CONFEDERATE CELTIC CONNECTIONS

One of the designers of the Great Seal of the Confederate States, shown to the left, was J. H. Foley.

The most popular song in the South during the Confederacy and years after was Dixie. Dixie was written by Irishman Daniel D. Emmet. The second most popular song in the Confederacy was also written by an Irishman. He was Dublin born Harry McCarthy. The song was entitled The Bonnie Blue Flag. The bonnie blue flag was a Texas battle flag that featured the single five-pointed Texas star centered on a field of royal blue. Even though the song was about a Texas flag, it was sung throughout the South. Another popular song of the day was When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, it was written by Irishman Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore.

The poet, and a chaplain of the Confederacy was Father Abram J. Ryan. He emigrated with his parents from Clonmell, Ireland. He was a free lance Confederate chaplain during the war. His most famous poem was "The Conquered Banner." He also wrote "The Sword of Robert E. Lee" and other good poems. In Mobile, Alabama there stands the statue pictured to the right honoring this Confederate cleric.

The Union side, too, had chaplains who were Irish, especially the Irish units. Sergeant Edward McCaffrey wrote of his unit's (63rd New York Regiment) chaplains, Father James M. Dillon C. S. C. (Congregatio Sanctae Crucis, Congregation of Holy Cross, a religious order), and Father Paul E. Gillen, C. S. C.:

I have seen them both attending the dying soldier on the field when death's messengers flew thick and fast around them.

 

 

Father William Corby, C. S. C., assembled the 28th Massachusetts on their way into battle at Gettysburg, to give them the Last Rites of the Catholic Church. Standing on a rock while bullets were whizzing about, Father Corby blessed the men and gave them absolution. Father Corby survived Gettysburg to become the President of Notre Dame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This painting of the event was done by artist Brad Schmehl.

 

 

 

The Confederate submarine, the only submarine in the Civil War was built in part because of the efforts of Celts. Among these were: Robert W. Dunn of Lavaca who when not helping with marine mines (which Farragut termed torpedos)was blowing up Union trains; James Jones also of Lavaca and James McClintock of New Orleans, as well as others. McClintock and Baxter Watson had built a submarine in New Orleans only to have the project overtaken by The Union's control of that city. They moved to Mobile and worked on other submarines until they had one that worked. They named it after their chief financial backer, Horace L.Hunley. The C.S.S. Hunley successfully sank the U.S.S. Housatonic, the first sinking of a warship by a submarine. It would not happen again for half a century. The submarine is pictured below in a painting by Conrad Wise Chapman. It is thought Jones and Dunn built other submarines, one possibly in Galveston.

< James McClintock

MEANWHILE ...BACK IN TEXAS

Focusing on actions in Texas during the War Between the States means pointing to an Irishman who was involved in the first and last battles of the American Civil War in Texas. He was John Salmon Ford.

...........................................................................Colonel John Salmon Ford >

After the events of February and March, 1861 in Texas, during which the Texas militia took over federal facilities and declared itself for the Confederacy, it was inevitable there would be a clash of arms. The first in Texas, began the same day as the attack on Fort Sumter.

It happened in southeast Texas in a little known incident begun by a Tejano, Antonio Ochoa (pronounced as in O'Choa), who declared himself a Unionist. Ochoa began to organize men and declared publicly against the Confederacy. Most of his followers were sympathizers of Juan Cortinas. On April 12, 1861, Ochoa's men went to the Zapata County seat, Carrizo (the name was later changed to Zapata), and delivered to County Judge Isidoro Vela and County Sheriff Pedro Diaz, a copy of Ochoa's pronounciamento (declaration). Ochoa said he would hang either of them or any other county official that took the oath to the Confederacy.

Colonel Ford sent his Confederate cavalry unit under Captain Matt Dunn to Zapata County. The 22 Rangers under Dunn's leadership and with Judge Vela and Sheriff Diaz along, rode to Clarendo where Ochoa had a ranch. At the ranch an announcement was made that the Rangers had warrants for the arrest of various named individuals starting with Ochoa, and asked them to step forward. The Mexicans began to file out of the main ranch building in an orderly manner when someone fired a shot. In the next few minutes, nine of the Mexicans lay dead.

