The History of the Ninth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, June, 1861-June, 1864

The History of the Ninth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, June, 1861-June, 1864

The History of the Ninth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, June, 1861-June, 1864

The History of the Ninth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, June, 1861-June, 1864

Synopsis

When the Civil War erupted, more than 1,000 Irish Americans formed the North Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry regiment, the first of the state's ethnic regiments. This book is a history of the regiment, told by Daniel Macnamara, who served as its commissary sergeant and rose to become regimental quartermaster.

Excerpt

When rebellion erupted and President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to restore the Union, many Irish-Americans around Boston answered his summons. For some, feelings of patriotism and devotion to their adopted country motivated them to enlist. Others wished to strike against what they viewed as an illegitimate government supported by an Irish enemy, England, while still more sought adventure or the economic security of a soldier’s monthly salary. Thomas Cass, former commander of an Irish-American militia company, organized these civilian-soldiers into Massachusetts’s first ethnic regiment. Six companies from Boston and one each from Salem, Milford, Marlboro, and Stoughton excitedly gathered, using Faneuil Hall as their first barracks. On May 12, 1861, the men, mostly laborers, were transported to Long Island in Boston Harbor to begin training at Camp Wightman.

That they were civilians and unused to military discipline quickly became apparent. One observer found a “sentry … patrolling with bare feet + a pipe in his mouth,” and another time, officers left Camp Wightman without leave to visit a nearby unit. Yet amid the open fields of the island, Cass began forging his regiment into a formidable fighting force by drilling the unit and instilling a sense of discipline in his troops. By the time the regiment returned to Boston to be mustered in as the Ninth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the rough citizens had become soldiers, holding themselves with military bearing and feeling pride at seeing their green Irish flag flutter next to the Stars and Stripes.

On June 25, 1861, more than a thousand Irishmen left Boston to fight in what everyone assumed would be a brief, glorious war. Three years later, only a portion of the original volunteers remained with the regiment. Hundreds of their comrades had fallen at previously unknown places named Gaines’ Mill, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. Cass lay in a Boston cemetery, dead of wounds received while commanding his regiment at Malvern Hill. His replacement, Patrick R. Guiney, returned home to recuperate after a bullet destroyed his eye at the Wilderness.

George D. Wells to Governor John A. Andrew, Boston, May 16, 1861, in Andrew Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Daniel G. Macnamara, The History of the Ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Boston: E. B. Stillings & Co., 1899), 6–15, 22–25, hereafter cited as History of the Ninth.

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