Sunday, April 12, 2015

Civil War, the Irish, and Missouri's Seventh

A footnote from history by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Jack stepped up to the back door while the others washed up at the well in the backyard. "There's an Irish Brigade forming in St. Louis. ... Dr. Feeny's seen the brigade flag. Green silk, with a gold harp that harkens back to our own Cuclainn," Jack said. "Wouldn't Da have loved to see an Irish warrior honored that way?"
      "It's someone else's quarrel. Let the Americans settle it and leave us be, that's what I say."
     "I'm an American now, Maggie-girl, and if I'm to fight, I'll be on the side I choose. As will Seamus." [From Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson]

Over 150,000 Irish-Americans served in the Union army during the American Civil War, and when fictional Jack and Seamus Malone volunteer to serve in Missouri, they join the Missouri Seventh, which was mustered into service in St. Louis in the spring of 1861. Jack and Seamus are fictional, but the Irish Brigades were very real. The men of the Irish Seventh saw service in Boonville, Springfield, and Kansas City and fought the infamous William Quantrill and his band of Missouri Guerillas in early 1862. Joining with the Army of the Tennessee under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, they saw action in the Battles of Medon Station in Tennessee and the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi. The blue lines on the map above follow the travels of the Missouri 7th.

Mary Livermore, Civil War nurse and relief worker, mentions the "beautiful silk" flag of the Irish in her memoir. The Missouri Seventh's original flag was in tatters by the time it was taken out of service and is now part of a preservation project. With its green ground and golden harp (both images of Irish nationalism) the flag also bore the sun bursting from behind the clouds, towers, Irish elkhounds, and shamrocks, as well as the slogan Faj an Bealac, which means Clear the Way. This illustration at right in Mrs. Livermore's book shows a bit of that battle flag, it's green silk contrasting with the others.

Mrs. Livermore wrote: "The Irish flag was a beautiful silk one ... it was carried through many battles, including Corinth and the Seige of Vicksburg. The first two boats that ran the gauntlet of the rebel batteries at Vicksburg carried the 7th Missouri Regiment. While these boats were passing the batteries, Color Sergeant Fitz-Gerald defiantly waved the flag at the enemy. On the 22d of May the regiment stormed the rebel fortifications ... It reached the rebel works, when Private Patric Driscoll raised a scaling-ladder and held it while Color-Sergeant-Fitz-Gerald, with the Irish Flag in his hands, bravely ascended the top of the works, and triumphantly waved the flag, but was instantly shot dead. Another soldier seized the flag and ascended the ladder only to suffer the fate of his predecessor. Eight men were killed in a few minutes under this flag, during this memorable assault ..."

After reading this account, it's easy to understand why regimental flags were so precious to Civil War veterans. They'd risked everything beneath those flags.

Here's another Irish Brigade flag displaying the golden harp and shamrocks. This one flew over a Confederate regiment and was on display at the Tennessee State Museum the last time I visited. More flags of the Irish are illustrated here: 

Today, Civil War re-enactors honor the memory of Missouri's Irish Brigade, participating in memorial events throughout the nation. Faugh an bealac!

Did your ancestors serve in the Civil War?

Are you involved in helping to preserve history by volunteering at a local museum or being part of a re-enactor's group? 


Stephanie's new release, Daughter of the Regiment, tells the story of Irish Maggie Malone and her neighbor, plantation mistress Elizabeth Blair. Despite being neighbors, Maggie and Libbie have led such different lives that they barely know one another--until war brings them face to face in the aftermath of a battle. Libbie's home is now a Union Army field hospital, and Maggie is desperately seeking to help the men of the Irish Brigade she's grown to think of as "her boys."

Like Pinterest? I'm just learning but I think I'm gonna love it. Visit my growing Daughter of the Regiment Board at

Links for purchasing Daughter of the Regiment: 


  1. I enjoy information about the Civil War and also enjoy reading about nurses. I do not have relatives from the Civil War as my heritage is from N. Ireland sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

  2. If you enjoy reading about nurses, you'd love Lynn Austin's Civil War series. I think the first book is A Candle in the Darkness. GREAT read! Thanks for taking time to comment ... it feels kinda lonely when you get the Sunday assignment sometimes LOL.