March 13, 2024

69th New York “Fighting Irish” Civil War Scrapbook to be offered on March 14, 2024

This scrapbook of original documents and newspaper clippings was assembled by William M. Giles, who led Company B of the 69th New York Infantry during its three-month service at the First Battle of Bull Run. Giles later served as a medical storekeeper for the Union Army in Washington in 1863. The scrapbook consists of 29 leaves, with 31 documents and numerous clippings.

It will be offered Thursday night, March 14, 2024, in The History List Rare Finds. Sign up here to receive the alert that goes out at 9 pm Eastern if you are interested in purchasing this unique item documenting the "Fighting Irish" in the Civil War.

In the video below we walk through what's in the scrapbook. After the video there is a detailed list of what's included in the scrapbook along with historical background on the 69th New York Militia and on William M. Giles.

Irish Brigade Scrapbook — A Rare Find available in The History List Store from Lee Wright on Vimeo.

Highlights and Excerpts

  • William M. Giles, Partially Printed Oath of Allegiance, August 20, 1855, New York, New York.

I, William M. Giles, do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New-York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Surgeon according to the best of my ability.

  • A partially printed form from the 1850s with the names of 48 enslaved African Americans sent from Baltimore to New Orleans, according to the printing on the form, though the dates and name of the ship are not filled in. Unusually, the slaves, ranging in age from 12 to 40, all have first and last names. A note on the scrapbook page beneath this document reads, “These Papers were picked up in a pocket book on the Battle Field of Manassas or Bull run o/a July 21st 1861 by / William M Giles
  • Colonel William T. Sherman, Orders No. 34 for the Aqueduct Brigade, July 11, 1861

I. Regiments of this Brigade will approach their position in Line of Battle whether for drill or action by the shortest and most direct route. The Music will not play while so marching unless specially ordered, as commands cannot be heard while drums are beating.

III. The firing of muskets is prohibited except immediately after Guard mount, say from 8 to 9 A.M. when the old Guard will discharge their muskets at a target—at other times the Cartridges should be drawn from the gun when it is necessary to clean it. The carrying of pistols by any except Commissioned officers & Sergeants is strictly prohibited.

V. The attention of Regimental Commanders is particularly called to the late order of Brig. Genl. McDowell requiring troops to be in ‘light marching order.’ Knapsacks will probably be left behind when the Command moves, they should therefore be distinctly marked so that afterwards they may easily be identified.

The “Aqueduct Brigade” consisted of the 5th, 28th, and 69th “Fighting Irish” New York State Militia Regiments. They reached Washington, D.C., in early May 1861 where they camped on the campus of Georgetown College. Later in the month, they marched across the Potomac River to construct fortifications on Arlington Heights to guard the southern end of the Aqueduct Bridge. The resulting fortification was named Fort Corcoran after the regiment’s commander, Col. Michael Corcoran.

  • Brigadier General Irwin McDowell, Printed Document, General Order No. 5, June 14, 1861, Arlington, Virginia.

Unless under the special orders in each case, of a Commander of Brigade, or superior authority, it is forbidden to any officer or soldier within this Department to arrest, or attempt to arrest, any citizen or citizens, under the plea of their being secessionists, or for any cause whatsoever, save that of being, at the time, in arms against the United States.

  • Colonel Michael Corcoran, Special Order, July 13, 1861

It is hereby ordered that a court convene for the trial of all offences not capital.... The Court will assemble at the Guard House on tomorrow morning the 14th Inst. at 10 OClock. All prisoners detained in the Guard House, and against whom no written charge shall be preferred before Guard mounting the next morning will be discharged.

  • Lieut. Thomas Leddy, Company B, Charges against Sergeant Patrick Doyle, June 29, 1861

Specification 1st / On or about the 29th day of June 1861 the said Sergt Doyle was incapable of performing his duty by reason of drunkness

Specification 2nd / That the said Sergt Doyle did make use of abusive and disrespectful language towards his officers and against Col. Corcoran also

  • Autographed Letter to “My dearest Husband,” July 14, 1861, New York, New York.

