irish in american civil war

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The Irish Brigade,

During the American Civil War, there were a handful of units on both sides that gained a reputation as being elite units, among the bravest, toughest, and fiercest of the army.  The Iron Brigade for example, has a reputation as the best unit of the whole Civil War. Another unit to earn such a distinction was the Irish Brigade, consisting of Irish immigrants and composed of the 69th, 88th, and 63rd New York Volunteer Regiments.  The Irish Brigade was commanded by Brigadier Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, who was born in Ireland but had to flee to America because he was a participant in the failed Revolution of 1848 against the British.

The courage and tenacity of the Irish Brigade began at the Battle of Bull Run AKA Manasas when it was one of the few units that didn’t break and run when the Confederates gained the upper hand.  Holding firm, the Irish Brigade formed an effective rear guard, holding off the entire Army of Virginia while the Army of the Potomac fled in panic, thus averting a major military disaster for the Union.  Throughout the rest of the war, the Irish Brigade was often employed as elite shock troops, either forming the spearhead of Union assaults or being employed in desperate rear guard actions as the Union Army retreated.  The big problem with being an elite unit is that elite units suffer disproportionate casualties.  The Irish Brigade was no exception.  Originally the Irish Brigade originally consisted of around 2,000 - 2,500 men.  When the unit was disbanded, it had less than 600 men. 

Much of the Irish Brigade’s woes stemmed from the fact that they were armed with Model 1842 Springfield muskets which were smoothbores.  Gen. Meagher insisted on the smoothbore muskets because then they could be loaded with buck and ball unlike a rifled musket.  Instead of a single bullet, the musket was loaded with a .69 caliber ball and 4 to 8 pieces of .30 caliber buckshot, thus turning the musket in a shotgun.  The problem with this was that their muskets had limited range, no more than 50 - 100 yards.  When advancing against enemies armed with rifled muskets, which had a range of several hundred yards, the brigade would suffer horrific casualties.  However, once in range, a volley from the Brigade would be devastating.  Due to the casualties and loss of manpower, the Irish Brigade was disbanded in June of 1864, them men reassigned to other units.

Interesting Choice For Mural Art In Northern Ireland Found on Twitter- Location Glenbryn Park 

Irish Confederates were not as numerous as those who fought for the Union; an estimated 150,000 Irish served in the Union Army while only 30,000 served in the Confederate Army. Of the 425 Confederate generals, six were Irish. There were more Irish among the colonels, and they served in various positions, but many more Irish served in lower ranks - some in the Confederate Navy. One of the most famous Irish Catholic chaplains was Father John B. Bannon, also known as the “fighting chaplain.” Many of the hardest-fighting units included Irish within their ranks. The casualty rates were higher among the Irish than among other groups; these soldiers typically refused to give up where others would retreat. 

Source:  Irish Confederates: The Civil War’s Forgotten Soldiers
Phillip Thomas Tucker

Tracked Original Pic to Flickr- https://www.flickr.com/photos/25151328@N07/2678953539/

This is the grave of an Irish emigrant who moved to America and served in the American Civil War. Albert was trans, born down the road from where I was born. We have the same given surname. I’ve just come across this picture today and am moved to speak about it.

I have made the decision to (try) and tell his story. Other writers have published works on him, some fiction and non-fiction and countless academic papers of his importance. I am stepping up to the plate now to try and get his story on stage. I want to highlight the transgender issues raised in his story, as I feel this is more prevalent to us, now, and the place of transgender people in our society.

I’ve been doing some research, digging through archives and stocking up on as much literature as I can get my hands on. Today, I came across some possible funding that would allow me to visit Saunemin, Illinois - where this photo was taken and where (if the information I have is accurate) some people who met her might still be alive. This is a very intimidating and emotional journey.

