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John J. Burns Library Events


The Civil War Letters of Florence Burke, An Irish Famine Immigrant

The Civil War Letters of Florence Burke, An Irish Famine Immigrant

Book presentation and donation ceremony with local author Ellen B. Alden
John J. Burns Library, Boston College
In conjunction with The Éire Society of Boston
Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 7:00pm

Ellen B. Alden is a former elementary teacher who turned her love for history, education, and family into an award-winning historical novel. Based on a series of nineteen letters written by her great-great grandfather that she found one day in her attic, Yours Faithfully, Florence Burke tells the story of an Irish farmer who emigrated to West Springfield, Massachusetts to escape the ravages of the Great Famine and later faced the desolation of Civil War battlefields in Virginia as a volunteer in the Union Army.

Alden’s debut novel is the winner of the 2017 Independent Publishers of New England award for genre fiction. Her book talks and tours have taken her throughout New England, to the Midwest, and to Ireland. She has been invited to speak at the Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, the Irish Cultural Centre of New England, UMass Lowell Center for Irish Partnerships, and dozens of libraries and bookstores. She has been interviewed by the Irish Times, NPR, and other media. She maintains a travel blog on her website,

After graduating from St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Alden earned a teaching degree from Pepperdine University and attended Merrimack College Graduate School of Education. She resides with her husband and three children in Andover, Massachusetts.

Alden and her family will donate Florence Burke’s original letters and photographs to the John J. Burns Library for rare books, special collections, and archives at Boston College during a ceremony on Wednesday evening, January 31, 2018, beginning at 7:00pm. Co-sponsored by The Éire Society of Boston, the event is free and open to the public.

Ellen Alden

Alden will discuss her book and play a recorded excerpt from the letters read by WROL radio host Seamus Mulligan with music and images of the Civil War. Alden will also speak about her research and writing journey and the unexpected places it has taken her. The program will conclude with the formal presentation of the letters and an acapella rendition of “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” performed by Boston College alumna and friend Julie Zavrl. A reception will follow. Copies of Alden’s book will be available for purchase and signing. 

All are welcome.



Please write to to RSVP.

To add this event to your calendar and for information on directions and parking, please see the event listing on our campus calendar here.

For more about Ellen's book and the war that killed more than 25,000 Irish, see the Irish Times article by Ronan McGreevy published on January 30, 2018. Also see The Boston Globe article by Steve Annear about the discovery and donation of the letters published on January 31, 2018. Both are referenced in a BC News article published on February 1. An extensive article with photos from the event appeared in the UK Daily Mail on February 1.