DVIDS – News – Connecticut Fighting Irish

HARTFORD, Connecticut – A blue banner flies high and proud, resisting the unwelcoming wind blowing from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico as it is carried along the coast of Ship Island, Mississippi. Below a mighty bald eagle is a golden harp adorned with an emerald green field, followed by the words “Erin go bragh”. The Connecticut Irish fighters have arrived.

Waves of Irish immigrants arrived in Connecticut during the 1840s and 1850s, fleeing their starving homeland. The Irish were not always welcomed or treated with respect, whether naturalized or not. Many Irish Americans faced discrimination because of their religious beliefs, being Roman Catholics compared to the majority Protestant population. Even the Irish American servicemen faced these difficulties, notably when Governor William T. Minor disbanded six predominantly Irish American regiments of the militia because they were “foreign-born” and “prejudicial to military interests.” of our State”, in 1855.

This attitude, however, would begin to change in April 1861, after the outbreak of the American Civil War. About 8,000 Irish Americans from all over Connecticut would volunteer to fight for the Union. Of the 8,000, approximately 1,600 would serve before the end of the war in the Ninth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, also known as the Ninth Regiment, “Irish Volunteers”, formed under Governor William A. Buckingham.

The unit was made up of Irish Americans from New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, and Norwich as well as other towns with large Irish populations. New Haven alone would supply nearly 400 men to the regiment. They would first be quartered in Hartford, then moved to New Haven in September and finally moved by train to Camp Chase, Lowell, Massachusetts on November 4. From there they would be integrated into the “New England Brigade” under the command of Brig. General Benjamin Butler and headed south before the end of the month.

Their first stop after leaving New England on the steamer “Constitution” would be Ship Island, a small stretch of land about seven miles long, about a little over an eighth of a mile wide, 12 .7 miles off the coast of what is now today. Mississippi City, December 3. The island had previously been abandoned by Confederate forces following engagement with the United States Navy, and has since become an offshore logistics hub and quarters for Republic soldiers and sailors. The Ninth will be in garrison there until April 1862.

In April 1862, a year after being mobilized and organized, the IXth finally took part in combat operations. The regiment would land at Pass Christian, which had been hastily abandoned by the majority of its inhabitants and Confederate forces. Here the regiment would capture its first colors, the Regimental Color of the 3rd Mississippi Infantry, which was left behind when the Confederates withdrew.

Following the capture of these colors, the regiment would take part in smaller actions, such as the operations against Fort St. Philip and Jackson and would eventually be moved to New Orleans at the end of the month. In May, the unit moved again, this time to Baton Rouge. From there the unit occupied the town until moving to Vicksburg in late June.

Vicksburg became hell on earth for soldiers of the IX. The Union did not have enough men to capture Vicksburg and instead chose to commit the regiment’s men to work on what became known as Grant’s Canal (also known as Williams’ Canal) . Here, 153 Connecticut volunteers would succumb to disease and southern heat in an attempt to open a passage allowing United States Navy gunboats to travel around Vicksburg and further up the Mississippi River. The operation would be abandoned on July 24 and the Ninth moved to defensive positions in Baton Rouge.

On August 5, Confederate forces attempted to retake Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During this engagement, John Curtis, the regimental sergeant major, would earn the United States’ highest honor for military gallantry, the Medal of Honor. Curtis, “willingly sought the line of battle and alone and unaided captured two prisoners, leading them before him to regimental headquarters at bayonet point”. At the time of this battle, Curtis was 17 years old.

Following the engagement, the Ninth defended New Orleans until April 1864. During this time the regiment simultaneously sent detachments on expeditions such as the expedition to Ponchatoula between March 21 and March 30, 1863. The The Ninth’s next major action won’t take place until September. On December 19, 1864, when the regiment fought in the Battle of Winchester, also known as the Battle of Opequon.

This battle was a major Union offensive action against Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early and his Valley Army. It would become the first defeat for a Confederate general in the Shenandoah Valley and one of the costliest battles of the war. Here the Union army dealt a major blow to the Confederate army, killing two of their generals, losing one of their own, capturing about 1,700 prisoners of war, numerous pieces of artillery and inflicting approximately 4,000 casualties on Confederate forces.

On September 27, 1864, during the battle, the Ninth supported Brigadier General Henry W. Birge’s First Brigade, fighting alongside the 12th and 14th Maine Infantry and the 75th New York Infantry. Their role was to protect the flanks from Union attack.

“…the Ninth Connecticut, Colonel Cahill, deployed 400 yards to the right in a line perpendicular to the line of battle, with skirmishers in advance,” Birge wrote in an after action report. “Colonel Cahill was ordered to link up the left of his skirmish line with the right of the forward skirmishers, and to conform to the movements of the brigade and maintain his relative position by moving by a flank as the line was advancing.”

The other regiments broke through the Confederate lines and forced them to retreat. Due to the frantic retreat of the Confederate forces, the Union troops pushed their advance too far forward, far too quickly, and began to receive intense rifle and artillery fire from their flanks. The call was made for Union soldiers to fall back to their original positions. Later that day, Union forces advanced once more, this time breaking through Confederate lines on all fronts with the support of other regiments, including a larger supporting artillery force. The Ninth would remain in its original position and not participate in this advance.

Following this engagement, the soldiers of the IX took part in the Battle of Cedar Creek. However, in the days leading up to the battle, the Ninth Connecticut Infantry Regiment would no longer exist. On October 12, 1864, under Special Order No. 59 signed by Major General Brevet Emory Upton, the Ninth would be reorganized into four companies and recognized as a battalion, thus known as the Ninth Battalion, CV or Volunteers from Connecticut.

The Battle of Cedar Creek would be the last stand fought by the Ninth. Lieutenant Colonel John G. Healy, then captain, commander of the Ninth, gives an account of the battle in his reports, citing how his soldiers were in the forefront of the counterattack.

“I wish to make special mention of Sergeant W. Perry and Private John T. Morrow, who, after the color sergeant was wounded, seized the colors and pushed forward. These men were always ahead, few or no standard bearers able to follow them. The colors of my battalion were the first on the recaptured works from which the corps had been chased in the morning.

The battalion would spend the remainder of its campaign on occupation duty in the Shenandoah Valley until January 1865 and then resided in Savannah, Georgia until May. The American Civil War would effectively end on April 9, 1865, just under four years after the organization of the Ninth, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union forces at Appomattox Court House. The Ninth would suffer a total of 253 men killed over the duration of the war, mostly from disease. The Connecticut Volunteers returned home on August 3, 1865.

The Connecticut volunteers received a warm welcome upon their return. On August 8, the battalion marched through New Haven to the Old State House and the soldiers were greeted by Mayor Erastus Scranton. The men returned to their lives as best they could, with many staying in touch and attending meetings in the years that followed. The battalion’s regimental color would be displayed in the Hall of Colors, located in the newly constructed Capitol building in Hartford, after the January 1879 session of the General Assembly. The flag resides there to this day, preserved, along with other Connecticut regiments’ battle flags; a tribute to the bravery, courage and sacrifices made by the men of the regiment.

Date taken: 03.10.2022
Date posted: 03.10.2022 10:02
Story ID: 416181

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