Celtic Units in American Civil War

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compiled by Gerard P. Moran

Before the war there were many ethnic based state militia companies that became absorbed into the war effort. Some pre-war ethnic oriented militia companies applied but were not accepted, most often because they could not field the required unit strength.

Most of the ethnic state militia companies had very distinctive uniforms that gave way to the conformity required by the regiments. Several, however, were allowed to keep some aspect of their original uniform such as a unit flag, guidon, hat, insignia or patch. One unit that was able to do this was the 35th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment known as the "1st Irish". Their original uniform was green, the uniform was changed to the regular Union uniform of the army.

Irish 1st soldier with Regimental flag


They were allowed to keep the distinctive green kepi they wore with the shamrock wreath and '1' insignia. The buttons on the sides had an Irish harp embossed on them. The men of the 35th Indiana proudly wore their green kepis throughout the war.

Another unit was the 12th Illinois Infantry also called the First Scotch Regiment.They lost their distinctive kilts but were able to retain their Tam O’Shanters with a plaid band until 1863.

 

The 79th New York Cameron Highlanders wore this Glengarry cap

Other distinctive Celtic head gear from Celtic militia that did not survive to be in the war –

Stovepipe hat of a Virginia Montgomery Guard unit with insignia detail

Head gear (Shako) with the plate shown in detail for a Catholic Irish Montgomery Guard militia unit in Boston that was organized in 1837 and dissolved 3 months later due to anti-Catholic pressure. The prodigious Irish participation in the Civil War went a long way to dispel that prejudice.

Some units only lasted weeks in war service before being absorbed, re-organized or even dissolved. Generally, both armies were organized as shown below from the National Park Service at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

 

 

As the war waged on and units suffered casualties, they were often consolidated into other units. Even then units were not kept up to strength. Most often in the Confederate Army there were many occasions of units being carried as Companies, Battalions or Regiments that were in actual strength only a shadow of their proper staffing.

Attrition took priority over retaining an ethnic identity as the war proceeded, and unit identities were diluted through the replacement of casualties with native-born soldiers. In the last two years of the war, unique ethnic regiments were, for the most part, reorganized out of existence.

Below are listed the known Celtic units in the American Civil War.

Militia companies of Scottish origin wearing full Highland uniforms were formed in both Northern and Southern states:

Alabama

Scotch Guards, Company I, 2nd Alabama Infantry Regiment, later Co A, 45th Alabama Infantry Regiment

Hillabee Highland, Company G, 25th Alabama Infantry Regiment

Arkansas

Clan McGregor, Company D, 7th Arkansas Infantry Regiment

Georgia

Highland Rangers, Company G. 1st Georgia Cavalry

Illinois

Soldier of the Chicago Highland Guard, First Scotch Regiment

By Don Troiani

12th Illinois Infantry also called the First Scotch Regiment

Cameron Highlanders, 65th Illinois Infantry Regiment, Second Scotch Regiment, 74% Scottish

Louisiana

Scotch Rifle Guards Belt Buckle with thistle motif

Scotch Rifle Guards, Company H, 21st Louisiana Infantry, afterwards Company C, 22nd Louisiana Infantry, from New Orleans

Maine

1st Battalion Maine Light Infantry

Mississippi

Scotland Guards, Company K, 5th Mississippi Infantry

New York

Cameron Highlanders; Company I, 59th Infantry

Cameron Highlanders; part of 78th Infantry(old)

Cameron Legion; Company K, 59th Infantry
Cameron Rifles; part of 59th Infantry.

Cameron Rifles ; 68th Infantry.

Cameron Rifle Highlanders ; Companies I and K, 102nd Infantry.

Cameron Rifle Highlanders ; Companies B and C, 78th Infantry (old)

Cameron Rifle Highlanders (new) ; 79th Infantry (part)

79th New York Cameron Highlanders by Don Troiani

Cameron Highlanders, 79th New York Infantry

Sons Of Auld Scotia, Company of New York Scotch Light Infantry from Albany

New Jersey

Highland Rangers, Company G. 1st Georgia Cavalry

North Carolina

Charlotte Artillery, Company C, 1st North Carolina Artillery

Dudley’s Battery, Company H, 2nd North Carolina Artillery

Highland Boys of North Carolina, Company, C, 24th North Carolina

Highland Guards. Company E, 45th North Carolina

Highland Rangers, Company D, 41st North Carolina : 3rd Carolina Cavalry

Highland Rangers, Company l, W.H. Thomas’ Infantry Legion, North Carolina

Moore County Scotch Riflemen, Company C, 35th North Carolina Infantry Regiment

Scotch Boys, Company F, Richmond County, average height 6’

