17 March 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Below is a fitting thought for the day taken from an essay I wrote about the Stonewall Brigade for Virginia Tech's Center for Civil War Studies:
The various companies within the brigade were as diverse in personality and temperament as were the individual men that formed them. Since many of these men hailed from the Shenandoah Valley, a large number of them were of Scots-Irish and Irish ancestry. Evidence of this consistent pedigree was apparent in the “Emerald Guards,” Company E, Thirty-Third Virginia. Every man in this unit was Irish and worked and lived as common laborers in the New Market area. Many of these men signed an “X” on muster documents, lending evidence to the fact that they were largely illiterate and unable to even sign their own name. Jackson considered the company the “problem child” of the Stonewall Brigade due to its partiality for “liquor and brawling.” One historian aptly described their irreligious proclivities: “. . . the Sons of Erin did not mesh easily with their conservative neighbors, most of whom were of German and Scotch-Irish descent. The Celts' predilection for hard liquor and their affinity for world-class brawling at the least provocation engendered a definite air of notoriety.” Many in Company E undoubtedly joined in the South’s struggle for the pure joy they would receive from fighting.

Another company within the brigade enjoyed a more pious reputation and would be considered among those “conservative neighbors” with whom the Sons of Erin did not easily mesh. Company I, Fourth Virginia, the “Liberty Hall Volunteers” was comprised primarily of students from Washington College in Lexington. All the officers, as well as more than half the privates, were professing Christians, and one-fourth were candidates for the ministry. Upon their flag was emblazoned the Latin phrase “Pro Aris et Focis” - the English translation being simply “For Altar and Home.” The company was organized and commanded by James J. White, professor of Greek at Washington College and son of Stonewall Jackson's pastor, the Reverend William S. White.

You can read the rest here.


Eddie said...

Very excellent essay, Sir. About Jackson's speech to his brigade, being that there were no Corps at that point in time, I wonder how much of that is Kyd Douglas's romaticing. And whether that speech is more like what John Newton Opie of the 5th Virginia reported, '' Soldiers, you are the First Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, the First Brigade in the Southern Confederacy, and the first in the heart of your general. Farewell!"

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Eddie - thank you. I like the Gods & Generals interpretation of Jackson's speech.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Excellent essay. It never ceases to amaze me how Jackson inspired his troop to rise above adversity and get the job done. You might enjoy "Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade" by John O. Casler. It paints an excellent portrait as well.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you Michael!