Professor Grady McWhiney of the University of Alabama, and Perry Jamieson, Historian at the Strategic Air Command, USAF, Offut AFB, Nebraska, in their book, Attack and Die, published in 1982, make the case that Southerners lost the war because they were too Celtic. This was based on the way the South fought, and certain Southern attitudes that reflected a Celtic influence.

The Southern code of honor was one such attitude. It was enforced by the duel. To the North, dueling was a cruel and barbaric butchery of manhood. Military tradition was also very important in the South. There were more Southern "Colonels" than Southern regiments, not to mention Majors and Captains.

Jefferson Davis is quoted as saying in 1861 to an English observer:

because of our fondness for military titles and displays (you) have commented on the number of generals, and colonels, and majors all over the (southern) states ...we are a military people.

We are not less military because we have had no great standing armies. But perhaps we are the only people in the world where gentlemen go to a military academy who do not intend to follow the profession of arms.

In the South, Military companies were often a fraternal place for men to gather, to wear uniforms, and dance in military balls. The military companies had organized singing, dancing, eating, drinking, gambling, riding, hunting, fishing, and fighting. It was all very Southern and very Celtic.

The North, on the otherhand, disdained things military and saw it only as a necessary evil. The Southern soldier was said to have had dash, elan, and enthusiasm; while the Northern soldier was practical, materialistic, tenacious, even machinelike.

There was a cultural difference between the two. Southerners were generally hospitable, generous, frank, wasteful, impetuous, reckless, perhaps even a little lawless. All of which can also be said of most Celts. The Northerners took pride in their reserve, thrift, shrewdness, and enterprise.

The Old South was basically an agrarian economy. A man's word was more important than a written contract; an after dinner cigar was a tradition, as was the consumption of alcohol. In the North, these attitudes were looked upon with suspicion or disrespect. But the big difference between the North and South was how they fought. In this the South had a very Celtic approach.

The South believed in controlling the offensive...attacking and charging. With the charge, there was the yell, also very Celt like. When these did not carry the day, like the Celts against Rome, the rebel became weary and tragic.

The South lost 175,000 soldiers in the first twenty seven months of the war. Eighty thousand fell in just five battles due to the attack tactic. Confederate forces attacked in eight of the first twelve battles of the war, losing 97,000 men. The South lost 20,000 more men than the North lost in the same battles.


Mort Kunstler's painting of the 10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment,

"The Sons of Erin" For lithographs go to mkunstler.com

The Irish were an important part of both armies. William J. Miller, editor of The Civil War, the magazine of the Civil War Society, wrote in the 1991 March-April, which was dedicated to the Irish:

No other group of immigrants, including the Germans, played as large a role on virtually every major battlefield.

In the South, the Southern Watchman of Athens, Georgia reported this about the Irish,

Everywhere in the Confederate States they have been among the foremost to volunteer, and among the most liberal in contributing to the comfort of the brave soldiers in the field.

Carl Wittke in The Irish In America reported,

Confederate Generals spoke highly of Irish soldiers. Some preferred them as clean, fearless fighters who were loyal to their leaders and whose irrepressible humor did not fail them even in moments of greatest danger.

The Irish joined the armies of the North and South for a number of reasons, not a few, joined for the reasons articulated by Donegal native, James McKay Rorty in a letter to his parents:

...apart from the motives of self interest, and the higher one of attachment to, and veneration for the Constitution, which urged me to defend it at all risks, there is one other, and a deeper one still which weighed heavily with me, namely the hope that the military knowledge or skill which I may acquire might thereafter be turned to account in the sacred cause of my native land.

