Time to Move Beyond the Irish Brigade? The Problems with Studying Ethnic Irish Units– A Case Study of the New York Irish at Gettysburg

Irish in the American Civil War

When we think and examine the Irish of the American Civil War, we often consider first and foremost ethnic units; formations such as the Irish Brigade, Corcoran’s Legion or regimental level contingents such as the 9th Massachusetts and 69th Pennsylvania. Such units have undeniably been the focus of attention for both scholars and enthusiasts (this site included) when discussing the “Irish” of the Civil War. This is perfectly understandable- the ethnic identity of these units meant that veterans tended to highlight this “Irishness” in post-war writings, which in turn caused them to dominate the historical record. Unsurprisingly, as a result, they also dominate Civil War scholarship on the Irish. However, it is increasingly my view that these units, and what was written about them in the post-war decades by members of the Irish community, are skewing the realities of the broader Irish experience of the conflict. What was in reality…

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