Scalping, Big Braves & Butchery: An Irish Indian Fighter Writes Home to His Mother in Dublin

Irish in the American Civil War

I recently came across the remarkable letters of Sergeant Thomas Mangan, which are here transcribed for the first time. The 22-year-old Dubliner was a recent emigrant from Ireland, who within a year of arriving in his new home found himself in the midst of the savage and brutal struggle for control of the Western Plains. Written from an isolated military post in Colorado Territory in 1866 and 1867, Thomas’s letters travelled over 4,000 miles before arriving in their ultimate destination– inner city Dublin. There they were read by his widowed mother, who learned about the gory realities of this savage fight to the death, including scalping and other forms of mutilation. The letters also discuss life on the frontier, as well as Thomas’s experiences with his family since emigration,– and his future plans for himself and his mother. (1)

Refugees from fighting with Native Americans in 1862 (Library of Congress) Refugees from fighting with Native Americans in 1862 (Library of Congress)

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