'How I Came to Kill Your Brother' An Extraordinary Irish-American's Story 150 Years Ago Today

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I have been researching stories for the Irish in the American Civil War blog for quite a few years now, but there is one story that really stands out in terms of the alignment of accounts relating to it. It involves a young Irish-American, Peter Donnelly, who came from a Co. Cavan family and served in the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery. He was killed in action 150 years ago today. Remarkably, the letters of a friend of his in the regiment survive, and describe his death. Even more incredibly, we actually have an account from the Confederate who killed him, sent to Peter's sister after the war had ended. I don't think I have ever come across quite a unique two-sided account of the death of one ordinary soldier in the Union Army. Although originally posted last year, I thought it worth sharing again on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Peter's death. http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/11/02/how-i-came-to-kill-your-brother-a-confederate-reveals-an-irish-americans-final-moments/
 

BrrrBRRRR

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I really enjoyed reading it as it showed the psychological impact of killing some one at such a close range and what the other soldier felt he needed to do in order to make amends. I also enjoyed it because the Donnelly brothers came from the next town over in VT from my ancestors on my Mom's side. Though they didn't serve in the same unit, they probably knew people in common.
 
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Pat Young

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I have been researching stories for the Irish in the American Civil War blog for quite a few years now, but there is one story that really stands out in terms of the alignment of accounts relating to it. It involves a young Irish-American, Peter Donnelly, who came from a Co. Cavan family and served in the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery. He was killed in action 150 years ago today. Remarkably, the letters of a friend of his in the regiment survive, and describe his death. Even more incredibly, we actually have an account from the Confederate who killed him, sent to Peter's sister after the war had ended. I don't think I have ever come across quite a unique two-sided account of the death of one ordinary soldier in the Union Army. Although originally posted last year, I thought it worth sharing again on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Peter's death. http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/11/02/how-i-came-to-kill-your-brother-a-confederate-reveals-an-irish-americans-final-moments/
Good as ever. Also a reminder that immigrants served in units not thought of as "ethnic regiments."
 
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It is a really compelling story- an example of some of the material available in contemporary newspapers as well. I often wonder about the Confederate and how he got on in later life- the whole episode had clearly deeply affected him.
 
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ErnieMac

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Very interesting account.

The 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery was originally enrolled as the 11th Vermont Infantry in September 1862. The regiment was originally posted to the defenses of Washington D.C. and the designation changed to the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery in December of that year. In May, 1864, they, along with many other heavy artillery regiments, reverted back to infantry to replace casualties of the Overland Campaign. On May 15th the regiment joined Brigadier General Lewis Grant's Vermont Brigade in the vicinity of Spotsylvania Court House. Grant, in his campaign reports would always refer to them as the 11th Vermont.

The action at Jerusalem Plank Road in which Sergeant Connelly was killed is covered in a book entitled A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad: The Vermont Brigade, June 23, 1864 by David Faris Cross. Lieutenant French was killed in the April 2, 1865 Breakthrough at Petersburg on what is now the Pamplin Historical Park outside Petersburg. Grant's Vermonters spearheaded the Union attack.
 
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Pat Young

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Very interesting account.

The 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery was originally enrolled as the 11th Vermont Infantry in September 1862. The regiment was originally posted to the defenses of Washington D.C. and the designation changed to the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery in December of that year. In May, 1864, they, along with many other heavy artillery regiments, reverted back to infantry to replace casualties of the Overland Campaign. On May 15th the regiment joined Brigadier General Lewis Grant's Vermont Brigade in the vicinity of Spotsylvania Court House. Grant, in his campaign reports would always refer to them as the 11th Vermont.

The action at Jerusalem Plank Road in which Sergeant Connelly was killed is covered in a book entitled A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad: The Vermont Brigade, June 23, 1864 by David Faris Cross. Lieutenant French was killed in the April 2, 1865 Breakthrough at Petersburg on what is now the Pamplin Historical Park outside Petersburg. Grant's Vermonters spearheaded the Union attack.
Thanks for the additional info. Very helpful.
 
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