A new book on the Irish and the Confederacy notes that “Dixie” the anthem of the south “I wish I was in the land of cotton / Old times they are not forgotten” was actually written by an Irish American performer named Dan Emmett who sang it in black face at the conclusion of a minstrel show run by the O’Neill brothers from Ireland in New York.
Though beloved by Lincoln “Dixie” became the anthem of the south even down to the present day. Emmett a supporter of Lincoln wrote later that "If I had known to what use they [Southerners] were going to put my song, I will be damned if I'd have written it."
“The Green and the Gray” by British-based historian David T. Gleeson also states that “Irish participation in the Confederate experiment,remains a “complex and imperfectly understood element of the American Civil War.”
Gleeson also uncovers that tens of thousands of Irish fled South before the Civil War fleeing the Know Nothings and became so powerful in certain parts that legislators felt obliged to push their agenda.
A young freshman congressman from Mississippi spoke out against the Know Nothings and their attempt to stop the Irish getting citizenship. His name was Jefferson Davis , later president of the Confederacy.
Gleeson outlines how Irish patriot John Mitchell author of the famed “Jail Journal” sided with the South and approved of slavery though many Irish wanted independence while not caring for slavery.
Reviewer Myles Dungan in the Irish Times called Mitchell the “Lord Haw Haw” of the Confederacy through his popular writings in the Richmond Enquirer.
Many others portrayed the south as Ireland oppressed by a larger neighbor.
An Irish Charleston slave dealer Thomas Ryan sought to rally Irish to join the Rebels by comparing Lincoln to Cromwell. .
He wrote he was seeking to “raise a company of IRISH REBELS to enter into Confederate service”, Ryan stated that “Oliver Cromwell lives again in the person of Abraham Lincoln. Should they succeed in capturing Charleston the butcheries of Drogheda will be repeated on our streets.”
Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, the “Stonewall of the West”, was the most senior Irish figure on the Confederate side but had little time for slavery says Gleeson, just wanting independence,
He had emigrated at age 21 to America and settled in Arkansas He was credited with a plan trying to free slaves and have them enroll in the Confederate Army but Kefferosn Davis shot down his plan.
Others benefitted from slavery. Irish immigrants, Gleeson observes, “saw slave ownership as the way to success in the South.”
Among the slave owners was Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston, S.C. who Gleeson says “saw himself as a good Confederate paternalistic slaveholder,” and was “willing to sell slaves” through an Irish-American slave trader.
Bishop Lynch was later sent by Confederate leaders to meet with Pope Pius IX, as Jefferson Davis and others had become convinced “that papal recognition of the Confederacy might encourage other Catholic countries” to come to the aid of the South.
The pope met Lynch but told him slavery was “a major sticking point.”
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