James Rowan O'Beirne

37th New York Volunteer Infantry, "The Irish Rifles"

James R. O'Beirne

From various sources cited below.

James Rowan O'Beirne was born in 1844 at Ballagh, County Roscommon, Ireland, and enrolled in Federal service April 17, 1861, to serve one month. He mustered in as private, Co. I, 7th New York Militia, on April 26, 1861. He mustered out with his company, June 3, 1861, at New York City.

Not content with this slight service, he enrolled again at Washington, D.C., to serve two years and mustered in as a private Co. C, 37th New York Volunteer Infantry, The Irish Rifles. He was enrolled as a second lieutenant on July 9, 1861; as first lieutenant on Aug. 9, 1861; and as captain on Nov. 4, 1861. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 3, 1863. He mustered out with his company at New York City on June 22, 1863.

O'Beirne was commissioned a captain in the U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps on July 24, 1863, and was promoted to major in the 22nd VRC on May 12, 1864. He was brevetted lieutenant colonel, colonel and brigadier general of volunteers Sept. 26, 1865, for "gallant, distinguished and meritorious service" during the war.

He was last Provost Marshal of the District of Columbia and was active in the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

General O'Beirne mustered out Jan. 30, 1866. Many years later, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for having "gallantly maintained the line of battle until ordered to fall back" at Fair Oaks, Va., May 31-June 1, 1862.

James Rowan O'Beirne died Feb. 18, 1917.


This brief sketch was primarily based on a history of the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry, by A. Milburn Petty, published in the early 1920s in the journal of the American Irish Historical Society.


Questions or comments regarding James Rowan O'Beirne or the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment can be directed to japrime@earthlink.net.

This page was created on February 16, 1997, and was posted on the World Wide Web on February 17, 1997. It was reposted March 1, 1998.

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