An Irish Monument to the Irishmen in our Civil War?

Damian Shiels has a thought provoking post on his blog, asking if Ireland should have a memorial to the Irish who fought in the American Civil War. The post was in fact a closing for a larger article, based on an interview of Damian which ran on an Irish online news site, Journal.ie. In the article Damian pointed out:

Of the 1.6 million Irish who were in the States in 1860, about 180,000 end up fighting. It had a huge affect on the entire community. But the State hasn’t done anything to mark it – there is no national memorial here or anything like that.

I think Damian makes a compelling argument for some form of recognition of the Irish who served in our Civil War. But of course, I’m a bit bias towards anything recognizing the importance of our Civil War. But you must admit we Americans pitch that war a bit much.

Keep in mind there is a Scotish-American Soldiers memorial in Edinburg. Even though the Scots represented a fraction of a fraction compared to the Irish. But this isn’t some international competition. Rather an interesting expression, manifesting from yet another perspective of our Civil War.

Here in the country in which the war was fought, we are debating over the
correctness, and in some cases the validity, of new memorials going up 150 years after the war ended. Apparently we still find a need to put up those new memorials. So I can certainly understand the need for a fitting, proper memorial for Irishmen who fought in the Civil War.

Where Damian scores, in my opinion, is going beyond the suggestion of some bronze and marble figure. Closing the original article, he’s quoted, “There is a gigantic body of information that hasn’t been tapped in Ireland before,” alluding to letters, papers, and other source material in Ireland or from Ireland that relate to the Civil War. If the sesquicentennial of the Civil War serves to bring those back out to the light for a broader audience, that’s good reason to hoist a mug of Guinness, or Beamish, or Murphy’s, or Harp, or Smithwicks… or heck a whole bunch!

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5 responses to “An Irish Monument to the Irishmen in our Civil War?

  1. Craig,

    Great post. In Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, just a few hundred feet from the Lion of the Confederacy, is a memorial to Father Thomas O’Reilly and the Hibernian Rifles. Would enjoy learning more about this history.

    https://foursquare.com/v/oakland-cemetery/4a36c20bf964a520de9d1fe3/photos?openPhotoId=4f64e731e4b0777dfcd39247

    Ed

  2. Hi Craig,

    Many thanks for the shout out! I am keen for a memorial focus, but you are quite right in the main goal, which is to raise awareness in Ireland of the affect the Civil War had on so many Irish born people, and indeed through that to discover more Irish stories. There are thousands of people here who are what you might call amenable to history, who are completely unaware of the extent of the Irish involvement both at the front and at home. Regardless as to views as to why the Irish fought, who they fought for or the extent of their participation, they certainly should be higher on the pecking order in Irish history. Today the Republic of Ireland has about 4.5 million people living it- when you think there were 1.6 million Irish in the United States in 1860 that is quite staggering!

  3. Considering how Ireland treats their world war veterans, I doubt they would be interested in memorializing Civil War veterans. I hope I am wrong.

    • Hi Scott,

      Attitudes have changed here a lot in the last 15 or so years in terms of the World War veterans- there has been some debate recently regarding a State pardon for WW2 Irish Army soldiers who deserted to fight for the Allies, but generally things have moved in a very positive direction. Prior to that their treatment (and indeed anyone who had served in the British military) was very poor indeed. Much of it relates to the history education in Irish schools, which for many years looked exclusively at Irish nationalism to the exclusion of any other element of Irish history. Indeed the lack of knowledge regarding events such as the American Civil War is another consequence of what was a very narrow focus in history education.

  4. There is a great deal of information from this side, there is a link from my city in Ireland where the uniforms for the Civil War were manufactured.

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