I received both your letters, with the glorious intelligence that you will soon be home, never to leave us again I trust[.]  God alone knows how I pray for that hour that will again bring you to us once more never I hope to be parted this side Eternity. I can do nothing but cry but they are tears of joy....

Four Manuscript Notes Signed, Requesting Quartermaster or Assistant Quartermaster of the 69th New York to pay to William M. Giles any money due the signers for extra work on Fort Corcoran and mileage, August 26-September 4, 1861.

  • List of 46 Signed Names and Addresses of those who “agree to become Members of Co B 69th Regt N.Y.S.M. and to equip ourselves according to law.
  • William M. Giles, “Commanding Co. B, 69th Regiment New York State Militia,” Deposition that all state and federal property has been accounted for on the muster-out roles of the company, August 16, 1861, New York, New York.
  • Brigadier General John Ewen, Printed orders for the regiments of the Fourth Brigade, New York State Militia, to “parade armed and equipped for inspection” at Hamilton Square in New York City, October 8, 1861.
  • Brigadier General and Military Governor John H. Martindale, Partially Printed Document Signed by Aide, Pass for William M. Giles and Edward Haquis to Alexandria, Virginia, and return for the purpose of “Business,” January 13, 1864, Washington, D.C.
  • Confederate States of America, Fifty-cent currency, February 17, 1864, Richmond, Virginia.

Two years after the Ratification of a Treaty of Peace between the Confederate States and United States, The Confederate States of America Will pay Fifty Cents to bearer.

Historical Background

The 69th New York Militia, known as the “Fighting Irish” for its heavy concentration of Irish recruits, became one of the Civil War’s most famous regiments. It and the Fire Zouaves guarded the Union retreat at the First Battle of Bull Run and suffered heavy casualties.

Colonel Michael Corcoran initially commanded the regiment, but he was taken prisoner during the battle and spent a year in Confederate prisons. Thomas Francis Meagher, who was captain of the regiment’s Zouave company was promoted to colonel. When the regiment’s 90-day service expired, many members re-enlisted in the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry, and Meagher proposed the creation of an “Irish Brigade.” Meagher was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the brigade, composed of the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Infantry. Later the 29thMassachusetts Infantry was added to the brigade, but after the Battle of Antietam, the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, consisting primarily of Irish immigrants, replaced the 29th in the brigade. The City of Philadelphia soon offered an additional regiment, the 116th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which was added to the brigade.

The Irish Brigade participated in all of the major battles of the Army of Potomac, including the Seven Days Battles during the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Because of heavy casualties, the brigade had been reduced to regimental size by June 1864.

After Corcoran was exchanged in August 1862, he raised new regiments of Irish volunteers and took command of what would be known as the Corcoran Legion, consisting of five regiments of New York Volunteers. Near the end of 1863, he was killed in a fall from a runaway horse.

William M. Giles (1829-1889) was born in Ireland and came to the United States with his mother in 1845. He acquired a high reputation as a druggist and chemist. In April 1855, he was commissioned as regimental surgeon with the rank of captain of the 69th New York State Militia regiment. On April 20, 1861, Giles was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Company B of the 69th New York State Militia, and when Captain Thomas Lynch resigned shortly before the First Battle of Bull Run, Giles led the company in the battle. He was mustered out on August 3, 1861, in New York City. He ran for coroner in the New York state elections in November 1861. In June 1863, he was appointed Medical Storekeeper to the U.S. Army, which required him to select and purchase medical supplies. After the Civil War, Giles settled in Eastchester, New York, where he was a druggist. He developed Giles’ Liniment Iodide Ammonia patent medicine and sold it through agents across the country. He also served as president of the Excelsior Savings Bank.

Source: Seth Kaller, Inc.


