Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Irish Brigade

In Deceptive Hearts, Shane MacDermott fought with the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War.

An infantry brigade, the Irish Brigade was mostly made up of Irish Americans, who served in the army during the American Civil War. The Irish Brigade was well-known for its famous war cry, "Faugh a ballagh", meaning "clear the way". Only the 1st Vermont Brigade and the Iron Brigade suffered more combat deaths than the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War, according to Fox's Regimental Losses.

My Wild Geese heroes fought with the 69th New York Volunteers, the Fighting 69th, which was largely made up of the pre-war 69th New York Militia. The unit gained notoriety prior to the Civil War, when Colonel Michael Corcoran refused an order to parade the regiment for the Prince of Wales during his visit to New York City.

Under General Thomas Francis Meagher, the Irish Brigade fought bravely and won honor in many campaigns, including Bull Run, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.

The brigade suffered its most severe casualties in the battle of Fredericksburg, losing almost 1400 men. The brigade assaulted the sunken road in front of Marye's Heights, where another predominantly Irish regiment, under the command of Brigadier General Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, defended the road. Knowing that Cobb's men manned the wall, and that both Cobb's and Meagher's units contained members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, an organization dedicated to gaining military experience in the United States and using it to  free Ireland from Britain after the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee ordered reserves sent to the position.

He needn’t have worried. Before the reinforcements had time to settle into place, Cobb's men had devastated the Irish Brigade. It’s said that Lee allegedly referred to Meagher's regiment as the "Fighting 69th" at Fredericksburg.

My heroes fought for the Union, but many Irish fought for the Confederacy. Stories abound about Irishmen from a single village facing each other in battle.

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