In Search of "Scots-Irish" Information
The term Scots-Irish or Scotch-Irish came into vogue during the mid-nineteenth century, when The Great Hunger drove thousands of Irish Catholic immigrants to the United States . Protestant Americans whose ancestors had come from Ireland, usually from the province of Ulster, began to use the term Scots-Irish for themselves. Despite the many generations of their families that may have lived in Ireland before emigrating to America, and some had been there for more than two centuries, they did not want to be associated with the persecuted and vilified Irish Catholics. The actual point of this new racial designation was, "Yes, we are from Ireland, but we aren't Catholic." The fact that the Celtic Scots originated in Ireland makes this Scots-Irish label all the more meaningless, but this designation, born in prejudice, is now ingrained in genealogical nomenclature.
With that bit of definition out of the way, Leslie Gilmore, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is collecting information on the participation of the so called Scots-Irish in the American Civil War. Gilmore is looking for help from people who have information about any Civil War soldiers who fought for either side and qualify for this designation. Several Generals on both sides, such as Grant, Stuart, Longstreet, McDowell and "Stonewall" Jackson, are listed by Gilmore as being Scots-Irish. If you think you have any information that will be helpful, you can send it to:
71 Kirkliston Park
Belfast, Northern Ireland BT5 6ED
(If you disagree with my assessment of the origin of the Scots-Irish designation, let us know using the e-mail link on the bottom of the page. JG)
THE DEADLIEST DAY:
"He like a soldier fell."
Inscription on the wooden cross on the grave of Capt.
Patrick Clooney, 88th NY, killed at Antietam.
In the little town of Sharpsburg, Md there is a lazy creek call Antietam . On September 17th, 1862 that little town and that lazy creek were witness to a great Civil War battle. In the south it was called the Battle of Sharpsburg, in the north they called it the Battle of Antietam ; by either name it was the bloodiest single day in US military history. It was also a deadly day in the history of one of the most famous brigades of the Civil War, Meagher's Irish Brigade. The brigade had already been bloodied during the Peninsula campaign and there was another nightmare in their immediate future at Fredericksburg, but this day would be as harrowing as any they would ever endure.
The Irish Brigade was in the 1st Division of the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac, many say it was the best division of the best Corps of the AOP; that Corps would lose more men during the war than any other in the Federal army, and a large percentage of that number would be left on the fields around Sharpsburg, Md. The chance finding of a copy of R.E . Lee's orders to his Corps commanders on Sept. 13, wrapped around two cigars, lead directly to the battle at Sharpsburg. The finding of this order caused AOP commander George McClellan to move much faster than his normal snails pace in bringing on the battle; still most historians think he should have moved faster, and taken greater advantage of the golden opportunity to destroy Lee's scattered Army of North Virginia that fell into his lap on the 13th. As it was McClellan very nearly destroyed the ANV that day; any number of small changes in the battle could have led to a southern rout. As the Irish Brigade approached the battlefield, an artillerymen overheard one Irishman yell, "Boys, we will see some fighting now." Had he known what an understatement that was, he and rest of the Brigade may have had a very hard time continuing their march.
The mission assigned to the Irish Brigade during the battle was a formidable one. Around midmorning they were sent against a position which nature and thousands of wagons had turned into a reasonable facsimile of the defensive fortifications both sides would begin to intentionally dig every time they prepared for a battle later in the war . One of the Confederate commanders in this sunken roadbed was Georgian Col. John B. Gordan, one of the finest southern commanders of the war. By the time the sun went down on this day, Gordon would be severely wounded and near death, over 500 of the Irish Brigade would lie dead or wounded in front of Gordon's position, and that sunken road, the bottom carpeted with the bodies of Confederate soldiers, would forever be known as "Bloody Lane."
As the Brigade moved out, with the regiments lined up right to left, 69th NY, 29th MA, 63rd NY and 88th NY, Father Corby, their chaplain, rode out in front of them to offer absolution. As the Brigade stepped off, southern artillery opened fire on them and Irish bodies began to mingle with the bodies Kimball's Brigade had left all over the field before them. The Brigade stopped to take down a fence under fire, and casualties continued.
Meagher's plan was to overrun the Confederate position without stopping to fire until they were almost in the face of the rebels. Many commander's had very similar plans at numerous other battles during the carnage of the Civil War, and most of the time the rifled musket negated those plans with a vengeance, this time would be no exception. As the Brigade advanced they were fired on by the Posey's Mississippi brigade from the left; the 63rd NY took horrendous casualties from this volley. At that point the Brigade stopped and poured a tremendous fire into the Mississippians with their smooth bore muskets loaded with "buck and ball ," a combination of a 69 caliber musket ball and three large buckshot, which were deadly at this close range. The routed Mississippians retreated to the road.
But the confrontation had stopped the Brigade's progress and fire from the road was continuing to drop men from the ranks. As they moved forward again they came to the crest of a rise some thirty yards in front of the and were halted by sheet of flame as the Confederates fired a volley into their faces. The staggering ranks of the Brigade then lay on the ground as they fired back at the rebels, so well hidden below the protecting road bed. Meagher tried several times to organize a bayonet charge but no soldiers would have done so. At one point Meagher was overheard yelling to Col. Francis Barlow, commander of a regiment of Caldwell's brigade, which was in reserve, "Colonel, for God's sake come and help me!" But Barlow yelled back that he could not move without orders. Soon Meagher's horse was shot from under him and he was carried from the field.
