Friday, February 17, 2012

Union and Confederate Irishmen in the American Civil War

Although some Irish Catholics had lived in America since the colonial period, there was no significant immigration to the United States until the Potato Famine in Ireland (1845-1853). According to the 1860 census, well over one and a half million Americans claimed to have been born in Ireland. The majority of these lived in the North. Irish Catholics faced both religious and ethnic prejudice from the then largely Anglo-Saxon population. Coming upon a group of Irish women chanting “the keen”, a traditional Gaelic lament, after a number of their men had been killed, George Templeton Strong wrote, “It was an uncanny sound to hear; quite new to me….Our Celtic fellow citizens are almost as remote from us in temperament and constitution as the Chinese.” Some 150,000 Irish soldiers served in the Union army, and 25,000 in the Confederate army.

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