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Edward and John McGeady

The Civil War Years

By Ben Nevis

"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history."



This is a photo of Edward McGeady in his Union Army uniform.







What follows is an outline of the American Civil War experiences of my grandfather, Edward McGeady and his brother, John. John and Edward were born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1841and December 18, 1842, respectively , to John and Nancy McGeady (nee Waters). The family immigrated to America and settled in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania probably in the mid 1840’s, the beginning of the Famine years in Ireland.

In 1861 the Civil War broke out. On July 6, 1861 Edward McGeady (fig.1) enlisted in Philadelphia, being assigned to Co E of the Pennsylvania 28th Infantry Regiment (also known as the Goldstream Regiment). He was one of 150,000 Irish-born Americans to fight in the war.

The regiment was formed and outfitted by a wealthy railroad manager John White Geary (fig.2). A few words are required on this remarkable leader because his abilities and experience were key to the success of the 28th during the war. Geary stood 6’ 6" and weighed 260 pounds. He was a very vigorous and experienced commander. He fought in the Mexicana, where he was wounded 5 times, and where his ability led to his promotion to Captain by war’s end. The U.S. government sent him to govern the newly acquired state of California. While doing so he became the first mayor of San Francisco. He was then sent to Kansas as governor during the tumultuous years prior to the Civil War. Kansas became known as "Bleeding Kansas." At the start of the war he was back in Pennsylvania running a railroad when the call came from Lincoln for the formation of combat regiments. He started as a Colonel and finished as a Major General.

At the other end of the size and rank spectrum was Private Edward McGeady, 19 years old, 5’ 2 ½" tall, black eyes, black hair, dark complexion and a laborer. Edward was about to embark on a three-year enlistment that involved a great deal of hardship and combat. At the time of his enlistment the conventional wisdom was the war would last no more than one year, if that. In fact, a few months earlier the volunteers signed up for only 3 months duration. And then came the battle of First Manassas (Bull Run), a Union disaster.

John McGeady did not join the army until three years later on February 24, 1864.The One Year War was now in its third year with massive numbers of dead and wounded. He initially joined the 28th in Mauch Chunk probably hoping to reunite with Edward but when he got to Philadelphia he was re-assigned to the Pennsylvania 81st Infantry Regiment and served as a private. His enlistment also involved a government bounty of $360 of which he was paid $60 at mustering in. He was 23 years old and stood 5’ 9" tall, with gray eyes, fair hair and fair complexion. As will be seen his war experience is less in duration than Edward’s but he did fight in one of the most prolonged and intensive campaigns of the war. It is referred to as the "Forty Days" campaign and involved Grant and Lee in one of the few times they faced on another in battle.


Although Edward McGeady kept a diary later in life he kept no record of his war-time experiences. We do not know from first-hand records where Edward was on a specific day, but we can infer this information by knowing where his commanders were. As noted above, his first commander of the 28th  was Col. John Geary. Lowly regiments are seldom noted on Civil War maps6,10 unless you find an account dealing with highly detailed actions. So in order to locate Geary, especially early on the War, we must locate his commanders at Division levels or above. By this process you can, by inference, locate Edward McGeady to within a few miles, if not a few hundred yards. The Union Army7 was divided as follows:

Structure of Union Army
Army of the . . . >16000 men (2 or more corps)
Corps > 8000 men (3 or more brigades)
*Brigades > 3000 men (3 to 6 regiments)
Divisions > 2000 men (2 or more regiments)
Regiments > 1000 men
Companies > 100 men
*Brigades were infantry regiments with artillery.   

In a given battle, usually an Army and its Corps are shown and sometimes Brigades and Divisions. As an example, at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Geary’s 28th  was part of the First Brigade, Second Division reporting to Brigade General Augur. Augur, in turn, reported to General Nathanial Banks of the Second Corp and he, in turn, reported to General Daniel Pope of the Union Army of Virginia. Locating Pope, then Banks, then Augur, and then Geary should get you close to Private Edward McGeady.

There are sometimes exceptions to this process. For example, in the first battle of Bolivar Heights, employing this technique would lead one to place Edward at that battle; however, one must check other documents to make certain. There is a regimental history of the 28th  by Samual P. Bates 1-4 as well as regimental and company itineraries5in the National Archives. Also, one must check the company and regimental muster sheets to make certain Edward was still in combat duty. Checking some of these sources reveals that several companies of the 28th , including Co. E, were not at Bolivar Heights that day but were at a location nearby called Point of Rocks, performing picket and rear guard duty. With this cautionary note, I located where Edward was during the many major and less-than-major battles in which he was engaged.

One other complication involves leadership changes due to promotion, transfer, demotion, death, or resignation. The Union Army was famous for the volatility of the upper leadership echelons, so a leader of an Army Corp, Division, etc. could disappear quickly, occasionally to reappear later. Oh, if only Edward had kept a diary!! At any rate this method results in my presenting a series of battle maps with a "shamrock symbol" showing where Edward and John probably were during their battles.

Overall Military Strategy

The overarching strategy of the North was to completely surround the South and then cut it into pieces. They blockaded all the seaports and then gained control of all the main rivers bordering the South, such as the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Potomac and the Tennessee.11 After gaining control, they then cut the South in half by invading from Chattanooga and thrusting to Atlanta and further to the sea at South Carolina (fig.3). There were two sub-strategies: Control the railroads particularly the junction towns of Harper’s Ferry Manassa Junction and Gordonville in Virginia (fig.4). Capture the capitol of the South, Richmond.

