The Irish at Antietam

The Flag of the NY 88th Regiment

THE mess-tent is full, and the glasses are set,
And the gallant Count Thomond is president yet;
The vet’ran arose, like an uplifted lance,
Crying—“Comrades, a health to the monarch of France!”
With bumpers and cheers they have done as he bade
For King Louis is loved by the Irish Brigade.
“A health to King James,” and they bent as they quaffed,
“Here’s to George the Elector,” and fiercely they laughed,
“Good luck to the girls we wooed long ago,
Where Shannon, and Barrow, and Blackwater flow;”
“God prosper Old Ireland,”—you’d think them afraid,
So pale grew the chiefs of the Irish Brigade.

“But surely, that light cannot be from our lamp
And that noise—are they all getting drunk in the camp?”
“Hurrah! boys, the morning of battle is come,
And the generale’s beating on many a drum.”
So they rush from the revel to join the parade:
For the van is the right of the Irish Brigade.

They fought as they revelled, fast, fiery and true,
And, though victors, they left on the field not a few;
And they, who survived, fought and drank as of yore,
But the land of their heart’s hope they never saw more;
For in far foreign fields, from Dunkirk to Belgrade,
Lie the soldiers and chiefs of the Irish Brigade. – Thomas Osborne Davis

Actual Battle Flag of the 69th NY Irish Brigade

The Sixty-ninth is on its way – France heard it long ago,
And the Germans know we’re coming, to give them blow for blow.
We’ve taken on the contract, and when the job is through
We’ll let them hear a Yankee cheer and an Irish ballad too.

The Harp that once through Tara’s Halls shall fill the air with song,
And the Shamrock be cheered as the port is neared by our triumphant throng.
With the Potsdam Palace on a truck and the Kaiser in a sack,
New York will be seen one Irish green when the Sixty-ninth comes back.

We brought back from the Border our Flag – ’twas never lost;
We left behind the land we love, the stormy sea we crossed.
We heard the cry of Belgium, and France the free and fair,
For where there’s work for fighting-men, the Sixty-ninth is there.

The Harp that once through Tara’s Halls shall fill the air with song,
And the Shamrock be cheered as the port is neared by our triumphant throng.
With the Potsdam Palace on a truck and the Kaiser in a sack,
New York will be seen one Irish green when the Sixty-ninth comes back.

Campaign Flag of the 63rd New York

On the 17th of September, 1862, in a cornfield along Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg Md. Father William Corby mounts a horse with a bucket of holy water. Assembled in the field in front of him were the 63rd New York, 69th New York, 88th New York and 29th Massachusetts, The Irish Brigade. (Second Brigade, First Division Second Corps, Army of the Potomac) Father Corby rode through the assembled men, granting absolution and blessing them with holy water.

Buck and Ball Ammunition

As the brigade began to march forward across the cornfield, they encountered a rail fence, the men at the front of the lines began to fire volleys as the fence was torn down. The brigade was now around 300 paces from the enemy, General George B. Anderson’s Brigade, the 2nd, 4th, 14th and 30th North Carolina Infantry Regiments.  After several volleys of buck and ball, the Irish Brigade charged with fixed bayonets and charged, Anderson’s Brigade fell back to the sunken road at the end of the field, now called the Bloody Lane. Most brigades would have been routed from that field long before they ran out of ammunition. The brigade rose up, formed column and ignoring the fire of the Confederates, disdaining it, and charged into the Confederate line. As the brigade came off the field, Colonel Richardson called out to the men of the 88th New York, “Bravo, 88th, I shall never forget you!” He had little chance to break that promise, he would be mortally wounded within minutes by a rebel shell fragment. After a bloody hand to hand fight, the Irish brigade who was now out of ammunition was relieved.

It is believed that 60% of the Irish Brigade was killed or wounded at Antietam, The Brigade would continue to recruit and grow adding regiments from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to their numbers.

You can read the reports of the command staff of the Irish Brigade here: The Irish Brigade at Antietam.

Battle Flag of the 29th Massachusetts

Author:

Greetings! I am Shawn MacIntyre, and I grew up with a love of history. When most kids were watching cartoons I was watching documentaries. After a long career in public safety, I chose to return to college to seek a new career path bringing history to the public. In April 2019. I graduated from Point Park University with a Bachelor's Degree in History, Magna Cum Laude. My new path is to make learning history fun, exciting and accessible to everyone. I invite you to join me on my journeys to historic destinations, learn interesting facts about the past, and spark a love for history!

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