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A rare printing of the Declaration of Independence—A personal tour with Seth Kaller

As part of a special event to mark the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, an exhibition of historic documents was held at the Grand Masonic Lodge in Boston. Many of these were provided by Seth Kaller, the leading dealer in historic American documents. Seth took me through some of the highlights and I recorded my conversation with him.  

We started with a rare printing of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to the historical background on the printing, Seth had an interesting perspective on the relevance of the Declaration to today and how to think about it as we look ahead to the Semiquincentennial in 2026 and beyond.

More information on this document is at Seth's site. I'll also post my discussion with Seth about the other two documents, and when I do, I'll add links here.

We offer several different historic versions of the Declaration through The History List Store:

My thanks to Seth for taking me through the exhibit and doing so in a way that I could share what he said with you.

— Lee Wright | Founder | The History List | History Camp | The Pursuit of History


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Announcing a series of limited edition historic prints for our nation's 250th anniversary

I'm proud to announce that our new Boston Tea Party 250th anniversary print will be the first in a series of limited edition prints marking key points in the formation of our country 250 years ago. 

Each will be an original design. They will be silk screened, signed, and numbered. 

Looking ahead, on April 19, 2025 I’ll be at North Bridge and on July 4, 2026 I’ll be in Philadelphia.  (I haven’t decided on the event we will mark next year.)

And they will be made in America—print, frame, backing, and glazing.

We anticipate using the same or very similar frames, too, so for those who get the series, they will look very sharp displayed together.

This year's print is limited to 73. Thank you for your support—and thanks to the individuals who have already placed their orders.  

You can learn more about the print here.

— Lee Wright | Founder

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Introducing The History List Rare Finds

In 2016 I designed a t-shirt for some history friends and it was a hit. Over time, I added more designs and more types of products based on what I liked and was proud to offer. Nearly everything you see in The History List Store is our original design. In the case of prints, they are either new designs or high-quality reproductions of historic prints.  And nearly everything is made in America.

At about the same time I started The History List Store I started buying one-of-a-kind pieces for my home that I found in markets and auctions.  (Some of those pieces are pictured below.) 

Traveling throughout New England I am amazed at the breadth and depth of high quality pieces. Having lived in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Southwest, I knew that what was available here in New England was unmatched, and I thought others would be interested, too.  

In mid-2023 we offered a few select items to a small number of our customers. Each was in a special mailing to our best customers. Pieces sold in minutes or at most a couple of hours.

What you see on the Rare Finds page are some of the items we’ve offered. 

They are never announced there, however.

Instead, they are announced in our Rare Finds alerts, which go out via e-mail roughly once or twice every month or two at 9 pm Eastern on a Thursday and typically feature one item in the $400 - $4,000 range. And while we send our Insiders mailing by time zone, our Rare Finds alerts go out to everyone across the country at the same time so everyone has the same chance to purchase the item. 

You can sign up on the Rare Finds page.

If these kinds of things are of interest to you, I hope you'll sign up, and I look forward to hearing what you think.

Lee Wright | Founder



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Making Chocolate Lava Cake with American Heritage Finely Grated Dark Baking Chocolate

American Heritage Finely Grated Dark Baking Chocolate is available online individually and in exclusive gift sets: American Heritage Chocolates

PREP TIME: 20 min
TOTAL TIME: 35 min


4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus additional softened butter for ramekins
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus additional for ramekins
¾ cup AMERICAN HERITAGE Chocolate Finely Grated Baking Chocolate  
Buy online individually and in exclusive gift sets at American Heritage Chocolates
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack. Butter two 4-oz ramekins and dust lightly with flour; set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, egg, vanilla, and salt until light and foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour, followed by the chocolate mixture. 

Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins.

Transfer the ramekins to the oven and place them on the sheet pan.  Bake until puffed and the edges are just set, 12 to 14 minutes. 

Cool for 1 minute, then invert onto plates. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.


American Heritage Finely Grated Dark Baking Chocolate is available online individually and in exclusive gift sets: American Heritage Chocolates
. . .

Recipe courtesy of American Heritage Chocolate


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