Like many great songs, this one contains some artistic licence and propaganda. The South never actually even had a full “Irish Brigade” for a start! But the title was used by the “Washington Blues” from St. Louis, Missouri, an Irish militia company and temperance organisation commanded by British Army veteran Captain Joseph Kelly, which became part of the Confederate Missouri State Guard in 1861.
The force was eventually driven from Missouri, but not before it would achieve its greatest victory at Lexington, Missouri, in September 1861. There it would help capture 3,500 Union troops, including the “Mulligan’s Irish Brigade,” officially the 23rd Illinois Infantry regiment. Joseph Kelly would rise to the rank of colonel in the Confederate army, but would never command a rebel “Irish Brigade.”
At night during stand-offs between Union and Rebel forces, Irishmen from both sides sometimes met and discussed plans to return to Ireland and take on the British after the war, but during the day they went back to killing each other!
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Author: Thomas Anderson
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