The New York “Irish-American”

28 01 2012

A big thanks go out to FOBR (Friend of Bull Runnings) Damian Shiels, a professional archaeologist who specializes in military archaeology and who runs Irish in the American Civil War from, of all places, Ireland. He’s been feeding me clippings from the New York Irish-American, featuring letters primarily from the 69th New York State Militia on the battle. I hope you’re enjoying them. I think they’re great, especially in illustrating the limited perspective of most private soldiers during battle.

Just a word – you should keep in mind that the 69th NYSM is NOT the 69th New York Volunteers that would be a part of the famous Irish Brigade. That was a completely different organization, although some (and it’s hard to say how many) members of the 69th NYSM did join the 69th NYV. I’ve been informed that there was some division among the men of the militia units in their loyalty to its colonel, Michael Corcoran, and the captain of Co. K, Thomas Francis Meagher. The schism was perhaps rooted in the Fenian movement. While Meagher was recruiting up the new 69th NYV, some members of the militia unit, which had mustered out of US service when its 90 days were up shortly after Bull Run, joined him, some decided to stay with the militia, and some joined other units, including the 88th and 63rd NYV which also became part of the Irish Brigade, and the various regiments of Corcoran’s Irish Legion which was formed after Corcoran’s release from captivity and his promotion to brigadier-general. The 69th NYSM would operate through the war, being called back into emergency service once or twice more during the conflict, and in fact it survives to this very day and has an illustrious history including Father Duffy (as portrayed by Pat O’Brien, above with James Cagney, in The Fighting 69th; below is my 2004 snapshot of Duffy’s statue in Duffy Square in NYC). So, no, the Irish Brigade was not at Bull Run, and neither was the regiment that would be a part of that brigade and known as the 69th NYV.

Hope that makes sense!



5 responses

29 01 2012
Damian Shiels

Glad I could help Harry!


29 01 2012
Chris Evans


‘Wild Bill’ Donovan of WWII OSS fame was in the 69th NYSM in WWI and received the Medal of Honor.

Last year there was a documentary on the Smithsonian channel about the Irish Brigade narrated by Brian Mallon (‘Gettysburg’) showing him attending a modern day parade of the 69th NYSM.

I guess that too might help confuse about the Irish Brigade and the 69th NYSM.



29 01 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks, Chris!


30 01 2012
Will Hickox

The modern 69th considers itself the descendant of both the militia and volunteer regiments. The enormous armory in NYC, which is still the regimental headquarters, has their Civil War battle honors carved on the outside walls. The Irish-American composition of the regiment was diluted in WW1 and largely lost in WW2. Confusing things further, the 69th Militia helped to form a third regiment, the 69th National Guard Artillery, in 1862 for Corcoran’s brigade. It was later renamed the 182nd NY Volunteers. I believe the modern 69th carries their battle honors as well.


30 01 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks, Will!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: