Saturday, March 17, 2018

Five books on the Irish and the Civil War (St. Patrick's Day edition)

If you're reading this post and see ten books then come back tomorrow when you're more sober. Also, yes, I am fully aware that when it comes to this subject I could probably come up with a dozen of these lists and not repeat a title. That said, I think these five selections offer a pretty well-rounded introduction to the Irish-American experience in the ACW.

1. The Irish Brigade In The Civil War: The 69th New York and Other Irish Regiments of The Army Of The Potomac by Joseph G. Bilby (1998).
Unless I'm missing the elephant (pink or otherwise) in the room, I don't recall a definitive-level Irish Brigade study towering head and shoulders above the rest. I do think Bilby's will serve the purpose of providing  readers with a solid overview of the war's most famous ethnic brigade. Apparently, there was a 1998 hardcover special edition that sold out quickly, with the 2001 Da Capo paperback being the one generally available.
2. Shades of Green: Irish Regiments, American Soldiers, and Local Communities in the Civil War Era by Ryan W. Keating (2017).
Keating's book impressively examines the war and home front community connections of three regionally representative Irish regiments. It also has important things to say about the unending alienation vs. assimilation debates.
3. The Irish General: Thomas Francis Meagher by Paul R. Wylie (2007).
I wanted to include one biography here, and Meagher was arguably the most famous Irish-American Civil War soldier. The two most recently published full biographies were both authored by non-historians, but I'll put Wylie's on the list as the more scholarly of the two.
4. Chicago's Irish Legion: The 90th Illinois Volunteers in the Civil War
    by James B. Swan (2009).
With the vast majority of published works devoted to the Irish regiments that fought with the Army of the Potomac, we shouldn't overlook the western theater's hard-fighting Irish units. Swan's book offers a fine study of one of these lesser-celebrated Union regiments.
5. The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America
    by David T. Gleeson (2013).
Outside of Patrick Cleburne, the Confederacy's Irish soldiers are by far the least recognized of those that fought on either side during the war. Some unit studies exist (ex. James Gannon's history of the 6th Louisiana, Irish Rebels, Confederate Tigers), but I chose Gleeson's book for its broader discussion of the Irish-American experience in the South before, during, and after the Civil War.

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