St. Patrick’s Day in the Irish Brigade

0
1958

Join The Immigrants’ Civil War on Facebook

Although Ireland is one of the smallest countries in Europe, Irish Americans form the third largest ethnic group in the United States. Since most “Irish Americans” are in fact of mixed ancestry, the question of why so many choose to identify as Irish arises. One answer, according to sociologists, is St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day is now one of the largest celebrations of any kind in the United States and its only rival among ethnic festivals is Cinco de Mayo. Many Americans discover their “Irishness” on March 17.

Irish Americans have actively promoted the public celebration of their saint’s day since the late 1700s as a sign of ethnic solidarity and for the promotion of an Irish American identity distinct from the dominant Anglo Saxon culture. Dinners, dances, and parades provided ways to invite the native-born to meet the Irish and share in their culture and camaraderie.

ny-herald-march-18-18633-thumb

Description of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the New York Herald March 18, 1863

In the 1850s, St. Patrick’s Day parades were often led by Irish militia units as a warning to Know Nothing militants that disciplined and armed men stood ready to defend the immigrant community. The first unit in New York’s modern St. Patrick’s day Parade is still the old Fighting 69th which formed the core of the Irish Brigade. Massive parades also put politicians on notice that the immigrants who marched on St. Patrick’s Day would be voting in the fall.

The men of the Irish Brigade understood the multiple purposes of the celebration. They organized annual festivals on March 17 throughout the war years. St. Patrick’s Day provided an opportunity to improve unit cohesion and maintain the “Irishness” of the Brigade. Other Irish units were invited to join in the party, cementing the Irish Brigade’s leading role in military Irish America. Non-Irish units and most of the high ranking officers in the Army of the Potomac also were guests at the feast. This sharing eased tensions between the native-born and the once despised immigrants. Barriers were broken as men from different backgrounds listened to Irish music, participated in sporting exhibitions, and shared a glass of whiskey together.

St.-Patricks-day-horserace-thumb

St. Patrick’s Day horse race in the Irish Brigade

Samuel Clear was not Irish, but he had enlisted in one of the Irish Brigade’s regiments, the 116th Pennsylvania Volunteers. He described one of the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, a rough and tumble affair:

Friday, March 17: St, Patrick’s Day in the morning, and it is a fine morning… This is the day of the “Irish Brigade Jubilee.” I got leave of absence and went back to corps head quarters. We found thousands of troops there and men busy putting the finishing touches to the race track… We found a nice track [there] like a fair ground track, but they had four hurdles built three feet high across the track and a ditch three feet deep… A large platform filled with Officers and about twenty ladies [was there]. Also a good brass band. At ten O’Clock the horses and riders came in. The [Colonel] of the 7th New York Dutch [Germans]led the way on a large black stallion…and then others came an arranged themselves in a line, and then the word was given and away they go. Some went over the hurdles and ditches, some flew the track and ran through the crowd of soldiers.  …The Ambulance was hauling dead and wounded away all day. …Never did I see such a crazy time.1

Video: The Rocky Road to Dublin
This song of Irish migration became popular in the years immediately before the Civil War

Source:

1. The Civil War Notebook of Daniel Chisolm Edited by W. Springer Menge et al published by Ballentine Books (1989) pp. 68-69. I note that the diary refers to a German officer from the 7th New York. This regiment, nicknamed the Steuben Guard, was organized in New York City in 1861. It had ceased to exist before the St. Patrick’s Day described, so the diarist might be mistaken or there may have been a remnant of the regiment in another unit.

The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:

1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.

2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.

3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.

4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.

5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants

6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South

7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War

8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union

9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington

10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.

11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans

12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.

13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union?

14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?

15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army

16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana

17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers

18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri

19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri

20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply

21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead

22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation

23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains

24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation

25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built

26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing

27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings

28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America

29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse

30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.

31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America.

32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War.

33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War

34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico

35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?

36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde

37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy

38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination

39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.

40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.

41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?

42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?

43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.

44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans

45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade

46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army

47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American

48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley

49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.

50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.

51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign

52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles

53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days

54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.

55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery

56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day

57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?

58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland

59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain

60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation

61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam

62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade

63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln

64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

65. Carl Schurz Blames Lincoln for Defeat

66. The Irish Brigade and Virginia’s Civilians Black and White

67. The Irish Brigade and the Firing of General McClellan

68. General Grant Expells the Jews

69. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Its Destruction At Fredericksburg.

70. Fredericksburg: The Worst Day in the Young Life of Private McCarter of the Irish Brigade

71. Forever Free: Emancipation New Year Day 1863

72. Private William McCarter of the Irish Brigade Hospitalized After Fredericksburg

73. The Immigrant Women That Nursed Private McCarter After Fredericksburg

74. Nursing Nuns of the Civil War

75. The Biases Behind Grant’s Order Expelling the Jews

76. The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order

77. Lincoln Overturns Grant’s Order Against the Jews

78. Irish Families Learn of the Slaughter at Fredericksburg

79. Requiem for the Irish Brigade

80. St. Patrick’s Day in the Irish Brigade

 

Cultural

Painting of the Return of the 69th from Bull Run Unearthed

Blog Posts

The Real Story Behind The Immigrants’ Civil War Photo

Why I’m Writing The Immigrants’ Civil War

The Five Meanings of “The Immigrants’ Civil War”

No Irish Need Apply: High School Student Proves Yale PhD. Wrong When He Claimed “No Irish Need Apply” Signs Never Existed

The Fallout from No Irish Need Apply Article Spreads Worldwide

No Irish Need Apply Professor Gets into a Fight With Our Blogger Pat Young Over Louisa May Alcott

Professor Behind No Irish Need Apply Denial May Have Revealed Motive for Attacking 14 Year Old Historian

Books for Learning More About The Immigrants’ Civil War

Free Yale Course with David Blight on the Civil War

Cinco de Mayo Holiday Dates Back to the American Civil War

New Immigrants Try to Come to Terms with America’s Civil War

Important Citizenship Site to be Preserved-Fortress Monroe

Should Lincoln Have Lost His Citizenship?

The First Casualties of the War Were Irish-Was that a Coincidence?

Civil War Anniversaries-History, Marketing, and Human Rights

Memorial Day’s Origins at the End of the Civil War

Germans Re-enact the Civil War-But Why Are They Dressed in Gray?

Leading Historians Discuss 1863 New York City Draft Riots

The Upstate New York Town that Joined the Confederacy

Civil War Blogs I Read Every Week

First Annual The Immigrants’ Civil War Award Goes to Joe Reinhart

Damian Shiels Wins Second Annual The Immigrants’ Civil War Award

Mother Jones: Civil War Era Immigrant and Labor Leader

Juneteenth for Immigrants

Immigration Vacation -Civil War Sites

Fort Schuyler-Picnic where the Irish Brigade trained

No Irish Need Apply: High School Student Proves Yale PhD. Wrong When He Claimed “No Irish Need Apply” Signs Never Existed

The Fallout from No Irish Need Apply Article Spreads Worldwide

No Irish Need Apply Professor Gets into a Fight With Our Blogger Pat Young Over Louisa May Alcott

Professor Behind No Irish Need Apply Denial May Have Revealed Motive for Attacking 14 Year Old Historian

Books for Learning More About The Immigrants’ Civil War

Free Yale Course with David Blight on the Civil War

Cinco de Mayo Holiday Dates Back to the American Civil War

SHARE
Previous articleImmigration Reform Moving Forward
Next articleMeet Our New Interns
Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is Director of Legal Services at CARECEN and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/longisl2/public_html/wp-content/themes/Newspaper/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 326

LEAVE A REPLY