Many know of the Irish Brigade, made up mostly of Irishmen of the 63rd, 69th and 88th New York plus the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th Pennsylvania. Other units with large amounts of Irishmen included the 23rd Illinois, 9th Massachusetts, 17th Wisconsin, 6th Louisiana, 10th Tennessee and 24th Georgia. And Irishmen from the 69th Pennsylvania gained congratulatory remarks after Pickett’s charge in which they repelled the Confederates.
At the Battle of Fredericksburg, nearly half of the Irish Brigade (commanded by Irishman Thomas Francis Meagher) suffered casualties leading and officer to write home telling his wife that “Irish bones and Irish blood cover that terrible field today.” The Georgia soldiers who confronted the Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg ironically also were Irishmen. Confederate General Robert E. Lee was complimentary of the Irish Brigade’s action at Fredericksburg saying “Never were men so brave…though totally routed, they reaped a harvest of glory. Their brilliant though hopeless assaults on our lines excited the hearty applause of our officers and men.”
The most famous man with Irish roots during the war was certainly Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
Union General Phil Sheridan was also an Irish immigrant. Another Irish immigrant was St. Clair Augustin Mulholland, commander of the 116th Pennsylvania. Mulholland was wounded four times in leading his men and was awarded the Medal of Honor. The famous “Buffalo” Bill Cody, a man with Irish roots, was part of the 7th Kansas Cavalry. And General George Meade, who commanded the Union army at Gettysburg was the great-grandson of an Irish immigrant.
Patrick Gilmore, an Irish immigrant, enlisted with his band into the 24th Massachusetts Volunteers. He is most famous for composing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” a favorite tune from the war. And a Virginia who descended from an Irish man, Daniel Decatur Emmett, around the same time composed “Dixie”.
General Patrick Roynayne Cleburne was the Irish commander of the 15th Arkansas, CSA.
Mathew Brady, famed Civil War photographer, claimed that his parents were Irish immigrants. Michael O’Laughlin, Lincoln assassination conspirator who was sentenced to hard labor at Fort Jefferson/Dry Tortugas was also of Irish descent.
Several Irish women also served as men. Bridget Divers, an Irish soldier, distinguished herself both in battle and as a nurse. And Jennie Hodgers enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry as Albert D. J. Cashier. It is said that she marched over 10,000 miles and participated frequently in battles.
Irish politician Isaac Murphy was the only member of the Arkansas secession convention to vote to remain in the Union.
Varina Howell Davis, First Lady of the Confederacy and Jefferson Davis’ wife, was also an Irish American.
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