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I was born, I'm currently living, and will eventually die. After that I face my judgment, and we'll talk then.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Irish Brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas

In honor of the anniversary of the first major battle in the Civil War, I have decided to post a small section of my History thesis. The entire thesis, entitled "'Paddy's Jubilation': The Wide-ranging Patriotism of Irish-Americans in the North During the American Civil War", can be found in the Christendom College Library, where all the undergraduate thesis are preserved. The following is adapted from a section in the first chapter. The whole chapter deals with Irish in the North's military during the Civil War, and their patriotism. This section specifically deals with the events which occurred July 21, 1861. . . .

Other Irish regiments formed in other states, particularly the 69th and 116th in Pennsylvania, which fought at the Battle of Gettysburg along with the 28th Massachusetts Volunteers, and the 15th Maine.[i] However, none of these regiments ever approached the sheer size of the famous “Irish Brigade” from New York, the most famous Irish fighting force in the Civil War. The Irish Brigade was for most of its existence filled with soldiers from New York, particularly the famous “Fighting 69th” regiment, although other states were occasionally represented. Not only was this brigade the largest group of fighting Irishmen in the Civil War, dwarfing any regiment from other Northern cities, but it is also one of the best-documented fighting bodies in the entire history of the Civil War thanks to Captain David Power Conyngham. Conyngham, who had received a chest wound at the Battle of Resaca while working as an aid to the Brigade’s general, Thomas Meagher, wrote a detailed history of the Brigade soon after the Civil War ended.[ii] The work remains the standard volume on the subject.

The Brigade itself received praise not only from Irish writers and Union generals, but also from such strange sources as a writer from the London Times. This was, by all accounts, a valiant group of men, devoted not only to their adopted country of America but their mother country of Ireland as well. Conyngham notes that, “many a patriotic young Irishman wanted to learn the use of arms and the science of war, with the hope of one day turning them to practical use in his own country.”[iii] Others had fought for Ireland and had escaped the English by immigrating to America. General Meagher is a prime example. He had emigrated from Ireland after being arrested as part of the “Young Ireland” movement in the 1840s.[iv] He, like many of his troops in the Irish Brigade, saw the Civil War as a sort of stepping stone to fighting for freedom in Ireland. It was not as much a fight for one country or another, but rather was a fight for the high ideals of freedom and unity. He urged his men to fight not only as Americans, but also as Irishmen.

This is clearly shown in the Brigade’s martial performance at the First Battle of Bull Run (known as the First Battle of Manassas in the South), the battle of Antietam, and the battle of Fredericksburg, where the Irish fought with awe-inspiring bravery. These three battles, important ones in the Civil War, were also the three major battles that featured the Irish Brigade as a unified force. Later battles that featured members of the Brigade, such as Gettysburg, only featured scattered parts of the Brigade. However, these three battles from the first two years of the war capture not only the bravery of the Irish Brigade, but also the bravery of all the Irish fighting for the Union.

The First Battle of Bull Run, which occurred on July 21, 1861, near Manassas, Virginia, was the first major battle of the Civil War. It was here that the Union’s hope of a short war vanished. At the start of the battle the Union forces held their own, but by the end they found themselves retreating from a confident army of Confederates. Despite the loss, the Irishmen present rose to the occasion, harnessing their notorious Irish temper against the enemy forces.

The Battle was well underway when the Irish Brigade was sent in to attack. Conyngham’s portrayal of the battle depicts the Confederates as repelling, “charge after charge, regiment after regiment.”[v] The Brigade, primarily made of the “Fighting 69th" of New York, immediately faced enemy fire. Conyngham’s description, gripping and passionate, is as follows:

Stripped of knapsacks and overcoats, they swept up the hill, across the open field, on towards the wood, delivering fire after fire on their concealed foe. Batteries opened on them right and left, hurling grape into their very faces, while from the shelter of the woods a stream of lead was poured on them. It was a gallant charge, gallantly led and gallantly sustained. After each repulse, the regiment formed and charged right up on the batteries.[vi]

This continued on until the Brigade was ordered to retreat, which it did “without panic,” as Edward Spann describes.[vii] Even the Confederates were impressed with their bravery, with one commenting that, “‘The Irish fought like heroes,’ and at the end ‘did slowly retire.’”[viii] It was a performance that impressed General Irvin McDowell, Union General during the battle, so much that he personally rode over and thanked the Irish soldiers.[ix] That first battle caught the attention of generals, solidifying the Irish Brigade as a band of great warriors.

[i]Joseph P. O’Grady, How the Irish Became Americans (Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1973), 46.

[ii]David Power Conyngham, The Irish Brigade and Its Campaigns (New York: William McSorley & Co., 1867. Reprint, New York: Fordham University Press, 1994), 12.

[iii]Ibid., 6.

[iv]Ibid., 533–535.

[v]Conyngham, 36.

[vi]Ibid., 36-37.

[vii]Edward K. Spann, “Union Green: The Irish Community and the Civil War,” in Ronald H. Bayor and Timothy J. Meagher, ed. The New York Irish (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 196.

[viii]Ibid., 41.

[ix]Conyngham, 37.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Catholic Schools Need Men

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook recently. As a male teacher in a Catholic school, the topic intrigued me immediately. So I read it, and have decided to comment. I’m gonna try something different. I’m going to provide my commentary in the text of the article itself. I’m taking my queue from Fr. Z at What Does The Prayer Really Say?, using Red and Black in his honor. Black are highlights, Red are my comments.

