History of the 69th New York

by Claire Morris


“These Irishmen who rallied to the red, white and blue of the Union were remarkable men.  As soldiers they exhibited a zeal for combat, obedience to battlefield orders, a steadiness in the face of fire, a cool indifference to death that was sometimes unnerving to other soldiers around them, and incredible endurance on the march.  In camp few appeared on sick call and most maintained excellent health in spite of the unsanitary conditions that quickly struck other troops down with sickness – a testament, perhaps, to the immunities developed during years of living in squalor in Ireland.

“Their quick wit, good humor and cheerful attitude enabled them to withstand the most rigorous marches, long campaigns and foul weather with gentle equanimity.  Above all, they possessed a loyalty and pride in their unit that was truly extraordinary.  They demonstrated this espirit de Corps repeatedly in the most extreme combat situations…

“During the war one participant familiar with the Irish soldier observed, “other men go into fights finely, sternly or indifferently, but the only man that really loves it, after all, is the green immortal Irishman.  So there the brave lads from the old sod, with the chosen Meagher at their head, laughed and fought, and joked as if it were the finest fun in the world.”  (Pritchard pg 9).

The Irish Brigade lost over four thousand men during the war, more than they ever had serving in it at any one time.  The 69th, 88th, 63rd, 28th and 116th regiments, the five core regiments of the Irish Brigade, had 961 men confirmed killed or mortally wounded in action.  According to William Fox’s “Regimental Losses” the 69th New York was sixth in the listing of number of men killed or mortally wounded, and the 28th Massachusetts was seventh - ‘Never were men so brave…”



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