28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry-The 4th Irish Brigade

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Pat Young

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The 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was the second Irish regiment formed in Massachusetts during the Civil War (the 9th Mass. preceded them). When the regiment was recruited enlistees were told that the 28th was to be part of the Irish Brigade being organized by Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher. Three NY regiments were already in the Irish Brigade, the 63rd, 69th, and 88th.

Oddly enough, the War Department assigned the 29th Massachusetts to the Irish Brigade instead of the 28th. The problem was that the 29th was not an Irish regiment at all!

The 28th was sent to Hilton Head, South Carolina where it was used in coastal operations. It was not assigned to the Army of the Potomac until July 1862, but even then it was not placed in the Irish Brifgade. Instead they were incorporated into the IX Corps under Burnside and fought in that corps at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, and the other summer and fall battles of the Army of the Potomac.

The 28th only became part of the Irish Brigade in November 1862. Unfortunately it joined the Brigade immediately before the bloody Battle of Fredericksburg.
 

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The regimental flag depicted above was the flag presented to it when it joined the Irish Brigade. Apparently it had been ordered by General Meagher the previous year when he had orginally organized the Irish Brigade and was of the same pattern as the other Tiffany flags of the New York regiments. Meagher knew that an Irish Brigade regiment was being organized in Massachusetts when he ordered the flags, but he did not know the regiment's number at the time. Hence, instead of the flag bearing the regiments number (28th Mass) instead it says "4th Regiment Irish Brigade."

Meagher put it in storage when the 28th was sent to Hilton Head and only brought it out a year later when the 28th joined the Irish Brigade.
 

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The flag of the 28th, made by Tiffany, follows the pattern of the New York regimentals. The flag is green and gold. The green, of course, represents Ireland as does the harp. The harp had been a symbol of Irish nationalism since the 1600s. Under the harp are clusters of shamrocks, traditionally associated with St. Patrick.

The motto of the regiment in Irish: "Riamh Nar Dhruid O Sbairn Lann", which means "Who never retreated from the Clash of Spears."
 
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Before the 28th joined the Irish Brigade, it had a different flag. Here is an illustration of it.

pilot flag.JPG


This flag was called The Pilot Flag by archivists because the illustration of it appeared in the Irish newspaper the Boston Pilot.
 
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But, even before the Pilot Flag, in January 1862 Gov. Andrew presented the first flags to the regiment. The state colors were never used by the regiment in battle as the unit wanted a green flag as its emblem.

28th mass original.JPG
 

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On December 26, 1862 after the carnage at Fredericksburg the 28th retired it National Flag. A new flag arrived the following month:

28th mass second national.JPG
 
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captaindrew

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Mr. Young, I really enjoy your Irish Brigade threads. (although I'm not Irish, my other half is) Do you have much on the 116th Pa? I had a relative, James D Cope 1st Lt. Co K, in the 116th. He wasn't Irish either. He originally enlisted in Co. G 8th PRI (37th Pa) He was promoted to 1st Lt. 3/17/64 and mustered in to the 116th. He was captured at William's Farm. Promoted to captain shortly before being mustered out in the summer of 65. The 116th doesn't seem to get mentioned as much as the other Irish Brigade regiments but they were right in the thick of it. Thanks in advance from another Young, Drew Young
 
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Tom Elmore

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Sources:

- John Buttrick Noyes, Civil War Letters, MS Am2332 (116), Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 2nd Lieutenant Noyes writes of Jackson Hughes, a respected contraband who cooked for him, and on whom Noyes became very dependent. Noyes said Jackson was "far more intelligent than half my company." (During battle, these former Black slaves who were attached to the regiment remained with the wagon train, according to Noyes.) As of June 18, 1863, just prior to Gettysburg, Noyes mentioned that "we have less than 230 men for an engagement, though some 40 more can be accounted for to draw rations ... drummers, pioneers, cooks, etc." His lengthy account is full of interesting details. His description of Gettysburg is particularly valuable. Noyes took 18 men into the fight; all three of his sergeants were wounded, along with one private, and three privates were missing. The regiment numbered 108 guns after their engagement in the Wheatfield on July 2. As of July 14, the entire brigade numbered less than 300 men.

- I've also seen a book review on: Campaigning with the Irish Brigade: Pvt. John Ryan, 28th Massachusetts, ed. by Sandy Barnard (Terre Haute, IN: AST Press, 2001).

- Chicopee Archives Online, Chicopee, Massachusetts describes Peter Sheehy, born in Ireland, a member of Company H; http://www.chicopeepubliclibrary.org/archives/items/show/2490
 

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Sources:

- John Buttrick Noyes, Civil War Letters, MS Am2332 (116), Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 2nd Lieutenant Noyes writes of Jackson Hughes, a respected contraband who cooked for him, and on whom Noyes became very dependent. Noyes said Jackson was "far more intelligent than half my company." (During battle, these former Black slaves who were attached to the regiment remained with the wagon train, according to Noyes.) As of June 18, 1863, just prior to Gettysburg, Noyes mentioned that "we have less than 230 men for an engagement, though some 40 more can be accounted for to draw rations ... drummers, pioneers, cooks, etc." His lengthy account is full of interesting details. His description of Gettysburg is particularly valuable. Noyes took 18 men into the fight; all three of his sergeants were wounded, along with one private, and three privates were missing. The regiment numbered 108 guns after their engagement in the Wheatfield on July 2. As of July 14, the entire brigade numbered less than 300 men.

- I've also seen a book review on: Campaigning with the Irish Brigade: Pvt. John Ryan, 28th Massachusetts, ed. by Sandy Barnard (Terre Haute, IN: AST Press, 2001).

- Chicopee Archives Online, Chicopee, Massachusetts describes Peter Sheehy, born in Ireland, a member of Company H; http://www.chicopeepubliclibrary.org/archives/items/show/2490
Thanks Tom.
 
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Great thread! I'm not of Irish ancestry myself, but my dad was a NYC police officer in the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and that was a sort of "Irish Brigade" too. I've always been fond of them.

I've often wondered what the spectrum of sentiment on slavery and on the war in general was like among the Irish immigrant and Irish American communities in the North and what the "prevailing view" could be said to have been. On the one hand, we have the inspiring bravery and self-sacrifice of the Irish regiments, and on the other hand, we have the fears of many Irish laborers that they might be forced to compete for work with a large influx of freed slaves.
 
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Great thread! I'm not of Irish ancestry myself, but my dad was a NYC police officer in the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and that was a sort of "Irish Brigade" too. I've always been fond of them.

I've often wondered what the spectrum of sentiment on slavery and on the war in general was like among the Irish immigrant and Irish American communities in the North and what the "prevailing view" could be said to have been. On the one hand, we have the inspiring bravery and self-sacrifice of the Irish regiments, and on the other hand, we have the fears of many Irish laborers that they might be forced to compete for work with a large influx of freed slaves.
Enough there for a new thread. However, most shared the views common among Northern Democrats. They tended to see both secessionists and abolitionists as enemies of the Union and believed that abolitionists were often Know Nothings as well. Few had much contact with slavery.
 
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Enough there for a new thread. However, most shared the views common among Northern Democrats. They tended to see both secessionists and abolitionists as enemies of the Union and believed that abolitionists were often Know Nothings as well. Few had much contact with slavery.
And yet Thomas Meagher was a popular figure among his fellow expatriot countrymen, was he not? And presumably, the Irish brigades, and the Irish enlisted men in general, enjoyed considerable popular support in their communities. So how does one reconcile these seemingly contradictory facts?
 
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