Preview: Shiels, “The Irish in the American Civil War”

20 10 2014

8768 Civil CVR.inddThere are numerous studies on the Irish in our Civil War, some fairly objective and many laden with sentimentality and myth-building which employ such flowery terms as “Celtic Warriors in Blue/Gray.” Even as second generation on my mom’s side I find the latter tedious. What sets The Irish in the American Civil War apart is that its author Damian Shiels (host of a blog with the same title and a professional conflict archaeologist) is not an Irish-American but an Irishman from Limerick. In addition to his proximity to the homes of many of his subjects, his work on the blog and with local Irish sources give him a unique perspective (Damian works wonders with pension records – if you haven’t visited his site please do, you’ll be glad you did.)

This is not a strict narrative account of the history of Irish-American soldiers. Rather the book’s 229 pages of text is divided into sections: Beginnings; Realities; The Wider War; and Aftermath. Each section includes “six true stories of gallantry, sacrifice and bravery,” including good personal accounts of First Bull Run.

Sources include a lot of well-known secondary sources, but the use of newspapers and pension files is Shiels’s real strength. If you’re interested in a different perspective on a well-worn topic, I think it’s worth your while to give The Irish in the American Civil War a tumble.


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10 responses

20 10 2014
Damian Shiels

Thanks a million Harry I appreciate the kind words!

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20 10 2014
Harry Smeltzer

What’s a million Irish thanks in American thanks? I have trouble keeping up with the exchange rate these days…

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21 10 2014
Damian Shiels

It’s usually translated into the slight fewer but more prized currency of alcoholic beverages…

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21 10 2014
Harry Smeltzer

Now you’re talking my language…

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23 10 2014
jcunard

How can I get a copy of your book, Damian? It sounds like it is right up my alley!

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23 10 2014
Harry Smeltzer

If you left click on the book’s title in the text of the post, it will take you right to the Amazon page and you can order it there.

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20 10 2014
Patrick Young

Great article on a great blog.

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20 10 2014
joemaghe

The focus on the human interest stories coupled with the minute details of the men’s lives give Damian’s book a flavor all its own. It gives substance and feeling to many of the histories of which we are all so familiar. Definitely one of my favorite Civil War “reads” in recent years.

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24 10 2014
Pat Young

It is a very good book.

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30 10 2014
Brighid O'Sullivan

Looking forward to reading The Irish in the Civil War by Damian Shiels. I love Irish history too.

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