The Madigans: Famine Survival, Emigration & Obligation in 19th Century Ireland & America

Irish in the American Civil War

Each pension file contains fragments of one Irish family’s story.They are rarely complete, but nonetheless they often offer us rare insight into aspects of the 19th century Irish emigrant experience.Few match the breadth of the story told in the Madigan pension file. That family’s words and letters take us from the Great Famine in Rattoo, Co. Kerry to New York and Ohio and ultimately to the first battlefield of the American Civil War. From there we journey from neighbourhoods as diverse as the Five Points and Tralee, where those unable to take the emigrant boat still counted on those who had made new lives across the Atlantic.

I frequently make reference to the fact that many of the Irish impacted by the American Civil War were Famine-era emigrants. Despite this, among the hundreds of Irish pension files I have examined, the Famine has only been directly referenced twice…

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