Whats in an Alias: Civil War Widowhood, Remembrance & Identity in the Words of an “Old Irishwoman”

Irish in the American Civil War

On 6th September 1864, Private Kieran Fitzpatrick of the 11th Connecticut Infantry lost his battle for life at the 18th Corps Hospital in Point of Rocks, Virginia. His wife Elizabeth sought a widow’s pension based on his service; a lack of documentation meant it would be 1869 before she received it. Then, 35-years after her husband’s death, a decision Kieran had made upon his enlistment in 1862 threatened his elderly widow’s liberty. The major investigation into Elizabeth that descended upon her in 1898-99 revolved around the family surname– which was not and had never been Fitzpatrick, but Phelan. The records of the Special Examiners into the case have left us with not only wartime correspondence from both husband and wife, but a detailed account of Elizabeth’s life, given in her own words. (1)

As has been discussed in previous posts, the widows and dependents pension files offer us unique insights into the Irish immigrant experience…

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