If any of you have any information on Albert D J Cashier - could you please pass it on? I’ll be eternally grateful. Also, if any of you are  based in Illinois, could you get in touch? I need to find where to go that might have information, contacts that would inform this process. If you are from, or know anyone from Saunemin or Illionois, please could you get in touch?

*edit* This post has been edited to honour Alberts chosen identity, rather than the identity given to him at birth.

“YANKEE”- The root of the term is uncertain. In 1758, British General James Wolfe made the earliest recorded use of the word Yankee to refer to people from what was to become the United States, referring to the New England soldiers under his command as Yankees

Unknown location. Unidentified Union volunteer with shouldered rifle and bayonet in photographer’s studio

The term “Yankee” and its contracted form “Yank” have several interrelated meanings, all referring to people from the United States. Its various senses depend on the scope of context. Most broadly:

  • Outside the United States, “Yank” is used informally to refer to any American, including Southerners.
  • Within the United States, it usually refers to people from the north, largely those from the northeast, but especially those with New England cultural ties, such as descendants from colonial New England settlers, wherever they live. Its sense is more cultural than literally geographic. The speech dialect of New England speech dialect of New England is called “Yankee” or “Yankee dialect." Within New England itself, the term "Yankee” refers specifically to old-stock New Englanders of English descent.
  • Within Southern American English, “Yankee” refers to Northerners, or those from the regions of the Union side of the Civil War.

The informal British and Irish English "Yank" is especially popular among Britons and Australians and sometimes carries pejorative overtones. The Southern American English “Yankee” is typically uncontracted and at least mildly pejorative, although less vehemently so as time passes from the Civil War.

Faugh a Ballagh!

A Gaelic Irish battle cry meaning “clear the way”, faugh a ballagh was popularized by Irish soldiers in the American Civil War.  Afterwards, it became a common battle cry by Irish volunteers in World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II.

The battle cry was first used during the Napoleonic Wars by Sergeant Patrick Masterson of the Royal Irish Fusiliers as he tore into French ranks to capture the first Imperial Eagle taken by British Forces during the Battle of Barossa in 1811.  After taking the Eagle he was heard to cry, “‘Be Jabers Boys! I have the Cuckoo!”.

At The Battle Of Malvern Hill - A Union Sergeant Kills His Own Son Who Had Joined The Confederacy

The Civil War could literally tear a family apart, pitting brother against brother or father against son as each rallied to the flag of the cause that captured his heart. There is no more dramatic evidence of this than the encounter that took place on the battlefield at Malvern Hill July 1, 1862. Captain D. P. Conyngham was an officer in the Irish Brigade and described the incident shortly after the war:

“I had a Sergeant Driscoll, a brave man, and one of the best shots in the Brigade. When charging at Malvern Hill , a company was posted in a clump of trees, who kept up a fierce fire on us, and actually charged out on our advance. Their officer seemed to be a daring, reckless boy, and I said to Driscoll, ‘if that officer is not taken down, many of us will fall before we pass that clump.’

'Leave that to me,’ said Driscoll; so he raised his rifle, and the moment the officer exposed himself again bang went Driscoll, and over went the officer, his company at once breaking away.

As we passed the place I said, 'Driscoll, see if that officer is dead - he was a brave fellow.’

I stood looking on. Driscoll turned him over on his back. He opened his eyes for a moment, and faintly murmured 'Father,’ and closed them forever.

I will forever recollect the frantic grief of Driscoll; it was harrowing to witness. He was his son, who had gone South before the war.

And what became of Driscoll afterwards? Well, we were ordered to charge, and I left him there; but, as we were closing in on the enemy, he rushed up, with his coat off, and, clutching his musket, charged right up at the enemy, calling on the men to follow. He soon fell, but jumped up again. We knew he was wounded. On he dashed, but he soon rolled over like a top. When we came up he was dead, riddled with bullets.”

Conyngham, D.P., The Irish Brigade and Its Campaigns, With Some Accounts of the Corcoran Legion, and Sketches of the Principal Officers, (1867)