Hats off to the Irish Brigade

General Meagher leads the 69th NY of the Irish Brigade

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone, and let us remember this day for Ireland’s patron Saint Patrick (AD 385-461) and for the arrival of Christianity to Ireland. I know there’s a long tradition of consuming green beer and other adult beverages, but let’s try to reserve a space for the true meaning of the day, and to celebrate the Irish culture and heritage which is so carefully interwoven into the fabric of America.

One of the sad and memorable moments in American Irish history I’d like to share is the charge of the Irish Brigade at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862 led by a stout Irish and American patriot, General Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced Marr).

Donald Pfanz, Civil War historian, staff historian at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park provides this summary.

General Meagher traveled an interesting path in coming to America. As a 39-year-old Irish revolutionary, he’d been arrested for fomenting rebellion against the British government and exiled to Tasmania, an island halfway around the world. After 3 years, Meagher managed to escape and fled to the United States, settling in New York City. He became a leading spokesman for the Irish-American community, and when the Civil War began he rallied his countrymen to support the Union cause: “Every blow you strike in the cause of the Union,” he told his volunteers, “is aimed at the allies of England, the enemy of your land and race. Today it is for the American Republic we fight–tomorrow it will be for Ireland.”

As Pfanz writes, In February 1862, President Abraham Lincoln authorized Meagher to organize a brigade of Irish immigrants culled from cities in the Northeast. To remind his men of their heritage, Meagher had each regiment carry a green flag bearing an insignia of the golden harp of Ireland.

Meagher and his brigade entered Fredericksburg on Dec. 12, making camp at the steamboat landing at the lower end of town (the modern City Dock). By evening, they returned to the landing and bedded down in the cold mud to spend what, for many, would be their last night on Earth.

The following day about 12:30 p.m. four Union brigades had attacked Marye’s Heights and failed; it was now the Irish Brigade’s turn to enter the fray.

After what seemed an eternity, Meagher gave the order, “Irish Brigade advance. Forward, double quick; guide center.” With a shout, the brigade rose to its feet and charged over the hill and across the plain leading to Marye’s Heights. A hail of musketry greeted the five regiments as they left the cover of the valley.

The unit managed to advance within 50 years of the rebel line, but the cost was high. The next morning, just 230 men of the brigade rallied to the colors. In the final tally, the Irish Brigade lost 545 men at Fredericksburg, 45 percent of the men it took into the battle, including 14 of its 15 field officers. General Meagher survived, and after the Civil War, Meagher was appointed acting governor of the Montana Territory.

Today, a monument to the Irish Brigade stands at the City Dock in Fredericksburg, Virginia where the brigade had bivouacked prior to the battle. It reminds us of their exemplary courage and their valiant their charge of Marye’s Heights against fellow Irishmen who fought under the flag of the Confederacy.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Many were the brave Irishmen impressed into the Yankee army against their will in New York, while the brave Irishmen who fought for the Confederacy were voluntarily fighting for freedom in America’s second Revolutionary War for freedom.

    • Don’t be an ass. The Civil War was began by the south to extend slavery into the new territories. It was a war to expand slavery. St Patrick qwas a slave who
      And many of the “Irish” you speak of were Picts whose families were moved to Ulster; and who then migrated to the south.Here is a QUOTE from St. Patrick on slavery, after a slave raid “…I am at a loss to know whether to weep more for those they killed or those that are captured: or indeed for these men themselves whom the devil has taken fast for his slaves. In truth, they will bind themselves alongside him in the pains of the everlasting pit: for “he who sins is a slave already” and is to be called “son of the devil….”

  2. Well a few didn’t make it past my Great great grandfather who served in Jeb Stuarts calvery, but he made it home to Georgia.
    Remember, not all Confederates were slave holders or for slavery.

    • Jimmy…….You might be very surprised to learn that slavery was not only common practice in the south but the northern states as well.

  3. Wondering who is the artist of the painting shown above? It looks like the work of my good friend, MSG Scott Wiley, USAR, but I may be wrong.

  4. Most fighting for the Union were forced into it when arriving in NYC. Irishmen fighting Irishmen by no choice of their own 🙁

  5. In that War between the States and the Federal Government we’ve seen many the loss of good Americans.

    Again, we are seeing another similar division of good Americans by the actions of the Federal Government today.

    Let us all know the real enemy against us and move swiftly to reclaim our heritage and nation while casting off these traitorous cowards in our midst.

    • Thank You 18square for speaking the truth. Far to many will not stand and speak it. But you are absolutely right about the federal government Lincoln threw down the gauntlet in his first inaugural speech by declaring to the south that he was going to collect on the taxs that would effectively enslave plantation owners and all farmers by imposing a tariff on the south’s agricultural exports a whopping 200% it wasn’t till about two years into the war that it was “proclaimed” that the war was about “freeing the slaves” If Any of us really believe that the war was about slavery then I would urge you to please read the congressional records about the tariffs leading up to this war and how those taxs are what really led up to this war the circumstances were almost identical to our grievances with England and now we have the circumstances of Obama almost identical with those of Lincoln. There are just too many coincidences with Obama and I was never one to believe in coincidences. They say that history repeats itself may be or then again maybe not. I for one hope and pray that if we must battle Obama and all of his cabinet and Yes the Federal Reserve too that this time we won’t be defeated the way the south was after the 1st war. Also I would suggest looking up the meaning of total warfare as well as Gen.WilliamT.Sherman and how our federal government taught Sherman’s methodology at our leading Military Academies.