The overall strategy of the South was mainly defensive in nature, trying to prevent control of the South by northern armies. They felt if they could maintain the physical integrity of the South, that soon they might be recognized as a sovereign nation by the European powers. They made two invasions of the North, both ending in failure at Antietam, Maryland, and then Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. They too tried to control the railroad junctions plus their main invasion route to the North, the Shenandoah Valley (fig. 4). The Southern armies found the long straight valleys as excellent mountain-screened pathways to the north, debarking at Harper’s Ferry (fig.5).

The McGeady Roles in the Strategy

Edward was engaged in repulsing Southern invasions via the Shenandoah Valley as well as an early unsuccessful attempt to capture Richmond. Upon Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg, he transferred to Chattanooga, TN and took part in battles preparing for the March to the Sea. John took part in the last and ultimately successful capture of the capitol Richmond in 1864, taking part in the "Forty Days Campaign." Both brothers’ combat careers ended in being wounded, Edward at Ringgold, Georgia, and John at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia.

Make-up of the 28th

There were 1696 infantry regiments in the northern army of about 1000 men each. John Geary recruited an oversized regiment that had, unusually at the time, a battery of artillery called "Knapps Battery." The nickname of the regiment was the "Goldstream Regiment." It exceeded the usual 1000 men by 4-500hundred, and later in the war another regiment was formed from it: the Pa 147thInf. Regt. The unit was so large and well led that twice during the war it was considered an Independent Regiment. This occurred from Oct.1861-March 1862 and again in May and June of 1862. They were sent out with very broad orders and were expected to use their own best judgment.

This permitted very fast decision-making and movement of the regiment. The unit also had within its ranks a large group of men who knew the construction of railroads, roads, and bridges. They were expert at quickly repairing railroads and bridges torn up by the rebels. They were also good at throwing up defensive positions known as breastworks. They used them very effectively at Gettysburg, greatly reducing their casualties during rebel attacks. They quickly became a highly skilled, mobile fighting unit and several times during the war, they were given commendations by Grant, Sherman, Hooker, and other well known leaders.

Nature of Warfare

A few words about the nature of warfare during the Civil War plus a brief description of the lot of the ordinary soldier.9 Military tactics during the Civil War tended to be performed on an Army or Corp level. There were such items as flanking, envelopment and double envelopment movements. The war was mainly an infantry war, although the artillery and cavalry played important roles. However, for every artillery unit there were22 infantry units, and for every cavalry unit there were 6 infantry units. The infantry units were larger in number than the artillery and cavalry units. Besides which the cavalry units, more often than not, upon arriving on horseback, would fight as infantrymen.

The fighting on the company level consisted of masses of men attacking other masses of men head-on. There was nothing clever or subtle about it. Straightforward slugging it out was the technique of the day for Edward and John McGeady. Combat was a combination of "up close and personal" confrontation with the foe, mingled with withering artillery fire. This, in turn, meant casualty numbers (killed, wounded, missing) would be extremely high. Dealing "death from a distance" did not yet exist and would not, to any appreciable degree, until World War II.

Comparing the casualty rates of the Union Army in the Civil War to the U.S. Army in Korea is revealing of the changed nature of warfare. In the 4 year Civil War, the Union Army had casualties equaling 360,222 or about 80,000 per year. The U.S. Army in the 3-year Korean War had casualties equaling 27,709 or about 8,000+ per year. For every casualty in the Korean War, there were ten in the Civil war. The casualty rates during a given battle in the Civil War dwarfed those in Korea. During the first 14 days of the Forty Days Campaign, i.e. the part that involved John McGeady, there were 36,400 Union casualties, exceedingly nearly 9000 the total Korean War loses. In fact, when you add the entire Union and Rebel loses together, the number approaches 6-700,000, more than U.S. losses in all its other wars combined!!

Even when there were no battles, the everyday life of the ordinary soldier was filled with peril. Statistics for the Union Army show that quite plainly. During the war, 224,580 men died of disease,4,944 drowned, 520 were murdered, 313 died of sunstroke, 391 committed suicide, and 4,114 by accident. For every death in battle, three died for non-combat reasons.7

These loss rates were reflected in the 28th  Regiment turnover of personnel during the War.1 The Regiment started out with 1,058 men (Co A-K) and had replacements of 1,076! Co E, Edward’s unit, started with 104 men, of which 80 were replaced, including Edward!

Combat was fierce and bloody and the everyday living generally harsh. Being an enlisted man meant you walked everywhere. Only officers rode! The records of Co E5revealed that from August 31,1861 to September 1863 they marched 1,503 miles through the mountains and rivers of Appalachia. The soldier carried all his equipment, weighing up to 25 pounds, on his back. Often men collapsed and died during forced marches in the hot, humid southern weather. Although the official number of 1,503 miles looks large, I would guess the real mileage is closer to double that.

When they weren’t marching or being shot at, they spent their time in drill, KP, picket duty, latrine duty and labor-intensive activities such as repairing railroads, bridges, and roads and building defensive emplacements. Edward and John McGeady led a very harsh miserable life as Civil War grunts and, for enduring such, were paid the princely sum of $13 per month.

Time Line

A Time Line has been constructed for the 28th, showing their war activities from the time Edward enlisted in 1861 until he was wounded in November 1863 (table 1). The first year can be divided into two parts. Part one extends from August 1861 until March 1862 and consists of actions performed at and around Harper’s Ferry (fig.7). As noted earlier, Harper’s Ferry was an important railroad junction, and one of the gateway towns athwart Southern advances north through the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland and Pennsylvania. It was a controlling port on the Potomac River. Lastly, it was an arsenal for the Union Army early in the War. It was the weaponry stores that had lured John Brown there in 1859. An aerial view shows the railroads, confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, and the hilly, heavily wooded terrain (fig.6).

