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The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865 0th Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814799406
ISBN-10: 081479940X
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Editorial Reviews


“With remarkable sensitivity and acuity Bruce goes digging among the personal and public accounts of the Irish soldiers in the Union army and presents these soldiers, and their families and communities, on their own terms so that they emerge as real people conflicted and changed by the demands of war and the obligations of 'community.' The result is a book of immediate interest.”
-Randall M. Miller,author of Union Soldiers and the Northern Home Front: Wartime Experiences, Postwar Adjustments

“The best book ever published on ethnic units in the American Civil War.”
-Journal of Southern History

“Anyone serious about their Irish-American history will have to get The Harp and the Eagle.”

-Irish Echo

“Professor Susannah Ural Bruce’s remarkable – and highly readable – study explores the complex political and historical motives that sent 150,000 Irish Catholic soldiers into the ranks of the Union Army during the Civil War. For the majority of Irish soldiers the cause of the union was inextricably linked to the cause of Irish independence and Bruce’s wide ranging study paints a complex and evocative picture of the network of alliances and experiences that animated Irish participation in the war effort. Recommended.”
-Irish Voice

About the Author

Susannah J. Ural is Associate Professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi and a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of War and Society. She is the author of The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865 (NYU Press, 2006).


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 323 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081479940X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814799406
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,346,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ms. Bruce breaks the "Irish Brigade" stranglehold on the Irish-American Civil War experience--which is very important. She describes Irish experience, in the 23rd and 90 Illinois, 10th Ohio, 116th and 69th Pennsylvania. However she doesn't connect all the dots. The 69th Pennsylvania elected Welshman Joshua T. Owen as colonel not because he was a fellow European, but because he was a Democratic politician. I feel the role of the Democratic party in helping form these units is very underplayed throughout the book---perhaps because 2006 Irish-Americans are assimilated Republicans today?

Irish nationalism is also truely ignored. Although not every Irish-American was a Fenian, she emasculates the role of Irish nationalism.

For instance she emphasizes the key role of Colonel Dennis O'Kane of the 69th Pennsylvania at the battle of Gettysburg, explaining that he was born, raised, and married in County Derry before moving to Philadelphia. Before Pickett's Charge O'Kane called on the officers and men of the regiment to defend "the soil of our native state" and didn't mention Ireland--a key point in her thesis. However she doesn't mention that O'Kane was a Philadelphia delegate to the great 1855 prewar Irish convention of Irish societies held in New York City. O'Kane was for peaceful, electoral removal of the British Empire--not a Fenian, but still an Irish Nationalist! By the way Ms. Bruce, C company--color company of the 69th Pennsylvania carrying the USA colors and regimental Irish flag--was called the EMMETT GUARDS--named not in honor of the famous American clown---but the Irish Patriot Robert Emmet, hung by the British government 20 September 1803.

All in all, her book is well researched and breaks new ground, I found her writing style superior to most academics. Worth Buying.
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Format: Paperback
America's first large immigrant group was the Catholic Irish, driven from their homes by a combination of political oppression and famine. They arrived with little more than their lives and hope for a better life. Unlike the Scot-Irish that had come earlier, most were unskilled farm workers with little education and did not always speak English. Above all, they were Catholic in a nation that was anti-Catholic and became violently ant-Irish. However, America is starved for cheap labor and the desperate Irish immigrant fills that void. The Know-nothing movement was aimed at the Irish and Catholic German immigrants. Only the Democrats in the large eastern cities welcomed them. In that party the Irish found a source of protection and support. Within that party, the Irish took the first steps toward equability.

They developed a dual loyalty to America as their refuge from oppression but refused to give up Ireland as home. The American Irish understood that loyalty to America was required of them and the nation had to be preserved and defended. America would always be the refuge for those driven from Ireland. America could be the source of men and funds to free Ireland from British rule.

The Republican acceptance of the Know-nothings and Abolitionists kept the Irish vote for the Democrats. However, they had no sympathy for or interest in secession. As the nation split, they understood that the Union had to be preserved and that they would have to fight to preserve it. Many enlisted either in the famed Irish Brigade, other Irish regiments or in any available regiment. This was the era of good feeling and papers were full of "brave Irish fighting" stories. These stories contained an element of low class violent people too.
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The Irish are a problem for Civil War historians. Irish filled the ranks of the Union Army, and Irish units like the Irish Brigade were well known for their bravery. Yet the Irish drank deeply of the Democratic brew of racism: They consistently opposed the Lincoln administration during the war, and they erupted in insurrection and race riots at the imposition of the draft.

In The Harp and the Eagle, historian Susannah Ural Bruce tries to place the Irish army volunteer in the context of an Irish community that came to reject the Union war effort. She depicts an Irish soldiery that joins the Union Army as much for what their service will mean to Ireland as for any devotion to the United States. The Irish soldier may have seen himself more as an ally of the Union Army than as a member of it, in her view.

While the book is engaging and covers new ground, it has too great a focus on Irish volunteers serving in identifiably Irish units. Only one in five Irish in the army was a member of a unit like the Irish Brigade. Most Irishmen served in mixed units that included native-born as well as immigrants from other countries. Unlike those who joined the Irish Brigade, these men may not have prioritized their Irishness over their Americaness. But we can't tell from Bruce, because she uses the Irish Brigade experience as a proxy for Irish American soldiers.

That shortcoming aside, the book does a fine job of examining the politics of Irish New York and Boston at the outbreak of hostilities. These were new communities whose character had only been formed in the decade before the outbreak of the war. The Irish were collectively the poorest and most marginalized group of white people in America.
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