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"The Pope's Irish Soldiers and the Civil War" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse12 Sep 2020 9:35 p.m. PST

"While the vast majority of the Irish who fought in the Union ranks had no previous military experience, there were a handful of soldiers and officers who arrived on American shores already battle-hardened from a little known European war. Exactly 150 years ago this year, over one thousand Irishmen answered a call to arms from Pope Pius IX and journeyed to Italy to fight in defence of his temporal lands – the Papal States. Garnering praise from friend and foe, the Irish Papal Brigade, christened the ‘Battalion of St. Patrick', fought with bravery and aplomb alongside soldiers from Europe's military superpowers. Although the conflict between the invading Piedmontese and Sardinian nationalists and the Pope's multinational army lasted only a matter of weeks, there was sharp fighting in locations where the Irish were stationed such as Perugia, Spoleto, Castelfidardo and, finally, Ancona where the war finally ended following a ten day siege of that Adriatic port.

After a short time as prisoners of war, most of the Irish returned home with only a handful retained to serve in Rome as part of the greatly diminished papal army. However, within a matter of months, Fort Sumter was fired upon and the American Civil War ignited across the Atlantic. Desperate for military experience in their reorganised Federal Army, Lincoln's government dispatched envoys to Europe in the hope of enlisting adventurous or disenfranchised soldiers and officers. Agents of the Union such as Archbishop John Hughes and Archbishop John Purcell were brought in to assist in this recruitment process and both men travelled to Ireland and Rome recruiting veterans of the Papal War. They were highly successful in that mission as, according to the Rome correspondent of the Tablet, "the greater part of the Irish Brigade in the Papal service . . . passed into that of the Northern states, where they have greatly distinguished themselves." Many of the men of the Pope's Irish battalion did indeed go on to have remarkable military careers, particularly in the Union ranks…"
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