After the disaster of First Manassas (Bull Run), the 28th  was marched to Harper’s Ferry. They set-up shop across the Potomac at an area called Sandy Hook (fig. 7). The general nature of the duty consisted of picket, guard and occupation operations punctuated by relatively small firefights and battles. There were battles at Bolivar Heights (Co E and Edward were not there!) and Ball’s Bluff (Co E was at this one). They were soundly beaten by the Rebs, being driven off the Bluff down into the Potomac river, where Edward and the surviving Yanks were forced to swim across to safety (fig. 8). There were fights at Nolan’s Ferry, two at Berlin, Point of Rocks, and another at Bolivar Heights (Co E was at this one). Finally, toward the end of 1861, there was a fierce two-hour battle at Harper’s Ferry, which the Union won, but which resulted in half the town being burned down. They spent January and February1862 at Point of Rocks in winter encampment. In March 1862, Part Two, involving larger battles, was about to begin. During this time Lincoln was reorganizing, building and training the army. George McClellan and Daniel Pope were put in charge of two armies in Virginia. Pope’s was called the Army of Northern Division and the 28th was assigned to that Army reporting directly to the Second Corp commander Nathaniel Banks. The overall plan was to attack Richmond using McClellan’s Army while containing and destroying rebels in the Shenandoah Valley (fig.9). The problems with this plan were that it involved coordinated activities across long distances among green troops and leaders, and two new rebel generals had been just sent to Virginia, namely Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley and Robert E. Lee at Richmond (fig. 10). The pattern of the first two years of the war was unveiled in the campaign: although the North out-numbered and had better equipment than the South, the South had far better leadership.

The 28th, under Geary during the months of March through July, operated as an Independent Unit, although loosely reporting to Banks. While Corps under Banks, Fremont, and Shields attempted to contain and trap Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, Geary’s 2828 was moved out of Harper’s Ferry to occupy various railroads east of the mountain plus to plug gaps in the mountains to prevent Jackson from escaping the trap. Initially, in March there was a battle at Loudoun Heights, followed by the occupation of Bolivar Heights, Lovettsville, Wheatland, Leesburg, Snickersville, Upperville, and Ashby’s Gap, followed by the capture of Rectortown, Piedmont, Markham, Linden and Front Royal. There were added operations around Middleburg and White Plains. All this in the month of March (fig. 9)!!

In April they moved to Thoroughfare Gap and then to Warrenton and Piedmont. They then guarded the railroad from White Plains to Manassas Junction until the end of June, when they rejoined Banks at Middletown and all moved to Front Royal in July, where there was yet another reorganization (fig.9).

While the 28th was going from success to success, what was going on in the Shenandoah Valley?" Well, Jackson beat Banks twice and drove him out of the Valley back to Harper’s Ferry. He also trounced Fremont and Mc Dowell in separate battles, and by June he was out of the Valley and headed east to join Robert E. Lee’s forces near Richmond (fig.10). The Second Corp, now with the 28th rejoined, moved south toward Gordonsville Junction to intercept Jackson. On August 9, 1862 the battle of Cedar Mountain, just north of the Gordonsville Junction, ensued and Jackson once more prevailed, although the Corps fought well (fig.11-12). The commander of the 28th, Geary, was wounded severely. The 28th was turned over to Lt. Col. De Korpany until Sept. 30. It was the largest single engagement the 28th had been in, but they were about to enter a period of much larger battles.

The battle of Cedar Mountain is sometimes included as part of the major battle, Second Manassas (Bull Run). After Jackson defeated Banks he swung north to Manassas Junction, sacked the place and then swung further north to strike the rest of Pope’s army on August 29. A Rebel force led by James Longstreet joined him, and a furious3-day battle ensued north of Manassas (fig.13). There were 70,000 Federal troops under Pope and 55,000 rebel sunder Jackson and Longstreet. Where were Banks (II Corp) and the 28th Regiment? They moved from Cedar Mountain during the battle to Warrentown Junction and then further north to Bristoe Station to join a Union Corp under John Fitz-Porter (fig.13). Fitz-Porter’s group was sent west toward Gainsville and Banks and the 28th left to guard Bristoe Station, particularly the bridge over Broad Run River. Fitz-Porter never got to Gainsville and Banks was held at Bristoe Station until after Second Manassas ended on August 31.

On the 31st they were told to advance to the Stone Bridge on Bull Run Creek at a time when the main battle was over and the Union troops were retreating over the bridge, moving toward Washington, D.C. (fig.14).

On September 2nd, they left the Stone Bridge and headed north on a long 125-mile march toward a battlefield north of Harper’s Ferry called Antietam. The march passed through Centreville, Alexandria, Long Bridge, Georgetown, Tenallytown, Rockville, Middlebrook, Damascus, Ijamsville, Frederick, and Boonsboro. They crossed the Catocten and South Mountains as well as the Potomac River (fig.15). The march took until August 16, and on the morning of August 17 the bloodiest one-day battle of the war began. Where was the 28th that day? Right in the thick of it!! Lee’s first invasion of the North was underway!

After Manassas II, the armies were reorganized under McClellan. Pope was cashiered, Fitz-Porter was court-martialed, and Banks was sent to a post where he could do little harm. The 28th was now part of the XII Corps under General Joe Mansfield. They were part of the Brigade leader Tyndale. Geary was still recovering from his wounds at Cedar Mountain. Major Pardee was in charge of the Regiment on that day.

