Killed By Torture? The Story of an 18-Year-Old Irishman’s Death at the Hands of his Officers, New Orleans, 1865

Irish in the American Civil War

In May 1860, 47-year-old Bridget Griffin stepped off the boat in the United States. Her husband John had died in their native Athlone in 1859, an event that likely precipitated her departure. With her was her 13-year-old son Patrick, a boy who grew to manhood during the years of the American Civil War. He would serve during that conflict, initially with the 15th Massachusetts Light Artillery and later in the 6th Massachusetts Light Artillery. June 1865 found him with the latter unit in New Orleans; having seemingly made it through the conflict, his mother probably looked forward to having him home. But instead she received a remarkable letter, written– anonymously– by some of Patrick’s comrades. It brought news of her boy’s death, which had come not at the hands of the Rebels, but as part of a particularly savage punishment meted out to the teenager by his own officers. (1)

Punishment of Union soldiers, as depicted by Alfred Waud. In the case of Patrick Griffin, he was tied up by the thumbs, with his feet barely touching the ground, and gagged (Library of Congress) Punishment of…

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