The Forgotten Irish Remembered at U.S. National Archives

Damian Shiels.

By Adam Farley, Deputy Editor
April / May 2017

Irish archeologist Damian Shiels, who specializes in what he calls “conflict archeology,” will launch his new book on the Irish immigrant experience during the Civil War at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in March. Shiels’s book, The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America, uses the archives’ widow and dependent pension files of Irish Civil War soldiers to tell the story of 35 Irish families affected by the war.

The Forgotten Irish Book CoverAt the beginning of the Civil War, 1.6 million Irish-born immigrants lived in the United States, primarily in the North. By the end of the war, roughly 200,000 Irishmen had fought in the country’s bloodiest war.

For those who endured the Great Hunger in Ireland, Shiels writes on his blog, “the American Civil War represented the second great trauma of their lives. Although the Irish experience of the conflict receives significant attention in the United States, in Ireland it receives little.

“There are few books published on the topic in Ireland, and the 150th anniversary passed with relatively little recognition. This is symptomatic of a wider issue regarding how the history of the Irish diaspora is dealt with – little time is devoted to the story of Irish people once they leave these shores.”

The event, held at the William G. McGowan Theater, will be moderated by National Archives archivist and historian Michael Hussey and David T. Gleeson, professor of American History at Northumbria University and author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America. The event is free and tickets are available at archives.gov. ♦

 

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