The corps under Mansfield lay just north of what would become the Antietam battlefield.7,11 At 5:30 am, Hooker’s Corp attacked south through a cornfield to the Dunker Church, where they were checked and faltered (fig. 16). Then the Second Corp under Mansfield with the 28th joined in the attack, retaking the cornfield and the area around the church (fig.17-18). The fighting in this area lasted until late afternoon, about 8 hours of heavy fighting. The 28th lost about 266 dead and wounded, including Mansfield (killed) and Tyndale (wounded). The battle continued throughout the day in the middle and southern end of the field. Fighting ceased at sunset with what was considered a Union victory. Lee’s first invasion of the north had been repelled, and he retreated back into Virginia the next day. Lincoln, for his part, in turn felt confident enough to finally issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Edward McGeady was promoted to corporal, based on his bravery during this one-day blood bath. Captain L.F. Chapman added the following remarks to Edward’s muster sheet.

Well and bravely did young McGeady fight at the battle of Antietam. But a few moments before being ordered to the front, I sent him on an errand for me, but like a brave boy, as he is, soon returned and follows us into the fight. Was with the Regiment until withdrawn. For gallant and meritorious conduct on that occasion, I have promoted him to a Corporal. (Capt. Chapman)

Captain Chapman died later in the war at Chancellorsville.

After the battle, the 28th moved across the river at Harper’s Ferry and occupied Loudoun Heights once again. On September 25, their old commander, John Geary, returned and took charge of the 2nd Division, XII Corp. In October the 28th took part in a recon in the direction of Leesburg, encountering and defeating a rebel force at Wheatland (fig. 9). At the end of October, several companies were removed from the 28th and the Pa 147th Inf. Regiment was formed.

Major General Slocum replaced the slain General Mansfield. The XII Corp was sent back to Winchester, where they fought a 3-day battle and defeated the rebels (fig. 9). On December 9, another high command reorganization resulted in the XII Corp (28 Regt.) being placed under General Ambrose Burnside, he replacing McClellan. They left Harper’s Ferry and proceeded toward Fredericksburg in early December 1862 (fig.9). The XII Corp did not go as far as Fredericksburg, but was assigned to guard the approaches to DC at Fairfax Station with the 28th Regiment assigned farther south, at Dumfries. As a result, the corps did not take part in the battle at Fredericksburg, another defeat for the Union,7,1 on December 13, 1862.

On December 17, 12,000 men under J. E. B. Stuart attacked the Regiment. After a day of desperate fighting, the rest of Geary’s Division relieved the Regiment and the attackers were driven off.

In January 1863, the Regiment, now stationed at Acquia, Burnside again decided to attack Fredericksburg but the weather did not permit it. Days of torrential rain engulfed the area, turning that part of Virginia into a field of mud. Burnside’s Army, including the 28th, tried in vain to approach Fredericksburg, but failed ignominiously. This debacle became known later as the "Mud March" (fig.19) and cost Burnside his leadership position. The army and Edward now came under the command of "Fightin'" Joe Hooker!

In May 1863, once again, the army of the Potomac decided to attack Fredericksburg. This time, rather than take on Lee frontally in the town, Hooker sent two large forces to the left and right in long flanking movements (fig.20). The XII Corp (28th Regt.) under Slocum went to Lee’s left, northward 20 miles to Kelly’s Ford and then south to a thickly wooded area about 7 miles west of Fredericksburg called The Wilderness. A little crossroads town gave the battlefield its name, Chancellorsville. 7,11 The maneuver took 4 days of hard marching.

Lee had to leave Fredericksburg and confront Hooker there. On May 2nd, Hooker attacked out of the woods, but upon meeting skirmishers, immediately stopped and went on the defensive. Lee sent Stonewall Jackson around to the rear of Hooker’s position and then on May 3 attacked, causing great panic in the Union Army (fig.21, 22, 23, 24). The 28th Regiment held their position in the midst of the attack losing regiment leaders Chapman and Shields among the other 100+ killed and wounded. The South lost Stonewall Jackson.

Samual P. Bates1 describes part of the action at Chancellorsville:

At the Battle of Chancellorsville, the men of the 28th performed a Herculean task in the construction of their temporary breastworks. They were without spades, shovels or axes; but with an energy which signalized them during the war, they applied themselves to the arduous task with the only tools they could command, consisting of bayonets, tin cups and plates. With these alone, their fortifications were constructed. Another incident occurred illustrative of their indomitable courage and heroic ardor. During the first day’s fight, they were designated to lead a charge against a column of advancing enemy who poured in on them a perfect tornado of balls, dealing a frightful destruction along their ranks. They were under anew commander, who had never led them in a fight. As they faced the fearful volcano of death, they, for the first time, halted and wavered. General Geary, then commanding the division, witnessed their indecision, when he suddenly sprang from his horse and brandishing his sword, leapt the breastworks, crying aloud, "Men of the 28th, follow your old commander." His appearance and words operated like electric shock. A tremendous shout ran along the line, and simultaneously the men dashed forward with such impetuosity as to instantly stop the progress of and soon repulse the enemy!!

Bravery not withstanding, it turned into another bloody rout, resulting in a retreat by the Union northward to a ford called, interestingly, United States Ford (fig.21). By May 6 th, they were back across the Rappahannock, licking their wounded pride. The 28th returned to Acquia for refitting. The fact that 60,000 rebels had beaten 135,000 Yanks cost Hooker his Army Command. General Meade replaced him on June 28, 1863.

