Halpin (Halpine), Charles Graham (1829–68), writer and journalist, was born 20 November 1829 at Oldcastle, Co. Meath, son of the Rev. Nicholas John Halpin (qv), clergyman and newspaper editor, and Anne Halpin (née Grehan). Educated at TCD, he graduated in 1846, having studied medicine and then law. During this time he had written occasionally for the press, and, on the death of his father, pursued a career in journalism in Dublin and London. In 1851 he emigrated to America and became private secretary to P. T. Barnum, also writing advertisements in verse. He became assistant editor of the Boston Post, as well as co-founding a short-lived satirical journal, the Carpet Bag. He moved to Washington where he was a correspondent for the New York Times, spent a brief time with the New York Herald as French translator, and then rejoined the New York Times as, firstly, associate editor, and then (1855–6) its correspondent on the Nicaraguan expedition of William Walker. In 1857 he became editor and part-owner of the New York-based Leader, winning it a greatly improved circulation.
On the outbreak of the American civil war in 1861, he joined the federal 69th Regiment as a lieutenant, before being transferred to Gen. David Hunter's staff as assistant adjutant-general with the rank of major. He prepared for Hunter the first order for the enlistment of a black regiment and helped to win support for this order through his famous poem ‘Sambo's right to be kilt’. He was later brevetted lieutenant-colonel of volunteers for bravery at the battle of Piedmont, but was forced to retire with failing eyesight on 31 July 1864. At the end of the war he received the brevets of colonel and brigadier-general. During his various campaigns he had written letters, poems, and sketches to the press as ‘Miles O'Reilly’, the assumed character of an ignorant Irish private, whose sentimental stage-Irishness won him widespread popularity. Two collections of these offerings were published as Miles O'Reilly (1864) and Baked meats of the funeral (1866). He also published a collection of poetry, Lyrics by the letter ‘H’ (1854). Two historical novels, The patriot brothers (1869) and Mountcashel's brigade (1882), were published posthumously, and could charitably be described as limited and dull in character.
Despite his stammer, he was a brilliant conversationalist and an accomplished public speaker. He was actively involved in the Young Ireland movement in Dublin and London, and as a long-standing campaigner against corruption in politics was invited (1864) to edit the Citizens' Association journal, Citizen, which called for reform of the administration of New York city. In 1866 he ran against Tammany Hall and was elected by a coalition of republicans and democrats. In an effort to relieve insomnia aggravated by overwork, he overdosed on chloroform and died 3 August 1868 in New York.