Ochoa and most of his gang were not at the ranch, but across the Rio Grande in Mexico. Trouble continued in Zapata County.

On 21 April, Cortinas and Ochoa were in Carrizo preparing to sack the town. Captain Benevides of the Texas Rangers and a small detachment sent by Colonel Ford surprised them. In the gunfight that followed, seven Mexicans were killed, fifteen were wounded, and eleven captured. Two more drowned trying to escape. There were no casualties or injuries to the Rangers. Benevides took no prisoners and there was no more trouble in Zapata County. Thus ended Texas' first incident as a Confederate State resulting in gunfire and deaths between those espousing the causes of the North and the South.

Not long after the incident, Colonel Ford was assigned other duties and was no longer in charge of the border area. In December of 1862, twenty men seized Judge Vela from his ranch and hung him.

SABINE CITY

In 1861, plans were begun in the Sabine area by the citizens of the city of Sabine to protect their port. They wanted to build a fort. One of the city leaders was R. D. Keith of Scottish ancestry. Keith, a local cotton merchant, was the Secretary of the committee to organize the building of the fort. He was also an artillery captain in the local militia.

The city of Sabine was called by some Sabine City, and by others Sabine Pass. It was sometimes called the latter because access to the city and its port from the Gulf of Mexico was through Sabine Pass, a narrow and shallow channel of water. Above the city and the channel was Sabine Lake into which the Sabine and Neches Rivers emptied.

The city of Sabine was built on land owned by a Celt, John McGaffey. One of the original developers of the city was another Celt, Sam Houston. At the start of the Civil War, a spur was built to connect the city with Beaumont and the Texas-New Orleans railroad line. With the connection to Beaumont, the port at Sabine City grew in importance. The Confederacy needed ports to ship its principle export to market.

KING COTTON?

Cotton was the one industry dominated by the South. For years the South was tolerated in its increasing anti-Union attitudes, to keep open the main source of cotton for the northern mills. The Confederate government planned to use cotton as an economic tool in the war, by denying the North a needed commodity.

Many Northern and European industries depended on cotton for their business. By selling more cotton to the European nations at the expense of that cotton normally provided the United States, the Confederacy could raise currency for both their treasury and their sovereignty, while at the same time put the North in an economic decline. The North threatened a blockade of Southern ports.

It was obvious to both the North and South that such a blockade would most hurt England. One fifth of the population of England depended on the manufacture of cotton goods for their livelihood. About 80% of that cotton came from the U. S. South. The Confederate States of America counted on the economic pressure a blockade would bring to England, and to a lesser extent, France.

The Confederates felt a Union blockade would actually work in their favor. The lack of cotton to feed the economies of England and France would in turn cause those countries to pressure the United States to recognize the C.S.A.. "The cards are in our hands and we will intend to play them out to the bankruptcy of every cotton factory in Great Britain and France for acknowledgement of our independence", stated an article in the Charleston Mercury.

Somebody shuffled the cards; it turned out the South was not holding the best hand. In 1860, there was a bumper crop of cotton. England bought a surplus. Soon there was a surplus of both raw materials and finished goods. There was a glut on the market and prices were depressed. The effect of the war, however, was to increase the value of the raw goods and the finished goods to many times their original value. This created a market and a new term, the blockade runner. In the beginning, the U. S. Navy had an advantage over the early blockade runners. The ships used by the blockade runners were standard ships of sail or steam. The blockading ships were supported by other naval vessels patrolling ever widening arcs out to sea. The steam blockade runner would be visible from over the horizon because of the brown plumes of smoke caused by burning low quality soft bituminous coal available in the South. The blockade runner's smoke was very different from the black plumes of the Union war ships burning hard anthracite coal from northern mines. Before the runner even saw a Union warship they would be closing in on her. Tactics changed and runners timed their arrivals off the Southern coast so as to arrive at twilight, high tide and moonless nights.

