Given Boston's large Irish immigrant population, it is not surprising that several Irish volunteer militia companies were active there during the 1850s. These included the Bay State Artillery, the Sarsfield Guards, and the mainlv-Irish Columbian Artillery - uniformed in dark blue coatees and pants with red trim and black bearskin caps, and with a lineage as old as the American republic. A wave of anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice erupted with the nativist "Know-Nothing" political movement in the 1850s, and consequently these Irish companies were disbanded by the Massachtisetts governor, but tnanv of them continued as social organizations.
The Columbian Artillery - which survived under the guise of a literary association - would be the nucleus for the 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment ("1st Irish" or "Faugh a Ballagh" Regiment), organized in April and May 1861. Six Irish companies were recruited in Boston, and one each from Salem, Marlboro, Milford and Slougluon. Colonel Thomas Cass, the former captain of the Columbian Artillery, was killed in action in July 1862 while leading the regiment at Malvern Hill. The 9th Massachusetts amassed a solid service record with the 1st Div of V Corps of the Army of the Potomac, with combat at Gaines' Mill, Malvern Hill, Chancellorsville and the Wilderness. All told.
152 soldiers from this regiment died in action during the war, and 105 from wounds and disease.
The 9th Massachusetts was at first armed with M1842 muskets and conversions, but in 1863 the regiment received Springfield rifled muskets. Initial uniforms were the gray fatigue jackets issued by Massachusetts early in the war. but the regiment received L'S regulation infantry clothing in the fall of 1861.
The 9th Massachusetts was presented with an Irish flag that was carried by the regiment at Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862. during the Seven Days' Battles. Of deep green, it bore an American eagle in the center with a shield of stars and stripes, supported by a wreath of gold shamrocks. Over all was a scroll with these words in gold: "Thy sons by adoption; thy firm supporters and defenders from duty, affection and choice"; and on the reverse, "As aliens and strangers thou didst us befriend. As sons and patriots we do thee defend." At Gaines' Mill the Hag was carried by Sgt Jack Barry, who managed to come out of the slaughter unhurt, although ten color-bearers carrying the US llag were all killed or wounded. (This is a reminder of the fire attracted by colors, even on a day when their attackers - Field's Virginian brigade of A.P. Hill's Light Division - are usually described as being broken before reaching the Union lines.)
New York's popular Irish nationalist Thomas Francis Meagher spoke to an overflowing crowd in Boston Music Hall in September 1861. at a meeting intended to drum up Irish-American enlistments. Meagher, a powerful speaker, ended his talk with a rousing appeal to Irish patriotism: "Then up. Irishmen! Up! Take the sword in hand! Down to the banks of the Potomac!" A second Irish regiment, the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, was raised in Boston in the fall of 1861. and mustered into service in December. Colonel William Monteith's 28th
Massachusetts after the death of Col Thomas Cass at Malvem Hill In July 1862. A native of
pvt Patrick Kelly, Co B, 28th blue jacket has more than the may be state-issued. The c have been green, since this was an Irish company. (Charles B. Delllg Collection, US Army have been green, since this was an Irish company. (Charles B. Delllg Collection, US Army
Massachusetts ("2nd Irish Regiment") fought at Second Bull Run on August 29-30, 1862, with the 1st Divof IX Corps. Bundled backwards by A.P. Hill, the regiment had 28 killed and 86 wounded. At Antietam on September 17 they crossed "Burnside Bridge" to deploy in Benjamin Christ's brigade on the right of 1st Division's attack on Sharpsburg, and thus avoided the worst of A.P. Hill's counter-attack into the division's left flank. The 28th Massachusetts became a component regiment of the Irish Brigade (see below, under New York), which it joined in November 1862. At Fredericksburg on December 13 the regiment was in the center of the brigade's disastrous assault on Rebel entrenchments at Marye's Heights, and suffered heavily.
The 28th Massachusetts was issued regulation US infantry clothing and Enfield rifles, but its Irish regimental colors were stricdy non-regulation. The first of four green flags, presented in January 1862, featured an American eagle and an Irish harp surrounded by shamrocks. Its second green flag, made by Tiffany & Co of New York City, resembled those carried by the other components of the Irish Brigade. Inscribed "4th Reg't., Irish Brigade", it was this color that the 28th Massachusetts carried at Fredericksburg. Early in 1863 the regiment received a replacement (believed to be similar to the first Mag); and in May 1864 the city of Boston presented the 28th with yet another Irish flag; this one bore battle-honors, and may have been carried by the regiment during the 1864 campaigns in Virginia..
Was this article helpful?