Memorial Day: Recalling Those Irish-Americans Who Gave Their Last Full Measure

The origins of Memorial Day, originally titled Decoration Day, has a somewhat murky origin. But what is clear is that on May 30, 1868, 145 years ago today, 5,000 gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the 20,000 fallen warriors buried there, with the help of remarks by General and future President James Garfield, whose ancestors reputedly arrived from Ulster. It was the first commemoration of America's war dead with nationwide aspirations.

Our present-day Memorial Day rites have their genesis in America's Civil War, which ended only three years earlier, after taking the lives of more than 600,000 during its four-year span. Perhaps as many as 200,000 Irish and Irish Americans served during the conflict, with tens of thousands losing their lives.

On this poignant occasion, we'd love to learn more about your Irish or Irish-American ancestors' military experiences serving the United States during wartime, particularly if they are among the many thousands who died while serving.


Memorial Day Discussion

Memorial Day Wall of Honor

Memorial Day History

Irish During America's Civil War

Remembering the Irish Who Fell at Fredericksburg
For Erin and America - James McKay Rorty
'Born a Soldier': Myles Walter Keogh - Part 1 of 3
Video: Myles Keogh -- Born a Soldier
Private Willie Mitchel: An Irish Confederate Boy
Video: Irish Brigade Memorial-Gettysburg Battlefield

Famed Irish-American Regiments

'The Fighting 69th' Part 1
Corcoran: Part 1: From Bane to Toast of the Nation

America's Medal of Honor

Irish Dominate Medal of Honor List
Lt. Michael P. Murphy, the Medal of Honor Awardee Behind 'Lone Survivor'
LCpl Patrick Gallagher, Courage Worthy of the Foremost Recognition

Honoring Our Ancestors

A Soldier's Story: Sgt. Lawrence F. Condon

Irish-Americans in the Revolutionary War

Paddy Colvin's Unforgettable New Year

(Note: This list is far from comprehensive. Please add to it in the comments section below any pages that you find meritorious, whether on or elsewhere.) 

Tags: American Civil War,, Civil War, Gettysburg, Memorial Day, Military History, United States

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Joe, I understand how you feel, honestly, but you just haven't read up on it enough to understand. These men FOUNDED the IRA of 1916. They had every intention of going home to fight for Ireland, but they died fighting in America because America had been such a good ally to them by providing them freedom and safe haven away from home. They themselves claimed that they were fighting for both Irish freedom and American freedom, not I.

And I do feel that it is highly insulting to those men who died doing this to claim that because a man born and raised in Ireland who has sworn to fight for Ireland died in that fight for Ireland in the IRA regiment of the United States, that he is not "entitled" to be considered an actual IRA man somehow because he didn't die fighting *in* Ireland. It sounds like that is what you are saying. Are you? Please see my post (with the Fenian symbols) above and then read up on IRB/IRA leader John Devoy (as only one example) to understand the historical veracity of my assertion. 



I'm not much for engaging in blogs John.  Patrick Sarsfield's comment comes to mind when he died fighting with the French on another battlefield, I think it was in Flander's: 'Would that this were for Ireland'.  
Such a sad history we have had and so many might have beens...
It is such a great thing that our diaspora have such an interest in the homeland.  Beir bua is beannacht  (Wishing you victory and blessings)   

Me either Joe. Thanks. I haven't read this book I just found it, but it looks like it would be helpful:

Cavanaugh's memoir of General Thomas Francis Meagher will also explain it:

John Devoy's "Recollections of an Irish rebel: The Fenian movement. Its origin and progress. Methods of work in Ireland and in the British army,"
Will also be of great help but I couldn't find any on-line version.

All the best,


Mr. Hurley, I appreciate your insight and enjoy reading your posts, and I agree with your point # 1 above. Nevertheless, I take exception to your point # 2 and the verbiage "Our enemy the Confederate States of America." I think nowadays you have to look at the American Civil War, (as well as the Irish Civil War of the 1920s), in the context of the times as Mr. Paul Burns has done at Were the 40,000+ Irishmen who served in the Confederate cause our enemies? 

My father's grandfather, Lawrence 'Turk' Condon, was a remarkable young Irish-American who died 9 weeks before the Armistice, fighting in France in the Army's 27th Division, aka "Ryan's Roughnecks." Reminds me of the haunting question, "Do you want to be the last to die in the war?" I have a trove of letters he wrote from training camp in South Carolina and from the trenches of France, including the short one to the left, seemingly his last before his death. I treasure them. His brother Jack served with the U.S. Navy during the war and was posted at Cobh, then known as Queenstown, for a while. I have a few of his letters from there. He survived the war. I'll see if I can post copies of a few other letters of his from the war.

Lawrence 'Turk' Condon really was remarkable Gerry!!

My last Irish-born ancestor arrived in Philadelphia in the 1730s.  Each of his sons fought in the Revolutionary War against the very ones who necessitated their own father's emigration from The Homeland.  LIke many of the early Irish immigrants, they probably made some of the best and most motivated soldiers given the context of the conflict.

I know some of their descendants fought in the American Civil War, but I'm still trying to determine which side they were on.  They were all from eastern Kentucky, so they actually could have gone either way.

My grandfathers on both sides fought in World War II -- one in Europe, and the other in the Pacific.

All Irish-Americans.

Whether or not any of their brothers fought and died, I do not know.

Any images, Ryan. I enjoy seeing these family heirlooms, when they are available.

Yes ... I'm sure I can get a couple family members to dig up a photo of my two grandfathers who fought in WWII.

Here's my grandfather on my mom's side, Gerald Abell.  Abell is an English name, but there's plenty of Irish in his pedigree.  He was a Seabee in the U.S. Navy who spent all his time in the South Pacific during WWII, and I swear E.C. Segar received his inspiration for Popeye the Sailor Man from looking at my grandpa (right down to the bulging forearms and corncob pipe)!

Ryan, thanks for sharing these. Looks like the pix were taken stateside -- boot camp, perhaps, Great Lakes Naval Station?

Definitely taken while he was still in the U.S.  The one of him in the photography studio has "Paramount Studio, Providence, R.I." on the matting.  I guess he must have shipped out from somewhere around that area.


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