History

 

At the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, when President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to join the Union Army, one of the first to answer the call was the 69th New York State Militia Regiment. Founded in 1851 by Irish Immigrants, the 69th was augmented in May 1861 by a company of Irish Zouaves commanded by Thomas Francis Meagher, one of the leaders of the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848. Meagher had escaped from the British Penal colony in Australia and made his way to New York where he became a successful lawyer, editor and businessman. The 69th moved south to Virginia and saw its first action at Bull Run. They acquitted themselves with valor and distinction, losing 38 killed, 59 wounded and 95 missing in action. Four days after the defeat at Bull Run the Volunteers' enlistments expired and the 69th returned to New York to muster out, following a heroe's welcome.
 
Meagher, however, had conceived the idea of an Irish Brigade in which the spirit of Fontenoy would live again. At a huge public meeting on August 29th 1861 in Jones' Wood, on the Upper East Side of New York, he initiated a recruiting drive for what was to be the First Regiment of the Irish Brigade, the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry. Over 200 battle veterans from the 69th Militia joined the new regiment. They were quartered  at Fort Schuyler in the Bronx and the next regiment to join them was the newly formed 88th New York, with contained a number of the Former Irish Zouaves.  
 
Soon the 63rd New York Regiment was added and in October Meagher was confirmed as acting Brigade Commander. In November the Irish Brigade departed for Washington and the war.The Brigade, with the 69th New York in the lead, fought in all the major battles of the war, including Yorktown, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spottsylvania and Petersburg and they were present at Appomattox Court House when Lee and his army surrendered in April 1865. They quickly gained a reputation for courage, discipline and ferocity in the face of the enemy. An English war correspondent, who had little use for the Irish, wrote; "Whenever anything absurd, forlorn or desperate was to be attempted, the Irish Brigade was called upon"Even the Confederates acknowledged their bravery. It was General Lee who christened the First Regiment "The Fighting 69th". At the Battle of Malvern Hill, when Stonewall Jackson saw the 69th advancing against him, he remarked in frustration; "Here come those d--- green flags again!" 
 
After the Civil War the 69th Regiment continued on, serving in the Spanish-American War and both World Wars. It exists today as the 69th Infantry, (Mechanized) New York Army National Guard, with headquarters on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.
 
We in Company B of the 69th New York Regiment are a reenactment group located in Northern California. We seek to study and understand the lives and experiences of the original men of the 69th and share that knowledge with other interested persons. We hope to honor the memory of those brave men who fought and fell under the Stars and Stripes of their adopted country and the Green Flag of the "Old Country" that was always close to their hearts. 
 
We always have openings for new members, adults, teens, families and youngsters who share our interests and who would like to participate in re-enacting the camp life, camaraderie and battle drills of    "The Fighting 69th!"
 
--CPL Doyle
 

Famine, Rebellion, and the 69th

I was raised believing that Irish immigration to the New World was due to the Irish potato famine in the 1840's.  This was a lie.  There was no famine; the starvation of the Irish people was caused by the British as a form of genocide.  Does that sound harsh?  Read on.

an Drochshaol

The English first conquered Ireland during Europe's Dark Ages.  By 1801, Ireland was formally a part of Great Britain, with no local government of her own.  Over the next 40 years, the British slowly eroded Irish land ownership rights, making it harder and harder for Irish peasants to grow crops and support themselves.  The potato was originally introduced to the Old World as a gentile crop, but soon became a subsistence crop for the Irish because it was the only way they could feed their families on their tiny parcels of land, located on poor soil.  Meanwhile, Irish grain, livestock, dairy, and produce were shipped directly to England.

In the early 1840's, a potato blight swept through the Americas, and was then carried to Europe.  Every country in Europe experienced the blight, and yet no other country in the Old World experienced famine.  This was for the simple reason that all other forms of food (meat, grain, and vegetables) were still produced in sufficient quantities.

This was true in Ireland as well; during the height of the famine, there was enough food on the island to feed twice the population.  However, the subsistence farmers were left to starve while everything else was shipped back to England.  Ireland Before and After the Famine, author Cormac O’Grada documents that in 1845, a famine year in Ireland, 3,251,907 quarters (8 bushels = 1 quarter)) of corn were exported from Ireland to Britain. That same year, 257,257 sheep were exported to Britain. In 1846, another famine year, 480,827 swine, and 186,483 oxen were exported to Britain.

Cynically, England began a charity program for Ireland.  Not only did British charities collect money from across Europe, but the British government imported corn meal from America, while simultaneously exporting the fresh yellow Irish corn to England.  Britain also instituted a public works program so that destitute Irish could earn money, but the program was intentionally made useless; Irish workers were paid to dig holes.

