Today is Memorial Day, a day when Americans honor those who died serving the nation. Elsewhere on this site you'll find an excellent article on the Irish/Irish-American recipients of the Medal of Honor. It's great stuff.
However, there's one group of Americans who did not die serving the United States of America who we also honor this day. Memorial Day is also for those Americans who died fighting for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, although it took a good few years for everyone to agree on that.
Of course, among those Americans who died fighting for the Confederacy was a large contingent of Irishmen. At the moment I'm reading Green, Blue and Grey, which is about the Irish involvement in the war and I have to admit I'm surprised by how many predominantly Irish units there were in the southern army.
I'd never really considered how many Irishmen had made their way to places like Birmingham, AL or Nashville, TN before 1860 or that so many New Orleans Irish had joined the Confederate cause. Although I had a vague idea that Irish units faced each other at Fredericksburg, the book's author points to numerous other battles where Irishmen were opposite each other.
Patrick Cleburne was one of two foreign born Major Generals in the Confederate Army. Cleburne was from Cork and was a senior partner in an Arkansas law firm when the war started. Cleburne joined as a private, was elected Captain and was soon a General. His cool head saved the Confederates at the battle of Chattanooga in November of 1863. Cleburne was killed at the Battle of Franklin, TN in 1864.
To my shame, I have to admit I had only a vague idea about the Davis Guards before I read this book. The Davis Guards - named for CSA President Jefferson Davis - were 47 men, all Irish, who prevented a Union flotilla carrying 5,000 men from entering Texas via the Sabine River.
The Davis Guards were led by Dick Dowling from Tuam in Galway and his foresight and planning saw off the flotilla, forcing its retreat. The Davis Guards were "the only Confederate unit to be awarded a medal of honor during the war by the Confederate government."
* Originally published in 2010.