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A Father’s Day tribute – two Civil War great-grandfathers


The population of Lynn, Mass., had increased dramatically in the mid-19th century. The influx of Irish immigrants after the Potato Famine had an unsettling effect on some segments of the community. Many Irishmen welcomed their participation in the Civil War as an opportunity to prove their American patriotism.

Patrick Gallagher

My father’s paternal grandfather was born in Ireland in 1839. Unfortunately, available records do not give the town/county of origin. The Lynn City Directory of 1860 contains the following entry: “Patrick Gallagher, paper strainer, boards corner of Boston & Park Streets” – the heart of West Lynn.

In 1861 Gallagher enlisted for three years in the 9th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, a predominately Irish unit. Company A, of which Gallagher was a member, was part of the Columbian Guards. According to a regimental history, the unit was in the thick of action, including the battles of Gettysburg and Antietam. He was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness in the dense woods of Virginia in May 1864.

Gallagher was sent to a field hospital at Fredericksburg before being mustered out in June, 1864, as a corporal. His record contains this notation by Sergeant John F. Doherty: “I state that Mr. Gallagher was one of the best soldiers in the Regiment, always doing his duty.”

After the War, Gallagher returned to Lynn and fell in love with Marie Murray, whose father had extensive property in the Waterhill section of West Lynn. Patrick’s work in the wallpaper business took the young family to Brooklyn, N.Y., where my grandfather William Gallagher was born. But home ties were strong, so the Gallaghers returned to West Lynn and lived on Robinson Street in a house eventually owned by the family for well over 100 years.

Patrick Bowen

My father’s maternal grandfather, Patrick Bowen, was born in Nova Scotia and later married Ellen Finley, also an Irish immigrant. While it is uncertain when he came to Lynn, family legend maintains that he whisked his bride across the Lynn marshes in a hired chaise to their wedding ceremony at St. Rose’s Church in Chelsea. (At the time, the new St. Mary’s Church in Lynn was under construction.) Seven children were born to Patrick and Ellen Bowen, including my father’s mother, Elizabeth Bowen, in 1868.

As the need for new Union recruits became severe, Patrick left his young family to join the 17th Regiment, which trained at Camp Schouler in Lynnfield. Patrick’s unit saw action in Newbern, N.C., where he contracted malaria. He suffered recurrences of the condition throughout his life, in addition to becoming deaf in his right ear from exposure to cannon fire.

Patrick Bowen returned to Lynn and entered the shoe trade. His daughter Elizabeth Bowen married William Gallagher, son of their neighbor Patrick Gallagher, in 1893. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died of consumption in 1907, leaving six children of whom my father, Frank Gallagher, was the second youngest.

Civil War records

Civil War pension records are a boon to genealogists since they contain addresses, marriage records, birth records of offspring, work history, and miscellaneous data. For example, Patrick Bowen’s wife, Ellen, signed her widow’s pension application with an “X.” Like many women raised in Ireland during the Famine, she was unable to read and write.

My paternal great-grandfathers, Patrick Bowen and Patrick Gallagher, were ordinary men who lived for a while in extraordinary times. Unlike so many of their comrades who perished in the Civil War, they survived and returned to their homes in West Lynn. By all accounts, both were strong family men deserving of tribute on this Fathers’ Day a century and a half later.

May they rest in peace.

By Helen Breen

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