Wednesday, March 18, 2015

General Michael Corcoran and the Confederate Irish in America’s Civil War


The recent erection of a memorial in Sligo to Carrowkeel man General Michael Corcoran, inspired historian Paul Burns to write this article on the forgotten Irish who fought on the Confederate side: 

All discussions of Irish participation in the 1861-65 American Civil War seem to lead, in next breath, to the North’s famous Irish Brigade. Few know that Irish immigrants played an equally important role in the Southern Confederacy. Over 40,000 Irish fought for the Southern cause. They were the largest immigrant group in the army, and they made up about 10% of all Confederate combatants. In contrast, there was less enthusiasm among Irish immigrants to the North, and they were underrepresented in its military.

The Confederate Irish were far more fervent in support of their side’s cause because they could identify in America with the desire for self-determination at home and the right to separate from what was viewed as a repressive government. They had little concern about slavery. The Irish in America were working class, and they competed for jobs with free blacks. Consequently, the Irish in both areas tended to support the pro-slavery Democratic Party. The Southern Irish encountered less animosity and much more religious tolerance than did their Northern brethren. There was no Southern equivalent of the anti-draft riots that occurred in the large Northern cities where the Irish were concentrated.


  1. Neat. Thanks for the link. The Irish Confederates has always seemed to me to be a very under researched and written about topic.

  2. Thats because while our War Between the States was happening, the Irish were still slaves in their own country and in fact did not gain their freedom until 1917, over 50 years after American blacks were freed. Most Irish Confederates were recent immigrants and either they or their parents had lived in Ireland, a land ruled by the Crown which still held them in chains. My maternal Irish great-grandfather died in battle wearing a Confederate uniform and though we resented slavery of anyone, we resent worse an oppressive government.

  3. I'd say we need some Confederate Irish in NC - New Bern, indeed. Have you seen
    the likes of these in your area?

    1. Thanks and I don't know what the Burmese are doing here as they weren't involved in our Indo-China war.