General Michael Corcoran led the 69th New York Militia, Irish Brigade, into action at the First Battle of Bull Run and was taken prisoner. Corcoran was one of the founders of the Fenian Brotherhood in America. While in jail, Corcoran wrote, “One half of my heart is Erin’s, and the other half is America’s. God bless America, and ever preserve her the asylum of all the oppressed of the earth, is the sincere prayer of my heart.”
While Corcoran was imprisoned the U.S. had made threats to execute captured Confederate privateers. Corcoran and several other Union prisoners were selected by lot for execution if the U.S. carried out its threats against the privateers. This event was known as the Enchantress Affair, but no executions were ever carried out by either side. Corcoran was then offered a parole under the conditions that he not take up arms against the Confederacy. Intending to resume his place in the Union army upon his release he refused the offer of parole. He was appointed Brigadier General of volunteers in July and exchanged in August 1862. His role in the Enchantress Affair and his refusal for parole gained him some attention and upon his release he was invited to dinner with President Abraham Lincoln.
Michael Corcoran was born in Carrowkeel, near Ballymote, Co Sligo.
Photo: Officers of the 69th New York Volunteer Regiment pose with a cannon at Fort Corcoran in 1861. Michael Corcoran at left.