FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2006
MAYOR BLOOMBERG DEDICATES MONUMENT TO NEW YORK’S FIGHTING 69TH IN BALLYMOTE, IRELAND
Memorial Commemorates Famed Irish-American Regiment
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today dedicated Ireland’s national monument to New York City’s famed Fighting 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard in Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland. Formed in 1851, the 69th Infantry Regiment won wide notoriety for its members’ bravery and valor in many Civil War battles. The Fighting 69th has served in numerous wars since then, including World War I, World War II and Operation Iraqi Freedom; the regiment was also one of the first military units to respond to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. The Mayor was joined by Sergeant Michael Drew of the NYPD, who also served in Iraq as a member of the Fighting 69th; Sharon Engeldrum, widow of Firefighter Christian Engeldrum, who, as a member of the 69th, was killed in action in Iraq; Jack Lynch, father of Firefighter Michael Lynch, who died on September 11, 2001; Counsel General of Ireland to New York Timothy O’Connor; Deputy Chief of Mission Jonathan Benton from the U.S. Embassy in Ireland; and Irish dancer Michael Flatley for the dedication ceremony at Ballymote Town Park.
“The Fighting 69th – like Ireland itself – has left its mark on New York City in so many ways,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Four years ago, at the dedication of the Irish Hunger Memorial in Lower Manhattan, President Mary McAleese reminded us of the old proverb, ‘Those who drink the water should remember with gratitude those who dug the well.’ Today, we remember all those members of the Fighting 69th who helped America dig and preserve a deep well of freedom – may it flow forever strong. On behalf of the people of New York City, I want to express my sincere appreciation to the people of County Sligo and all the people of Ireland for giving a home to this beautiful monument – and for giving more than we can ever say to our city and our nation.”
The memorial, a large copper cylinder that incorporates steel from the World Trade Center, is etched with moments from the life of Brigadier General Michael Corcoran, a commander of the Fighting 69th during the Civil War. The Fighting 69th, composed largely of Irish immigrants, fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including Bull Run, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. Brigadier General Corcoran became one of the Civil War’s most revered heroes. When he returned to New York City after months of captivity in the South, enormous crowds attended a parade in his honor on Broadway. After his death, his body lay in state in City Hall.
The Fighting 69th continues to be known for its valor and bravery in battle, accepting some of the most dangerous assignments in Iraq. Nineteen soldiers for the 69th have been killed in action in Iraq, and more than 50 have been wounded. New York City residents Wilfredo Urbina and Firefighter Christian Engeldrum, both members of the Fighting 69th, were killed in an ambush on November 29, 2004. The road linking the Green Zone in Baghdad to the airport has been nicknamed the “Route Irish,” in recognition of the brave soldiers of the 69th who defend the treacherous highway. In response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001, the Fighting 69th rushed to the scene. One member, Firefighter Gerard Baptiste, died while saving others in the World Trade Center.
Today, the presence of the Fighting 69th is still very much alive in New York City. A statue of Father Duffy, the 69th’s chaplain during World War I, greets millions of people each day in Times Square. The magnificent armory on Lexington Avenue at 26th Street still serves as the Regiment’s home. At Old St. Patrick’s Church in Lower Manhattan, there is a plaque honoring the Fighting 69th and Corcoran, who attended daily mass there. And in Calvary Cemetery, in the thriving Irish community of Woodside, Queens, rests many Fighting 69th leaders, including Corcoran.
While in County Sligo, the Mayor also hosted a breakfast reception at Sligo City Hall and a luncheon at the Coach House Hotel in Ballymote. He also shopped at the Mullaney Brothers department store.
Stu Loeser / Matthew Kelly (212) 788-2958