Greetings Cosmic Americans!
I feel bad for Colonel David Ireland. Why you ask? Well...because you can't find a T-shirt with his image on it at any Gettysburg gift shop. And I think I know why.
You might even be wondering who David Ireland is. Born in Scotland (really?) Ireland was a tailor in New York City before the war. During the war he served as Captain for the 76th New York Infantry.* He saw action at the Battle of Chancellorsville as part of the XII corps.
But the fun didn't really start for Ireland until the second day at Gettysburg. Ireland's regiment was the extreme right of the Union line - positioned on Culp's Hill - the barbed section of the famous Union "fishhook." Loss of this hill would have been devastating to the Union at Gettysburg. It commanded both Cemetery Hill and the Baltimore Pike, and thus stood guard for supply lines and the road to Baltimore or even Washington City.
The XII corps had taken up position there on the morning of July 2. Meanwhile...Confederate General Lee had ordered a simultaneous attack on both ends of the Union line. Richard S. Ewell, commander of the Confederate II corps eventually got things going around 4 PM - when he heard the attack commence on the Union left. By 7 PM he sent in his main attack up the eastern slope of Culp's Hill. Three Rebel brigades from "Allegheny" Johnson's division hit Ireland's regiment hard - and were stopped in their tracks by the firmly entrenched New Yorkers.
The Union right held - against the better part of an attacking Confederate division.
But all the credit for saving the Union (and thus, the war) goes to our old friend, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, colonel of the 20th Maine - who held the extreme left of the Union line at Little Round Top.
What gives? Why no love for Ireland these days? Well...it seems that popular culture has taken over in this particular case. With Michael Shaara's Killer Angels, and subsequently the Burns Documentary The Civil War and finally the film Gettysburg, Ireland has been relegated to obscurity. People want more and more Chamberlain stories - poor Ireland just gets lost in the mix.
So Colonel David Ireland - who also held the line at all costs, doesn't get the accolades he deserves - or hardly even a mention in the popular treatment of the epic 1863 battle. So I am going to make my own T-shirt and wear it on the battlefield. Let's see if anybody recognizes the good colonel - let's just see....
* extra-special thanks to Cosmic America reader John Stoudt for reminding me that David Ireland originally served in the 79th NY, not the 76th...and that he commanded the 137th NY Infantry at Gettysburg. I always welcome correction when I make mistakes - thanks again!