Patrick Irwin MOH

b. 1838 County Clare, Ireland. d. 06/02/1910 Ann Arbor, Michigan.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 01/09/1864 Jonesboro, Georgia.

Patrick Irwin MOH

Patrick Irwin was born in Co. Clare in 1838. As the Great Famine ravaged Ireland during the late 1840s, his parents decided to emigrate to the United States and eventually settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Prior to the war Patrick was living in the city’s First Ward, where he worked as a blacksmith.* With the outbreak of war the Irishman enlisted in Company H of the 14th Michigan; Patrick’s company commander was fellow Irishman Captain Richard Beahan. The regiment was organised in Ypsilanti and mustered into service on 13th February 1862.

On September 1, 1864 the 14th Michigan attacked at Jonesboro as part of Colonel Charles M. Lum’s brigade, Brigadier-General James D. Morgan’s division. Irwin and his comrades found themselves in the front rank on the right of their brigade’s line, and they began to take fire from grape and solid shot. The Confederate positions were now facing them, with the Rebels located behind breastworks in the woods to their front. Without receiving orders to advance the entire brigade began to march up the slope towards the enemy, with the 14th Michigan outpacing the rest. Irwin and his comrades were the first to enter the woods, encountering little resistance as they drove the Confederates from their first line of entrenchments. The second line of works did not fall quite so easily. The Colonel of the regiment, Henry R. Mizner, recounts his men’s advance: ‘Moving steadily forward with fixed bayonets at ‘right shoulder shift,’ first at quick time, then at double quick, my men without pause or hesitation leaped upon the rebel works, not having up to that moment fired a shot or raised a shout. Upon gaining the works which were filled with the enemy, our colors gallantly planted by Sergeant Steiner, they opened upon them a most deadly fire…it was impossible to stay the fire of my men, who swept through the entire line of works ….’

The men that Irwin and his comrades faced were Confederate’s from Brigadier-General Daniel Govan’s brigade, part of Irishman Major-General Patrick Cleburne’s division. Outnumbered by superior forces in front, and with other Union troops moving towards their rear, their fate was sealed. The 14th Michigan’s Lieutenant Gifford turned one of the captured guns on the fleeing rebels, while Lieutenant Witherspoon and Sergeant Smith of Company A captured the colors of the 1st Arkansas. But the first man of the regiment over the works was First Sergeant Patrick Irwin. In the melee the Clareman was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. In the midst of the fighting he found himself confronting none other than General Govan himself. Irwin challenged the Rebel General to yield, and Govan surrendered his sword.

Patrick Irwin went on to participate in Sherman’s ‘March to the Sea’ and was honorably discharged in 1865. He married Hannah McCann of Macomb County, Michigan with whom he had a number of children. The Irishman would later serve as an Alderman in Bay City, Michigan before becoming the proprietor of a livery, sale and feed stable in the State. His actions on 1st September 1864 were officially recognised over 30 years after they took place. On 28th April 1896 Patrick Irwin was awarded the Medal of Honor, with his citation reading: ‘In a charge by the 14th Michigan Infantry against the entrenched enemy was the first man over the line of works of the enemy, and demanded and received the surrender of Confederate General Daniel Govan and his command.’ Patrick Irwin died on 6th February 1910 in Ann Arbor, where he was buried in Saint Thomas Catholic Cemetery.



In a charge by the 14th Michigan Infantry against the entrenched enemy, Irwin was the first man over the line of works of the enemy, and demanded and received the surrender of Confederate Gen. Daniel Govan and his command.