An overwhelming attitude of racism pervaded England during the entire ordeal.  Several Oxford professors lamented that the starvation would "only" kill 1 million Irish.  The English bureaucrat put in charge of the aid program announced that the starvation was God's will and that the Irish deserved it.

As the starvation worsened, England cut funding for the charity programs, claiming that the capitalist "free market" would solve the problem (while simultaneously stealing Ireland's food - bacon exports actually increased in the late 40's).  Britain simultaneously tightened restrictions on land ownership and made it easier for landlords to evict their tenants altogether.

This period is now known in Ireland as an Drochshaol; "the Bad Times."

Young Irelander Rebellion

 In Ireland, a political group known as the Repeal Association had for some time been advocating a local government for Ireland.  As the starvation ground on, a group of Repealists realized that the only way to gain independence from England was through armed struggle.  They went to the new Republic of France and returned with an Irish version of the tricolor standard - the same flag that is now flown in the Republic of Ireland.  They broke away from the Repeal Association and formed a new group called the Young Irelanders.  One of their leaders was Thomas Francis Meagher.

 

Back in Ireland, they attempted to start a revolt in Counties Wexford, Kilkenny, and Tipperary.  The revolt was put down by the local police.  Meagher was arrested and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Australia. Meagher escaped and fled to America, along with many of the movement's leaders.

First Irish Regiment

The very same year, Meagher and the other leaders in exile convinced the State of New York to form two Irish regiments as part of the state militia.  The First Irish Regiment was formed in 1848, and the Second Irish Regiment was formed a year later.  During the 1850's, the New York militias underwent several reorganizations.  The First Irish Regiment became the 9th New York State Militia, and the Second Irish Regiment became the 69th New York State Militia.  After the First Battle of Bull Run, the 69th was re-formed as the 69th New York State Volunteers, with Meagher as Colonel.

These men and women also formed the basis for modern Ireland.  The Bad Times fueled the anger for what later became the Troubles, and ultimately led to Irish independence, almost a hundred years later.  These are the men and women we portray.

Sources:

History of Company B

Note: This history was originally written in response to a letter from a soldier currently serving with the 69th NYARNG.  It was written "off the cuff;" please comment if you have additional information to share on Co. B.

The origins of Co. B are the same as the rest of the 69th.  The regiment was reorganized along with all other New York militia units in the 1850's so it would have been at full strength in 1861.  Most maneuvers during the Civil War were at the Divisional level so Co. B would have moved with the rest of the regiment.  Even if a platoon or two were thrown out as skirmishers during a particular engagement, it still would have been as part of the larger battle line (skirmishers generally served as a screen for the main line).

My group focuses on 1862, and I can tell you that the captain of Co. B, Thomas Leddy, briefly became the commanding officer of the entire regiment at the Battle of Fredericksburg.  (The colonel and major were both wounded, and Capt. Leddy was the senior captain in the regiment.)  He was quickly wounded as well, for the second time, and after convalescence he transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps.  He had previously served as a first sergeant in Co. K, which had its own colorful history.

Co. K was originally a separate unit, formed by Thomas Meagher, an Irish revolutionary who escaped a penal colony in Australia.  He formed his own unit, the Irish Zouaves, because he liked to be fancy.  (No, really.  They had special uniforms.)  His company was combined with the 69th regiment and became Co. K.  Thomas Leddy rose through the ranks to first sergeant of Co. K before becoming the captain of Co. B, which means he probably had a personal relationship with Thomas Meagher, who was one of the greatest heroes of the Irish Brigade.  (In fact, Meagher was colonel of the brigade at Fredericksburg when Captain Leddy was wounded, and resigned his commission afterwards because the federal government refused to reinforce the badly depleted Irish units.  Meagher was convinced that it was racism toward the Irish units.)

I can tell you that they weren't called "Bravo Company," because the "radio alphabet" wasn't coined until WWI.  They would have been referred to as Company B.  I can also tell you that Co. B was recruited from New York City, presumably from the Five Points neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, right where the draft riots occurred.

During WWI I believe Co. B was commanded by a Jew, which was unusual for the Irish heritage unit, but maybe not so unusual for New York.  I forget his name, but he was well loved by the men of the unit and there's even a song about him somewhere.  (Obviously the unit has become much more multi-ethnic over time.)

That's about all I can tell you about Co. B in particular.  As I said, the history of the 69th during the CW is the history of Co. B, all the way to the Appomattox Courthouse.

