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Eyewitness: Civil War

Patrick Dunny and the American Civil War;

Pat Dunny and the Spanish Civil War

James Durney

On 21 March 2013 Liam Dunny, Carlow, paid a visit to Kildare Library and Arts Service, Newbridge  Library, in search of information for his family tree. Liam was looking for an obituary for his uncle, Pat Dunny. Below is a copy of a letter from Thomas Dunny, published in Carloviana. The Journal of the Old Carlow Society, 1967 (donated by Liam Dunny) and Pat Dunny’s obituary from The Nationalist, 4 September 1981. Our thanks to Liam Dunny.

Carloviana. The Journal of the Old Carlow Society, 1967
An Irishman looks at Civil War
The following vivid account of a phase of the American Civil War is given in an extract from a letter written to Thomas Dunny, Esq., of Sleaty by his brother, Patrick and dated Philadelphia, October 22nd, 1861.

“This country is in a sad state at present. I heard of war since I was able to understand anything but never had the luck to be so near it before. Now nothing else is thought of but war. There was hardly anything done since the Battle of Bull Run but reorganizing the Army until a couple of weeks ago. Since then they made two forward movements into the rebel country, driving the rebel pickets before them. Our Commanding General – a good Irish name McClellan – is working very cautiously but surely. He is determined and says he will have no more Bull Run affairs. I expect soon to have some stirring news to send you.
“I suppose you heard all about the Bull Run fight where thousands of fine fellows fell – more than ever will be heard of. But one thing I know you heard nothing of, which is grievous to every Irishman. Two Irish regiments met on that dreadful battlefield – one the 69th of New York – a nobler set of men there was not in the world, with the gallant Corcoran and Meagher at their head. They carried the green flag of Erin all day proudly through showers of bullets. The other Irish regiment was from Louisiana and I suppose as good Irish as anyone and with as much love for Ireland. They opposed the 69th all day to try to win that poor green flag. They took it four times, but four times they had to give it up with severe loss to their ranks. There were more lives lost over that flag than over any object on the field. The fourth time it was taken by the rebels the poor 69th were so worn out with fighting for nine hours without intermission, under an almost tropical sun, that they were not able to retake it. A man in the 69th – a sergeant – when he saw it going cried out at his utmost that the flag of his country was going to the rebels. He leveled his rifle and shot the bearer dead. He and his company made a bayonet charge, rescued the flag and brought it back in triumph.
“You may imagine the joy there was on their return home. As the rail road cars go very slowly through the city there was a good opportunity for all to see it and surely it bore the marks of having been to the war – all tattered and torn and riddled with bullets. But it will be a lasting momento to the men that bore it through that terrific day (the 21st of July 1861).
“At present there is on the Federal side not less than five hundred thousand men in arms, and nearly the same on the rebel side and the two immense armies are drawn in full view of each other. Both sides have reconnoitering parties out and when their pickets meet some of either party fall by the bullets of the sharpshooters. On this day it is reported that the Federal picket was driven in by the rebels and the line is arrayed in battle order waiting for the attack. I will keep you advised of it when it does come.”

Note: The Union and Confederate armies, both consisting largely of raw recruits, met at Bull Run/Manassas Junction on 21 July 1861 in the first major battle of the war. The Union attack failed and demoralized Federal troops streamed back to Washington in complete disorder. However, the victorious Confederates were too disorganized to pursue them.

The Nationalist 4 September 1981
Spanish Civil War veteran dies
A veteran of the Spanish Civil War, Mr. Patrick Dunny of Newbridge, died while on a visit to Spain last week. Mr. Dunny was taken ill in Madrid on Tuesday, August 25, and died shortly afterwards. He was visiting Spain along with another veteran, Mr. Seamus Uas O’Cunnineagain, a solicitor from Enniscorthy, to retrace their steps during the Civil War.
It was his first trip to Spain since he was presented to General Franco during the 36th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War in August 1972. Forty five years ago Mr. Dunny was part of the 2,000 strong Irish Volunteer Force led by General Eoin O’Duffy who served with the forces of General Franco in the civil war.
To Franco headquarters
They travelled by ship to Lisbon, Portugal, in October 1936 and from there they proceeded to the headquarters of General Franco at Carceres. They were in action mainly in the mountain areas around Madrid throughout the bitterly cold winter of ’36 and when the volunteer force returned to Ireland were disbanded in July 1937. The Irish force in Spain was known as the 15th Bandera of the Spanish Foreign Legion.
Mr. Dunny, although born in Carlow, had spent most of his working life in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, where he was employed as a Public Assistance Officer with the Eastern Health Board. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, son Patrick, sister, brothers and grandchildren. He would have celebrated his 71st birthday on Tuesday, September 1.

Patrick Dunny was an eyewitness to American Civil War events, while his namesake and relative, Pat Dunny, participated in the Spanish Civil War

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