On June 3rd the regiment leader, Col. De Korpany, mustered out and was replaced by Capt. Thomas Ahl. They broke camp at Acquia on June13, passing north through Stafford Court House, Dumfries, Drainsville, Leesburg, Poolesville, Point of Rocks, Petersville, Knoxville, Frederick and Littlestown (fig.15). The Army of the Potomac under Meade was heading north to head off Lee’s second invasion of the Union, the rebels again hoping to convince to European nations of the Confederate viability.

The armies of Lee and Meade met on July 1, 1863 at the town of Gettsyburg, 7,8,11 Pennsylvania. During the first day of battle, the XII Corp (28th Regt.), stationed at Littlestown, quickly headed north and by July 2nd were in battle at the northern end of the battlefield at a place called Culp's Hill. They spent their initial time fending off rebels and building defensive breastworks (fig.25). By the second day, the Union line looked like a big fish hook extending north-south, with Culp's Hill8 being part of the hook (fig.26, 27). There was extensive fighting on July 2nd and 3rd on Culp’s Hill (fig.28, 29,30) as the rebel units under Richard Ewell attempted vainly to turn the northern end of the Union line, just as they attempted to turn the Union’s southern end at Little Round Top. There were three major assaults by Ewell on July 2nd and 3rd. On the last assault on July 3rd, the attackers swarmed upward toward the Union defenses and breastworks. Those who reached the Union lines either died or surrendered. As fast as the 12th Corp regiments used up their ammunition, they were relieved, went to the rear, reloaded, and rejoined the front lines. It was the longest continuous fight of any at Gettysburg. Approximately 277,000rounds were expended by General Geary’s division (28th Regt.)!! On July 3rd Pickett’s Charge utterly failed and the battle ended in a Union victory.

One incident concerning the Geary division is worth mentioning.8 At one point in the fighting, Geary’s Division (28th Regt.) was told to move farther south and west to help repulse the wheat field attack(fig.31). The orders were so garbled that the division wandered off the battlefield in the wrong direction, moving away from their new position, instead of toward it. They were stopped and sent back to Culp’s Hill, which was surrounded, and under fierce attack. They had to re-take positions they had abandoned a few hours earlier. Geary was exonerated in a later inquiry and, in fact, was promoted again. On July 4th, the 28th Regiment was involved in burying the enemy dead, 1,200 of whom lay in front of Geary’s lines. Edward had survived to fight another day!

On July 5, the Corp pursued Lee southward for 75 miles, with many of the Yanks now being barefoot, bedraggled, but—for a change—triumphant. They then returned to Kelly’s Ford for the month of August.

In September 1863, the XII Corp was detached from the Army of the Potomac and sent west to Tennessee to join the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga, TN (fig.32). The Corp now reported to Hooker, who in turn reported to Grant. Slocum would not report to Hooker, based on Hooker’s performance a Chancel1orsville. Therefore Geary, now a Brigadier General, reported directly to Hooker. The push from Chattanooga13 to Atlanta was now in the offing, but first a secure line of supply and personnel had to be assured. Chattanooga had to be taken, the Tennessee River had to be crossed, and then the Rebels had to be driven from the northern parts of Georgia immediately to the south of Chattanooga, but particularly from Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, they being heavily fortified by the rebel armies under the command of Braxton, Bragg and Longstreet.

First, the securing of a supply line resulted in a two-pronged attack south of Chattanooga toward rebel held positions at Browns Ferry and Wauhatchie, about 10 miles away. Two groups were selected: John Geary’s unit to take the Wauhatchie assignment and "Baldy" Smith’s to take on Brown’s Ferry(fig.33). The latter assignment involved a rare, amphibious operation down the Tennessee, resulting in a successful, surprise attack on Brown’s Ferry. At the same time, 1500 of Geary’s Division (28th Regt.) moved down the east side of the river toward Wauhatchie. Geary’s party was ambushed at night on October 28 and fought a desperate3-hour night fight, until Baldy Smith could come to the rescue. They had encountered 6,000 troops from Longstreet’s army and were fortunate to survive, but the supply line was assured. One soldier who did not survive was the son of John Geary. However, Edward McGeady did survive this battle to fight the next day at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.

By November 24, the opposing armies were in place. Hooker’s men were given the task of driving the rebels off of Lookout Mountain (fig.34, 35). Geary’s Division (28 Regt.) was chosen, with added reinforcements from another brigade. They charged up 1,100 very steep feet, and engaged 2 rebel brigades in a heavy fog for about 14 hours. At midnight, the rebels withdrew, and the mountain was in Union hands. It became known as the "Battle Above the Clouds."

The very next day, November 25, the Union assault on Missionary Ridge took place. Geary’s Division (28 Regt.) attacked the left wing of Bragg’s army and Sherman attacked the right wing (fig. 36). George Thomas’ Corp attacked the center of Bragg’s army. Bragg finally broke and retreated en masse southward being pursued by, among others, the 28th and Edward McGeady.

About 15 miles south of the battlefield was the town of Ringgold, Georgia, a railroad junction. Bragg’s army headed there post haste. North of Ringgold was a gap in the mountains, through which the rebels retreated. Bragg had to hold up the pursuing Yanks at this point. He deployed an artillery brigade, under a County Cork lad named Pat Cleburne (fig.37), on Taylor’s Ridge, commanding the Gap. Cleburne was known as the Stonewall Jackson of the West, as if Edward had not had enough of generals nicknamed Stonewall!!

On November 27, Hooker sent Osterhous and Geary’s Division (28 Regt.) in chase through the Gap. They got about halfway through when Cleburne’s artillery opened up on them, pinning them down. Geary then sent several of his regiments up the Ridge sides to dislodge the rebels. The 28th under Colonel Ahl joined Col. Creighton’s unit on a wild charge up the sides (fig. 38). They were stopped for a while, but continued inching forward for about 6 hours when Cleburne retreated south to re-join Bragg.

