"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Irish in 19th Century America

In this year, marking the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of that cataclysm known locally as the Late Unpleasantness, I offer this Friday reflection on the role of the Irish in the war. Many Irish immigrants, fresh off the boats from Ireland in the aftermath of the great famine, and their impoverished brethren already here, were pressed into service with the Union army. The Federal government went so far as to attempt direct recruiting efforts in Ireland itself.
The Irish had suffered from discrimination, and outright persecution in New York, Boston, and other northern cities in the years leading up to the war. Their relationship with the Yankee Republic had always been a tense one. In the war against Mexico some Irish in the U.S. army questioned the whole enterprise of Protestant Manifest Destiny at the expense of Catholic Mexico, and defected to form the San Patricio Battalion:

But most Irish sought to assimilate, and hoped that service for the Union would establish their patriotic bona fides. During the war, the Irish contingents were often thrown into hopeless attacks, from the slopes of Marye's Heights in Fredericksburg, to the Sunken Lane at Antietam. As the war dragged on, many Irish became disillusioned with the role they were asked to play in it. The institution of the draft helped stoke the fires of disillusionment, as many impoverished Irish saw it as discriminatory against the poor, since a man could buy out of the draft with a $300 payment. It is not surprising, then, that a young Irishman might have these sentiments:


Marie Owens said...

I wrote to you last week, but I havent heard back from you yet so I thought I would send another comment just to make sure you received my request. Sorry, I couldnt find your contact information on your blog. I have been reading your blog for the past few weeks and I was wondering if you accept guest posts? I have a topic that would strike your interest. Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

Anonymous said...


I replied last week, I was interested in knowing a little about your background and what you'd like to post about.

Reach me at mckennat@chesterfield.gov