With the 150th anniversary of the battle at Gettysburg upon us, I was thinking about how many (if not most) Irish-Americans would have at least one ancestor who fought in the War Between the States. Speaking personally, I know of at least two ancestors who were involved therein. Interestingly enough, however, I am not yet certain of whether they fought with the Union or Confederacy. This is because they lived in Kentucky -- a key border state in which some chose to fight for the north, and some for the south.
My father's people settled into the deep ravines of eastern Kentucky where they worked as coal miners for many consecutive generations. Apparently, some left the mines to fight in the Civil War, but for which side I do not yet know. There were perhaps as many "brother against brother" scenarios coming from Kentucky as anywhere in the country. I hope to get to the bottom of the mystery and know for certain one day.
So, how about you? Do you have Irish-American ancestors who fought in the American Civil War? I'd be interested to hear what you know about them. What were their names? Where did they fight? What regiments were they in? Do you have any photos / letters from their time on the battlefields? Please leave a comment below and tell us everything you know. It's fascinating to hear the stories of other Wild Geese and how they eventually all weave together into this common experience.
Also, if you haven't checked out this great page of compiled articles and videos about Gettysburg from the pages of this site yet, click the link below.
The following is from a book I wrote (2009) about growing up in Boston in a large Irish family "Growing Up, Unwashed". It is from a chapter on my military service and our family's military history. The previous part of the chapter discussed the Murphy heroes.
"My mother’s family, the Milans from Galway, had heroes too. My grandfather on my mother's side was George F. Milan from Milford. My mother Helen Milan was born in Milford (Mass.) also and the family were parishioners at St. Mary's Church. St. Mary's Old Cemetery, holds the graves of the Milans. Some were American Civil War heroes like brothers, Michael, John and Thomas Milan. They were my great, great, grand uncles. John starved to death at Andersonville Prison, an infamous, Confederate prison camp in Georgia. On Michael’s gravestone (born in l824) is listed the Galway birth town - Mountbellew. Michael had a suppurating gunshot wound that never healed. He returned to his family in Southborough and years later died of the wound. Without today’s antibiotics, unhealed, festering wounds slowly killed the Civil War veterans. Thomas, too was wounded in the Civil War. These immigrating Milans must have come at least a generation before my grandfather, George Milan (April 25,1876) was born. George's mother and father (my great grandparents) were Ellen Cahill Milan and Patrick Milan (approx. l850). According to George's birth certificate, Patrick was born in Ireland. War was really hell for the Milans. There are American war heroes on both sides of my family."
That is a touching story, Tom. Thanks for sharing it. It really moves me due to the fact that I know both your great-uncle's place of origin and his place of death very well. I live in Connemara, just across Galway Bay from Clare ... and I've been in the area of Corofin several times which is near Dysert O'Dea. I also lived in Mechanicsville, Virginia for almost five years, just down the road from the Cold Harbor battlefield. Visited that somber sight many times. I appreciate your contribution here, Tom.
Thanks for the comment. As we celebrate "Independance Day" I'm rreminded that it isn't only about 1776,, almost100 yrs later we had to fight a war against each other to ensure that Independance. Divided we would have been a target of many. Foolishly, we are once again divided, not by sincere patriotism but in many ways by ideology. Today I have watched the youth of Egypt lead that country once again towards democracy. A country that if not the seat of civilization at least one of the chair legs, being led by it's youth. Where is Ireland's and the US's youth? Theirs' is the future and they are the future and for the most part they are intellectually mute!
The youth of my family and perhaps yours, lie in cemeterys across the globe. Since coming to the US we have contributed to almost every effort since the beginning. I think of them all as "Patriots" not "heroes', a word overused in today's lexicon. Whether it be my Uncle Simon, born Christmas Day 1836, the eldest of ten of his father's 2nd marriage, who came here in in 1858, after burying his wife and infant son in Clare, who was dead at 27 on 3 June, 1864. Or my Uncle Billy Burns of Cohoes, NY, (Galway Mother) also dead in his early 20's in WW1. My own father & his 3 bothers survived the war in the Pacific, WW2, my brother , a Korean Vet, My cousin Peter Fonda of historic, Saratoga. NY, kia, Vietnam. I'm a Marine and my nephews are serving multiple tours in the Middle East.
In the US and in Ireland we must be ever vigilant. Freedom must be for us all and our issue, not only for those who happen at the moment to have the most popular position. Somehow those of us of an age have to find a way to build the fire of "Patriotism" not "radicalism", under the feet of our youth.
Off to the "Fireworks"............God Bless, Tom McGrath, Proud American of Irish Heritage
I will submit stories of my family...It will take me a bit of time to gather the information... My Maternal Great Grandfather was Jeremiah Bell Howell, 2nd LT in the 19th VA Cav. CSA..My Paternal Great grandfather, Isaac Ochiltree, was a Northern....so you see,,,,who knows what dictated the feelings of these men ?
My several generation, Colonel Benjamin Wilson, was an astute Indian person, the Wilsons of Ireland. The Ruddells were as well...The Ochiltrees , Halls, Millers, McClanachan, May they all rest in peace and their lives not in vain...
I visited Gettysburg on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, the 150th anniversary of the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. I wanted to pay homage to my great-grandfather, Lawrence Friery, an Irish immigrant who served with the 88th NYVI, part of the Irish Brigade. The Irish Brigade fought in the bloody engagement of The Wheatfield on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
My gr-gr-grandfather served in the 18th Conn Vol Infantry in the Shenandoah Valley. He too was an Irish immigrant. He was captured at Winchester, Va in 1863, and exchanged. Following year, he fought at New Market. A month later, he was wounded at Piedmont, Va (gunshot wound to the leg) and shortly after taken prisoner. He spent almost six months in Andersonville prison, and survived. Lived many more years as an invalid back in Connecticut. He was a tough guy.
Enlistment Date: 17 July 1862
Distinguished Service: DISTINGUISHED SERVICE
Side Served: Union
State Served: Connecticut
Unit Numbers: 84 84
Service Record: Enlisted as a Private on 17 July 1862
Enlisted in Company F, 14th Infantry Regiment Connecticut on 23 August 1862.
Promoted to Full Corporal on 09 February 1863
Wounded on 03 May 1863 at Chancellorsville, VA
Promoted to Full Private on 25 October 1863 ((Sick), Reduced to ranks)
POW on 08 May 1864 at Ellis Ford, VA (Paroled)
Paroled on 02 March 1865
Mustered out Company F, 14th Infantry Regiment Connecticut on 31 May 1865
Michael's brother--Matthew McMahon:
Served Civil War-Enlisted Inf G. Co 1st Regiment CT
Mustered out at New Haven CT 07/31/1861 as Private, enlisted 04/20/1861
Mary McCarthy McMahon applied for an recieved his pension in 1905, he started receiving his pension in 1898. He attained Sergeant rank.
He deserted 11/12/1864, put under house arrest with his brother Patrick. They returned on 11/29/1864
Service record shows Distinguished Service, Union Side. Unit #'s 90/90
Patrick McMahon--my great great grandfather, brother to Michael & Matthew
Served US Army from 04/17/1861 to 08/21/1865 when the Civil War ended. He was discharged in New Haven CT. While stationed at Fort Richmond NY he deserted with his brother Matthew, November 1864. They were put under house arrest when they returned and later released. Patrick appealed the charge of disertion as his military record indicates "On Dec. 21, 1865 the charge of desertion is removed and wil be considered absent without authority." He and his spouse at the time Mary, received his pension, Patrick started collecting his pension, 1898. Served 6th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.
A 4th brother John also served but have not located information on him just yet!