One of the most fascinating stories of survival and fortitude from the Civil War comes from Port Gibson, Mississippi in 1863. Irish immigrant, surgeon, and now combat officer, Major James Lawlor Kiernan was severely wounded and was nearly captured in the wet, murky swamps near the Mississippi River, following one of the initial engagements of the Vicksburg Campaign.
The son of a British naval surgeon, Kiernan was born in a small Franciscan Catholic farming village in County Galway, Ireland in 1837. Well-educated and intelligent, he was enrolled at Trinity College in Dublin in 1854, but immigrated to the United States soon after, where he subsequently graduated from New York University’s Academy of Medicine in 1857. Living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he and his brother-in-law both practiced medicine and even edited their own weekly medical newspaper named the New York Medical Press until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Continue reading