Another unit that did not have an Irish name but was made up mostly of Irish was the Fifth Regiment from New Orleans. Two units from Texas that fall into this category were the Wigfall Guards from Galveston and the Jefferson Davis Guard from Houston and Galveston. A Texas unit was named for Irishman Walter P. Lane. A unit from Virginia was known formally as the 1st Virginia Battalion, and informally as the Irish Battalion. This unit is notable in that it was the only unit that served as a cadre for the Regular Confederate Army.

Irish units of the North included the Irish Zouaves, made up of firemen from New York City. Other New york units were a Scottish Regiment, the Irish Rifles (37th N.Y. Volunteer Regiment), the Corcoran Legion (155th, 164th, 170th and 182nd N.Y. Volunteer Regiments) and the Connaught Rangers. The latter was made up of veterans from the British Army in India. More New York units included the Jackson Guard, The Irish Brigade (63rd, 69th, 88th N. Y. Volunteers, and the Irish Legion. There was also a unit called the Irish Legion from Illinois. Also from Illinois were the Illinois 19th and 23rd Irish Regiments. From other states, there were the Irish Ninth (9th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment) from Massachusetts and the Montgomery Guards from Milwaukee. Units that were mostly Irish included the Twentyeighth Massachusetts, the Fifteenth Maine, the Ninth Connecticut, the Sixty Ninth Pennsylvania, the Twentyfourth Pennsylvania, the Second Philadelphia, the 116th Pennsyvania Volunteers, the Tenth Ohio, the Eleventh and Seventeenth Wisconsin Infantry, the Thirtyfifth and Sixtyfirst Indiana, and the Missouri Seventh Infantry regiments. The battle cry of the 28th Massachusetts was Faugh A Ballaugh, which in Gaelic means clear the way.


A surprisng number of these Irish units noted above, North and South, were on the field during the critical battle at Gettysburg (Named after a Major James Getty who was Irish and to whom William Penn granted the site prior to 1780). General Robert E. Lee was in command of the Confederate force and General George Meade was in command of Union forces. Both were Celts. The three day battle (July 1-3, 1863) began when New York dismounted cavalry under the command of Colonel William Gamble of County Tyrone attacked Confederates located on a farm owned by a Mr McPherson.

Colonel Patrick O'Rorke stopped the Confederate assault on Little Roundtop that saved the day for the Union on the 2 July. The 69th Pennsylvania, on the last day, absorbed a good part of the Confederates bold last move, Pickett's Charge. The 69th Pennsylvania's commander, Colonel Dennis O'Kane, died in that action. Another unit that helped blunt Pickett's charge was an artillery battery commanded by James McKay Rorty, who is quoted a few pages back. He died helping to defeat Pickett's Charge.

There is a book in the works by Jack McCormack, a Civil War and Irish historian about the Irish soldiers at Gettysburg, that will provide more detail for the interested reader.

We can not list all the soldiers of Celtic connection that were in the war, a look at the generals will give you an idea. There were many Confederate Generals with a Celtic heritage. We have already mentioned most of those from Texas as well as, Robert E. Lee, Patrick Cleburne and Stonewall Jackson. Add to that list the likes of Irishmen Walter P. Lane and John Lewis Hogg. Hogg's family was from Ireland, he served in the Mexican War as a Private. General Hogg's son would be a Governor of Texas.

More Celtic generals in the Confederate service were: Ben and Henry McCulloch; John D. McAdoo; Major General Leonidas Polk, who was an Episcopal minister and former Bishop of New Orleans; General John H. Kelly, and Major General Lafayette McClaws. Major General Samuel Bell Maxey, John D. Kennedy, Thomas Eagan, James Connor, Ranald MacKenzie, James B. Gordon, Alexander Stewart, Jesse J. Finley, John H. Fagan, E. A. O'Neal, General John McCausland, General Sam McGowan, General John A. McDowell McCook, General James A. McPherson, General James Fagan, Generals James E. and Thomas Harrison (their mother was Harriet Kelly), and Joseph Finnegan were among the more than 40 Celtic Confederate general officers.

Hagan, Finnegan, Moore and Lane were all born in Ireland. McGlashan was born in Scotland. He rose from Private to General and was the last general commissioned by Jefferson Davis.

The North, too, had Irishmen and other Celts as general officers. Besides Grant, there was Winfield Scott, who was General of the Army in 1861 (Scott had the distinction of serving as a general in three wars; 1812, Mexican and the Civil War), Irwin McDowell, Philip Kearny, Nathaniel Lyon, George Meade, George B. McClellan, Eugene Carr, Benjamin Franklin Butler, Philip Sheridan, William Tecumseh Sherman, John A. McClernand, James J. Shields, James Patterson, Patrick E. Connor, Thomas Francis Meagher, George Croghan, Michael Corcoran, Christopher "Kit" Carson, and many, many more.

