St. Patrick's Day, 1863

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St. Patrick's Day,
March 17, 1863

Company K Roster
1861-1864

User's Guide

 

 


Used with permission of the artist, Bradley Schmehl

 

Charles Goddard and Matthew Marvin visit the Irish Brigade on
Saint Patrick's Day March 17, 1863

     Charles Goddard of Company K, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry attended the festive St. Patrick's Day celebration on March 17, 1863 at the headquarters of the Irish Brigade near Falmouth, Virginia.  Young Goddard, 18 an inquisitive, fun-loving lad was drawn to danger when he was off duty.  Charles Ely, his comrade in arms, said of Goddard, "the only thing he did better than getting into scrapes, was getting out of them."

      Matthew Marvin's diary entry for March 17 indicates he also attended this event. His view of the celebration offers a contrast to Goddard's

      Notices of the upcoming celebration including a Military Mass, a horse race, and other festivities, no doubt captured many soldier's interest including Goddard and Marvin. The crowd at the brigade's headquarters in Falmouth was estimated at over 20,000 people including General Joseph Hooker, Commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Under the flamboyant leadership of Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher, the Irish Brigade was one of the most colorful units of the Army of the Potomac. The Irish Brigade reflected the characteristics of its leader; it was ferocious in battle and rambunctious between campaigns. 


Thomas Francis Meagher


Battle Flag, New York 69th 
Infantry Regiment, Irish Brigade

 

Meagher was an Irish revolutionary who had been transported to Tasmania for the part he played in the abortive revolution of 1848.  He escaped from Tasmania in 1852 and came to New York City.  He edited an Irish nationalist newspaper and practiced law before the war started.  He served in the New York 69th Regiment and after the Battle of Bull Run he organized the Irish Brigade.   Five regiments constituted the brigade, three from New York the 63rd, 69th and the 88th, the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th Pennsylvania.   

   
Meagher had personally recruited many of the soldiers for these regiments. The brigade had suffered lamentable losses at Fredericksburg in December 1862 due to General Ambrose Burnside's dreadful decision to attack Lee's Army entrenched on Marye's Heights.

The 1st Minnesota and the Irish Brigade were both in the Second Corps.  Although, in different divisions they had fought in all the great battles of the Eastern Theater of the war, Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, and Fredricksburg.  Like the 1st Minnesota, all of these regiments are listed in William J. Fox's, Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, the guide to the leading regiments in the Union Army. 

The Irish Brigade's St Patrick's Day celebration of 1863 has been celebrated in many books and articles.  This romanticized view of the Irish Brigade was not shared by Charles Goddard in a letter to his mother a week after this affair he described his experience at this event.

 

Camp near Falmouth

March 26th 1863

 

Dear Mother your kind letter dated the 15th of this month I received last evening For the past two or three days I have not been doing any duty on account of my leg which I sprained playing ball, the necessaty of keeping still a few days I saw wright off, and acordingly did so.  The swelling is going down, and I think it will be as well as ever in a few days The Irish Brigade celebrated St Patricks day with great pomp General Meagher superintending the sports First on the list came a horse race, the officers only being alowed on the course.   The course was about a mile long, with four places for to jump over, one being on the first second third and fourth quarter of the mile On the first heat, after the bugal had been blown for them to start and when they came to the first jump, there was three horseman dismounted They we very poor horsemen Gen Meagher horse won the first race and the second was won by a Lieut in Artilery I donít know what his name was, then came the foot race and a number of other things that I did not stop to see for the officers we all getting drunk and it was not safe for a private who had to take it on foot or not at all, so I took my leave with a not very good opinion of Gen Meagher and his gallant Irish Brigade There was a number of men run over and hurt, but I guess there was none killed, although I learn there was one killed.   There was 3 man in Hancocks Division that had their hair shaved part off and the other half being left on to make it look bad and then drummed out of the US service through the division that was drawn up in line.  they marched to the tune of the Rogues march.  they did not seem to care much and looked as if they wer glad enough to get out of the service that way.  I have not forgot what you told me before I left home that if I could not be something better than a corporal I would remain a private I am not a corporal and more than that I donít incline to be Brink has come back he has been off on a furlough to Steuben Co New York and he fetched with him a satchel full of cakes and butter so I think our squad will live on the top shelf for awhile  I do not think that there will be any more furloughs given  I have heard that the river is open prety early I think Mr Warner of our company has gone home to Winona on a sick furlough you need not take every thing he sais for true he tell some prety big stories  I have not the least fear but you will be treated as good as a person could wish I should think after reading your last letter that you wer enjoying yourself and very glad am I to hear it.  I should not feel half as good, if I should hear that you wer neglected by every body Mother enjoy yourself as much as you can and do not trouble yourself about me, for I think I can get along very well. We received those socks and mittens that wer sent in behalf of the Ladies of Winona and are very much obliged to them.  Capt Periam has come back and he brought that bundle you sent to me The Captain looks very well.  I would recommend the climate of Minn for sick folks I would like very much to try it myself although I am not sick I am very much obliged to you for those things you sent by the Capt to me Tell Orrin to hurry and write I am looking for a letter from him every day

 

Give my best respects to all my friends

Your son Chas E Goddard

                   K Co

 

P.S. Those papers that I promised to send to you I have not received myself I sent the money but did not get the paper 

 

Matthew Marvin's diary account of the event.

Tuesday March 17

St. Patrick's day is a big one in the Army of the Potomoc
Horse-racing and steeple chases is the program lots of
whiskie & lots of fun most all the Gen in this part
of the army are present here  Heavy firing up the river
Weather pleasent mud knee deep 

 


Used with permission of the University of Notre Dame Archives

Flag of the 63rd New York Infantry Regiment, Irish Brigade.

A new book describing the history and preservation of this flag entitled Blue for the Union and Green for Ireland: The Civil War Flags of the 63rd New York Volunteers, Irish Brigade is available from the Archives of the University of Notre Dame  This book "employs a combination of historical narrative, annotated historical documents, richly-captioned illustrations, and scrupulously detailed endnotes to bring this story to life, starting with the very birth of the Irish Brigade in 1861 and continuing through the restoration of the Second Irish Colors at Notre Dame in 2000."

 

For further reading:

Bilby, Joseph G., The Irish Brigade in the Civil War, Conshohocken, PA: Combined Publishing, 1997

Conyngham, D. P. The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns, New York: Fordham University Press, 1994.

Corby, William, C.S.C. (Lawrence F. Kohl ed.) Memoirs of a Chaplain Life: Three years with the Army of the Potomac, New York: Fordham University Press, 1992.

Lysy, Peter J. Blue for the Union and Green for Ireland: The Civil War Flags of the 63rd New York Volunteers, Irish Brigade. Notre Dame: Archives of the University of Notre Dame, 2001.

For further information on Bradley Schmehl prints: Bradley Schmehl Illustration 852 Spruce Street, Columbia, Pennsylvania 17512  (712-684-4568).