Friday, March 18, 2011

What's With the Irish Brigade? (Obligatory - and late - St. Patrick's Day Post)

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

As you know, we at Cosmic America (yes, "we" are only one person but I am considering adding a staff in the near future...maybe an intern or something) strive to engage all who are interested in the Civil War.

So today, the day after St. Patrick's,  I thought that I would simply make a few observations and pose some questions - or rather, one big question: What's with the Irish Brigade?

The thing is this. In terms of the Civil War imagery appearing here and there in popular culture and visitor center gift shops, the Irish Brigade seems to get more than its fair share of face time.

Now I am not in any way denying that these guys deserve accolades - they did...and still do. But I am interested in why people today find them so compelling among the many units of distinction.

Points of possible discussion include, but are certainly not limited to:

1) the fantastically maudlin scene in the film Gods and Generals, where the Irish Brigade face their Irish Confederate counterparts at Fredericksburg. You remember....they burst in to tears as they blaze away at each other - oy.

2) the imbalance favoring the Irish Brigade in the broader collection of popular Civil War artwork. Having a look at paintings by Dan Nance and Don Troiani would be a good place to start. And as a side note - I have always wondered why these paintings show the regimental and national colors flapping furiously in the wind...while none of the soldiers' hats are flying off.

The truth of the matter....I (sorry, we) have more questions than answers. I suppose that is what keeps this blog going.

Fág an bealach!!



  1. I entirely agree with the disproportionate focus on the Irish Brigade, but it seems inevitable, given the emphasis many Americans place on their Irish lineage, even when it's only a fragment of their genealogical makeup. Along with the Scots, the thread of Celtic self-identity runs very strong in this country, and there's a big crossover of folks who celebrate their Scots and Confederate lineage simultaneously, sometimes with less-than-optimal results. (Though I've never seen anyone with a button reading, "Kiss me, I'm Scots! And I just had haggis!")

    But there are other examples bound up by a sense of distinct cultural that are not so explicitly ethnic as the Irish Brigade. Look at the Texas Brigade on the other side -- a unit that was genuinely in the think of it at several major battles and in a score of smaller ones -- but even so probably one whose reputation today derives as much from its cultural identity as from its performance on the field.

  2. Hey! We all love the Irish and what is more picturesque than that beautiful green flag?