There’s a large and active group among students of the American Civil War fascinated with the service of Irishmen in the conflict, and with the Irish Brigade of the Army of the Potomac in particular. There’s a vast amount of lore and legend on the subject, which I’ve only really noted in passing. I know … and with my surname, too.

So it is with some trepidation that I dig here into the life and passing of Patrick Phelan (Felan) Clooney. One of those heroes of the Irish Brigade at Antietam.

detail from the Soldiers Monument, Calvary Cemetery, Queens, NYclick to see larger image
detail from the Soldiers Monument, Calvary Cemetery, Queens, NY (2009, biostheoretikos.com)

I am prompted by an effort underway to rescue a memorial to Clooney in his native Waterford. Thanks to James Doherty, who is fund- and awareness-raising, and Damian Shiels, who brought him to my attention…

gravestone of Werner von Bachelle at Antietam National Cemetery
(Janet Richmond, via Flickr)

This is the stone at Antietam National Cemetery for Captain Werner von Bachelle, killed in action on 17 September 1862 at Antietam.  He’s something of a celebrity today. School kids hear of him in their packets at the cemetery and battlefield. Though he died a brave soldier, like so many others that day, that’s not why he’s so well known. He owes his celebrity to his dog.

In April 1861 von Bachelle volunteered with his local militia, the Citizens Corps of Milwaukee, for service in response to President Lincoln’s first call for troops.  In May the officers – Capt. William Lindwurm, 1st Lt. Frederick Schumacher, and 2nd Lt. Werner Von Bachelle – were commissioned in Federal service and their unit became Company F of the new 6th Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.  Like von Bachelle, nearly all of the men of the Company were German speakers, most German born …

I have been busy with the business of life, but not entirely ignorant of the world outside! I certainly noticed the October 2010 announcement of the incredible generosity of the Liljenquist family who donated their collection of more than 700 Civil War ambrotypes and tintypes to the Library of Congress. The Library is creating a physical exhibit for them opening in April 2011 as part of the Sesquicentennial observations.

In the meantime, they’ve scanned and posted the collection online on their own pages and through a Flickr photostream.  I’ve explored this treasure a little, and found some intriguing images with connections to our favorite battlefield.

[Unidentified woman wearing mourning brooch and displaying framed image of unidentifed soldier] (LOC)
Woman wearing mourning brooch and displaying framed image of soldier (1861 – 1865, Library of Congress via Flickr)

I’m sorry that so few of the subjects of these pictures are identified.  Only a couple of dozen are named, another dozen or so are identified by military unit from clues on their uniforms or in the photo background.  The remaining hundreds are unidentified.

I am moved all the more, however, by the anonymity of this woman in her grief. I presume from the context that the soldier in her lap has recently been killed. Her husband? It reminds me again of the deadly way the War ripped through families and brings perspective to battle maps, memorials and markers …