Fredericksburg, Virginia (JFK+50) 152 years ago today, December 13, 1862, the Union army launched an attack on Confederate positions on Marye's Heights near Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Federals were led by General Ambrose E. Burnside while the Rebels were commanded by General Robert E. Lee.
The Irish Brigade, led by Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher, who had been one of the leaders in the Irish rebellion of 1848, implored his men to fight..."today to preserve America, tomorrow to liberate Ireland."
Meagher's men were volunteers from New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. Having fled Ireland 20 years before they now charged in the second Federal attack on Mayre's Heights.
According to one of their officers, the men marched out from town "in glorious style, their green sunbursts waving. Every man (with) a sprig of green in his cap..."
The Irish Brigade was stopped just 30 yards from the Stone Wall.
Of 12,300 Federal soldiers killed in the battle, two-thirds fell right there and of the 1200 Irish soldiers who attacked, 545 were killed, wounded or missing. As the victorious General Lee surveyed the scene from the heights, he said:
"It is well war is so terrible else we should grow too fond of it."
The Flag of the Irish Brigade bears a golden sunburst over Erin's harp and a bank of shamrocks.
General Robert E. Lee, the great military leader of the Southern Confederate forces, said of this group of men after the battle...
'The gallant stand which this bold brigade made on the heights of Fredericksburg is well known. Never were men so brave. They ennobled their race by their splendid gallantry on that desperate occasion. Their brilliant, though hopeless, assaults on our lines excited the hearty applause of our officers and soldiers.'"
"The Civil War: Rebels Resurgent," by William K. Goolrick, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1985.