      • Thanks for mentioning the sociopaths Gen. Sherman & verified drunk U. Grant the tyrant Lincoln unleashed against the citizens of the South. Also these AHoles were responsible for ~ 1,000,000 killed in this CW started by the Red (Marx loving) Republicans

      • Not a problem! I also forgot to mention Gen.Sheridan too. Did any of us know that Lincoln actually APPROPIATED tax money to develop more powerful and cruel weapons to unleash upon women and children and elderly men? I was only horrified to learn that recently. The more truth I learn about Lincoln the more revulsion I feel towards him. History is repeating itself the hidden history of Lincoln has striking similarities to Obama. Check it out for yourselves then it will become crystal clear who is behind Obama.

      • Historical facts, not rewritten history, and the love of my recently departed Veronica Catherine Agnes O’Shaughnessy demanded it from me. She was born in the same area of Brooklyn, New York as were her father, John Martin O’Shaughnessy, and her mother, Anne Marie Mahoney, and all their families and relatives. In the mid to late 1950s they moved to Foley, Alabama. A dear Southern, Irish Catholic family in the Deep South. Roll Tide!

  6. You will find the picture in this article here (#6 from the top)…

    http://reflectionsgallerytn.com/images/troiani/Don%20Troiani%20Limited%20Edition%20Civil%20War%20actual%20prints.htm

    It indicates the following…

    “Brothers of Ireland”

    In Stock by Don Troiani

    Image Size: 20″ x 26 3/4″ Issue Size: 1000 S/N prints Published: 2000

    June 27,1862 , the Ninth Massachusetts volunteers had already engaged
    in hours of vicious fighting with a Confederate army at Gaine’s Mill.
    After a lull in the fighting, the stillness was broken by a vigorous
    Southern assault as the rest of the Union forces melted away, leaving
    the ninth nearly alone. Just then the 69th New York Volunteers came
    dashing in; firing ceased and the day was saved.

  7. If you tell a joke about the Irish or Ireland ,no matter how crude it could be, to an Irishman .They will laugh as hard as anyone. They don’t care if it is offensive at all. Cheers to the Irish, as tough a group as anyone. They love to laugh and drink and have a good time. I think there are groups in America who could use this attitude .

  8. Luck of the Irish, my great-great was at Antietam and Gettysburg, but was an artilleryman, in the rear-with-the-gear. Quite certain he was off the boat and “volunteered”.

  9. Thank you, Allen for publishing this story. I’m not Irish myself, but I’ve always admired their history of bravery.

  10. Wow meaghar what an idiot. You helped the side that was allied with england and convinced other irish people to help you.

    • Um, during the Civil War, the Confederacy enjoyed at least tacit military and economic support from England. Arguably they were playing both ends against the middle, as a protracted war reduced American trade power and confined its economic growth. But the South certainly enjoyed direct assistance from England.

      It is worth noting that Meaghar’s advance put them squarely in front of the Confederate Georgia’s 24th Brigade under the command of COL Robert McMillan, himself an Antrim native. The 24th was a predominately Irish unit, including McMillan’s Guards, an all Irish Company. Confederate Irish identified strongly with the South’s desire for self-determination, and Irish concentrations in major cities such as Savannah, GA endured no draft riots such as New York and Boston did.

  11. Nothing about the fact of the irish being kidnapped and boated here just like the Africans and sold into slavery? Nothing about how the Africans were actually treated better by their owners then Irish slaves were and that people paid more for them then they did for the Irish slaves? Nothing about how America liked to give Irish slavery a “polite” label like “indentured servant”? Or that the owners refused to allow the Irish to take their children with them when their “time was up” knowing the parents would not leave them? Thus staying on as slaves even longer. Nothing about the forced “mating” of Irish women and African men to produce a more expensive slave (mulotto) then the owners got for plain old whitey-slave? Nothing about the owners of Irish slaves taking pleasure in burning them alive? Funny how so many Americans dont know MY Irish history here in America and that a black man would not bring it up. I mean, we all know how awful slavery was.

    • Reiki-ology Master Healing…….Thank You for educating me I have never heard about any of what you have posted. Truly shocking and disgusting the way the Irish were treated.

      • Mike…There are infinite resources on the matter. If you are claiming to be a 4th generation Irish descendant and have no knowledge of your heritage, I really have no idea how to tell you to begin. I have traced my own ancestry back to the 1600’s in County Sligo. Who were your 4th generation grandparents and what was the nature of their arrival in America? That would be a good start for you personally. As for Irish history in general and the current Catholic/Protestant strife that began over 400 years, I suggest researching Cromwell’s appointment to Ireland by the English government. The political/religious aspects of the past 400 years are also the direct cause of the famous Potato Famine. Fascinating how all the tidbits of info hook together. The internet contains the wisdom of the world. If you need cite references to inform yourself of your own heritage and the horrendous atrocities perpetrated on the Irish for millenia…well, I don’t see a very burning desire for knowledge on your part.

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