Medal of Honor

Timothy Donoghoe
Private, Company B, 69th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Fredericksburg, Va., 13 December 1862. Entered service at:------. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: 17 January 1894. Citation: Voluntarily carried a wounded officer off the field from between the lines; while doing this he was himself wounded.
 
Peter Rafferty
Private, Company B, 69th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Malvern Hill, Va., 1 July 1862. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: 2 August 1897. Citation: Having been wounded and directed to the rear, declined to go, but continued in action, receiving several additional wounds, which resulted in his capture by the enemy and his total disability for military service.
 
Joseph Keele
Sergeant Major, 182d New York Infantry (69th NYNG). Place and date: At North Anna River, Va., 23 May 1864. Entered service at: Staten Island, N.Y. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: 25 October 1867. Citation: Voluntarily and at the risk of his life carried orders to the brigade commander, which resulted in saving the works his regiment was defending.
Serving with great valor and distinction during the American Civil War, three Irish soldiers from the Sixty-Ninth  New York were awarded this Nation's highest recognition for courage and bravery under fire; the Congressional Medal of Honor.
69th soldiers of future generations continued this tradition, and today the Fighting 69th has no less than seven Congressional Medal of Honor recipients on its rolls. 
 
Garryowen!
 
TIMOTHY DONOGHOE
(Correct spelling of name as found on official archival documents.)
Biographical Sketch
 
Born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1825, Timothy Donoghoe served with the British Army in India in the 1850’s.  He was decorated for service (actual honor unknown, but there was a medal in possession of one member of the family that cannot be found today).  Most likely this was a campaign medal of some sort.  He and his first wife Angelina had one son, Patrick, but Angelina died in India on May 8, 1859.  Following his service in India, Timothy and his son went to England.  There he met his second wife, and according to his marriage certificate was a police officer and widower (age 37) at the time of his marriage to Esther Mary Bason (age 23) on February 26, 1862 in Liverpool, England.  
 
The couple came to America with young Patrick, and Timothy joined Company B of the 69th Regiment New York City Volunteers on September 15, 1862. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, Timothy was wounded (shot in right thigh) while voluntarily rescuing an officer while in the line of fire.  According to the Report of the Adjutant General he was promoted to sergeant in January 1863 and transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps.  He was left disabled and applied for invalid pension in January 1864.  He received the Medal of Honor (date to be confirmed) for his actions at Fredericksburg. He died on March 19, 1908 and is buried in Cemetery of the Holy Cross in Brooklyn, NY.
 
According to official papers, Timothy was 5’9” tall, with light complexion, grey eyes and fair hair.  There is no known photo available.  Timothy’s children are listed as follows:
 
Name            Date of Birth
 
Patrick F.     January 22, 1856
Annie           November 17, 1862
Elizabeth      May 24, 1867
Ellen          September 20, 1869 (my great grandmother)
John J.        May 5, 1872
Emma           July 30, 1874
Alice          January 8, 1877
 
Graciously submitted by:  
Carol F. Dooley
Great Great Granddaughter
 
 

Original Roster, Company B

ACTON, WILLIAM--

 

  Age, 21 years. Enlisted at New York City, to serve three years, and  mustered in as a private, co. B October 15, 1864; mustered out    with company, June 30, 1865, At Alexandria Va.
 

ALEXANDER, GEORGE--

  Age, 33 years. Enlisted at Jamaica, to serve one year, and mustered in as a private, Co. B September 27th, 1864; Discharged for Disability, Febuary 1. 1865 at Philidelphia.
 

ANDREW, JAMES--

  Age, 20 years.  Enlisted at New York city, to  serve three years, and mustered in as a  private, Co. B October 15, 1864; deserted on     expiration of furlough, May 14th, 1865, in  front of Petersburg, Va.
 

AYRES, THOMAS B.--Captured in Action

   Age 24 years. Enlisted  at Chicago Ill., to serve three years, and mustered in as a private, Co. D, October 13th 1861; Transfered to Co. B, no-date; reenlisted as a veteran, December 22, 1863 promoted corporal, Febuary 26th, 1864; Sergeant, no-date; captured in Action, August 25 1864 at Ream's Station, Va.; parp;ed, no-date; absent, in hospital in Chicago Ill., at muster-out of company, also bourne as Ayers.

BAKER, WILLIAM.--

Age, 28 years. Enlisted at Jamaica, to serve one year, and mustered in as a private, Co. B, October 3, 1864; deserted to the enemy, December 9, 1864 at Petersburg, Va.
 

BARRATT, PATRICK--Wounded in Action

Age, 22 years. Enlisted, September 13, 1861, at New York city, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. B, September 17th, 1861; wounded, July 1, 1862, at Malvern Hill, Va; absent, in hospital, April 10, 1863, and at muster-out of company; subsequent service in the Fifteenth Engineers; also bourne as Barrett.

