Irish-American companies in St Louis formed part of the 1st Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Militia. The Washington Blues (formed 1857) sported bearskin caps, dark blue coatees trimmed with sky-blue, dark blue pants with light blue stripes, and white crossbelts. The Washington Guards wore shakos with a gilt eagle surmounted by "a gilt harp entwined with shamrocks." The St Louis Grays (formed 1832) wore black shakos with white pompons, gray frock coats with sky-blue facings, and gray pants. The Emmet Guards (formed 1857) wore bearskin caps, dark blue coatees faced with buff, and sky-blue pants with buff stripes; they carried a silk flag with portraits of George Washington on one side, and of Robert Emmet on the other, together with his quotation: "I have wished to procure for my country the guarantee which Washington procured for America." By 1861 there was a regimental uniform: dark blue dress caps, dark blue frock coats, and sky-blue pants.
Elements of the old volunteer militia went into the Confederate 1st Missouri Infantry Regiment, formed August 1861. Martin Burke, former St Louis Grays captain, became lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Missouri, one of the South's hardest-fighting regiments. The 1st Missouri served in Francis Cockrell's Missouri brigade; consolidated with the 4th Missouri Infantry, it won a glowing reputation in the Atlanta campaign, at Franklin, and on April 9. 1865, at Fort Blakely, Alabama - the last major batde of the war.
Irish companies in the 1st Missouri included the Suchet Guards (Co A), a solidly Irish company in fact from Louisiana; Co C (with 40 or so Irish, mostly from Memphis), and Co D (the St Louis Grays); the latter was commanded by Capt Joseph Boyce, who was wounded 11 times during the war. A wartime image of Boyce shows him in a gray frock coat with two rows of seven buttons, collar rank insignia, sky-blue collar and pointed cufTs, a waist belt with a round plate, and dark-colored pants.
Colonel James McCown's 5th Missouri Infantry, later consolidated with the 3rd Missouri, contained the "Fighting Irish Company" (Co F), which evolved out of the old Washington Blues. Under Blues alumnus Capt Patrick Canniff (whom Cockrell called "a fearless and skillful officer"), the "Fighting Irish" became one of the exceptional skirmisher units in the Confederate army. Canniff was killed in action at the bloody
battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, during John Bell Hood's offensive into Tennessee. As the Missouri brigade prepared to assault the Federal works someone raised a roar of laughter when he quoted Admiral Nelson's Trafalgar signal - "England expects that every man will do his duty." "It's damned little duty England would get out of this Irish crowd," an Irish sergeant hooted. In Hood's impetuous attack the Missouri brigade incurred more than 60 percent casualties, the highest of any brigade at Franklin. Artillery support was provided by Capt Henry Guibor's Battery, a largely Irish company from St Louis; this was one of only two Confederate artillery units in action at Franklin.
Soldiers of Cockrell's Missouri brigade received new uniforms around the end of December 1862. These appear to have been gray caps and pants, and Columbus Depot pattern six-button jackets of gray wool, with collar and cufTs of indigo blue.
Was this article helpful?