An Cosantóir

November 2014

An Cosantóir the official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces and Reserve Defence Forces.

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Page 29 of 39

An Cosantóir November 2014 30 | I n the early morning hours of 12th April 1861 Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter, South Carolina- the action that started the American Civil War. The following day, after almost a thousand rounds had struck the Charles- ton Harbour position, its commander Major Robert Anderson decided to surrender. April 14th was set for the handover of the position, with the Confederates allowing the defenders a final 100-gun salute before marching out. As the firing reached the halfway mark, Private Daniel Hough of the 1st US Artillery reached for a cartridge to ram home for the next discharge. Suddenly it exploded, sending Hough spinning through the air and ripping off his arm. Mortally wounded by the accident, the former farmer from Co Tipperary became the first soldier to die in the American Civil War. The odds that the first fatality in the war would be Irish were high. The explosion that mortally wounded Daniel Hough also injured five other members of his gun-crew. One was a New Yorker, the other four were all Irish. The second soldier to die in the American Civil War was Edward Gallway (or Galloway) from Co Cork, who succumbed to his injuries that night. Of the 86 men that made up Fort Sumter's military garrison only 23 had been born in the United States; 38 of them (44%) were from Ireland. Four years and some 750,000 lives after Daniel Hough's death, another Irishman, Brigadier General Thomas Alfred Smyth, widely-regarded as perhaps the best Irish-born Union general of the war, was leading his men in a final pursuit of General Robert E Lee's broken Army of Northern Virginia. The 32-year-old Irishman's brigade was the spearhead of the Army of the Potomac as it crossed the Appomattox River and closed in on Farmville, Virginia. Their advance ground to a halt when Smyth's line came under artillery and small-arms fire. Never one to shirk the front, the Corkman rode up to his skirmishers to assess the situation. A bullet fired by a Confederate sharpshooter struck the left side of Smyth's face, removing a tooth before entering his neck and spinal column. Smyth breathed his last breath two days later, in the early morning hours of 9th April 1865. Less than twelve hours later Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. The former farmer from Ballyhooly, Co Cork, thus became the last Union general to die in the war. On the eve of the American Civil War a total of 1.6 million Irish-born people lived in the United States. A staggering 25% of New York's population were originally from Ireland. As the vast majority were unskilled labourers, they were drawn to the major industrialised cities in search of work. These cities were overwhelmingly located in what would become the northern states, and so, unsurprisingly, the majority of Irishmen fought with the Union. In total somewhere between 150,000 and 180,000 Irish fought for the north and the key statistics are impressive: there were 12 Irish-born Union generals and 32 brevet gener- als, more than from any other foreign country. At least 146 Irishmen were awarded the Medal of Honor during the war, and some 20% of the entire Union navy was made up of Irishmen. The only other ethnic group who made a comparable con- tribution towards the American Civil War were the Germans. Although the most famous ethnic Irish unit of the American Civil War was undoubtedly the Irish Brigade, there was a large number of 'green flag' formations. These included BY DAMIAN SHIELS ALL IMAGES COURtESY OF thE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Ireland's ForGotten Great war: The American Civil War 1861-65 Brigadier General Thomas Alfred Smyth. 164th New York Infantry, Corcoran's Irish Legion, dressed in Zouave-style uniforms. Fort Sumter following bombardment.

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