Irishman John Lonergan, hailed as a hero in the American Civil War, is remembered as a hero of Gettysburg. He was also leader of the Vermont branch of the Fenian Brotherhood, a forerunner to the Irish Republican Army.

Lonergan, born in Carrick-on-Suir in Tipperary in 1839, immigrated to the US with his family in 1848. It is said that the Lonergans were on the run from both the Great Famine, as well as British oppression. In Vermont, John Lonergan worked alongside his father as a cooper.

In 1862, Lonergan formed a company of fellow Vermont Irishmen to volunteer to fight the Confederates. Lonergan did so with the mindset to gain more military skill to help the cause of Irish freedom.

Lonergan served for the Union in two stages, 1862-1863 and 1865. His efforts at the Battle of Gettysburg earned him a Medal of Honor, which cited him for “Gallantry in the recapture of 4 guns and the capture of 2 additional guns from the enemy; also the capture of a number of prisoners.”

One hundred and fifty years later, in 2013, a memorial was erected to him in Burlington, Vermont. 

Following his services in the Civil War, Lonergan helped organize a pair of failed raids into Canada from staging areas in St. Albans. The Fenians’ quixotic aim was to pressure Britain, which ruled Canada as a colony, to surrender control of Ireland.

To learn more about John Lonergan, take a look at Irish American William L. McKone’s book ‘Vermont’s Irish Rebel'