17 March 2010

The Irish

Predominantly made up of emigrants from Ireland the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Infantry were part of the Irish Brigade. Fighting on July 2nd to hold onto the Wheatfield and Stony Hill they would loose 76 of their meager 313 men.

The three New York regiments of the Irish Brigade were raised in Albany County NY and the New York City area. They were made up mostly of men who had immigrated to America in the 1850’s to escape the poverty of Ireland. At the beginning of their enlistment the 63rd, 69th and 88th contained 2,500 men, but by the Gettysburg campaign they could only field 313 of these soldiers. The Irish Brigade also included the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th Pennsylvania.

On the 29th of June the Irish Brigade which part of the Second Corps began a 34 mile march towards Gettysburg. They would march past the wagon carrying the body General John F Reynolds on the first of July, final halting about 10pm still three miles short of Gettysburg. On the morning of the second of July around 4:30 the Brigade marched to the Tanneytown RD and finally went into position along Cemetery Ridge.

As the fighting on the left of the Union line raged on, the Irish Brigade knew it was only matter of time before they would called upon. As the time drew near Reverend William Corby climb onto a rock to grant the men in front if him, must of whom were Catholic a general absolution. The Irish went out across the battle field, crossed the Wheatfield and took a line along the north end of the Wheatfield and Stony Hill. Here they came up against the 3rd and 7th South Carolina known as the Kershaw Brigade. Firing into each other as close range, the Irish Brigade was able to halt the forward moment of the Confederates, until they were flanked by more reinforcements pouring in from the Peach Orchard. Men who survived the fight in the Wheatfield would remember it as “a whirlpool of death”.

Veterans of the Irish Brigade would return to Gettysburg in 1888 to dedicate a monument. Located in the saddle between the Wheatfield and Stony Hill, it was sculpted by Rudolph O’Donovan. The monument is the Celtic cross on top of green granite with an Irish Wolf Hound at the base.

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