Color Sergeant Michael Brady: The Luckiest Irishman in America's Civil War

If you have seen seen the movie "Gettysburg," you might notice that during the climatic Pickett's Charge, behind the Union line at the Bloody Angle are two flags, the Regimental stars and stripes, and the state flag--green with a gold trim. This green flag was the only Pennsylvania flag not colored Blue with a gold Maid of Erin motif on its surface. Recently I had some inquiries from the family of 2nd Sergeant David Kiniary, who carried the green flag. After some research into his background, I found that the Color Sergeant carrying the U.S. flag was Color Sergeant Michael Brady. Brady was born in Cavan city, but emigrated to Philadelphia where he joined one of the prominent Irish militia companies, the Hibernia Greens before the war.

Picture right, from the 1993 film "Gettysburg," courtesy of Turner Pictures

When the war broke out, Brady enlisted in the 24th Pennsylvania and served for 90 days without seeing any action.

Returning to Philadelphia, Brady enlisted in C Company, 69th Pennsylvania Volunteers. David Kiniary, a prewar member of the Emmett Guards militia company and native of county Cork, also enlisted in C Company, 69th Pennsylvania where he became close friends with Brady.

The 69th Pennsylvania saw heavy action during the Peninsular campaign , Antietam, Fredericksburg and Second Bull Run. While the regiment fought, Brady and Kiniary kept getting promoted. March 18th, 1863, Michael Brady was promoted to Color Sergeant. David Kiniary was promoted to second sergeant, and William Cooney to first sergeant.

The upshot of these promotion meant that on July 3, 1863, Color Sergeant Michael Brady would be the focal point of every Virginian charging the copse of trees looking to shoot down the Stars and Stripes. During the charge, First Sergeant Coogan was killed, but Brady and Kiniary didn't get a scratch.

Kiniary was wounded in 1864 during the Wilderness campaign and spent the rest of the war in Philadelphia hospitals. Both Kiniary and Brady had reenlisted as veteran volunteers for three more years in early 1864.

Brady continued to serve through out the Petersburg campaign until the end of the war. The most amazing part of Brady's service record is that he never lost a day of service----never wounded , sick or through desertion. ( I read his service record and pension file in the national archives.) When the 69th returned to Philadelphia in July 1865, less than 80 men from the original 1,000 survived. Every one else was KIA, WIA, deserted or a POW. But of those 80 men, the luckiest Irishman in Civil War, Michael Brady, exited the train.*

*Color Sergeant Brady is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Views: 1829

Tags: American Civil War, Antietam, Bull Run, Cavan, Delaware County, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on June 16, 2016 at 10:31am

Nice article  Michael 

Comment by Reginald Wirth on June 12, 2018 at 5:13pm

Greetings, sorry for coming so late to this, but I just became aware of your articles dealing the Colors of the 69th PVI.  I worked very closely with Bill Rose on the researching the original Regimental colors (the "green flag", BTW the stars and strips is the State Colors). In the film "Gettysburg" I'm the color bearer of the Regimentals. The colors used in the movie were based upon the research that we did and depicted the flag as we believed it may have appeared. That particular flag had a defect in it and was destroyed directly after the completion of the filming (I still have some pieces from it) and replaced.  The original colors where made by Horstmann Bros. of Philadelphia, as were all the colors for the Philadelphia Brigade.  We found a couple of written descriptions of the flag, which were much the same as you posted in your article on the flag, but we also found a block print on the flag. It appeared in Harper's Weekly under the title "Charge of the 69th Pennsylvania at Glendale". I should point out that the print in not all that reliable source. It was used serial times during the war with the name the regiment and location changed, along with the flag and numbers on the troops' packs. In the print the flag is shown with a harp encircled comply by a wreath of shamrocks, there are no ribbons shown on the harp side.  When we were putting together the reconstruction the ribbons was a point of much conversation between Bill and I.  In the end it was felt that the flag looked better with the red ribbons on both sides. As to the side with the State arms and the "Presented By Their Friends", this was a standard Horstmann pattern, as several PA regiments had this on their colors. For ours we took in directly from a existing flag. The remains of one of the original Regimentals can be found in a shoe box at the GAR Museum and Library in Philadelphia. It is a many many tiny pieces.

One last comment, the reason the colors appear to be reversed in "Gettysburg", in the course of our research Bill and I found reference to the 69th carrying their colors with the Regimental on the right. At the time of the Civil War there was no "Flag Code" and some units carried it on one and other the other.

Hope this has been of some interest.


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