Civil War. I took the time to visit some of the National Cemeteries along the way, at places like Cold Harbor, Glendale, Fredericksburg and Antietam. Military cemeteries are fascinating places. The National Cemeteries created out of the […]

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A young soldier dressed in Chausseur uniform, possibly a member of the 65th New York (Library of Congress)

Imagining the Horrors of Death: An Irishwoman Learns of Her Husband’s Death at Gettysburg

The battlefields of the American Civil War claimed thousands of Irish Famine emigrants. The families of some were fortunate, in that comrades took the time to write to them of their loved one’s final moments. But these letters did not always spare grieving relatives the gruesome imagery of war. Thankful as they must have been […]

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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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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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