The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America

The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America

The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America

The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America

Synopsis

Why did many Irish Americans, who did not have a direct connection to slavery, choose to fight for the Confederacy? This perplexing question is at the heart of David T. Gleeson's sweeping analysis of the Irish in the Confederate States of America. Taking a broad view of the subject, Gleeson considers the role of Irish southerners in the debates over secession and the formation of the Confederacy, their experiences as soldiers, the effects of Confederate defeat for them and their emerging ethnic identity, and their role in the rise of Lost Cause ideology.
Focusing on the experience of Irish southerners in the years leading up to and following the Civil War, as well as on the Irish in the Confederate army and on the southern home front, Gleeson argues that the conflict and its aftermath were crucial to the integration of Irish Americans into the South. Throughout the book, Gleeson draws comparisons to the Irish on the Union side and to southern natives, expanding his analysis to engage the growing literature on Irish and American identity in the nineteenth-century United States.

Excerpt

Irish participation in the Confederate experiment represents a complex and imperfectly understood element of the American Civil War. Much less numerous than their countrymen who took part in the Union war effort, Irish Confederates still present serious questions about what it meant to be Irish and American in the mid-nineteenth century. Those Irish who lived in the southern slave states, especially the eleven that seceded from the Union in 1860 and 1861, had to adjust to a third identity, that of Confederate. Though very few had any direct connection with slavery, thousands supported a new republic that had the explicit aim of preserving that “peculiar institution.” Their reasons for doing so complicate our view of national identity in this era of the nation-state.

This book then is an attempt not merely to outline the Irish involvement with the Confederacy but to analyze its significance, for both the Irish and the Confederacy. the war experience and its aftermath were crucial to the integration of Irish immigrants into white society in the South. Wars in general, and the commemoration of them, provide great opportunities for scholars to understand better the process of immigrant acculturation. and that process can tell us a lot about the values of the host community. Along with a better understanding of the Irish experience of the South, then, this study will add to our comprehension of the Confederacy and Irish America in general, ultimately challenging popular images of each.

One of the most widely held ethnic stereotypes of the Irish in America is that of the “Fighting Irish,” always willing to fight and die for causes domestic and foreign. During the Civil War there were numerous Confederate examples of the insanely brave Irish “Johnny Reb.” Dominick Spellman of Charleston, South Carolina, who fought with the “Irish Volunteers,” Company K of the 1st South Carolina Infantry Regiment (Gregg’s), is a classic example. His Confederate career in some ways personifies the complicated nature of Irish participation in the war. An Irish-born immigrant laborer, the illiterate Spellman never came close to owning any real property, never mind a slave. Nevertheless, he and his fellow Irishmen in the Volunteers . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.