Did the Irish Potato Famine Help Doom the Confederacy?

NH Civil War Gal

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I happened to read a line today that said that the Irish potato famine helped doomed the Confederacy because of the tremendous amount of immigration that poured into this country. Apparently recruiting posters for the Union side were printed in different languages too and posted where? In New York City? And apparently the 1862 Homestead Act was publicized around the world to attract immigrants and 800,000 came during the war. I didn’t realize that.

There might be two or three issues here in this thread. But the Irish Potato Famine has certainly sparked my curiosity and I never thought about that before. There were certainly Irish units on both sides but were there more on one side or the other? Or were they fairly equal?
 
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wausaubob

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The famine conditions in Ireland in the 1840's was one of motivations for emigration. But immigration to the US accelerated in 1866 and then the British economy hit the rocks in 1867 and working class people were streaming to the US in very large numbers. Large numbers of immigrants entered the US through Canada(British North America). https://books.google.com/books?id=c...al review of immigration 1820 to 1910&f=false
 

wausaubob

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The Potato Famine did not doom the Confederacy in military terms. But it did doom the Confederacy in economic terms, as noted above. Between the immigrants, the women workers of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, and the former slaves fleeing slavery, the US economy experienced growth while it was maintaining the war mobilization.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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the US economy experienced growth while it was maintaining the war mobilization.
This is the critical piece. The Confederacy could not maintain economic growth WHILE conducting a war. It’s railroad infrastructure, for example, and mill workings were already out-of-date.
 

wausaubob

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This is the critical piece. The Confederacy could not maintain economic growth WHILE conducting a war. It’s railroad infrastructure, for example, and mill workings were already out-of-date.
The Confederates started with sufficient assets and wealth. They had about 18 months to win the war. After that period, the gap between the two combatants continued to grow.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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How could they win in that 18th month period? Forts Pickens and Monroe remained in federal hands. New Orleans and Nashville fell to federals quite early.
Remember to keep this thread in line with the title.

Economically the CSA had 18 months to spend their wealth in a way to make them win the war and they weren’t able to do it. The Confederacy started to contract quickly, while the Union was starting to attract men and immigrants and still grow economically.

This part of the equation of how the CSA was going to start a new nation without economic growth from within AND without sufficient immigrants to take up work was miscalculated from even before the Fire Eaters whipped the crowd up.
 

atlantis

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No real effort was made to win over Irish migrant prisoners of war to the confederacy. They could have been paroled for example on condition they find work in confederate war industries or as laborers on subsistence farms. This would have helped economic growth by addressing the labor shortage in the confederate economy.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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No real effort was made to win over Irish migrant prisoners of war to the confederacy. They could have been paroled for example on condition they find work in confederate war industries or as laborers on subsistence farms. This would have helped economic growth by addressing the labor shortage in the confederate economy.
I wonder why the Confederacy didn’t try to make use of the prisoners and win them over.
 

James N.

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I wonder why the Confederacy didn’t try to make use of the prisoners and win them over.
I don't know, given the large number of poor migrants in the US army they should have been a good target for recruitment to work in the economy.
Remember that for the first half of the war prisoner exchanges continued to occur on a regular basis, at least until the beginning of 1864 when they were stopped for a variety of reasons. The Confederate government probably just considered Irish prisoners along with all the others as so many pawns to be traded back for their own men.
 

wausaubob

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Remember that for the first half of the war prisoner exchanges continued to occur on a regular basis, at least until the beginning of 1864 when they were stopped for a variety of reasons. The Confederate government probably just considered Irish prisoners along with all the others as so many pawns to be traded back for their own men.
Industrial employment was concentrated in Richmond, and was also needed on the rail lines. Who would supervise these galvanized Confederates?
 

LetUsHavePeace

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The permanent ending of prisoner exchanges in 1864 was Grant's decision. He made the awful calculus that the Confederacy could not replace the men that the Union armies captured through battlefield surrender and through military arrest. The calculus was "awful" because it was made entirely on the basis of logistics. The troops captured at Donelson were made prisoners of war because there was no difficulty in sending them to Chicago (the extent to which Camp Douglas contributed to the Windy City's emergence as the transportation hub for country seems to me badly underappreciated). Those who surrendered at Vicksburg were paroled because Grant calculated that sending them north would break his fragile supply lines and there was very little likelihood of those men reforming as an effective combat force or journeying hundreds of miles to join the other Confederate armies still in the field. Like those other rare people who can think in mathematics as well as language, Grant was always running the numbers in his head. In that sense only he was guilty of being a "butcher"; war was, in the end, a weighing of the human meat to be engaged in movement and battle.
 
