Concerning “Suggested Readings.” The below list is a subjective listing and any wishing to nominate books may contact the webmaster at “Signals28thMVI@Yahoo.com.” Insert” “Book Suggestion” into the subject line. As a convenience, all books are linked to Amazon.com pages, but this is not per se an endorsement of Amazon as a source for any book. Many bookstores/booksellers — not neglecting both the NPS bookstore and used bookstores – may also have many of these works. Books with “(HR)” annotated are highly recommended.
The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union by Bell Irvin Wiley. This is a companion volume to Johnny Reb (also worth reading) and provides a good description of the soldier’s day to day existence. (HR)
Hardtack and Coffee, or the Unwritten Story of Army Life, by John D. Billings. This first-person account of Army life was first published in 1887, and provides a rich, humane, and often humorous description of everything from removal of nits and lice to the vagaries of the Army mule. The line drawings by C. W. Reed (many of which decorate this brochure) are priceless. (HR)
Corporal Si Klegg and his Pard. By Wilbur F. Hinman “How they lived and talked, and what they did and suffered, while fighting for the flag.” By Wilbur F. Hinman. A conversational, idiomatic account of miseries and small triumphs. (HR)
Battle in the Civil War by Paddy Griffith. This is a 1989 update of Griffith’s 1986 book “Rally Once Again” – both versions an excellent description of tactics and military practice that helps demystify battle drill. Comic book style (aimed, we presume, at the infantry soldier), usually found in National Park Service bookstores at larger battlefields.
Echoes of Glory: Arms & Equipment of the Union, by Time Life Books, provides an excellent photographic inventory or uniforms, weapons, and accoutrements; a good buy and a useful long-term reference. (HR)
Books about the Irish and the Civil War
Overview coverage of the Irish diaspora in the Civil War, not specific to unit.
The Irish in the American Civil War. By Damian Shiels. This is the story of the forgotten role of the 200,000 Irish men and women who were involved in various ways in the U.S. Civil War. It includes the story of James Shields, who challenged Abraham Lincoln to a duel in Illinois before the war began, and James O’Beirne, whose job was to hunt Lincoln’s assassin. The stories are divided into “beginnings,” “realities,” “the wider war,” and “aftermath.” Each section contains six true stories of gallantry, sacrifice, and bravery, from the flag bearer who saved his regimental colors at the cost of his arms, to the story of Jennie Hodgers, who successfully passed as a man to serve throughout the war in the 95th..
The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865, by Susannah J. Ural. A highly readable study explores the complex political and historical motives that sent 150,000 Irish Catholic soldiers into the ranks of the Union Army during the Civil War. For the majority of Irish soldiers the cause of the Union was inextricably linked to the cause of Irish independence and Bruce’s wide ranging study paints a complex and evocative picture of the network of alliances and experiences that animated Irish participation in the war effort. (HR)
Paddy’s Lament: Ireland 1846-1847. By Thomas Gallagher. Harvest/HBJ. This book provides a historical context for the migration to America of the generation of Irishmen who fought with the Irish Brigade.
Books about the Irish Brigade
A number of books cover the Irish Brigade, though few focus strictly on the 28th Mass. In these accounts, the Regiment is often lumped in with the 63rd, 69th and 88th New York and the 116th Pennsylvania.
The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns. By David P. Conyngham. This is a 1994 reissue of an 1867 book. An 1861 immigrant to the US from Ireland, Conyngham was a war correspondent with the Irish Brigade. By March 1863, he was back in the United States and a Captain, serving as an aide-de-camp to fellow Young Irelander General Thomas Francis Meagher at Chancellorsville.
Campaigning with the Irish Brigade: Pvt John Ryan, 28th Massachusetts — edited by Sandy Barnard. John Ryan, a 16-year-old laborer from West Newton, Mass., enlisted in the 28th Massachusetts on Jan. 1, 1862. As a member of the 28th Massachusetts, Ryan participated in many of the major campaigns and battles in the East. Ryan writes well and recounts in some detail the major actions of the regiment and of the brigade. His descriptions of camp life are particularly good, but there are lapses in his story. He left the regiment—for conflicting reasons—immediately after Gettysburg and did not return for nearly a year. His memoir covers those months with a sketchy account of his unit’s operations. (HR)
The Greatest Brigade: How the Irish Brigade Cleared the Way to Victory in the American Civil War. By Thomas J, Craughwell. Between 1861 and 1865, 7,000 Irishmen, virtually all of them immigrants, enlisted in the Irish Brigade, and 4,000 of them were killed or wounded. This book is the story of their heroism, sacrifice, and faith. Although most of the Irish in America were consigned to squalid slums, given only the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs, and almost universally looked down upon by native born Americans, they recognized that America promised freedom unknown in Europe and opportunities unimaginable in Ireland–and the men of the Irish brigade were willing to fight to defend those opportunities and that freedom.
