“A Few Spoke Nothing But Gaelic”: In Search of the Irish Language in the American Civil War

Irish in the American Civil War

In Philadelphia on 13th February 1868, Owen Curren and Mary Curren gave an affidvait relating to the case of Farrigle Gallagher. Gallagher, a member of the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry, had died a Prisoner of War at Andersonville. His wife Anne survived him by less than 6 months, dying– likely of T.B.– in December 1864. The Currens were giving evidence in 1868 in an effort to secure a pension on behalf of the Gallagher’s three minor children. However, the Pensions Bureau were concerned that this “Farrigle” Gallagher was not the same man as the “Frederick” Gallagher of Philadelphia they had recorded. The Currens, who had been acquainted with Farrigle for 25 and 30 years respectively, explained the reason behind the confusion:

…Frederick and Farrigle are the one and the same person. That in Ireland, where the said soldier was born and raised, he was called Farrigle which is the same as…

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Fairies, Púca & New Year’s Eve: An 1860s Irish Folktale for Irish-Americans

Irish in the American Civil War

Tales of mythological creatures like fairies and púca remained popular in Ireland well into the 20th century. Many 19th century Irish emigrants carried a strong tradition of these stories with them to the United States. Traditional storytellers, the seanchaidhthekept these legends alive in the community, and many Irish-Americans remained eager to hear them even after their arrival in their new home. Evidence for this can be readily found in contemporary writings, such as the stories published in diaspora newspapers like the New York Irish-American Weekly. To give a flavour of both this tradition of storytelling and one of the ways they could be transmitted, this post reproduces one of these stories, first printed in 1864. It would have been widely read and retold throughout the Irish-American community in the United States, including among Irish soldiers in Union camps as they prepared for the dreadful summer campaigns of that year. 

The tradition…

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Sacrificial Killing in the Early Middle Ages: Vikings Season 2


Aethelstan receives crucifixion for apostasy... Aethelstan receives crucifixion for apostasy…


As recent entries should make clear, I’m getting myself through Season 2 of the History Channel ‘Vikings’ series.  It is of great interest to me as a mortuary archaeologist of the first millennium AD societies. The series is the latest worldwide popular 21st-century portrayal of Scandinavia and the Viking diaspora in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Therefore this series needs to be taken seriously by academics as a way of tackling and debating the use of legendary, historical and archaeological evidence relating to life and death in this important period of European history.

See my earlier blog entries for other dimensions of the ‘Vikings’ series. As well as reviewing seasons 1 and 2 in general terms together here, I previously went on to review in more detail the mortuary archaeological dimensions of Vikings Season 1. I have also recently…

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Vikings Season 3: Touching and Talking with the Dead


Ragnar funeral11In a previous post, I explored the fake funeral of Ragnar Lothbrok that serves as the apogee of Vikings Season 3. Once the coffin was made and Ragnar’s ‘corpse’ placed within, the wooden container was raised to be held within the king’s tent ahead of the funeral.

Touching and Talking to the Coffin

The lying in state of Ragnar’s coffin sets up a powerful dynamic. Three key characters speak to the coffin, touching it with their hands, they heads, revealing their feelings towards Ragnar believing him to be dead. Lagertha, Rollo and Floki each speak to Ragnar in term. First, Lagertha touches the coffin as if it were her former-husband’s body, whispering to it with her ear touching its side.
Ragnar funeral13

Ragnar funeral14

Then we have Rollo, Ragnar’s brother, sitting and leaning the back of his head against it, again acting as if it were a living body.

Ragnar funeral15

Finally, we have Floki…

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Tressed for Death in Early Anglo-Saxon England


7-7 Ford, Laverstock – 7th-centuryw eapon grave with 2 spearheads, seax, hanging bowl and a comb

This post is to flag up my latest publication – Tressed for Death in Early Anglo-Saxon England – appearing today in the journal Internet Archaeology as part of a special themed collection of 14 short contributions called ‘Archaeologies of Hair: the head and its grooming in ancient and contemporary societies’ compiled by Dr Steven P. Ashby of the Department of Archaeology, University of York.

IMG_20141210_111245This short piece starts with a review of earlier research on the key significance of grooming implements in early Anglo-Saxon cremation practices before looking to grooming practices deployed in the elite mortuary arena and revealed in the placing of combs in both late sixth and early seventh-century inhumation graves and cremation burials. This theme has been largely hitherto overlooked through the interpretative focus on ‘treasure’ and weapons in such high-status graves…

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Sutton Hoo Revisited


dsc00055 View of Mound 2 from Tranmer House

What is Sutton Hoo?

It’s been 6 years since I last visited Sutton Hoo, the ‘burial ground of kings’. Located on marginal land on a prominent ridge above the River Deben opposite Woodbridge, Sutton Hoo is many things to many people. In archaeological terms, it is a prehistoric landscape of field systems and settlement. It is primarily known as a late sixth-/early seventh-century elite (‘princely’) burial ground for many archaeologists and almost all visitors. Yet it is also the site of two later Anglo-Saxon execution cemeteries.

The medieval and modern landscape is also to be found at Sutton Hoo. It is a marginal pastoral landscape with trackways in the Middle Ages. Equally important it is an early focus of barrow-digging. It is furthermore a 20th-century military landscape with anti-glider ditches crossing the flat landscape.

dsc09784 The Sutton Hoo Visitor Centre

Sutton Hoo is also a famous…

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The Bells (and Buganne) of St Trinian’s


dsc00451I was recently on the Isle of Man. It was my third visit in two years; part of my role as link tutor between the Dept of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester and the History & Heritage programme at University College Isle of Man (UCM.  I hope to post about my travels on the Isle over coming weeks.

One site to begin with is the ruined chapel of St Trinian’s, Marown. I visited in heavy rain between meetings in Douglas and a visit to Tynwald. This chapel is located at the heart of the island, on the modern (and presumably historic) routebetween Douglas to the east and St John’s and Peel to the west, beneath the dramatic and looming Greeba Hill. The chapel is on a platform upon sloping ground uphill from the modern road, but perhaps upon an earlier route immediately north of the compound.


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