On September 1, 2012 the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America rededicated the Tollgate Cemetery in Jamaica Plain to honor the brave Irishmen who fought and died during our Civil War. The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America has been involved in cleaning up the grounds of the Tollgate Cemetery all summer with the assistance of local Boy Scouts. The Tollgate Cemetery holds the remains of many Irish men who escaped the starvation in their homeland, traveled across the ocean in coffin ships to face discrimination here in Boston. During the Civil War if you were drafted you could pay some one to take your place and many wealthy Bostonians did just that, this gave the Irish a means to provide for their families and the hope of citizenship if they survived.
On July 16th 1862, the 28th Massachusetts left South Carolina and proceeded via water transports back to Virginia, landing at Newport News two days later. On July 20, the Irishmen were re-designated as part of the newly formed 9th Corps under the overall command of Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. On August 3, the men of the 28th were transported to Aquia Creek. From there, they proceeded to Fredericksburg and established camp on August 6.
With Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia facing the threat of Lee's combined Confederate forces to the east, the 9th Corps was ordered to march through northern Virginia, finally joining Pope's army in its fallback position along the Rappahannock River near Bealton. In the days that followed, the 28th Massachusetts marched and counter-marched until arriving at Centerville, where it remained through August 29 in support of an artillery battery.
The next day, the Irishmen were placed in the line of battle along the federal right flank and participated in the Battle of Second Bull Run. Through the confusing action that followed, the 28th was heavily engaged in the Union attack on Confederate positions, and later came under heavy musket and artillery fire while providing battery support.
By day's end, the regiment was in retreat with the rest of the Union army, having suffered 135 casualties, including Lt. William Flynn, who was killed, and now Lt. Col. Cartwright, wounded. Command of the 28th Massachusetts passed to Capt. Andrew Caraher of Co. A, who would lead the regiment for several months and earn a promotion to major.
On September 2, with the right flank and rear of the Union army facing the imminent threat of being turned by Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson's Confederate forces at Chantilly, the 28th Massachusetts was again ordered into the fight. Against enormous odds, the Irishmen joined the Cameron Highlanders of the 79th New York in a desperate charge across a cornfield.
About two-thirds of the way, Hay's and Field's concealed rebel brigades fired shattering volleys from the woods ahead. The Irish and Scots staggered, wavered, and then let go a cheer as Gen. Isaac Stevens rode to the front and urged them forward just as the skies opened up with a blinding thunderstorm.
Within minutes, the rain had turned the cornfield into a quagmire and many men could no longer fire their wet rifles. Despite the drenching storm and hail of bullets, the renewed Union attack carried forward, with confused hand-to-hand fighting taking place in the dark woods. Just as the rebel front line gave way, Gen. Stevens fell from his mount, killed instantly by a bullet through the head.
Disheartened, low on ammunition, and facing heavy Confederate reinforcements, the 28th Massachusetts withdrew from the isolated foothold it had won. That night, another 99 men failed to answer the roll call, including the mortally wounded Lt. Alexander Barrett.
In the days that followed, the 9th Corps joined in the retreat back toward Washington and Pope's army was absorbed into the Army of the Potomac, now again under the overall command of Maj. Gen. George McClellan.
This past Labor day weekend is the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Bull Run in which the 28th Massachusetts Regiment fought.
The Regiment's rallying cry was "Faugh a Ballagh" Irish for ‘Clear the Way’.
Three million people in the world are descended from one Irish High King