The Federal losses were 65 wounded and 424 wounded. Sadly, one of the wounded was Edward McGeady. He was sent to a hospital in Nashville to recuperate. Although the wound is described on his muster sheet as a "slight chest wound," he did spend the month of December 1863 in the hospital. When he returned January 1, he was transferred for about 2 ½ months to the Pa 147th Inf. Regt., the unit which had been created from the 28th earlier in the war. He was then re-transferred back to the 28th on St. Patrick’s Day,1864, and remained with them until he mustered out in July 1864, his 3 year enlistment being up. For reasons unknown, he was returned to the ranks as a private. From January to July he was carried on the rolls as Absent-Sick. He did not choose to re-enlist at this time. In August, he returned to civilian life for 8 months.

The 81st Infantry and John McGeady

This is a good place to describe the military career of John McGeady.

In March of 1864, while Edward was recuperating from his wound and running out the string on his enlistment, John McGeady mustered in in Philadelphia. He had enlisted in the 28th Regt. in Mauch Chunk in February, but was re-assigned to the 81st Pa Infantry Regt., Co G as a private. The U.S. government was offering $360 bonuses to 3-year enlistees, John was initially paid $60, trained for a couple of months, and then was sent south in April to join in another "Capture the Capitol" campaign.

After the Chattanooga success, Grant was sent east to take over the Army of the Potomac and launched an attack southward starting again in the region called the Wilderness (shades of Chancellorsville!). He got a hold of Lee’s Army there and refused to let him go. No more McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, and Pope hesitancy and retreat. The two Armies slugged it out for 40 days, cartwheeling south through Virginia, finally ending up in Petersburg, south of Richmond, on June 16, 1864 (fig. 39). John McGeady did not make it that far.7 The 81st Regt. was part of the First Brigade, First Division, II Corps under John Hancock. The Division commander was General Barlow and the Brigade commander was Colonel Miles. What did they first see as they entered the area? Herman Melville best describes what John McGeady saw. Keep in mind, his brother Edward had fought there one year before.

"The Wilderness"

In glades they meet skull after skull

Where pine cones lay - the rusted gun.

Green shoes full of bones, the mouldering coat

And cuddled-up skeleton;

And scores of such. Some start as in dreams.

And comrades lost bemoan:

By the edge of those wilds Stonewall had charged -

But the year and the Man were gone.

In the battle of The Wilderness, the 81st (Miles) was dug in at the far left end of the Union Line (fig. 40). They were thereto prevent a flanking movement by Longstreet while the rest of Hancock’s Corp was in battle with AP Hill and Longstreet at the Widow Tapp Farm and the Brock-Plank road. The 81stwas not engaged in battle that May 6th day. The first of several great cartwheels of the two Armies took place, tumbling south to a place called the Spotsylvania Court House, where on May 10, 11, and 12 horrific fighting took place with the 81st in the thick of it (fig. 41). When the fighting started on the 10th, Miles (81st) was stationed on the far right of Grant’s Army. It quickly shifted to the center to join in a heavy attack by Warren’s V Corp at Laurel Hill. The fight went on all day with little movement. On May 11, Grant regrouped and shifted his focus farther east, about one mile, to an area initially known as the Mule Shoe but after May 12 known as the Bloody Angle (fig. 42,43). The 81st participated in a head-on attack on the Bloody Angle. The battle went on for 20 hours, involving 90,000 Yanks and 50,000Rebels. For a time Hancock’s men (81st)broke into the Bloody Angle, but were subsequently repulsed. At the end of the day there were 10,000 casualties on both sides, with one of the wounded being John McGeady. On May 13th he was evacuated and taken to a hospital. For the remainder of the war he was carried on the 81st muster sheets as Absent-Wounded, having been transferred to Co I in Sept. 1864. He received $50 more of his $360 bounty, but there are no records of his receiving the remaining $250. I’m not certain if John McGeady returned to Mauch Chunk to recuperate or if he remained with the Regiment until the final muster-out at the end of the June 1865. A remark on the last muster sheet notes a forwarding address to Mauch Chunk.

Edward McGeady Re-enlists

Back to Edward McGeady. In March 14, 1865, Edward re-enlisted in the Union Army, this time with the Pa 202nd Infantry Regiment in Philadelphia. He had grown 2" to 5’ 41/2" and now had a tattoo of the Cross on his arm. He received a local bounty of $500. He was assigned to Co E and sent to guard the railroad from Manassas Junction to Alexandria, territory with which he was very familiar. There was little or no military action by this time, although a few months earlier the unit had been under continuous harassment by rebel guerrilla units, notably Moseby’s raiders. Fortunately, by the time Edward arrived, such peril was in the past.

In April 1865, the Civil War ended. In May, the unit was dispersed to various coal regions in the Lehigh District of Pennsylvania until August 3,1865 when the entire regiment mustered out.

Edward was an "acting sergeant" when he processed out. The two McGeady boys had participated in, and survived, the bloodiest war in our nation’s history, although both had been wounded, strangely enough, when both briefly served under Grant.

Life After the War

First, Edward’s outstanding leader, John White Geary. The 28th ended up in South Carolina at war’s end. They were put to work reorganizing life for the Carolinians and did it so well that one of the towns attempted to elect the Yankee Geary its mayor!! Geary refused graciously and returned to Pennsylvania where, instead of being mayor of a small southern city, he became a two-term governor of Pennsylvania. Three weeks after leaving office at age 53,this man, who had been wounded 9 times in the Mexican and Civil Wars, dropped dead in his kitchen while making breakfast for his infant son!!