The Brigade was being devastated by the rebel fire. Eight color bearers fell in the 69th NY that day. Capt. James McGee would end the day with their green flag in his hands, the staff cut in two and the banner, like all the other Brigade flags, cut to pieces. Capt. Patrick Clooney of the 88th NY grabbed the 88th's green flag and, in spite of a bullet in his knee, tried to urge his men forward, but bullets hit him in the chest and head and he slumped to the ground and died. Capt. Jack Gosson, of Meagher's staff, had one horse shot from under him and procured another which soon took and bullet in the nose. The horse continued to support Gosson through the battle but covered him so thoroughly with blood that those who saw him were sure he was mortally wounded.
In spite of the Confederate's well protected defensive position, the buck and ball of the Brigade was also taking a heavy toll on them; but the Irish were rapidly running out of ammunition, not to mention men. Their division commander, Israel Richardson called up Caldwell's brigade to relieve the beleaguered Irishmen. At that point there occurred one of the most remarkable withdrawals under fire by any regiment during any battle of the war.
Most units who found themselves in this sort of situation during the war retreated in much disorder once the order came; God knows that most brigades would have been routed from that field long before they ran out of ammunition. The Brigade rose up, formed column and "broke files to the rear," ignoring the fire of the Confederates, disdaining it, as if on a parade ground, practicing brigade drill. As the brigade came off the field Gen Richardson called out to the men of the 88th NY, "Bravo, 88th, I shall never forget you!" He had little chance to break that promise, he would be dead within minutes, killed by a rebel shell fragment.
Shortly after the Irish withdrew the road was taken by the fresh regiments that came up; but most who observed the fight agreed that the Irish Brigade deserved the lion's share of the credit for taking the position. having softened up the Confederate opposition in the road.
The Brigade that came off the field at Antietam was a shadow of the one that marched out. The 29th MA, which would soon leave the Brigade to be replaced by the Irish 28th MA, had been partially shielded by a dip in the ground during the fight and suffered only 28 casualties; but the three Irish regiments from NY, who went in with slightly under a thousand men, lost approximately 512 that day. The day before the battle the Brigade had received 120 recruits; they had been offered provost duty that day but they asked to fight instead and 75 of them lay dead or wounded on the field. What had been the Irish Brigade had been whittled down to the strength of a regiment in one day; less than two months later, at Fredericksburg, it would take one more day to reduce them to a battalion.
The battle was over, the dead lay in heaps,
Pat Murphy lay bleeding and gory.
A hole in his head, from a rifleman's shot
Had ended his passion for glory.
No more in the camp shall his laughter be heard,
Or his songs he was singin'so gaily.
He died like a hero, in the Land of the Free,
Far away from the Land of Shillelagh.
"Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade."
Bilby, Joseph G. Remember Fontenoy! Longstreet House - 1995
Boyle, Frank A. A Party of Mad Fellows Morningside House, Inc. - 1996
Cavanagh, Michael Memoirs of Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher Olde Soldier Books, Inc.
Conyngham, Capt. D. P. The Irish Brigade Olde Soldier Books, Inc.
Priest, John Michael Antietam: The Soldiers Battle White Mane Publishing Company, Inc. - 1989
GEN. TOM SMYTH HONORED IN DELAWARE
On April 9th, 1865, the day the Civil War came to an end with Robert E. Lee's surrender in Appomattox, VA, the life of one of the heroes of that great victory came to an end, as well. Near Farmville, VA, Tom Smyth, the last Union General to die in the war, succumbed to the sharpshooters bullet that had gone through his mouth and shattered a vertebra two days earlier during the Battle of Farmville, the last major battle the Army of the Potomac fought.
Recently reenactors from the 2nd Delaware and the 12th NJ meet at Smyth's gravesite in Brandywine Cemetery, Wilmington, Delaware, to pay tribute to him. The units laid wreaths of purple and white flowers at his grave before marching to the GAR section of the cemetery and placing wreaths in honor of all the men of Delaware who served in the Civil War.
General Smyth was born in Ballyhooley, Co. Cork, Ireland on December 25, 1832 and immigrated to the US in 1854. He later went to Nicaragua with William Walker's expedition in the 50's before settling in Wilmington, Del. in 1858. He recruited a company in the Irish 24th Penn. at the beginning of the Civil War and was appointed its Capt. When the units time expired he secured a spot as a major in the 1st Del.
Smyth would eventually rise to command of his regiment and then his brigade, the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Division of the 2nd Corps. At the time of his wounding, during the Appomattox campaign, he was commanding the 3rd division of the 2nd Corps. He commanded the Irish Brigade, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the 2nd Corps from Feb. to May of 1864. He was the third man who had commanded the Irish Brigade to die in battle, joining Col. Patrick Kelly, killed at Petersburg, and Col. Richard Byrnes, killed at Cold Harbor.
In his book "Generals in Blue," (1964) Ezra J. Warner calls Smyth, "an unsung Irish hero of the Civil War." In a footnote for the entry he claims, "The Irish American Historical in New York is barely aware of his Irish birth, to say nothing of his accomplishments and antebellum career." If that was true in 1964, it has hopefully been rectified by now. The reenactors of the 2nd Del. and the 12th NJ have done their part to see General Tom Smyth is not forgotten, now or in the future.
Although Smyth only commanded the Irish Brigade for a brief time, in his "The Irish Brigade and Its Campaigns" Conyngham notes the affection the Brigade had for him, citing this poem written by Dr. Reynolds, Surgeon of the Brigade. It ends:
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