“Mike, The Color Bearer”: How a Famine Emigrant Became an American on the Battlefields of Virginia

Irish in the American Civil War

On the afternoon of 30th August 1862, the outcome of the Battle of Second Bull Run hung in the balance. James Longstreet’s Corps had been hurled against the Union left, and desperate fighting broke out along a key portion of the field known as Chinn Ridge. As Federal officers sought to buy time to organize a defence, Colonel Nathaniel McLean’s brigade of Ohioans was fed into the maelstrom. Among their number was the 75th Ohio Infantry, who advanced to the crest of Chinn Ridge with their National Colors held aloft by a young Irish emigrant. The 21-year-old Cavan native who steadied himself beneath the Stars & Stripes that day was as fervent a believer in the cause of Union as any native-born American in the ranks. Along with his father he had left Ireland for the United States– and a new future– following the death of his mother during the…

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