How I Came to Kill Your Brother

Irish in the American Civil War

I have come across many extraordinary stories during my time researching the Irish in the American Civil War. None surpass that of Sergeant Peter Donnelly of Company C, 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery. Almost uniquely, the historical record has combined to provide us with details of this ordinary Irish-American’s death from the perspectives of both friend and foe. I am extremely grateful to Peter Patten for initially alerting me to this remarkable account.* 

A soldier of the 11th Vermont (1st Vermont Heavy Artillery) poses with soldiers from three other regiments (Library of Congress) A soldier of the 11th Vermont (1st Vermont Heavy Artillery) poses with soldiers from three other regiments (Library of Congress)

John Donnelly and his wife Rose emigrated to the United States from the parish of Drumlane, Co. Cavan sometime before the mid-1840s. By the time of the 1850 Census they were living in Castleton, Rutland County, Vermont. John was then a 43-years-old and working as a laborer, his wife Rose was 36. 80-year-old Molly Hoy Donnelly (probably John’s…

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Deep Souldiving

Self-CompassionSometimes the pain isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to open yourself to a greater darkness. The darkness of truth.

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves a question in that darkness. When something doesn’t go away and it keeps coming back…repeating itself over and over…we need to gently ask ourself:

“What do I need to know?”

Open our heart to the answer. Be with it for a while. And then let it go its own way.

Another day will dawn. Light will make everything new.

*photo from

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Seems like yesterday… Thoughts on graduation


We stat in a crowded arena in downtown Jacksonville waiting for the students to march to rows of chairs on the floor. The air was mixed with jubilation and boredom, and then the graduating seniors marched in two at a time. There was my daughter, almost a woman now, waving and grinning. There were songs and speeches from educators who exhorted these seventeen and eighteen year old kids to follow their dreams and lead worthy lives.

Then came the speeches from the graduates. The class president gave a plucky speech and took a selfie at the end and everyone clapped. There were words from the valedictorian, the class president, the class historian, and athletes. The speeches were heartfelt, and I  could tell the youngsters put a good deal of time and effort preparing them. They were earnest, hopeful, and full of the hubris of youth.

Each speech began in similar fashion, and the young grads all used a common phrase: “It seems like just yesterday…”  They followed this expression up in varying ways. “…we were scared freshmen,” or “we were lost on our first day of school.”

I’m a somewhat jaded middle-aged man, and the first time one of the kids said “it seems like just yesterday,” I said to my wife, “because it was.” She gave me a look that said shut up.

I chuckled. The decades since I graduated from high school seem short to me now. I still recall the smell of the gym where I spent so much of my time in high school playing basketball, and I can hear the squeak of sneakers on the floor, feel the leather of the rock as I sank a free throw to win a game. It seems like yesterday, and it’s been almost thirty years.

I sat in the stands and listened to the speeches and watched the kids throw their caps into the air after turning the tassels. My mother, sitting next to me, smiling and clapping along with my in-laws, the three of them senior citizens on the near side of seventy. I’m sure that to them, it seemed like just yesterday they were my age, watching their own kids graduate.

“You have no idea how fast it goes,” my father in law said at dinner afterwards. “Cause tomorrow is going to be here before you know it.”

This week I got on the floor and played trains with my five year old for hours. I ran around the house playing army with my nine-year old, blasting away at invading forces with plastic machine guns and helmets.

I enjoyed every second of it, because I know only too soon, I’ll be saying, “it seems like only yesterday.”

Review: Luckbane by Tony Breeden



<a href=”; style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”Luckbane (Otherworld #1)” border=”0″ src=”; /></a><a href=””>Luckbane</a&gt; by <a href=””>Tony Breeden</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”″>5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
Luckbane is one of those rare books that made me smile every few pages as I lost myself in it.<br><br>In a future where countries are corporations, a janitor has the opportunity to embark on the adventure of a life time on a distant planet where the stakes are higher than he imagined. The game is very real, and death is permanent.<br><br>Luckbane combines Science Fiction and fantasy seamlessly, and the author takes great care in creating vastly different worlds, nuanced and fresh. He utilizes tropes and stereotypes to surprise the reader rather than make us feel we’re reading another rehash of Lord of the Rings.<br><br>The pacing is brisk, and the battle scenes are visceral and well drawn; we care about the characters and their fate.The supporting cast is interesting and diverse.<br><br>There is an airiness about this book I really liked, a kind of light in it which is rare in any kind of book. I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and sci-fi.<br>
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