‘I Hope…To See You Once More And Then I Would Die Contented’: An Irish Mother Writes to Her Son

The American Civil War was not fought by native-born Americans alone. This heart-touching letter, written by an Irish mother living in New York in 1864, is but one example of the sacrifices Irish immigrants made for this country.

Irish in the American Civil War

Bridget Burns married her husband William in Ireland on 18th August 1840. When her husband died eight years later, he left Bridget a widow and their only child, Henry, fatherless at the age of six. By the time 1861 came along, Bridget and her son were living 125 Greenwich Avenue, New York. On 19th August that year 19-year-old Henry enlisted, becoming a Private in Company D of the 59th New York Infantry. With that act, Bridget became one of tens of thousands of Irish mothers who spent each day on edge, waiting for news from the front. Over the course of the war Henry regularly corresponded with his mother; he sent his letters to neighbour Catharine Farrell who read them out to the illiterate Irishwoman.

Henry, always keen to hear from home, felt his mother didn’t write to him enough and chastised her for it- at one point in 1863 telling…

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