Without further ado. . .

“Catholic Schools Need Men”
By Mark Judge

The Catholic schools of Washington should hire me -- because I'm a man.

When I started substitute teaching at St. Mary's, a Catholic school in Maryland [If he had included the city, I would know which school], two years ago, I noticed something that has become so common that it goes unnoticed. The Catholic grammar schools - like public elementary schools - are mostly run by women [Its like being run by nuns, but without the Orders]. In some of them there is not a single male teacher. In the archdiocese as a whole, the ratio is about 10-1, and it is similar in the rest of the country. This imbalance is terrible for a Church that is still stumbling through a sex abuse crisis and fighting a secular culture that grows increasingly misogynistic. Kids need male role models [True], and it's time for some affirmative action in Catholic schools.

This is not the usual conservative argument that too many women in positions of authority are bad for boys [Never hurt before]. I am the product of a family full of tough, smart, independent Catholic women, from my mother who was a nurse in Korea to my sister the single mother to my sister-in-law the pediatrician. I know better than to make the argument that women are lacking in any way intellectually or morally or physically (my sister's Catholic Youth League basketball team could run circles around us boys when I was a kid). Women who run Catholic schools produce brilliant, achieving women. That is not the issue.

The damage done by the abusive priests and the bishops who moved them from parish to parish has given the impression that the men who are leaders in the Catholic Church are duplicitous at best and iniquitous at worst. In order to get over this, the Church not only needs penance - she needs men in the schools who show children a model of male moral strength. Catholic kids need to see men who would go to their own death rather than see harm come to a child [AMEN! Kids in general need to see this].

A priest friend of mine agrees who runs a well-known parish in DC agrees. I went to see him a couple weeks ago, to ask him why I kept getting turned down for teaching jobs, and why they always seemed to go to women. He told me he himself was frustrated about it, and that I should write to the bishop. The priest and I had a man-to-man talk, as it were, which points to the other, perhaps more abstract, problem that the man shortage reveals: woman and men have a different rapport with children [Duh]. Children instinctively talk and act differently around them, and it is important that they have access to both sexes throughout the course of the day [Moms and Dads are nice]. This has nothing to do with the so-called "feminization of Christianity," an argument that holds that the "masculine traits" have been scrubbed from Christianity due to women controlling parish offices and schools [Haven’t heard that one. . . ]. If the masculine traits are bravery, toughness, strength and discipline, then many of the female teachers at St. Mary's have them more than I do. In fact, my first few times subbing their it was the women who helped me out with effective techniques to discipline kids, how to run the audio-visual equipment, and how to control the chaos at recess [That’s because, 9 times out of 10, the teachers either KNOW the kids better than the subs, or the teachers scare the crap out of the students].

The argument is not about putting Sylvester Stallone into eighth grade to make men outta the boys; it's having men in the schools who can reinforce a Catholic feminism [Wait for it. . . ]. This is the feminism found in the example of the Virgin Mary [YES]. It is a feminism that is tough enough to travel miles through the dessert on a donkey, and at a desperate hours bluntly ask God face to face to do something, as the Blessed Mother did at the wedding at Cana. It is the feminism that had the courage to stand at the foot of the cross when the men had fled.

Ironically, this is the kind of feminism that can sometimes be best delivered by a man. This year girls basketball team at St. Mary's won the league championship. As a reward the girls on the team got to come to school out of uniform, wearing whatever ever t-shirts they wanted to. The boys, whose team had not done as well, were sulking around school, bristling whenever the girls would brag. I noticed they were whispering to each other, "Yeah, but girls basketball is not a sport." They would never say in front of any teachers, 90 percent of whom are women. But then the sixth grade came into my classroom in the afternoon and, the boys saw me standing in the front and they let themselves go. "It's not a sport!" they cried. They called out, men to man, for validation - "Mr. Judge, girls basketball is not a sport! Right?"

I was surprised. I grew up in the 1970s, and even in those dark ages we would never have claimed that women's basketball was not a sport. Had thing moved that far backwards? Actually, I answered, not only is it a sport, it's a lot more interesting than men's basketball. Men's basketball has become a lot of dunking. In women's basketball there is strategy, jump-shots, thinking [I would have just said “Yes. Now sit down and do your work.”].

The boys looked at me suspiciously for a few seconds. But then they seemed to take it in.

I submit that to young boys, this message is different coming from a man. I was an athlete when I was younger, am an orthodox Catholic, love women and sports, and am unaffected by 1960s style rage feminism. Kids, who any teacher will tell you are the greatest BS detectors in the world, can tell when they are being propagandized and when someone is speaking from the heart [Not only that, but they for some reason think teachers don’t have any such detectors]. And if it is a man to boys, the message will take more often than not. It sound terrible, it may run me out of polite society, but I think that when boys spend all day every day listening to women, they do what girls do when boys go on and on about cars or sports. They stop listening [Not always, but it does happen].

What do you guys think. I know most of the people who read this blog are women, and I am particularly interested to see what you think.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

New Template Decided

Template update

So I changed my template, as you can see (those of you reading this through, say, Facebook, should go over to the actual blog and check out the changes).

The first one I looked at was called "Awesome, Inc." This one interested me solely on the cool name, and the appropriateness of the name to this Freaking Awesome Blog. But it didn't look too cool (and was kinda hard to read), so I went with something called "Simple." They had a cool one with books in the background, which excited me, as anyone who knows me would understand. So I tweeked it a little, and this is the current template.