The Greatest Brigade: How the Irish Brigade Cleared the Way to Victory in the American Civil War

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Instead, the next available unit, the 29th, was sent. Despite their divergent backgrounds, the 29th Massachusetts and the rest of the brigade fought well together, earning plaudits for hard campaigning during the Seven Days Battles ; most notably at Savage's Station , Glendale , and Malvern Hill. While other units were transferred to northern Virginia during the summer of to fight under Gen.

George B. Robert E. Lee took the offensive, moving into Maryland. McClellan and the remainder of Army of the Potomac were rushed north. The brigade's new recruits, approximately a tenth the number that Meagher had hoped to raise, joined the unit at Tennallytown , Maryland , in time to march in pursuit of the Confederates.

Command confusion led to the disjointed use of the II Corps , and instead of supporting renewed assaults on the Confederate left at the West Woods, the Irish Brigade found itself facing the center of the Confederate line, entrenched in an old sunken farm road. The brigade again acted conspicuously, assaulting the road, referred to after the battle as "Bloody Lane". The brigade suffered its most severe casualties in December at the Battle of Fredericksburg where its fighting force was reduced from over to The brigade was involved in the northern battleground at Fredericksburg where they assaulted the sunken road in front of Marye's Heights.


Coincidentally, one of the Confederate regiments manning the sunken road defenses was a predominantly Irish Regiment commanded by Brigadier General Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb. Knowing that Cobb's men manned the wall, and that both Cobb's and Meagher's units contained members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood , an organization dedicated to gaining military experience in the United States, then freeing Ireland from Britain after the Civil War, Lee ordered reserves sent to the position.

He need not have worried. Cobb's men helped devastate the Irish Brigade before the reinforcements could settle in place. It was at Fredericksburg that Lee allegedly referred to Meagher's regiment as the "Fighting 69th". After the Battle of Fredericksburg, Gen. Meagher again requested to recruit the brigade back to strength. This time the request was denied. In May , the brigade sustained further casualties at the Battle of Chancellorsville ; Meagher repeated his request to recruit replacements, was denied, and resigned his commission in protest.

He was replaced by Colonel Patrick Kelly. Leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, the brigade recovered several hundred of its injured from Fredericksburg and was able to field nearly men - in reality, barely at regimental size. At Gettysburg, the brigade distinguished itself in the Wheatfield under the command of Col. The brigade has a monument on the Loop on the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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While continuing to serve with distinction, casualties continued to increase and by June the Irish Brigade had been reduced to regimental size, and its commander Richard Byrne killed. The lineage of the Irish Brigade has been officially assigned to "Fighting 69th" of the New York National Guard, which is the only currently active military unit that formed part of it. The unit fought in and around Baghdad, most notably securing Route Irish and the surrounding area of Baghdad suburbs, and companies from it have since served in Afghanistan.

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For other Irish Brigades, see Irish Brigade. Civil War unit mainly composted of Irish Americans. This article includes a list of references , but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. The Wild Geese Today. GAR Media.

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“Faugh A Ballagh,” Clear the Way for the Irish Brigade – StMU History Media

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Notify me. It was full of larger than life characters and effectively led by a charismatic commander who was court marshaled for revolutionary activity in Ireland and was dismissed to enable him to serve in the war. Some numbers say that this unit lost more than 4, soldiers, one of the largest body counts of any brigade, if not the largest.

This is a tale of a critical and incredible fighting force, packed with immigrants that helped win the war not only through bravery and war tactics but also by scaring the English out of the war with threats of violence at home. It's a story every Civil War history buff should know and it is told with page-turning excitement that has made Craughwell a bestselling history author. Product details Format Paperback pages Dimensions x x People who bought this also bought.

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Irish in the American Civil War

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