Thursday, June 17, 2010

Irish Confederates Remembered

Honoring the Irishmen who died serving the CSA

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 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 as 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.

Decoration Day Observed in Knoxville

Visitors to gather for Confederate Decoration Day
Knoxville News Sentinel
Posted June 4, 2010

The men who died a century and a half ago will receive their annual visitors this weekend.
Sons of Confederate Veterans members will gather Saturday to observe Confederate Decoration Day, the second time the ceremony's been held since local members revived the tradition last year. They hope to see it continue as an annual event.

"It's just a way to honor the service of the men who wore the gray," said Ron Jones, commander of the SCV's Longstreet-Zollicoffer Camp. "Their sacrifice was no less than the other men who fought for their country. That's what they thought they were doing."

Last year's ceremony at the Confederate Cemetery on Bethel Avenue drew about 150 people, he estimated. More than 1,600 soldiers are buried there, including about 300 killed during the Battle of Fort Sanders in November 1863, when Confederate troops under Gen. James Longstreet made their last, unsuccessful attempt to recapture Knoxville.

The service begins at 11 a.m. and will include a 21-gun volley and appearances by local Civil War re-enactors. Mike Beck, the SCV's newly elected state commander, will speak. Visitors should arrive by 10:30 a.m.

The Mabry-Hazen House, built in 1858 and occupied at various times by both sides during the war, will be open for tours beginning at 12:30 p.m. Next year marks the beginning of the war's 150th anniversary. Jones said he expects to see more interest in the war as that date gets closer. "I don't think that's really hit people yet," he said. "But as we get closer to December and January, I think we'll see things begin to turn up."

Virginia Town Seeks Locomotive

Town seeks vintage Locomotive

The small Virginia town of Strasburg, about 80 miles west of Washington, needs a Civil War-era locomotive to help tell its part of the story of the Great Train Raid of May 23, 1861. Col. Thomas Jackson stole some 50 locomotives and 380 railroad cars from the B&O Railroad in Martinsburg (now WVa.) and transported some of them over rail and road to Strasburg, where they were sent south to Richmond.

“I need a locomotive,” is how Strasburg Councilwoman Sarah Mauck began an organizational meeting yesterday with local historians, tourism officials and others with an interest in re-creating the historic event next year.

Strasburg, a busy crossroads during the war, is participating in the sesquicentennial commemoration of the war that begins officially in April, 2011.

Mauck’s plan calls for an actual vintage locomotive to be dragged about five miles along Rt. 11 (Old Valley Pike) by teams of horses from the Cedar Creek battlefield in Middletown to Strasburg. She said the reenactment would be a strong draw for tourists interested in the Civil War as well as those who like horses. Coordinated events would be planned for both the battlefield and the town.

However, historians in the audience objected to changing the historic account, saying Jackson transported pieces of the locomotive to reduce the weight. Another concern was voiced about getting the Virginia Department of Transportation to approve the movement of anything as heavy as a locomotive along the pike and over its narrow bridges.Discussion turned to creating light-weight replicas of the locomotive pieces. Although Mauck appeared to like that proposal, she wasn’t giving up on a real locomotive. “If we could find one and someone was willing to bring it here by rail, we could park it at the old depot,” she said. “That would be really good.”

Marker for Virginia Troops Planned for Chickamauga

Virginia group seeking marker

A Southwest Virginia Civil War group hopes to accomplish in three years what its state legislators haven't been able to do in 115.

James Christman, a resident of Grayson County, Va., has launched a nonprofit group that aims to build a monument to his state's troops at Chickamauga Battlefield by that battle's 150th anniversary in 2013.

The Virginia Legislature voted in 1895 to authorize a monument to the state's troops at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park but never funded it.
A visit to the park inspired the effort, Mr. Christman said on the website

A Virginia group is planning to erect a monument to the 54th and 63rd Virginia Infantry regiements. These units served in the Confederate Army. "I looked at all the monuments on the battlefield and there was no marker for the 54th or the 63rd regiment," he said. "When I got home, I got to thinking about it. Other states had markers but Virginia didn't."

Attempts to reach Mr. Christman by phone Thursday were unsuccessful. Jim Ogden, historian at the park, said troops from 29 states were involved in Civil War action in or around Chattanooga and Chickamauga. Most have monuments, but states including Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine and West Virginia do not, he said.

Adding a new monument will be a challenge, Mr. Ogden said. He's had a different group approach him about building monuments nearly each of his 28 years at the park, and all have failed to meet National Park Service guidelines, he said. "There have not been many new monuments built in the last century in the national military park," Mr. Ogden said. "Most groups find that their ideas are not possible."

But Mr. Christman's group, called the 63rd and 54th Virginia Military Descendants Association, "has certainly gone at this point further than other groups have," Mr. Ogden said.
The park service guidelines say only states can build the monuments, which has disqualified most past efforts. This group, however, recently became an authorized agent of the state thanks to a bill written by Virginia state delegate Bill Carrico, a self-described "big Civil War buff."
The Virginia House of Delegates approved the resolution Feb. 19, and the Senate followed March 9.

On Thursday, Mr. Carrico said the group planned to raise about $60,000 and would design the monument based on input from the Park Service and the style of the other markers.
Mr. Ogden said the group has work to do but could get it done by the anniversary.
"They've got some time, but they're also going to have to do a fair amount of their homework and groundwork sooner rather than later," he said. "It's not an impossibility at this point."