Illinois

The growing Midwestern rail and industrial center of Chicago became home to a large Irish immigrant population, and as in other major cities these communities formed volunteer miliua companies. Organized in 1854, (.apt James Quirk's Shields Guards, made up mostly of mechanics, was the first Chicago military company to offer its services to the Federal government in January 1861.

The 23rd Illinois Infantry Regiment ("1st Irish Regiment," or "Irish Brigade of the West") was organized in Chicago in June 1861. Colonel James A. Mulligan, an Irish-American attorney, modeled his unit upon the pattern of Col Michael Corcoran's 69th New York. The Shields Guards' Capt Quirk later became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment. The 23rd Illinois contained former Irish militia companies like the Montgomery Guards (Co B), Jackson Guards (Co C), Mahoney Guards (Co H) and Shields Guards (Co K), as well as the Detroitjackson Guards (Co A) from Detroit, Michigan.

Following the Union defeat at Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861, Confederate BrigGen Sterling Price led a fall offensive in Missouri, and on September 19 he defeated MajGen James G. Blunt at Lexington, where a large part of the 23rd Illinois passed into captivity the next day. Rather than surrender the regimental colors - a dark green flag with a gold Irish harp in the center - the soldiers tore it into pieces, each man receiving a small shred of the cloth. After being paroled the 23rd Illinois was reorganized early in 1862, and the regiment served in Virginia.

In the beginning, soldiers of the 23rd Illinois wore the dress of their individual companies and were armed with M1855 rifle muskets. Cook County furnished uniforms for the entire regiment: dark blue jackets with green facings, dark blue kepis, gray shirts, and gray pants with green stripes. In July 1861, haversacks and canteens were issued.

A second Irish regiment, the 90th Illinois ("Irish Legion") was organized at Chicago, mostly from Cook County companies, in September 1862. This unit contained five companies from Chicago, one from Rockford, and the remainder from other northern Illinois cities. Its commander. Col Timothy O'Meara (formerly with the 42nd New York Infantry), was a native of Tipperary; he had seen service in the US Army in Mexico during the 1846-48 war, and afterward on the Great Plains. The 90th Illinois was issued US regulation infantry uniforms, but officers wore green feathers in their dress hats. Anns were originally Austrian rifled muskets, then Enfield rifles in 1863, and Springfield rifled muskets in 1864.

Serving with Gen William T. Sherman's Army of the Tennessee, the 90th Illinois took part in his exhausting march from Memphis to join Grant at Chattanooga in November 1863. On November 25 the regiment went straight into action after a month on the road, and sustained heavy casualties during the attack on the Confederate right at Missionary Ridge: Col O'Meara was killed and several officers were wounded, among the regiment's nearly 100 casualties. The following year the regiment fought in the 1864 Atlanta campaign and took part in Sherman's "March to the Sea," as part of 3rd Bde, 2nd Div of Osterhaus' XV Corps.

Cpl John P. Coon, Co F, 9th Connecticut, in an image probably taken at his enlistment in November 1861. He wears a dark blue forage cap, (rock coat and pants; the trim on his pointed cuffs and down-tumed collar is sky-blue. (History of the Ninth Regiment Connecticut Volunteer In/entry, 1903)

Cpl John P. Coon, Co F, 9th Connecticut, in an image probably taken at his enlistment in November 1861. He wears a dark blue forage cap, (rock coat and pants; the trim on his pointed cuffs and down-tumed collar is sky-blue. (History of the Ninth Regiment Connecticut Volunteer In/entry, 1903)

Col James A. Mulligan, 23rd Illinois Infantry ("Irish Brigade"). A prominent Chicago attorney and politician, Mulligan was to Irish communities in the American Midwest what Meagher and Corcoran were to the Northeast. When he was mortally wounded in action at Winchester, Virginia, on July 24, 1864, his last words to his men were reported as "Lay me down, and save the flag." (Library of Congress)

Infantry Uniforms And 1863

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