On the eve of the Civil War, the Irish were one of America's largest ethnic groups, and approximately 150,000 fought for the Union. Analyzing letters and diaries written by soldiers and civilians; military, church, and diplomatic records; and community newspapers, Susannah Ural Bruce significantly expands the story of Irish-American Catholics in the Civil War, and reveals a complex picture of those who fought for the Union.
While the population was diverse, many Irish Americans had dual loyalties to the U.S. and Ireland, which influenced their decisions to volunteer, fight, or end their military service. When the Union cause supported their interests in Ireland and America, large numbers of Irish Americans enlisted. However, as the war progressed, the Emancipation Proclamation, federal draft, and sharp rise in casualties caused Irish Americans to question—and sometimes abandon—the war effort because they viewed such changes as detrimental to their families and futures in America and Ireland.
By recognizing these competing and often fluid loyalties, The Harp and the Eagle sheds new light on the relationship between Irish-American volunteers and the Union Army, and how the Irish made sense of both the Civil War and their loyalty to the United States.
“Anyone serious about their Irish-American history will have to get The Harp and the Eagle.”
“Professor Susannah Ural Bruce’s remarkable – and highly readable – study explores the complex political and historical motives that sent 150,000 Irish Catholic soldiers into the ranks of the Union Army during the Civil War. For the majority of Irish soldiers the cause of the union was inextricably linked to the cause of Irish independence and Bruce’s wide ranging study paints a complex and evocative picture of the network of alliances and experiences that animated Irish participation in the war effort. Recommended.”
“The best book ever published on ethnic units in the American Civil War.”
—Journal of Southern History
“With remarkable sensitivity and acuity Bruce goes digging among the personal and public accounts of the Irish soldiers in the Union army and presents these soldiers, and their families and communities, on their own terms so that they emerge as real people conflicted and changed by the demands of war and the obligations of 'community.' The result is a book of immediate interest.”
—Randall M. Miller, author of Union Soldiers and the Northern Home Front: Wartime Experiences, Postwar Adjustments