James McFadden was born about 1838 in the Parish of Fanad in Co. Donegal. On the 3rd December 1850 he had married Anna Duffy in the picturesque rural setting of Massmount Chapel, on the banks of Mulroy Bay.
Sometime later the couple emigrated to the United States, where they made their home among large numbers of other Donegal Irish in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If the couple did have any children, none survived into adulthood.
When Civil War came in 1861, James McFadden was an early volunteer. He mustered into Company G of the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry, a 3-month-unit, on 21st April 1861.
When the opportunity came to re-enlist in the regiment for three years’ service he did so, becoming a private in Company F on 2nd August 1861. The 23rd Pennsylvania were one of the colourfully uniformed zouave units, and over the course of the next three years James marched with them onto battlefields like Seven Pines, Chantilly, Second Fredericksburg, Salem Church, Gettysburg and eventually the Overland Campaign.
The Donegal man was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864, but was soon able to return to active duty. The 23rd Pennsylvania mustered out on 8th September 1864 having completed its service, but James McFadden didn’t go home with them. He had re-enlisted as a veteran, and along with the other men who had done so, was transferred to see out the remainder of his term in the ranks of the 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry, becoming a Corporal in Company E.
In April 1865, as the Federals pursued Robert E. Lee’s Confederates following the fall of Richmond, the 82nd Pennsylvania was part of Horation G. Wright’s Sixth Corps.
On 6th April 1865 they found themselves forming part of a Union line of battle at the Hillsman Farm sector of the Sailor’s Creek battlefield. Facing Rebels of Ewell’s Corps across Little Sailor’s Creek, they struggled through a ‘deep difficult swamp’ and ‘almost impenetrable undergrowth and forest’ to the attack, in the process taking a severe flanking fire from the Confederate lines. Changing front, the 82nd were able to engage the enemy and play their role in what would ultimately be a major Union victory.
However, they sustained heavy losses– 19 men had been killed and a further 80 wounded. James McFadden was among them. He had survived almost four years of continual service only to fall just as the war was coming to an end.
His loss would have been hard on Anna back in Philadelphia. When she wrote to the pension bureau with a query in 1888, Mary noted that her husband had ‘went all through the war, and was killed at the surrender of Richmond.’
That he had survived so much, only to be taken right at the end was clearly tough to take.
Shared on IrelandXO by: S.Callaghan (Kerrykeel)
Civil Parishes throughout County Donegal (IrelandXO Links) CLICK HERE
|Date of Birth||1838|
|Date of Death||16th Apr 1865|
|New Type||History of the Twenty Third Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Birney’s Zouaves.||VIEW SOURCE|
|New Type||Civil War Trust Battle of Sailor’s Creek Page||VIEW SOURCE|
|Place & Date of Marriage||03 December 1850 in Massmount RC Chapel, Fanad, Co.Donegal|
|New Type||‘Killed At The Surrender’: The Journey of Two Irishmen to Their Deaths at Sailor’s Creek||VIEW SOURCE|