Irish Green and Union Blue — the Civil War Letters of Peter Welsh. Welsh was Color Sergeant of the 28th Massachusetts. This volume contains his personal letters, annotated for context; good insights on Civil War life. (HR)
The Irish Brigade: A Pictorial History of the Famed Civil War Fighters. By Russ A. Pritchard, Jr. Including Illustrations by Don Troiani The gripping true story, replete with stunning full-color illustrations, of all Irish regiments from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York serving under the direction of the Brigade’s most famous commander, General Thomas Francis Meagher. This meticulously researched text features complete and detailed accounts of the Brigade’s battles and skirmishes, from Bull Run to Yorktown to Peach Orchard to Malvern Hill to Antietam to Petersburg—to name a few. This powerful, authoritative volume captures the heart and tireless effort of the heroic men who rescued the Union from defeat time and time again—enthralling reading with authentic accompanying illustrations.
The Irish Brigade. By Steven J. Wright. A part of the Combat History Series in periodical format sold at National Park Service book stores.
“God Help the Irish” The History of the Irish Brigade. By Phillip Thomas Tucker. While the famed fighting prowess of the Irish Brigade at Antietam and Gettysburg is well known, in “God Help the Irish!” historian Phillip T. Tucker emphasizes the lives and experiences of the individual Irish soldiers fighting in the ranks of the Brigade, supplying a better understanding of the Irish Brigade and why it became one of the elite combat units of the Civil War.
The History of the Irish Brigade: A Collection of Historical Essays. 2d edition: Pia Seija Seagrave, Editor. (HR)
The Irish Brigade. By Paul Jones. Short and easily readable overview.
The Irish Brigade: A Pictorial History of the Famed Civil War Fighters. By Russ A Pritchard. Including illustrations by Don Troiani. The gripping true story, replete with stunning full-color illustrations, of all Irish regiments from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York serving under the direction of the Brigade’s most famous commander, General Thomas Francis Meagher. This meticulously researched text features complete and detailed accounts of the Brigade’s battles and skirmishes, from Bull Run to Yorktown to Peach Orchard to Malvern Hill to Antietam to Petersburg—to name a few. This powerful, authoritative volume captures the heart and tireless effort of the heroic men who rescued the Union from defeat time and time again—enthralling reading with authentic accompanying illustrations.
My Life in the Irish Brigade: The Civil War Memoirs of Private William McCarter, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry. By William McCarter. Edited by Kevin O’Brien. William McCarter, a 21-year-old Irish immigrant, was present at the storming of Marye’s Heights at the battle of Fredericksburg and left behind observations of several prominent Union personalities as well as daily life in the Army of the Potomac.
Memoirs of Chaplain Life — Three Years in the Irish Brigade in the Army of the Potomac. By Father William Corby. Father Corby was one of the chaplains of the brigade; his story was written in 1893.
Remember Fontenoy_ The 69th New York and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War. By Joseph G. Bilby. This focuses on the 69th New York, but includes all regiments of the Irish Brigade.
Books about the Thomas Francis Meagher
Thomas Francis Meagher was the driving force behind the creation of the Irish Brigade and he led the Brigade through the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1863.) His life has recently been the source of some excellent biography.
The Immortal Irishman – The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero. By Thomas Egan. The Irish-American story, with all its twists and triumphs, is told through the improbable life of one man. A dashing young orator during the Great Famine of the 1840s, in which a million of his Irish countrymen died, Thomas Francis Meagher led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony. He escaped and six months later was heralded in the streets of New York — the revolutionary hero, back from the dead, at the dawn of the great Irish immigration to America. Meagher’s rebirth in America included his leading the newly formed Irish Brigade from New York in many of the fiercest battles of the Civil War — Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg. Twice shot from his horse while leading charges, left for dead in the Virginia mud, Meagher’s dream was that Irish-American troops, seasoned by war, would return to Ireland and liberate their homeland from British rule. The hero’s last chapter, as territorial governor of Montana, was a romantic quest for a true home in the far frontier. His death has long been a mystery to which Egan brings haunting, colorful new evidence. (HR)
The Irish General: Thomas Francis Meagher. By Paul R. Wylie. Irish patriot, Civil War general, frontier governor—Thomas Francis Meagher played key roles in three major historical arenas. Today he is hailed as a hero by some, condemned as a drunkard by others. Paul R. Wylie now offers a definitive biography of this nineteenth-century figure who has long remained an enigma. The Irish General first recalls Meagher’s life from his boyhood and leadership of Young Ireland in the revolution of 1848, to his exile in Tasmania and escape to New York, where he found fame as an orator and as editor of the Irish News. He served in the Civil War—viewing the Union Army as training for a future Irish revolutionary force—and rose to the rank of brigadier general leading the famous Irish Brigade. Wylie traces Meagher’s military career in detail through the Seven Days battles, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Wylie then recounts Meagher’s final years as acting governor of Montana Territory, sorting historical truth from false claims made against him regarding the militia he formed to combat attacking American Indians, and plumbing the mystery surrounding his death. Even as Meagher is lauded in most Irish histories, his statue in front of Montana’s capitol is viewed by some with contempt. The Irish General brings this multi-talented but seriously flawed individual to life, offering a balanced picture of the man and a captivating reading experience. (HR)