Edward returned to Mauch Chunk and married Ellen Dever in 1865. They had 6 children: Catherine (1866), Anne (1870), Agnes (1872), Eliana (1874), John (1876), and Charles (1880). Ellen Dever died in 1891, and Edward married a widow, Cecelia Malone (fig.44), in 1893. Cecelia had a child, Lottie, from her previous marriage. By this time they all lived in Bethlehem, Pa., and Edward had become the proverbial Irish cop on the South Bethlehem police force (fig.45). He also worked in the blast furnace for the Bethlehem Steel. He and Cecelia had two children to add to the seven already around: Amelia (1894) and Edward (1897) (fig.46). In 1898 Edward watched his son, John, now residing near Loraine, Ohio, go off to the Spanish American War as part of Co A of the 5th Ohio Regiment. He returned safely. On November3, 1917 Amelia married Benton John Nevius (Nevis) (fig. 47). They had four children: Jeanne (1918), Benton (1923), Nancy (1928), and yours truly, Benjamin(1933).

Edward and his family lived in several places in Bethlehem. Rebuilt a house on the side of South Mountain in 1893-4 that still stands, although enveloped by the campus of Lehigh University (fig.48). It nestles between Taylor Gym and Grace Hall. It’s had some renovation over the years and now is the Catholic Newman Center on campus. In 1896-7, they moved to 57 Walnut Street, in 1901 to 661 Locust Street, in 1907 to 841 Broad Street, and finally in 1913to 23 Cedar Street.

In 1918, on Benton John Nevis’ birthday (March 23), Edward McGeady, age 75, full of grace, wisdom, and years, died. He was buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery in South Bethlehem, to be joined there by his wife, Cecelia, in 1933 (figs. 49, 50, 51).I wonder, as he faded away to join his long-dead comrades-in-arms, if he heard "again the crack of guns, the rattle of muskets, the strange mournful mutter of the battlefield" as described by MacArthur’s Farewell at West Point.

Battlefield Visits

All the major battlefield sites have been carefully preserved. Using the maps and figures contained herein, you can locate the approximate position of Edward and John McGeady. For example, at Antietam, go to the "Corn Field" and the Dunkard Church. For Spotsylvania, locate the Bloody Angle. For Gettysburg, locate Culp’s Hill on the northern "hook" of the Union Lines. While there, look south to the Pennsylvania Monument (fig. 52). Go there! Locate Edward's name (misspelled as McGrady) on a bronze plaque mounted on the south side of monument for the 28th Regiment Co E (figs. 53, 54, 55). All these battlefields are well marked, and many have professional guides. The Gettysburg Museum is a fantastic place to visit. Remember, two of your ancestors from County Donegal fought and suffered at these battle sites. Hopefully, with the information contained in this paper, you will be able to feel a more personal contact with the McGeady boys. They fought against the best the South had to offer: Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, J.E.B. Stuart, Richard Ewell, A.P. Hill, Braxton Bragg, and Robert E. Lee. They are worthy of your thoughts and prayers.

Civil War Time Line - Edward McGeady


July- Enlisted in Pa 28th Inf. Co E on 6th.Moved to Harper’s Ferry on 27th. Encamped at Sandy Hook until August 13.

August-March to Point of Rocks (Picket Duty)

September- Attacked at Point of Rocks on 24th. Two Hour Battle-Rebels defeated.

October- Battle of Ball’s Bluff on 21st. Battle of Nolan’s Ferry on 30th

November- Battle at Berlin, Ma on 15th.

December- Another battle at Berlin on 14th. Back to Point of Rocks on 19th. On to Harper’s Ferry at the end of month.


January - At Harper’s Ferry & Sandy Hook

February - At Sandy Hook until 23rd. Second Battle of Bolivar Heights 24-27.

March - Loudoun Heights, Ma on 1-3,Engagement at Lovettsville on 1st. Occupied Wheatland, Waterford, Leesburg on 7th & 8th. Occupied Snickersville on the 12th,Upperville on the 14th, Ashby’s Gap on the l5th, Rectortown, Piedmont, Markham, Linden & Front Royal on the 15th-20th. Operations around Middleburg &White Plains 27-28th.

April - Engagements at Thoroughfare Gap on2nd, Warrenton on 6th, White Plains on 11th, Piedmont on the 14th.

May - Recon from Front Royal to Browertown on the 24th. Guard Duty from White Plains to Manassas.

June - Guard Duty on railroads and gaps of Blue Ridge Mts. until 23rd. Joined Banks at Middleton on the 29th.

July - Occupied Front Royal on the 6th. Reorganized under Pope on 12th.

August - Recon to Thoroughfare Mountain On the 9th. Battle of Cedar Mountain (Creek) on the 9th. Geary wounded. Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run) on 30th.

September - Left Manassas on the 2nd, marched until the 16th to Antietam (125miles). Battle of Antietam on the 16th& 17th. On to Bolivar Heights.

October - Recon to Lovettsville, Leesburg, with battle at Wheatland

November - Recon to Rippon on the 9th.

December - Recon to Winchester 2-6th, with 5 battles on the way. Returned to Bolivar Heights. Another reorganization. Moved to Fredericksburg under Burnside from the 10-14th. Battle at Dumfries on 17th.


January - Mud March from 20-24th.

February - March-At Stafford Court House and at Acquia Landing

April - Battle at Old Wilderness Tavern on the 30th.

