Marking Sesquicentennial of Civil War
With Distinction in the Irish Brigade
BOSTON, Mass. - On
December 13, 1861, some 1,000 men who had volunteered for military
service earlier that fall - most of them born in Ireland or to Irish
immigrant parents - were designated the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer
Infantry Regiment and mustered into the Union Army at Camp Cameron on
the Cambridge/Somerville line.
Today, 150 years later, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a
non-profit living history organization dedicated to telling the
extraordinary story of these ordinary men are pausing to remember their
service and sacrifices during the American Civil War.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick has issued
a proclamation designating
December 13, 2011, as 28th Massachusetts Irish Volunteers Day in the
Bay State and the reactivated unit, based in Attleboro, will be tracing
the historic unit's movements at major battle
reenactments in Virginia,
Maryland and Pennsylvania over the next four years.
Massachusetts was not just another Civil War regiment,"
Steven Eames of North Berwick, Maine, a Mount Ida College history
professor who was a founder and serves as military commander of the
present-day unit that bears the regiment's name. "Its
reputation for coolness and courage under fire, the harp and shamrocks
on its distinctive green battle flag, and its Gaelic war cry of 'Faugh
a Ballagh' (Clear the Way) all set the 28th apart."
distinguishes the unit most of all," Eames continued, "is how committed
its Irish volunteers were to their common heritage, each other, and
proving to a skeptical America that they were just as devoted to
preserving this country and its freedoms as those who were born
briefly in the Carolinas during the second summer of the Civil War, the
original 28th Massachusetts joined the legendary Irish Brigade in late
1862 and saw action in most major eastern theatre engagements: Second
Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the
Overland Campaign, and the siege of Petersburg.
The regiment was present for Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox
Courthouse and marched in the Grand Review of the Armies through
Washington, D.C., marking the end of the war, before its surviving
veterans returned home to Massachusetts in June 1865.
Among all federal infantry regiments that served during the Civil War,
the 28th Massachusetts ranked seventh in total losses.
Roughly one-quarter of the 1,746 men who served in the unit were
killed, died of wounds or disease, taken prisoner, or reported missing.
David Grace of
Gloucester, who is president of the recreated 28th Massachusetts and
serves as the unit's First Sergeant, became a Civil War living
historian, in part, he explained, to pay tribute to the Irish
immigrants who willingly served in spite of the many hardships and
widespread discrimination they faced in their adopted land.
"For sure, joining the army provided them with instant employment, food
and clothing, but no one made them put their lives on the line," Grace
said. "They volunteered, and I think that says an awful lot
about the Irish character."
In all, nearly
150,000 men of Irish birth or heritage served in the Union Army.
The reactivated 28th Massachusetts has been keeping the memory of the
original regiment alive for more than a quarter-century. The
unit first took the field in 1984 and today is one of the oldest and
largest Civil War living history organizations in the Northeast, with
members from all six New England states, Pennsylvania, and the Canadian
province of Ontario.
To read a complete regimental history of the 28th Massachusetts
Volunteer Infantry, learn more about the Irish experience in the
American Civil War, or find out how you can become a living historian
with the recreated 28th Massachusetts, visit the regiment's web site:http://www.28thmass.org