The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865


"Bruce explores with astute insight the complex web of political bonds and personal motivations that sent thousands of Irish Catholic soldiers into the ranks of the Union Army during the Civil War. Her smooth blending of social, religious, political, and military history makes clear that the comprehensive contribution of Irish Catholic Union soldiers in the Civil War deserves the broad and nuanced appreciation she presents." - Carol Reardon, author of Pickett's Charge in History and Memory

"With remarkable sensitivity and acuity Bruce goes digging among the personal and public accounts of the Irish soldiers in the Union army and presents these soldiers, and their families and communities, on their own terms so that they emerge as real people conflicted and changed by the demands of war and the obligations of 'community.' The result is a book of immediate interest." - Randall M. Miller, author of Union Soldiers and the Northern Home Front: Wartime Experiences, Postwar Adjustments

"Through wide-ranging research, Susannah Ural Bruce moves us closer than ever before to a full understanding of the real experiences, in all their glory and horror, of ordinary Irish immigrant soldiers and their transatlantic communities and families during the American Civil War." - Kerby A. Miller, author of Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America

"A fine overview of the Irish participation in the Union War effort. Bruce describes how the Irish contested the memory of their participation in the conflict thereby highlighting the continued importance of the War to the Irish in the North far beyond 1865." - David T. Gleeson, author of The Irish in the South, 1815-1877

On the eve of the Civil War, the Irish were one of America's largest ethnic groups, and approximately 150,000 fought for the Union. Analyzing letters and diaries written by soldiers and civilians; military, church, and diplomatic records; and community newspapers, Susannah Ural Bruce significantly expands the story of Irish-American Catholics in the Civil War, and reveals a complex picture of those who fought for the Union. While the population was diverse, many Irish Americans had dual loyalties to the U.S. and Ireland, which influenced their decisions to volunteer, fight, or end their military service. When the Union cause supported their interests in Ireland and America, large numbers of Irish Americans enlisted. However, as the war progressed, the Emancipation Proclamation, federal draft, and sharp rise in casualties caused Irish Americans to question- and sometimes abandon- the war effort because they viewed such changes as detrimental to their families and futures in America and Ireland. By recognizing these competing and often fluid loyalties,The Harp and the Eaglesheds new light on the relationship between Irish-American volunteers and the Union Army, and how the Irish made sense of both the Civil War and their loyalty to the United States.


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