The permanent ending of prisoner exchanges in 1864 was Grant's decision. He made the awful calculus that the Confederacy could not replace the men that the Union armies captured through battlefield surrender and through military arrest. The calculus was "awful" because it was made entirely on the basis of logistics. The troops captured at Donelson were made prisoners of war because there was no difficulty in sending them to Chicago (the extent to which Camp Douglas contributed to the Windy City's emergence as the transportation hub for country seems to me badly underappreciated). Those who surrendered at Vicksburg were paroled because Grant calculated that sending them north would break his fragile supply lines and there was very little likelihood of those men reforming as an effective combat force or journeying hundreds of miles to join the other Confederate armies still in the field. Like those other rare people who can think in mathematics as well as language, Grant was always running the numbers in his head. In that sense only he was guilty of being a "butcher"; war was, in the end, a weighing of the human meat to be engaged in movement and battle.

Prisoner exchanges were halted by Stanton's order on July 13, 1863 --long before Grant had any say about it--and remained that way until early 1865. Grant's name is not even mentioned in connection with the exchanges until April 17, 1864 when as a Lt. General he acknowleges the policy already in place and opines that they cannot resume until captured USCTs are afforded POW status AND the Confederacy release the corresponding amount of Union prisoners to compensate for the the paroled Confederate prisoners from Vicksburg who violated the cartel agreement when they were put back into service.
 

wausaubob

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https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1883656.pdf p. 272
The entire Midwest, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin experienced a population boom during the Civil War. And by the end of the Civil War decade, Missouri also experienced a very large population increase. I doubt a population increase of 69,000 was in any way due to Camp Douglas being located in Chicago. At any rate, the prisoner population there would not have been significant until after August of 1863.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Prisoner exchanges were halted by Stanton's order on July 13, 1863 --long before Grant had any say about it--and remained that way until early 1865. Grant's name is not even mentioned in connection with the exchanges until April 17, 1864 when as a Lt. General he acknowleges the policy already in place and opines that they cannot resume until captured USCTs are afforded POW status AND the Confederacy release the corresponding amount of Union prisoners to compensate for the the paroled Confederate prisoners from Vicksburg who violated the cartel agreement when they were put back into service.
In June 1863 there were 11K Confederate soldiers held in Union camps as POWs - half the number that had been held in July 1862 (the first date for which we have any reliable records. Then, in one month - July 1863 the number of Confederate POWs in Union camps and prisons triples to 31K. In the next year the total does not increase from month to month by more than 5% until December 1863 when 8K are added, bringing the total to 44K. For the next 4 months the total declines. In April 1864 there are only 6K more Confederates held as POWs than there were in July 1863 - a total of 37K. Then, the tally explodes. In May 1864 the count increases by one-third; 13K new POWs take the total to 50K. By July 1864 the total is over 60K; and it stays there until May 1865. The Nau Center's study is worth reading.

 

wausaubob

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In June 1863 there were 11K Confederate soldiers held in Union camps as POWs - half the number that had been held in July 1862 (the first date for which we have any reliable records. Then, in one month - July 1863 the number of Confederate POWs in Union camps and prisons triples to 31K. In the next year the total does not increase from month to month by more than 5% until December 1863 when 8K are added, bringing the total to 44K. For the next 4 months the total declines. In April 1864 there are only 6K more Confederates held as POWs than there were in July 1863 - a total of 37K. Then, the tally explodes. In May 1864 the count increases by one-third; 13K new POWs take the total to 50K. By July 1864 the total is over 60K; and it stays there until May 1865. The Nau Center's study is worth reading.

Which has nothing to do with the Potato Famine, or Irish immigration. But a separate thread which tries to explain the massive population growth of the Midwest, during and after the war based on a few POW camps that mainly operated in 1863 and 1864 would be worth your effort.
 

wausaubob

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View attachment 389266
https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1883656.pdf p. 272
The entire Midwest, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin experienced a population boom during the Civil War. And by the end of the Civil War decade, Missouri also experienced a very large population increase. I doubt a population increase of 69,000 was in any way due to Camp Douglas being located in Chicago. At any rate, the prisoner population there would not have been significant until after August of 1863.
Chicago was growing before the US Civil War, during the Civil War and growth accelerated after the war:
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