The Irish Brigade in the Civil War: The 69th New York and Other Irish Regiments of the Army of the Potomac

The Irish Brigade in the Civil War: The 69th New York and Other Irish Regiments of the Army of the Potomac

The Irish Brigade in the Civil War: The 69th New York and Other Irish Regiments of the Army of the Potomac

The Irish Brigade in the Civil War: The 69th New York and Other Irish Regiments of the Army of the Potomac

Synopsis

The unveiling of the Irish Brigade Memorial at Antietam this year focuses attention on one of the most colorful units of the American Civil War. Despite its distinguished record and key role in the war, no detailed history of the brigade has been written in 130 years.

Made up largely of New York Irishmen, the Brigade made a decisive contribution to the Union victory at Antietam, suffered fearfully in a gallant charge at Fredericksburg, and made a famous stand in the Wheatfield on the second day at Gettysburg, as depicted in the recent film.

The full co-operation of the present-day 69th New York National Guard helped make possible the compilation of this detailed account, which includes 13 period maps and 270 illustrations, many of them rare photos from private collections. The original hardcover limited edition of Bilby's book quickly said out to re-enactors, veteran and active members of the 69th Regiment, and hard-core Civil War collectors; the Combined Publishing trade paperback is the first edition made available directly to the general public.

Joseph G. Bilby is a popular columnist for the Civil War News and a veteran of the current 69th Regiment. He is also the author of Civil War Firearms.

Excerpt

Over the winter of 1863-1864 the Federal government launched a recruiting campaign to retain veterans in the service. Most of the men who joined the army in 1861 were due to be discharged during 1864, and the loss of these experienced soldiers would be catastrophic to the Union cause. Surprisingly, despite all that they had been through, a large number of Irish veterans from the 28th, 63rd, 69th and 88th reenlisted. the extremely large bounties and generous furloughs offered as an inducement were no doubt a determining factor in the decisions of many old soldiers, as was a desire to see the thing through to the end. Reenlistees from the three New York regiments returned home in early January to enjoy well earned furloughs and recruit their ranks. Those who declined the government's offer remained on duty in Virginia.

Since the original recruits of the 116th Pennsylvania had volunteered in 1862, they were not offered the opportunity to reenlist. the state of Pennsylvania did, however, make a significant effort to restore Major Mulholland's battalion to regimental strength by recruiting six new companies, some from as far away as Pittsburgh. Mulholland was commissioned colonel of the reborn 116th.

Recruiting for the 28th Massachusetts proved slow until Colonel Byrnes of the 28th and four of his officers returned to Boston on a regimental recruiting mission in mid-February, 1864. Between January and May the 28th enlisted 326 new men, most of them after Byrnes took over recruiting. a number of the 28th's veterans reenlisted as well, and the regiment was in fine shape for the spring campaign.

As the New York regiments drew increasing numbers of recruits . . .

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