Nonetheless, ordinary ships were too slow and visible to escape the U. S. Navy. The blockade running trade then became almost entirely a British enterprise. Specially designed ships were built in England. They had low profiles, shallow draft and high speed. Their paddle-wheels were driven by steam engines that burned smokeless anthracite coal from Wales. These ships could make 17 knots - 18 knots. They were manned by experienced British sailors and commanded by many an officer of the Royal Navy who happened to be on leave. It is estimated that Private British investors spent perhaps £50 million on the runners ($250 million in US dollars, equivalent to about $2.5 billion in 2006 dollars).They would off load their cotton cargo taken from Atlantic coast southern ports to Nassau in the Bahamas, St. Georges harbor in Bermuda or Halifax, Nova Scotia. Some went to Havana, Cuba. Most went to Nassau and Bermuda where heavy ships from England had brought return cargo for the South consistenting of weapons, ammunition and hard to get and luxury items. The British freighters then took the cotton to England.

Two rare photographs of a blockade runner are shown below. This is the A.D. Vance in Nassau Harbor soon after the war when it was a Union ship. The blockade runner was built in Greenock, Scotland. The A.D. Vance, also called the Advance made 20 successful runs and had 40 close calls before it was caught.

Another view of the Advance

The pay for the officers and men on blockade runners was very high as were the profits. A captain could expect a salary of $5000 in gold for a single round trip between Nassau or St George and the Southern ports. Lower rankings were paid commensurate salaries: Chief Engineers ($2500), First Officer ($1250), and each member of the crew ($250). Pilots recruited in Wilmington or Charleston received $3750 for each round trip. The greatest profits for captains and officers came not from salaries but from private cargos that they carried in space allotted them by the owners, (e.g., one captain purchased 1000 pairs of corset stays in Glasgow which he sold in Wilmington several weeks later at a 1100% profit; he enjoyed the same return on toothbrushes). Shipowners, too, made an incredible profit: up to $425,000 for a single 3-day trip between Wilmington and either Nassau or St. George. Later there was a British-built but Confederate-owned fleet of blockade runners.

British speculators - English, Scots, Welsh and Irish - rented every available wharf, storehouse and warehouse, often at exorbitant rates. These warehouses in Nassau and St. Georges were loaded with huge cargoes of arms and ammunition, cannon, gunpowder, lead and other tools or weapons, plus huge amounts of smokeless anthracite coal from Wales awaiting transshipment. Bahamians and Bermudians as well made fortunes from the rents of the warehouses or the operation of boarding houses, bawdy houses, restaurants and taverns for the high spending sailors and others involved in the trade. Because of the dependence on Southern trade, sympathy for the Confederacy ran strong in the islands.

Because of the war, when England had gone through the surplus cotton it bought in 1860, the market stayed high. About 75%, or three fourths of a normal year's export, got to the foreign market aboard blockade runners during the years 1861-1865. The North, when it penetrated the South, made strenuous efforts to secure cotton and ship it to England to keep Britain from recognizing and supporting the South. Another factor that dethroned cotton from a king to a pawn in the Civil War was a serious wheat crop failure in Great Britain. Great Britain became dependent on the government of the United States for wheat grain to aid in the food crisis. After the food crisis passed, the trade was continued on a munitions for wheat basis that was mutually beneficial to both sides.

Nevertheless, there was in the British cabinet and French court an interest to support the Confederacy as a separate state. This was especially true in the early part of the war. During this period, the Confederate ships, Florida and Alabama, were built in England. The picture on the left depicts the Alabama (on the right) under construction in a British shipyard near Liverpool, England.

 

 

 

 

Confederate ship Florida as painted by William R. McGrath

At the end of 1862, when Lee was stopped in his advance up Maryland at Antietam, the mood in England was swaying back to keeping good relations with the United States. Some of the English still wanted the United States to emerge from the war as two countries as late as October 1863. This was clearly seen in a speech given by Prime Minister Gladstone (he was Scottish), in Newcastle, England, when he said, "We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North." This triggered the United States to tell representatives of Great Britain that if they so much as offered mediation, it would mean war.

Gladstone's remarks worked to the benefit of the North as it coalesced a strong support for the United States in England, and the subject was never made public again. The English public support for the North resulted in the seizure that same month, by the English government, of the Confederate ship, the Alexandria, and two ships known as "Laird Rams" under construction in British shipyards. The "Laird Rams" were ironclad steamers with a wrought iron ram that would have torn a hole in the wooden United States Navy