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American Civil War Art At Irish Hunger Museum

The Great Famine in Ireland, which lasted from 1845 to 1849, brought hundreds of thousands of Irishmen, women and children to the United States. When they arrived, they faced discrimination for both their nationality and religion. When the American Civil War broke out a few years later, it gave many Irishmen the chance not just to have a job but to show their patriotism for their new country.

An exhibit at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in Hamden focuses on the Irish-born and Irish-American soldiers who fought alongside native-born soldiers. The exhibit’s core is work by three artist-correspondents, sent by newspapers to embed themselves among Union troops to chronicle the war: Joseph Becker, Edward Mullen and Arthur Lumley.

The men’s battalions were famous, with names such as “Irish Dragoons,” “Mulligan’s Irish Brigade” and “Wild Irish Regiment.” Subscribers to Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Magazine and other publications got a front-row seat to their activities in battle and in camp. Some of the drawings depict the executions of deserters. One memorable piece shows the murder of a Union colonel by a Southern tavern keeper.

The artist-correspondents took their jobs knowing they were placing themselves in danger: Becker said “In parting with me, Mr. Leslie said solemnly, Joseph, I don’t expect to ever see you alive again.”

Men of Irish descent represent a large percentage of the Civil War dead. Daniel Crowley from Cork, a member of the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, wrote “the grass grows over a good many Irishmen.”

Among those who survived, many got postwar jobs laying tracks for the Transcontinental Railroad or working on the Transatlantic Cable. The exhibit chronicles these working men. Ironically, just a few years after fighting discrimination against the Irish, many Irish-Americans became active in organizations and activities that promoted discrimination against a new minority: newly freed African-Americans.

MAKING AMERICA: THE IRISH IN THE CIVIL WAR: CIVIL WAR ERA DRAWINGS FROM THE BECKER COLLECTION is at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, 3011 Whitney Ave. in Hamden. ighm.org.

On Other Walls

“Mas: Carnival Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community” will be at Connecticut Historical Society, One Elizabeth St. in Hartford, on Aug. 23, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. chs.org.

“Captive Bodies: British Prisons 1750-1900” is at Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St. in New Haven, from Aug. 27 to Nov. 25. britishart.yale.edu.

“Jack Rosenberg I.D. Entity,” “Creatures/Gig Lavery” and “Personal Identities,” an exhibit by Camilla Marie Dahl, are at Five Points Gallery. 33 Main St. in Torrington, from Aug. 23 until Sept. 29. The opening reception is Aug. 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. fivepointsgallery.org.

“High Tea,” a show of work inspired by tea ceremonies, will be at Wesleyan Potters, 350 S. Main St. in Middletown, until Sept. 9. A reception is Aug. 25 from 4 to 6 p.m. wesleyanpotters.com.

A sculpture exhibit titled “The Third Dimension” is at Hygienic Art, 79 Bank St. in New London, from Aug. 24, opening reception 7 to 10 p.m., until Sept. 21. hygienicart.org.

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