Information provided by a relative of James Fitzgerald, Katherine Schildroth
At 10:00 AM on Thursday morning, August 3, 2023, Irish-Americans and Civil War History fans from Chicago will be gathering for a memorial ceremony at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Evanston to honor one of my Irish immigrant ancestors, Captain James J. Fitzgerald.
pictures courtesy of the Chicago History Museum
Our family history research tells us that James Fitzgerald immigrated to America with his father and siblings in about 1848, settling in the Chicago area. When James was in his early 20s, he joined Mulligan’s Irish Brigade [23rd Illinois Infantry] during the US Civil War, earning the rank of Captain.
He was reported to be a gallant soldier. James participated with great courage at the Siege of Lexington, in Missouri, was shot through the mouth with a rifle, taken POW, became a recruiting officer, and was a friend to Colonel Mulligan.
James contracted a lung infection while fighting with Mulligan’s Irish Brigade in Virginia, and was mustered out of Service on September 19, 1864. He died a few years later, in November, 1869.
Brian Donovan, of the Chicago Irish American Heritage Center, helped my family discover that James was buried in an unmarked grave at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, with his young wife’s family. After collecting Captain Fitzgerald’s military records from the US National Archives, I applied to the US Department of Veterans Affairs to have them provide James with a veteran’s marker, as was his right, as an honorably discharged soldier.
After the stone was laid, I assumed my part in correcting this historic oversight was done... but some members of the Irish American community in Chicago felt that James’ life and marker deserved a rededication ceremony to honor his memory... which brings us to this coming August 3rd event.
We’ve been putting some plans in place for this ceremony. Marc and Loretta Finnigan have invited some Civil War reenactors to come and honor James with a gun salute, My father [Norm Beu], also a military veteran (retired USAF Colonel), asked if we could find a bagpiper to take part... so I reached out to the Chicago PD Pipe and Drum band, who immediately and enthusiastically offered to bring several members of their band to participate. My favorite band from Ireland, Seo Linn, also volunteered to sing a few songs for us that morning, before they head to the Chicago Irish American Heritage Center for their concert that evening.
We will have some remarks made by visitors, and a minister will perform a benediction for James’ stone. I think it will be a beautiful tribute - not only to my ancestor, Captain Fitzgerald, but also to honor the rich history of Mulligan’s Irish Brigade - which the people of Chicago should be very proud of.
Chicago History Museum provided the photos: James Fitzgerald is pictured (far left)