Other Celts due a mention are: Colonel Jeb Stuart, the very able Confederate Cavalry officer, his Chief of Staff was Major H. B. McClellan a first cousin of Union General George B. McClellan; The "Gray Ghost", Colonel John Moseby (his mother was Virginia McLaurine), his unit was called the Tam O'Shanter Rebels; Sister Anthony (Mary O'Connell) of the Sisters of Charity, who earned the sobriquet "America's Florence Nightingale"; Rose O'Neal, a Confederate spy; Scotsman John Burns, a 71 year old called the "Hero of Gettysburg" a name he earned by example. President Lincoln personally thanked Burns for his contribution. The photographer of the Civil War, Matthew Brady was another Irishman.

John Burns

Commodore Franklin Buchanan, the first head of the United States Naval Academy, commanded the C.S.S. Virginia, formerly the Merrimac, when it engaged and defeated the U.S.S. Congress. The day before it met the Monitor. One of the officers on board the Union ship was his brother.

Mrs. Bridget Divers was an Irish woman in the tradition of Molly Pitcher. She served as nurse and surgeon to her husband's unit, the 1st Michigan Calvary. Known as the "Irish Biddy", she often took the place of men unable to perform their duty. She stood guard, manned the pickets and other military chores. In the Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven pines, she rallied a retreating regiment and took it back into action.

Colonel Richard Byrnes, Brigadier General James Rowan O'Bierne, Captain Peter Rafferty, and Lieutenant Colonel Frances J. Herron were all in the war, Irish, and recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At the Battle of Gaines Mill, as depicted by Don Troiani, the 69th NY Volunteer Infantry arrives to support the 9th Massachusett Regiment. Both units were Irish and Troiani titled the picture "Brothers of Ireland" Lithographs can be purchased at

The point to be made is not that the Celts lost or won the war for one side or the other, but that they were important contributors on both sides. Their contribution was sought and encouraged. Both the Confederates and the Union, sent recruiters to Ireland; both, also, sent envoys to the Pope.

Irish born, Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston, South Carolina was appointed by President Jefferson Davis as Confederate commissioner to the Papal States. Bishop Lynch's mission was to persuade the Pope to condemn the Union use of Irish immigrants in their army. President Abraham Lincoln sent Archbishop Hughes of New York as his envoy to Europe. Archbishop Hughes first stop was at the Vatican.

The Irish and other Celt's contribution to the war effort was well recognized. Most historians agree that when these men got home from the war, they and their's were thereafter treated with more respect than previous to the war.

Though many Confederate records were lost, the best estimate by scholars is that the north lost 100,000 more men than the South in the Civil War. The Irish units were among the hardest fighting and hardest hit units on both sides. The New York Irish Brigade carried 7,000 men on its roster at the peak of the war. When the unit returned to New York, there were only 1,000 men left. The Fighting 69th, one of its units, lost 16 of 19 officers and 75% casualties among its enlisted men. A Company B of the Louisiana Confederate unit also known as the Irish Brigade left Louisiana with 100 men and returned with just two!

Of the 546 nuns known to have served as battlefield nurses during the war, 289 (53%) were from Ireland.

As to the matter of the South being of a Celtic nature, and the North of an AngloSaxon nature, I cannot agree. As much as I would love to claim the South for Celts everywhere, I think the difference in attitudes discussed above had more to do with the difference in latitudes. Hot, muggy climates, a feature shared by most all the South, tend to slow people down and make them seek more comfort. People were united in their discomfit and became more neighborly. A ready friendliness, more immediate than in the North, is offered in the South. The North was largely urban, people tended to insulate themselves from others. The South was largely rural and has a spirit related to the frontier where people were more social and pulled together as a community. The frontier tradition remained a part of the South long after the frontier moved West.

To say the South fought an offensive war and to imply the North did not, does not stand scrutiny. Except for Lee's brief campaigns in Maryland and Pennsylvania that ended in the defeats at Antietam and Gettysburg, the North brought the war to and kept the war in the South. Most all the major battles were fought on Southern soil.


The Irish were there for Texas during the Civil War, and everyone noticed. After the war there was distinctly less prejudice than before. Texan scorn was directed at the carpetbaggers and scalawags of the Reconstruction Period. Unfortunately, any Union official was painted with this same brush, despite the fact some were attempting to administer Texas as best as possible under the circumstances.



Before we leave the Civil War, I must tell you about the picture on the left. During my research I found it in a nook and attached to it was a note saying it was the only photograph of the Sabine Pass Battleground area immediatly after the war and shows Union troops on patrol. I have held back posting it as I have tried for years to verify it, but feel I must put it out there for others to judge or comment on.