Bust of Irish Brigade Commander Thomas Francis Meagher Unveiled Today in Brooklyn 150th Anniversary

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Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Long Island, NY
The cemetery decided eight years ago that it wanted to commemorate Meagher with statuary. Elizabeth Townsend Meagher, the general's widow, is buried in her family plot in Green-wood. She lamented on her deathbed that her husband had no grave. When the cemetery's staff learned of this they decided that a statue to him would be part of the cemetery's commemoration of the Civil War 150th.

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The banner behind the bust has a depiction of Meagher as a Young Irelander.
 
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Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Here is a view of the inscription on the monument. The Irish flag was placed at its base because Meagher worked with French revolutionary women to design it and he introduced it to Ireland. The Green represents the Celtic indigenous Irish, the Orange the transplanted Scottish Protestants who came with Cromwell, and the White the need for reconcilation between the two communites if Ireland was to take its place among the nations of the world.

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Pat Young

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Now let me take you through the day.

Green-wood is almost as big as Central Park. It is the final resting place for people like Boss Tweed, Henry Halleck, and Leonard Bernstein. The cemetery puts a lot of effort into explaining its history. In 2002 it began its Civil War project. The project identified the graves of 3,300 Civil War vets and obtained new tombstones for nearly 2,000 of them, many previously in unmarked graves. The cemetery has tour trolleys to take visitors around as part of its regular historical programs.

Here is the trolley I was on with Greenwood's beloved historian Jeff Richmond at the front:

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Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Long Island, NY
I found out that my bench mate was Jessie Meagher, who is a member if the general's family. Normally he reenacts with the 14th Brooklyn, but for today he portrayed a man in the 69th NY 1st Irish Brigade. He has a sprig of boxwood in his hat to recall Meagher's distribution of the greenery before Fredericksburg.

meagher jessie.JPG
 
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Pat Young

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Up at the site of the statuary, we were met by the members of the Waterford County Society. Here in NY each county in Ireland has a society corresponding to its members native county in Ireland, and for more then a century they have carried these large banners in parades. This one is carried in the NY St. Patrick's Day Parade and it depicts Meagher as a Young Irelander during the 1848 Rebellion. Meagher was from a well-to-do family in Waterford *(where Waterford Crystal is made) and he decided to cast in his lot with the poor and try to overthrow British rule. The Great Hunger had already killed off 10% of Ireland's people and the situation was worsening. Meagher's rebellion never got off the ground, but he was captured and put on trial, sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered for treason to the British crown.

meagher banner.JPG
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Joined
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Location
Long Island, NY
Here is the grave of Elizabeth, the general's widow. The black drapery you see behind it is the bust.

There was considerable attention paid to her at the ceremony. When Meagher went missing in Montana she went there and spent two weeks searching for his body. She never remarried even though she was only 36 when he died.

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Pat Young

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Location
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The Fighting 69th still exists as a New York National Guard Unit. Nowadays it includes many Latino and Asian American guardsmen, as well as Irish. I was happy to talk with members of the color guard about the unit, which defended immigrants in NYC from nativist Know Nothing attacks in the 1850s. One of the young men told me, "We are very proud of that history of our regiment sir."
meagher 69th.JPG
 
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