Scotch Greys Artillery, McNair’s Company, North Carolina Artillery

afterwards Company E, 40th North Carolina Volunteers: 3rd North Carolina Artillery

Scottish Rifle Guards Company in 18th North Carolina Infantry Regiment

Scotch Tigers, Company D, 51stNorth Carolina Infantry Regiment

South Carolina

Hillabee Highland, Company, G. 25th Alabama

Scottish Guards, Company C in 17th South Carolina Militia Regiment

Tennessee

The Highlanders, Company K, afterwards Company F, 16th Tennessee

Virginia

Montgomery Highlanders, Company E, 4th Virginia Infantry

There is in Edinburgh, Scotland a statue erected to honor the men of Scottish heritage who fought in the American Civil War

It is the only known American Civil War statue outside the United States.

Also in Edinburgh is another statue honoring Scottish soldiers this one was donated by Americans of Scots Ancestry as a memorial to Scots who fought in WWI.

There was one known unit of Welshmen, Company G, Pennsylvania 77th Regiment; and a unit of Cornish, the 18thNew York Cavalry Regiment called the Cornish Light Cavalry.There was a British unit that existed for only weeks into the war before it was merged with a partially recruited unit to form the 36th New York Infantry.

The next image is something of interest simply because it exists.

TheAmerican Irish had the most soldiers organized into many regiments and brigades. Themost famous Irish Union unit was known as the Irish Brigade organized in New York after the first Battle of Bull Run.The New York Irish Brigade was made up of the:

New York 69th 1st Regiment of the Original Irish Brigade

New York 88th 2nd Regiment of the Original Irish Brigade

New York 63rd 3rd Regiment of the Original Irish Brigade

New York 155th Corcoran's Legion

New York 164th Corcoran's Legion

New York 170th Corcoran's Legion

New York 182nd Corcoran's Legion

New York 37th Irish Rifles

The motto in Gaelic on the lower scroll of all of the Regimental Flags of the Irish Brigade was "Riamh Nar Dhruid O Sbairn Lann",

commonly translated as "Who never retreated from the Clash of Spears."

Confederate Major General D.H. Hill at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Marye’s Heights is reported to have said :

'There are those damned green flags again”.

Charge Of The Irish Brigade from a painting by Don Troiani

 

When the Irish Brigade was placed in a larger unit, 2 Corps, they fought under the “Bloody Shamrock”

The Two Corps insignia is seen on the cap of this 69th New York Lieutenant saying goodbye to his sweetheart

Look closer at the insignia on his lapel

You can see the 2 Corps "Bloody Shamrock" on the kepis of some members of the Irish Brigade in this painting by Dane Gallon

 

These Irish units filled out the New York Irish Brigade at different times during the war:

Massachusetts 9thThe Irish Ninth

Massachusetts 28th 4th Regiment of the New York Irish Brigade

Pennsylvania 69th Philadelphia Irish Brigade

Pennsylvania 116th Irish Brigade

Supporting the New York Irish Brigade were two artillery batteries:

Hogan’s Battery

McMahon’s Battery

The Union army included less known Irish units such as the I9th and 23rd Illinois, 48th Pennsylvania, l7th Wisconsin, 8th Missouri, 9th Connecticut, 15th Maine and 35th Indiana. In the Confederate Army Irish units included the 24th Georgia, 10th Tennessee, 1st South Carolina, Ist and 6th Louisiana, Ist Virginia, 15th Arkansas and the 8th Alabama.A larger list of both is shown in the sections below. If you know of one we missed please send us an e-mail about it.

A word about unit flags as pointed out by Ron Brothers, a collector of Civil War flags. Units often had more than one flag, there was no designated flag for a unit. They usually came from the community from which they were organized and presented to the unit. When the flag was rendered unserviceable, another flag was made for the unit that in most cases looked nothing like the original flag and those that did, often had the campaigns the unit fought in inscribed on the flag. The names of many units changed through out the course of the war - when they were absorbed, re-organized or had new commanders.

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