History of the 69th New York

by Claire Morris


The Irish Brigade returned to Hatcher’s Run on the 5th February, with approximately 1,600 men in the ranks.  After arriving there, they quickly dug entrenchments around Hatcher’s Run. The 69th New York had a few unexpected guests, a number of Rebels deserted to their entrenchments around Hatcher’s Run.



In March the Irish Brigade had their fourth and final St Patrick’s Day celebration. Father Ouellet, the 69th New York’s Chaplin celebrated the Mass.  General Meade again returned to take part in the celebration.  The celebration was not as robust as in previous years.  There was the inevitable flat race and steeplechase, where sadly 2nd Lieutenant Michael McConville of the 69th New York, who was in his fourth year of service with the 69th New York, fell from his horse and fractured his skull, he died a week later.

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On the 25th March Lee’s Rebels attacked Fort Stedman on the Union right.  The Irish Brigade got involved in a fight with the Rebels which lasted half of the day, against the forces at Skinners Farm near Hatcher’s Run.  Captain John D Mulhall wheeled his companies into line by an oblique movement, as the Confederates tried to outflank his line.  Mulhall was shot in the leg as the 69th New York continued to fight on.  The 28th Massachusetts suffered high casualties after they had used up all of their ammunition. The 4th New York Heavy Artillery, who had replaced the 7th New York in the Irish Brigade’s line up, also suffered high casualties.

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On the 29th March the 1st Division II Corps supported the V Corps and the army’s cavalry, under the leadership of General Philip Sheridan as they attacked the Rebels lines of communication for the last time.  On the 2nd April the Federal army broke through the Rebel lines, and the Confederate forces abandoned Petersburg the following day.  The II Corps joined the pursuit of the Rebel forces under the new command of Major General Andrew A Humphrys.  The Irish Brigade constantly skirmished with the rear guard of the Army Of Northern Virginia.

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After the Army Of The Potomac had engaged Ewell’s forces and taken him and his staff prisoner, the II Corps had captured several artillery pieces and thirteen Rebel colours, of which the Irish Brigade captured the vast majority.  Some officers of the Irish Brigade were sent to Washington with their trophies.  The casualties to the 69th and the rest of the Irish Brigade were very slight.

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On the 7th April the Irish Brigade fought a long and hard skirmish with the Confederates near Farmville, Virginia.  That evening Colonel Nugent and his aide, Captain John Oldershaw, accompanied General Miles and Brigadier General Seth Williams, to deliver to General Lee the terms of surrender from General Grant.  The Rebels left the area during the night and the II Corps marched on after them towards Appomattox Court House.  The II Corps and other Union forces caught the Rebels at noon on the 9th April.  General Humphreys deployed the II Corps ready for an attack, but by 4pm Lee had given up and surrendered his Army Of Northern Virginia.

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During the last campaign of the war the 69th New York had three men killed and five wounded, but now as their war was effectively over, there would be no more fighting for them.  On the 11th April the II Corps marched from Appomattox to Burkesville Virginia, where they stayed until the 30th April.  On the 2nd May the Irish Brigade began their long march back home to New York; they marched through Jetersville, Amelia Court House, Richmond, Hanover Court House, Fredericksburg and on to Alexandria.  Then after a brief stop, they were off to Washington for the Army Of The Potomac’s Grand Review.

At 2pm on the 22nd May 1865.  Colonel Nugent led the 69th New York and the rest of the Irish Brigade down Pennsylvania Avenue to loud applause and cheers from the watching public.  The regiments had their green flags and stars and stripes fluttering in the wind, and each man had a sprig of boxwood on their kepis, just as they had done in December 1862, at Fredericksburg.

The New York regiments and the 28th Massachusetts arrived at the Battery Barracks in Manhattan on the 2nd July with 700 men.  They were escorted through New York City centre by the 1st Division of the New York State National Guard.  The 28th Massachusetts left for Boston after the parade.  The men of the 69th, 63rd and 88th New York, the 400 men remaining, marched to Irving Hall where General Meagher, their former Brigade commander, was waiting for them.  After his short but rousing speech, Brevet Brigadier General Robert Nugent brought the 69th New York, 63rd New York and 88th New York to attention and, “Marched them out of the hall and into the rest of their lives – and history,” (Bilby pg 127).


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