The Irish Brigade is perhaps the best known military unit of the Civil War, and their tragic sacrifice has endured as a powerful symbol of bloodshed that marked the nation’s deadliest conflict.
The Battle of Fredericksburg, fought on December 13, 1862, led to massive Irish casualties. Attacking the stone wall in front of the Sunken Road, the brigade of 1,600 soldiers were cut to 263 in a matter of minutes.
According to Fredericksburg.com, on Sunday the commemoration of the Battle of Fredericksburg began with a reminder of the valor of The Irish Brigade.
Families, historians, Irish dignitaries and Irish–Americans ancestors gathered on the Rappahannock to re-dedicate the monument honoring the Irish immigrants who fought the South on that soil.
Taking part were an Irish Defence Forces honor guard; National Park Service historian Frank O’Reilly; Ralph Victory of the Embassy of Ireland, representative of Irish Ambassador Michael Collins; the brigade’s descendant unit in the U.S. military and members of the 69th Infantry Veterans’ Corps.
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'What they did on the streets of Fredericksburg did make them Americans so every soldier on this battlefield became a piece of the Irish Brigade as well,' O’Reilly said at the ceremony.
According to Fredericksburg.com, the Irish Brigade's descendant, the New York Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, sent 75 soldiers to join in the commemoration on Sunday. They rededicated the Irish Brigade monument alongside the Irish Defense Forces members.
Captain John H. Donovan of the 69th New York, who was blinded in one eye in combat at Malvern Hill near Richmond in July 1862, recounted the Battle of Fredericksburg for Northern readers on Jan. 3, 1863 in an statement reproduced in Fredericksburg.com.
'What the government intend to do with the remnant of the brigade I know not,' he wrote, in an account published in the New York Irish–American paper.'I can only say that as an ‘Irish Brigade’ it has ‘fought its last battle.’ Could the spirits of its honoured and immortal dead, whose rude graves spot the soil of Virginia and Maryland, but have the privilege or power to look down upon the future of this Republic, they can now tell whether or not the cause for which they have offered up their lives is to perish.'