“Hoping you will not take it to heart”: The Final Days of an Irish-American Boy Soldier

Irish in the American Civil War

The site has consistently returned to the many members of the Irish community in the United States whose nativity was neither Irish or American. Many of these Irish-Americans had been born during the process of step-migration, in places such as Britain and Canada. Thousands of such men fought during the conflict, and generally identified with the Irish-American community. For some this service was so tragically brief their families barely had time to adjust to the fact they were in uniform before learning of their death. Such was to be the experience of Hannah O’Brien. 

A young Illinois soldier in the Civil War (Library of Congress) A young Illinois soldier in the Civil War (Library of Congress)

Hannah had married labourer Cornelius O’Brien on 14th January 1840 in St. George’s Fields, Southwark, London. The couple are recorded on the English 1841 Census living in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey. At some point, perhaps in the 1850s, the family emigrated to the United…

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