Tag Archives: Irish Brigade
A depiction of Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. Charly Gallagher was one of the men who repulsed it (Library of Congress)

In the Ghostly Footsteps of the Gettysburg Irish

My posts have been less frequent than normal of late due to a range of book and conference commitments, so apologies to readers for the longer than normal gap! I will shortly be heading to the United States for the first time in a couple of years, taking in some locations relating to the Irish experience in […]

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Chart of desertion rate in the 63rd New York Infantry, Irish Brigade, from 1861 to 1865 (Damian Shiels)

Charting Desertion in the Irish Brigade, Part 1

The Irish Brigade is rightly regarded as one of the finest units to take the field during the American Civil War. However, just like all other Union formations, they had their ups and down in battle, and like other formations, they suffered from desertion. In order to examine this in further detail I have taken the […]

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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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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 Soldier's dream of Home (Library of Congress)

‘You Put Your Arm Around My Neck and Kissed Me’: Sex, Love & Duty in the Letters of an Irish Brigade Soldier

Letters included in the pension file often contain some very personal information. Surely few match those written by the Irish Brigade’s Samuel Pearce to his wife Margaret. The correspondence details not only the railroad man’s initial efforts to avoid the draft and use of an alias, but also provides a unique and intimate insight into […]

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Lieutenant-Colonel James J. Smith and officers of the 69th New York, an image exposed just a few weeks after the Battle of Skinner's Farm (Library of Congress)

‘I Trust the Almighty Will Spare Me My Life’: Charles Traynor & the Battle of Skinner’s Farm, 25th March 1865

In March 1865, Charles Traynor wrote home to his mother Catharine in New York. A veteran of some of the most famed Irish Brigade actions of the war, he was still at the front as the conflict began to enter its final days. ‘I trust the Almythy will spear me my life’ he confided to […]

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The Battle of Fair Oaks by Currier & Ives (Library of Congress)

‘A Deep Blow to Your Heart’: Patrick Clooney’s Newly Uncovered Description of the Irish Brigade at Fair Oaks

On 16th September 1862, 33-year-old Ann Dunnigan appeared before an Albany judge to begin the process of claiming a widow’s pension. Her husband Patrick had been mortally wounded in the Irish Brigade’s first major engagement- the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia- on 1st June 1862. As part of her evidence, Ann handed over a detailed […]

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The William Higgins Pendant. Obverse to left, Reverse to right (Arrangement by Sara Nylund after original photograph by Cathy Nicholls)

Witnesses to History: A Memento of a Missing Man

The Witnesses to History series aims to connect an object or document which still exists today with the story of the people behind the item. Following the first post, which featured the 170th New York Bounty List, I was contacted by reader Cathy Nicholls in England. Some 40 years ago in Brooklyn, Cathy had purchased […]

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Separation. Many Irish families could not afford to emigrate together. For whatever reason, all three of these women's husbands left their family home for America, never to return (Library of Congress)

‘The Hard Industry of My Own Hands’: Three American Civil War Widows in Ireland Struggle to Survive

On the face of things, Irishwomen Honora Cleary, Eleanor Hogg and Maria Sheppel had little in common. For a start, they were from different parts of Ireland; Honora hailed from Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, Eleanor lived in Boyle, Co. Roscommon and Maria had grown up in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. Neither did the women share the same religion; Honora and Eleanor were […]

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Jefferson Davis shown hanging from a 'Sour Apple Tree' in Harper's Weekly (Library of Congress)

‘Tell Him I Am A Soger’: Lyrics, Loyalty and Family in the Letters of an Irish Brigade Faugh

Patrick Kelly emigrated from Co. Galway to Boston with his parents. In 1861 he enlisted in the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, an Irish regiment that ultimately served in the Irish Brigade. During his service he wrote frequently to his parents at home in Boston; the letters portray a young man who was a lover of music […]

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