Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!: The 69th New York at Fort Corcoran

Like many Civil War enthusiasts, I have always been fascinated with the exploits of the famed Irish Brigade, even though I don't have a drop of Irish blood in my body!  On this St. Patrick's Day, I was looking for an interesting Northern Virginia connection to the unit.  It turns out that Fort Corcoran in Arlington was constructed in May 1861 with the help of the 69th New York State Militia, a regiment which eventually formed the core of the Irish Brigade.  The fort, one of the first built around Washington during the Civil War, defended the approaches to the Aqueduct Bridge, along with Forts Bennett and Haggerty.  Fort Corcoran was named after Colonel Michael Corcoran, leader of the 69th New York.  The regiment fought at Bull Run and re-enrolled as the 69th New York State Volunteers when its 90-day enlistment period expired.  Colonel Thomas Francis Meagher, who replaced Colonel Corcoran after his capture at Bull Run, sought to organize an all-Irish unit.  His wish was granted, and he soon was leading the Irish Brigade.

Officers of the 69th New York State Militia at Ft. Corcoran, 1861.  Col. Corcoran is at the far left. (courtesy of the Library of Congress)

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