This is my latest purchase from Osprey Publishing's "Men-at-Arms" series
. It's a new release I learned about from the company's mailing list. I'm not a big student of the War Between the States, even though I grew up here in the South. A title about the Irishmen in the war caught my attention, however, because of the large Irish community that lived in ante-bellum New Orleans.
Being the second-largest port city in America (behind NYC) for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, New Orleans naturally attracted a large number of immigrants. The Irish, escaping famine and oppression at home, found New Orleans and the areas of the Louisiana Purchase offered a lot more than home. The Irish took on many of the dirty manual labor jobs on which slave owners wouldn't risk their property, such as construction of the navigation canals that connected New Orleans with Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico. When North fought South, it was natural that Irishmen on either side would take up arms and defend their homes, even while thinking back to their Homeland.
Irish-American Units in the Civil War offers a state-by-state overview of the Irishmen serving with both the Union and the Confederacy. The section on Louisiana's Irish troops to be fascinating. The Louisiana Tigers
, dressed Zouave-style in blue jackets with red-and-white striped pants are legendary, and their Irish heritage is detailed here. Because it deals with the Civil War, there are many more photographs than illustrations and paintings throughout the book, providing accurate views of uniforms.
The eight pages of color plates, four Union, four Confederate, show the preponderance of green that Irish volunteers wore as part of their uniforms on both sides. Two of the plates show some of the ante-bellum uniforms of Irish volunteer companies. These are great examples of how the influence of mid-Victorian styles in Britain filtered over to the US, complete with high bearskin caps. The plates stir the imagination, as one wonders what would be on the mind of an officer of the Montgomery Guard of the NY State Militia, as he walked through Manhattan on a leisurely Sunday afternoon in 1859.
As always, the book has a Selected Bibliography, which makes a great starting point for more in-depth research on the subject.