The 1800’s (sans The Civil War)


The 1800’s were a fascinating century, during which America fought her first war on foreign soil, secured her independence, and built the trans-continental railroad.


The category “The Civil War’s Valiant Irish” covers a portion of the 19th Century. But there is so much to be told about the Irish that another segment for had to be set up.


It took an e-mail from a reader, Don Gray, pointing out that his ancestor Nicholas Gray from Whiteford near Oilgate, County Wexford; who after joining the United Irishmen, took part in Ireland’s 1798 Rising. Following which, Nicholas fled to America in time to participate in the War of 1812. There will be a full article on the Grays’ in the near future.


Our fledging nation met the challenge to protect her small merchant fleet by engaging the pirates from the Ottoman Empire in her first war far from home. During which, First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon led eight marines and 500-Greeks across the desert from Alexandria to capture the city of Derna. An action memorialized in the Marine Hymn, “… the shores of Tripoli.”


Two hundred years ago, beginning in 1812, America reaffirmed her independence by engaging in a three-year conflict with Britain, which likely began over a naval blockade. An October 8, 2012 NY Times article illustrates the Canadian displeasure over the American invasion of their homeland. Annually, our northern neighbors reenact the battle of Dunvegan. The Battle of Baltimore served as the setting for our national Anthem. If it weren’t for Jimmy Driftwood’s classic country song, few of my generation would have known of the War of 1812. The Colonel Jackson mentioned in the catchy song refers to Andrew Jackson, a Scot-Irishman, who later became our 7th President.

In 1814 we took a little trip

Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip

We took a little bacon and we took a little Beans

And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans


An annual holiday in both Mexico and Ireland honors The Saint Patrick’s Battalion known in Spanish as the Batallón de San Patricio. These several hundred Irishmen, many deserters from the US Army, were enticed by the offer of greater wages, citizenship, and generous land grants. They formed part of the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War. Those caught by Americans were tried as traitors and hung.


North America wasn’t the only place in our hemisphere that Irishmen made their mark. After being gang-pressed to sail for the British Crown, Foxford, Mayo-born William Brown immigrated to Argentina, where he’s revered as “The Father of Argentina’s Navy.”


During the period from 1836 to 1848, man-made canals drove the young nation’s economic growth. It’s been said that there were four things needed to build a canal: “A pick, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and an Irishman.”


By 1863, the covered-wagon was replaced by the First Transcontinental Railroad. The main workers on the Union Pacific were Irishmen and Civil War veterans, who learned their trade running railroads during the war. The last spike was driven in at Promontory Summit, Utah, where the Union Pacific line met with the Chinese immigrant built Central Pacific line.


All the Irish immigrants didn’t become heroes. Mary Mallon, AKA Typhoid Mary, from Tyrone was once the most dangerous woman in American.


Many Irish were prevalent during the 100 year Indian (Native American) Wars. Over 40% of those who perished with General Custer at Little Bighorn were Irish-born.


Because I’m posting this just prior to the start of the Notre Dame/Alabama BCS game, I’ve naught else to say but:




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