“I Not Onley Loved You But I Adored You”: 19th Century Irish Emigrants Speak of Love, Loss & Alcoholism

Irish in the American Civil War

On 13th October 1863 Irishwoman Margaret Martin of 84 Fourth Street, East Cambridge, Massachusetts applied for a widow’s pension. Her husband Michael, a private in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, had lost his life at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 3rd May that year. Margaret’s file demonstrates the range of information that can be found in these files. Contained within it is an extremely poignant letter from her husband, expressing his regret at enlisting, and his profound feelings of love for his wife. The file also reveals an interview with Margaret more than twenty years later, following a descent into alcohol abuse that had cost the emigrant her home, her children, and almost certainly was what eventually cost her life. It allows us a rare opportunity to hear in the first person from an Irishwoman who suffered from what was one of the most devastating illnesses to afflict 19th century America. (1)


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