Irish Great Famine Newspaper Article From 1847

Below is a U.S. newspaper article from August 19, 1847 about the Irish Great Famine. The Irish Great Famine occurred from about 1845, when the potato crop started failing due to infection, to 1852, when the potato crop recovered. This newspaper article includes an excerpt of a letter written by an Irish mother, still living in Ireland, to her daughter who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. The letter details the effects of the Irish Great Famine and its resulting deaths, disease, starvation and emigration of the Irish population. It has been estimated one million Irish perished from disease and starvation due to the Irish Great Famine, and another one million Irish emigrated from Ireland seeking refuge in other countries from the Irish Great Famine.

Alexandria Gazette, Alexandria VA, edition of Vol. XLVIII, Thursday Morning, August 19, 1847, No. 179, page 3, column 1;



The recent famine and fever in Ireland will form one of the most tragic pages in modern annals. Distressing as are the accounts we have received, we, here, can hardly realize, we are sure, the extent and depth of the misery and suffering that have ensued. The most vivid description we ever saw of the famine in Ireland was written by Elihu Burritt. But its history is yet to be written. Those who are to come after us, will, however, have materials, in newspapers, and published letters, of our times, from which to furnish a story, probably, equaling in its harrowing details all that Thueydides, or Boccacio, or Defoe ever wrote of the plagues which, in past ages, depopulated portions of their countries. The “short and simple annals of the poor” exhibit pictures of stern reality, which are impressive and even awful. We have before us, a letter, placed in our hands by a lady of this place, written in June last, by the mother of an Irishwoman, who is out at service in this country. She tell her daughter, how sorry the family are that they did not all come over with her — and adds: “I hope there is a good time for us yet, and that by your and our own exertions we will be able in the course of a short time to enjoy part of the blessings of that earthly paradise where you are, for such it is in comparison with this desolate isle. May the favor of the Divine Creator descend on the Americans for their charity to the suffering poor of this country! Thousands have died of hunger, and numbers are reduced to such destitution that they are dying on the sides of the roads — to be buried without coffins. I have seen many funerals with but from two to three to carry the corpses to the grave. Nettles and water grass are what a great portion of the people are subsisting on, incredible as this may appear to Americans, it is nevertheless a fact. The heart of man cannot conceive nor the pen describe the hardships and privations of the Irish.” It is from these and similar passages from the letters of the suffering people themselves, that we can best estimate the weight of the calamity which has fallen upon them.