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The second telegraph sent to the Callahans. Three days after the first, it informs them that Cornelius is dead (NARA/Fold3)

Document Focus: Life & Death at Antietam in Telegraphs

Cornelius Callahan was an early enlistee in the Union cause. He was barely 18-years-old when he volunteered in Philadelphia. A founder by trade, he was described as having a light complexion, blue eyes and light hair. Knowing that Cornelius’s parents Timothy and Johanna (née Nagle) were married in Ireland during the late 1830s allows us […]

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Unidentified New Hampshire Soldier in the Civil War (Library of Congress)

“Rather Than Hear My Father’s Tongue”: The Sad Story of Why William Flaherty Fought

In late 1863 the town of Plymouth, New Hampshire needed men. One way or another they had a quota of enlistments to fill, and in anticipation of the draft they determined to add financial incentives in order to meet it. In August Plymouth voted to pay every drafted man– or his substitute– a $300 bounty. These […]

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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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‘I Am Confused’: The Emotional Shock of Pickett’s Charge as Experienced by a Family & Friend

At 1319 North 16th Street, Philadelphia on the 3rd of July 1863, Irish mother Jane Hand would have been going about her daily routine. Her two daughters were likely proving a handful; with her eldest Lucy Ann just 5 and her youngest Mary Jane 3, they were exactly the right age to get stuck under […]

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'Wanted A Substitute' A Wartime Sheet Music Cover (Library of Congress)

‘Induced to Enlist’: The Last Letter Home of an Irish Draft Substitute in 1864

There is sometimes a perception that large numbers of Union troops– particularly in the latter months of the war– had been drafted into the Federal military. This was not the case. Of the c. 776,829 men whose names were drawn during the four Civil War drafts, only about 46,347 men (a little under 6%)  ever […]

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A girl in mourning clothes holds an image of her father during the Civil War (Library of Congress)

Bonds Between Women & Daguerreotypes of A Dying Man in 1862

Families often relied on volunteer nurses to keep them informed of a loved one’s condition in hospital. Over time, bonds could develop between these caregivers and the soldier’s wives far away. The correspondence below, written by Emma Smith from St. Elizabeth Hospital, Washington D.C. to Sarah Welsh in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, are a case in point. This poignant collection of […]

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Massmount, Fanad, Co. Donegal, where James McFadden was married (Google)

‘Killed At The Surrender’: The Journey of Two Irishmen to Their Deaths at Sailor’s Creek

There is something particularly poignant about those who lose their lives in the final throes of a conflict– deaths that come when the soldiers themselves are aware the end is in sight. In many cases, the timing of such deaths must have made it even more difficult for those at home to accept. 150 years […]

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Mining coal three miles underground in Pennsylvania, c. 1895 (Library of Congress)

Coal Mining, Draft Rioting & The Molly Maguires: From Laois to Schuylkill with the Delaney Family

The Widow’s Pension Files often offer us the opportunity to explore the wider Irish emigrant experience through the lense of a single family. Such is the case with Private Thomas Delaney of the 19th Pennsylvania Cavalry. His family’s story allows us to travel with them, as they journeyed from the coalfields of pre-Famine Laois to […]

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William Brophy's Gravestone (Photo: Rlturner53)

‘I Am Not Long For This World’: An Irish-American Soldier Says Goodbye to His Family

The last post on the site examined a mother’s desperate attempts to contact her wounded son. Equally poignant are those letters, occasionally included in the files, which impart a soldier’s final words to his family from his deathbed. On 23rd February 1864, George Carl of the 7th Ohio Infantry sat by the bed of William […]

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Boatswain's Mate Patrick Murphy (Erie Maritime Museum)

Medal of Honor: Boatswain’s Mate Patrick Murphy, U.S.S. Metacomet

It has been a while since the site has looked at one of the Irish-born Medal of Honor recipients from the American Civil War. Issues regarding recording of nativity means there is, as yet, no definitive total number for Irish-born men who earned this award during the conflict. Each time I investigate the figure evidence […]

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