Don Gallon's representation of the Union Irish Brigade as they squared up to face the South Carolina Brigade of General Joseph B. Kershaw at Gettysburg. For a lithograph go to www.gallon.com

There were many Irish units fighting for the South: The Tigers, the Irish Brigade, the Sarsfield Guards (originally called Captain O'Hara's Sarsfield Guards), the Southern Celts (known as Steve O'Leary's Southern Celts, the Irish Volunteers; the Irish Tartars; Taylor's Irish Regiment, represented Louisiana; the Emmet Guards and Montgomery Guards were the names of units from both Virginia and Louisiana. The Emerald Guard came from Alabama. The Alabama unit carried a standard with a harp and shamrock on one side of the Confederate Flag. The Confederate flag itself, the Stars and Bars of the battle flag, is based on a design using the Cross of Saint Patrick.

The uniforms of the Emerald Guard were dark green. The Howell Guards, from Richmond, Virginia, were privately raised and outfitted by Irishman George Washington Parkhill. His unit's gray uniform was trimmed in Erin's green. The Emerald Light Infantry hailed from South Carolina as did a unit known as the Irish Volunteers. One Louisiana Irish unit was originally called the Meagher Rifles but changed the name to honor another Irish hero of the same period when it became known Meagher supported the Union. The unit became the Mitchell Guards

There were many units not formerly named Irish that, nevertheless, had more Irish than any other nationality among its members. One of these was the Violet Guards of New Orleans. Another was that of Irish born General Patrick Cleburne who commanded the Fifth Confederate Regiment, mostly from Arkansas. For a listing of Celtic Units (mostly Irish, with some Scottish and one Cornish unit) in the Civil War use this link >


Patrick Ronayne Cleburne rose from Private to Major General in Confederate service. He had a brother in the Union service. Patrick Cleburn would have gone even further in his career. Cleburne had many things against him: he was foreign born; he did not graduate from West Point instead his training was in the British service and his friends were the political enemies of Jefferson Davis.

The most damaging item against Cleburne was his idea to fill the manpower gap of the Confederate military in the latter part of the war. Cleburne joined with some others in January of 1864 to suggest to Davis " a large reserve of the most courageous slaves." The document outlying the suggestion went on to say more about the use of the Negro slave:

If we arm and train him and make him fight for the Country in her hour of distress, every consideration of principle and policy demand that we should set him and his whole race who side with us free.

A leading Confederate official was quoted as saying: "If slaves will make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong." Known as the "Stonewall of the West", Cleburne's rise in the ranks was halted after this suggested use of the slaves as a Confederate reserve force.

In November of 1865, General Cleburne, as a member of John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee, was preparing an attempt to take Tennessee back for the Confederacy. During a lull in the movement north, General Cleburne was found in an idyllic churchyard in Columbia, Tennessee. Coming out of his reverie, Cleburne mentioned to the staff officer who located him in his moment of reflection, that it

would be almost worth dying for to be buried in such a beautiful spot.

Days later General Patrick R. Cleburne was laid to rest in the idyllic churchyard that had beckoned to him. Cleburne died in the unnecessary slaughter at Franklin, Tennessee. The South lost eleven generals killed or wounded, another was captured. 6,000 young southern men died in six fruitless charges. Cleburne, Texas is named for this gallant soldier.

General Patrick Cleburne at the Battle of Franklin by Don Gallon. To Purchase a lithograph go to Dongallon.com

As to the issue of arming the negro, there were negroes in the Confederate Army or rather with the army accompanying the families they served. On more than one occasion they became involved in battle firing weapons on the side of the Confederates. When the western states of the confederacy were beginning to feel seperated from the rest of the confederacy in late 1863, the governor of Louisiana, Thomas Moore; the Governor of Texas, Francis R. Lubbock; the Governor of Arkansas, Harris Flanigan and the Confederate Governor of Missouri, Taos C. Reynolds met with General Kirby asking him to arm negros and form volunteer companies.

In the late days of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis did pass a law providing for the conscription of slaves, these units were still in training when the war was over. Some blacks did assist the South as draymen, warehousemen, cooks helpers etcetera. Whether they were doing it of free will or not is not known.

There were, of course, many negros in the Union service. The first Negro Union officer was Major M. Delaney. There were many men of color in the U.S. Navy and they were integrated with other navy personnel.