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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Honoring my step-father, 1st Lt. (brevet Capt) Brian Garret O'Hagan who fell at at the battle of St. Lo July 1944
 Born in County Tyrone, Ireland: 1917, died in St. Lo, France: July 1944. American citizen.

Brian,groom on the bride's right


All honor to our fallen heroes, Gail. Thank you for sharing this. O'Hagan is a great name in Irish history. I've come across it a number of times.

Five members of my family fought in World War II, my father Bernard J. O'Brien, served in Italy and in the Korean Conflict in Japan under General McArthur.  His brothers Harold O'Brien served under General Patton and Edward O'Brien served in the Pacific in the Navy.  Their sister Rosemary O'Brien served as a nurse.  My grandmother Kathryn T. Cox Manley whose father was born in Co. Longford was drafted in WWII after her retirement as head nurse at Mercy hospital in Mason City Iowa, to return to the hospital and run it so that the younger nurses could leave the hospital and serve in the military.  My great Uncle Charlie Norton served in the Spanish American War.

My grandmother Mary Angeline Van Houten O'Brien's mother's family-the Monahan's came from Castlebar Co. Mayo and that great great grandfather fought in Napoleon's navy.  On her father's side we are descendants of the New Amsterdam Dutch and that line has fought in the American Revolution,and  the American Civil War as Yankees.  When they call us Yankees, yes in deed, we are.

Ann, thank you for mentioning these esteemed ancestors. I hope you take time to elaborate on each of their Irish stories, as your time and energy allows, in the coming weeks. Do you have any photos you can share of those mentioned?

I noted in a previous discussion back in the time of our beginning, my ancestor Gunnery Sgt. Simon O'Day, born Co. Clare, near Ennis. He followed the rest of his family to America after the death of his young wife and 2 children. He enlisted in the army at the start of the Civil War to cement his relationship with his new citizenship. He was promoted several times and saw much action, wounded twice and met his death in the terrible fighting at Cold Harbor, Va. He lies with many comrades in the National Cemetery, Cold Harbor, a mis marked grave as his reward. We had numerous other family members in that first test of America's unity as a nation, I fear history may repeat itself.

My Great Uncle William Burns, Seaman USN, was among the first casualties of WW1. His ship was blown up while in port, believed by saboteurs. Born in Cohoes,NY of Irish born parents he is buried in St.Agnes' Cemetery that city.

1st cousin Peter Fonda, Spec. US Army, KIA early Nam, 22 yrs old. Born and buried Saratoga Sprgs, NY.

Members of my family have served in all of America's engagements throughout time, and in Ireland's. My father with 4 brothers were in the US Navy WW2, all made it home after serving in the Pacific right up to the surrender of Japan, brothers on Korean & Viet Nam duty, we have several of yet another generation in the Middle East at present. I am proud to call myself a United States Marine officially discharged with honor more than 55 yrs ago, but still serve as a member of the Marine Corps League.

We salute all who serve now and in the past, 2 of my grandsons hung American flags on all the poles along the highway in front of our property, about two city blocks. God Bless America.

Hello Tom,

It appears that we are related. I found your entry while researching Simon O’Day, who is my great-great Uncle, and son of Michael O’Day. My father, Robert Keating, is the grandson of Sarah Jane O’Day, born in 1860 in Cohoes and who was the youngest sister of Simon O’Day. Our family shares the same story of Simon and his sacrifice for our country.  My father also found the incorrectly labeled headstone after many years of searching. He wrote a book, “Carnival of Blood” which is a regimental history of Simon’s, 7th NY Heavy Artillery Regiment.  My father keeps a very detailed family history and has much more information regarding the O’Day family which you may find interesting. He would like to contact you.

Hi Susan,
Thank you for the connection, I have known of your dad for a long time and did in fact read his book. I spoke with him on Friday and we are pledged to get back in touch soon. He informs me they will be traveling "up north" soon.
When he was researching for the book he spoke with my aunt Marie O'Day Robert in Cohoes and she contacted me at that time. Marie was my mother's older sister & my godmother.
They were granddaughters of John F. O'Day brother of Simon. Please keep in touch.
This is quite the vehicle Gerry Regan has rolling on history's highway.


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