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Irish Sisters of Mercy honoured for US Civil War service

31 August 2007


As part of Heritage Week 2007, organised by the Office of Public Works (OPW), a talk was given in Kilmainham Goal, Dublin on Wednesday night August 29th, by Mr Aidan O'Connor.  The theme of the presentation was 'The American Civil War and its Music'.  The U.S. Ambassador, Mr Thomas Foley opened the proceedings.

Kilmainham Goal

Inside Kilmainham Gaol

The story of the American Civil War was told in a very creative way by Aidan O’Connor.  He outlined a general history of the Civil War, reminding the audience that hundreds of thousands of Irish men had joined the US military as a result of emigration to the US due to the Great Famine in Ireland.   The 'fighting Irish' were courageous soldiers and gained huge acceptance in US society as a consequence of their efforts during the Civil War.  In fact, men of Irish extraction won more medals of honour than any other, during the course of the war.

 Civil War Hospitals

Hospital for wounded soldiers during Civil War

As with all war, casualties were high and large numbers of wounded soldiers needed medical attention.  At this point in the narrative, Aidan O'Connor paid tribute to the Irish Women Religious who valiantly cared for the wounded and dying soldiers.  He especially highlighted the contributions of the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Holy Cross.  Even though Catholicism was not widespread in the US at the time, the dedication and care of the sisters impressed people very much and there were many conversions.

Two days before he died, Abraham Lincoln said of the sisters that they were 'gentle and womanly, yet with courage'.  He called them 'Angels of Mercy'. 

Irish music had a major impact on the songs of the Civil War and many of the most popular war songs were written to Irish tunes.  During the course of the evening, nineteen songs from the Civil War were showcased – some pre-recorded and others performed live by the group 'Heartland'. 

A multimedia display enhanced the proceedings throughout.

 Coirle McCarthy and Aidan O'Connor

Coirle McCarthy rsm, Congregational Leader and Mr Aidan O'Connor

Coirle McCarthy, Congregational Leader, Kathy Rule, Congregational Leadership Team, Colmcille Roche, South African Province and Ailish O'Brien attended the event, in response to the invitation from Aidan O'Connor.

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