BENSON, FRANCIS--

Age 29 years. Enlisted at New York City, to serve one year, and mustered in as a private, Co. B, October5, 1864; mustered out with detachment, June 27, 1865, at Satterlee Hospital, West Philadelphia, Pa.
 

BLEEDNER, CHARLES--

Age, 22 years. Enlisted at5 New York City to serve one year; mustered in as a private, Co. B October 18, 1864; deserted to the enemy, December 19, 1864, in front of Petersburg, Va.
 

BOEHM, GEORGE B.--

Age 19 years. Enlisted at Tompkinsville, to serve one year, and musted in as a private, Co. B, September 30, 1864; mustered out with a detachment, June 16, 1865, at United States General Hospital, York Pa.; Also bourne as Bohem, Bohen, and Bohm.
 

BOYD, JOHN C.--Wounded in Action

Age, 36 years. Enlisted, August 15, 1862, at New York City, to serve three years; mustered in as a private, Co. E, August 16, 1862; transferred to Co. B, no-date; wounded. July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg Pa.; transferred to Veteran Reserve Corp. March 7, 1864; also borne as John Boyce and Boyde.
 

BOYLE, THOMAS--Wounded in Action

Age, 21 years. Enlisted, October 8, 1861, at New York City, to serve three years; mustered in as a Corporal, Co. B, October 11, 1861; wounded, July 1st 1862 at Malvern Hill, Va.; Promoted to Sergeant, January 8, 1863; wounded, July 1, 1863, at Gettysburg Pa.; Transferred to Veteran Reserve Corp., November 30, 1863.
 

BRADY, DENNIS--Wounded in Action

Age, 24 years. Enlisted, September 30, 1861, at New York City, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. B, October 8, 1861; wounded, July 1, 1861, at Malvern Hill, Va.; Promoted to corporal, no-date; discharged for disability, November 3, 1862.
 

BRADY, JAMES--Wounded in Action

Age, 32 years. Enlisted at New York City, to serve three years, and mustered in as a private, Co. B, October 22, 1861; wounded, July 1, 1862, at Malvern Hill, Va.; Discharged, January  21, 1863, by reason of enlistment in United States Cavalry.
 

BRADY, JOHN--Killed In Action

Enlisted at New York City, to serve three years, and mustered in as a private, Co. B, August 26, 1862; Killed in Action, September 17th, 1862, at Antietam, Md. 
 

BRADY, PETER--Killed in Action 

Age 33 years. Enlisted at New York City, to serve three years, and mustered in as a private, Co. B, September 17, 1861; killed in action, July 1, 1862, at Malvern Hill, Va.  
 

BRAZILL, EDWARD 

Age 24 years. Enlisted  at New York City to serve one year, and mustered in as a private, Co. B, October 6, 1864; promoted corporal, December 1, 1864; mustered out with Company, June 30, 1865, at Alexandria, Va; also bourne as Bazell, Bezell, Brazell, and Brezell. 
 

BRENNAN, MICHAEL P.-Wounded in Action  Age 28 years. Enlisted at New York City to serve three years; mustered in as a Sergeant, Co. B, October 24 1861; promoted first sergeant, November 20, 1861; mustered in as a Second Lt., Co. E, September 17 1862; wounded in action, December 13, 1862 at Fredericksburg Va. Mustered our to date, June 12, 1863; also bourne as Brennen, Michael J. 

 
Commissioned Second Lieutenant, October 14, 1862, with rank from September 17, 1862, vice T. Duffy, promoted. 
 
 
BRIARD, NICHOLAS 
Age 38 years. Enlisted, September 22 1862 at New York City to serve three years; mustered in as a private, co. B, November 17, 1862; transferred to Forty-Second company, Second Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps, no date; mustered out, August 24, 1865, at Washington D.C. 
 

BRODDERICK, MICHAEL-Wounded in Action

Age 19 years. Enlisted, August 27, 1864, at Schenectady, to serve three years; mustered in as a private Co. A, Febuary 26 1862; transferred to Co. B June 12, 1863; re-enlisted as a veteran, Febuary 22, 1864; wounded in action, May 5, 1864, at the Wilderness, Va.; mustered out, to date, June 30, 1865.
 

Leddy, Thomas - Wounded in Action

Sergeant, Co. F; Captain, Co. B.  Wounded dangerously at Malvern Hill and again at Fredericksburg. Senior captain in the 69th by the end of '62.  Later had service in Veteran Reserve Corps.