Tag Archives: Irish American Civil War
Punishment of Union soldiers, as depicted by Alfred Waud. In the case of Patrick Griffin, he was tied up by the thumbs, with his feet barely touching the ground, and gagged (Library of Congress)

Killed By Torture? The Story of an 18-Year-Old Irishman’s Death at the Hands of his Officers, New Orleans, 1865

In May 1860, 47-year-old Bridget Griffin stepped off the boat in the United States. Her husband John had died in their native Athlone in 1859, an event that likely precipitated her departure. With her was her 13-year-old son Patrick, a boy who grew to manhood during the years of the American Civil War. He would […]

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The Forgotten Irish Book: Cover and Contents

As many of you know, I have spent the majority of my writing time since the 2013 publication of The Irish in the American Civil War concentrating on one major source for the Irish experience of 19th century America, namely the widows and dependent pension files of Union soldiers and sailors. It soon became my intention to […]

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Salem Harbor in 1853, where John was a mariner before the war (Boston Museum of Fine Arts via Wikipedia)

Why They Fought: An English-Irish-American Soldier on Orangemen, Englishmen & Why he Died for the Union

My work on Irish in the Widow’s and Dependent Pension Files has led me to read and transcribe hundreds of letters of Irish and Irish-American soldiers who lost their lives as a result of the American Civil War. There are many themes evident across much of these men’s writings; discussion of finances, health and family […]

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The fighting on Chinn Ridge at Second Bull Run as drawn by Edwin Forbes (Library of Congress)

“Mike, The Color Bearer”: How a Famine Emigrant Became an American on the Battlefields of Virginia

On the afternoon of 30th August 1862, the outcome of the Battle of Second Bull Run hung in the balance. James Longstreet’s Corps had been hurled against the Union left, and desperate fighting broke out along a key portion of the field known as Chinn Ridge. As Federal officers sought to buy time to organize […]

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South view of the Stockade at Andersonville Prison, 17th August 1864 (Library of Congress)

“We Irish had a Hard Time of it in Those Days”: An Irish Veteran Remembers Andersonville

In 1877 The National Tribune newspaper was founded. Aimed at Union veterans and their families, over the course of the following decades it provided many insights into not only veterans issues, but also their experiences of the American Civil War. There is much of relevance to those interested in the Irish experience of the conflict to be […]

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Roche's Point, Cork Harbour by Charles W. Bash

Celebrating American Independence in Cork Harbour, 4th July 1862

Just as Americans today celebrate 4th of July–their Independence Day– wherever they find themselves around the World, such was also the case in foreign climes during the American Civil War. Cork Harbour has long had strong connections with North America, and in 1862 many U.S. nationals found themselves there on their national day. Efforts to celebrate […]

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The Brierwood Pipe by Winslow Homer, 1864. This depicts the 165th New York's sister regiment, the 5th New York, but their uniforms were almost identical (Cleveland Museum of Art CVL491292)

“My Own Dearest Maggie”: The Last Letters of a Scottish Soldier of the American Civil War

My work on the widows and dependent pension files of American Civil War soldiers has revealed many hundreds of letters relating to Irish emigrants in the Union military. During the course of my research I have also come across files relating to other immigrant groups. Among them are many Scottish soldiers, whose dependents– like those […]

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“I want to see you before I die”: Last Letters of Ulster Emigrants in American Civil War Pension Files

Two years ago I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Ulster-American Heritage Symposium in Athens, Georgia. The Symposium alternates between Ireland and North America every two years, and this year was back at its spiritual home, the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American Folk Park outside Omagh, Co. Tyrone. I was […]

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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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The "Down Hill Road", an 1878 image which highlighted the dangers of alcohol (Library of Congress)

“I Not Onley Loved You But I Adored You”: 19th Century Irish Emigrants Speak of Love, Loss & Alcoholism

On 13th October 1863 Irishwoman Margaret Martin of 84 Fourth Street, East Cambridge, Massachusetts applied for a widow’s pension. Her husband Michael, a private in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, had lost his life at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 3rd May that year. Margaret’s file demonstrates the range of information that can be found in […]

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