May - Battle at Chancellorsville from1-5th.

June - March to Littlestown, Ma (125miles) on 13th, arrive June 30th.

July - Battle of Gettysburg from 1st to3rd.Pursued Lee to Manassas.

August - Duty on Line of the Rapidan, Va.

September- Move to Bridgeport, AL, on the 24th. Re-open Tennessee River.

October-Battle of Wauhatchie on 26th-29th. Battle of Lookout Mt., Missionary Ridge on 23rd, 24th and 25th.

November- Wounded-Taylors Ridge GA on the 27th, near Ringgold.

December- In Hospital – Nashville, Tennessee, until the 28th.


No combat - "Absent sick" from Jan. to June on Muster Sheet

January- Transfer to Pa 147th Inf. Co G on the 1st.

March -Re-transfer to Pa 28th Inf. Co E on the 17th.

July -Discharged on the 18th. Civilian until March 1865. 1865

March- Re-enlist in Pa 202nd Inf. Co L on the 14th.

April -War Ends

August -Discharged on the 3rd.


February - Enlists in 28th on 24th.

March - Re-enlisted to 81st Pa Inf. Regt. Co G.

May - Battle of Wilderness on 6th.Spotsylvania Court House on May 10, 11, 12. Wounded on the 12th. "Absent-Sick" from then on.

September - Transfers to Co I. 1865

June - Discharged


1 History of Pa Volunteers, 1861-65, Samuel P. Bates, Broadfoot Pub. Co. 1994(ASIN1568372264)



28th Reg’t, pp 418-483 Vol.1 (Edward, pp 455)


81st Reg’t, pp 1167-1201 Vol.4 (John, pp 1197


202nd Reg’t, pp 560-577 Vol.9 (Edward, pp 577)

 5. Itineraries of the Units and Records of Events, National Archives, Vol. 59, pp 151-275 Broadfoot Pub. Co., 1994.

 6. A Battlefield Atlas of the Civil War, Craig L. Symonds, Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company, 1983.

 7. The civil War, Editors of Time-Life Books, Vol. 1-27, Time-Life Books, 1985.

 8. Gettysburg-Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill, Harry Pfanz, U. of North Carolina Press, 1993.

 9. The Life of Billy Yank, Bell Irvin Wiley, Doubleday, 1971.

10. Battle Maps of the Civil War, Richard O’Shea, et al, Council Oaks Books, 1992.

11. The Hallowed Ground , Bruce Catton, Wordsworth Editions, LTD, 1955-56.

12., Civil War Research Database

13. Voices of the Civil War-Chattanooga, Vol. 15, Editors of Time-Life, 1998.


(Links to illustrations are under construction)

FIGURE 1 - Edward McGeady

FIGURE 2 - John White Geary

FIGURE 3 - Union Strategy

FIGURE 4 - Rebel Invasion Routes And Major Railroad Junctions

FIGURE 5 - Shenandoah Valley

FIGURE 6 - Aerial View Of Harpers Ferry

FIGURE 7 - Harpers Ferry Region

FIGURE 8 - Battle Of Balls Bluff

FIGURE 9 - Northeast Virginia

FIGURE 10 - Shenandoah Valley Campaign

FIGURE 11 - Battle of Cedar Mountain

FIGURE 12 - Battle of Cedar Mountain

FIGURE 13 - Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run)

FIGURE 14 - Union Retreat Over Stone Bridge - Second Manassas

FIGURE 15 - Long Marches ! 1862  1863-------------->

FIGURE 16 - Battle of Antietam

FIGURE 17 - Battle of Antietam

FIGURE 18 - Battle of Antietam

FIGURE 19 - Mud March

FIGURE 20 - Battle of Chancellorsville - Day 1

FIGURE 21 - Battle of Chancellorsville - Day 2

FIGURE 22 - Battle of Chancellorsville - Day 2

FIGURE 23 - Battle of Chancellorsville - Day 2

FIGURE 24 - Battle of Chancellorsville - Day 2

FIGURE 25 - Battle of Gettysburg - Day 1

FIGURE 26 - Battle of Gettysburg - Day 2

FIGURE 27 - Battle of Gettysburg - Day 3

FIGURE 30 - Battle of Gettysburg – Culp’s Hill, Union View

FIGURE 31 - Battle of Gettysburg

FIGURE 32 - Transfer to Chattanooga

FIGURE 33 - Battle of Wauhatchie, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge

FIGURE 34 - Battle of Lookout Mountain

FIGURE 35 - Battle of Lookout Mountain

FIGURE 36 - Battle of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge

FIGURE 37 - Patrick Cleburne

FIGURE 38 - Battle Of Ringgold—Taylor’s Ridge

FIGURE 39 - Forty Days Campaign

FIGURE 40 - Battles of The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House

FIGURE 41 - Battles of The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House

FIGURE 42 - Attack at the Bloody Angle

FIGURE 43 - Battles of The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House

FIGURE 44 - Cecelia McGeady

FIGURE 45 - Constable McGeady

FIGURE 46 - Amelia and Edward McGeady

FIGURE 47 - Amelia and Ben Nevis

FIGURE 48 - McGeady House on Lehigh Campus

FIGURE 49 – St. Michael’s Cemetery

FIGURE 50 - Tombstone - Edward McGeady

FIGURE 51 - Tombstone - Cecelia McGeady

FIGURE 52 - View of Pennsylvania Monument from Culp's Hill

FIGURE 53 - Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg

FIGURE 54 - Bronze plate showing Edward McGeady's name

FIGURE 55 - Bronze plate showing Edward McGeady's name