Robert Nugent (officer)

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Robert Nugent
Col. R. Nugent, 69th N.Y. Inf - NARA - 529978.jpg
Born (1824-06-27)June 27, 1824
Kilkeel, County Down, Ireland
Died June 20, 1901(1901-06-20) (aged 76)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Buried at Cypress Hills National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1861–1879
Rank Union army maj rank insignia.jpg Major, USA
Union Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel, USV
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brigadier General
Unit 13th U.S. Infantry Regiment
24th U.S. Infantry Regiment
Commands held 69th New York Infantry
Irish Brigade
Battles/wars American Civil War
New York Draft Riots
American Indian Wars

Brigadier General Robert Nugent (June 27, 1824 – June 20, 1901) was an Irish-born American U.S. Army officer during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.

Civil War service[edit]

He served with the Irish Brigade's 69th Infantry Regiment, from its days as a National Guard unit and into its incorporation into the Union Army at the start of the war, and was one of its senior officers at the First Battle of Bull Run.

When the unit was originally mustered out of service, the 90-day enlistment terms having expired, Nugent accepted a commission as a captain in the regular army. He was immediately assigned to the 13th Infantry Regiment whose commanding officer, Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman, personally requested. Taking a leave of absence to return to New York, he assisted Thomas Francis Meagher in organizing the Irish Brigade. The newly reformed 69th Infantry Regiment was the first unit assigned to the Irish Brigade and, with Nugent as its colonel, he led the "Fighting 69th" at the Battles of Fair Oaks, Gaines Mill, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Glendale, Malvern Hill.

Nugent was wounded, shot in the stomach, at the Battle of Fredericksburg and was eventually forced to resign his command. He was appointed acting assistant provost marshal for the southern district of New York, which included New York City and Long Island, by the US War Department. An Irishman and Democrat, his appointment was thought to assure the Irish-American population that conscription efforts would be carried out fairly. The Irish-American, a popular Irish-language newspaper, wrote that the selection was a "wise and deservedly popular one". He did encounter resistance from city officials wanting remain uninvolved, however by mid-June had reported to his superior officer and provost marshal general Colonel James Fry that conscription efforts were "nearing completion without serious incident".

New York enrollment poster June 23, 1863, a mere twenty days before the Draft Riots broke out.

Understanding the seriousness of the situation, he attempted to keep the draft selections quiet and in isolated parts of the city. In Manhattan however, lotteries were placed in the heart of Irish tenement and shanty neighborhoods where the draft was most opposed.[1]

In the ensuing New York Draft Riots, Nugent took command of troops and attempted to defend the city against the rioters. Despite issuing the cancellation of the draft, the riots continued for almost a week. His home on West 86th Street was looted and burned by the rioters during that time,[2] his wife and children barely escaping from their home. Upon breaking into his house, furniture was destroyed and paintings of Nugent and Meagher were slashed, although Corcoran's was reportedly left untouched.[3][4]

On October 28, he was relieved of his post and succeeded by General William Hayes. He returning to active duty, he assumed command of Irish Brigade in November 1864, shortly after the death of Brigadier General Michael Corcoran, and was present at the battle of Battle of Spotsylvania, the Petersburg and the Appomattox Campaigns. As its last commanding officer, he and the Irish Brigade also marched in the victory parade held in Washington, D.C. following Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.[5]

Later years[edit]

Nugent was brevetted Brigadier General for distinguished leadership of the 69th Regiment on March 13, 1865. The veterans of the Irish Brigade were honorably discharged and mustered out three months later, Nugent remained in the regular US Army for the next twenty years. A formidable "Indian fighter" during the Great Plains Wars with the 13th and 24th Infantry Regiments. In 1879, he retired at the rank of major and resided in New York where he was involved in the Grand Army of the Republic, the War Veterans' Association of the 7th Regiment and an honorary member of The Old Guard.


He became ill in his old age, complications arising from his wounds suffered at Fredericksburg, and remained bedridden for two months before his death at his McDonough Street home in Brooklyn. In accordance with his last wishes, he was buried at Cypress Hills National Cemetery.[6]


  1. ^ Bernstein, Iver. The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. (pg. 11-13) ISBN 0-19-507130-1
  2. ^ Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. (pg. 137) ISBN 1-56025-275-8
  3. ^ Bruce, Susannah U.The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865. New York and London: NYU Press, 2006. (pg. 180) ISBN 0-8147-9940-X
  4. ^ Bayor, Ronald H. and Timothy J. Meagher. The New York Irish. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. (pg. 204) ISBN 0-8018-5764-3
  5. ^ Mahin, Dean B. The Blessed Place of Freedom: Europeans in Civil War America. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's Inc., 2002. (pg. 236) ISBN 1-57488-523-5
  6. ^ "Gen. Robert Nugent Dead; He Was One of the First to Respond to President Lincoln's Call". New York Times.June 21, 1901

Further reading[edit]

  • Cook, Adrian. The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.
  • Wylie, Paul R. The Irish General: Thomas Francis Meagher. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. ISBN 0-8061-3847-5

External links[edit]