Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Nineteenth-century Irish Americans were bound together by a shared ethnic identity that was shaped by a strong attachment to Ireland, a closeness enhanced by their devotion to the Catholic faith, and an American population that held a deep prejudice against the ethnic group. This was especially the case in New York, which had the largest population of Irish Americans in the United States during this time. While many Sons of Erin enlisted into New York regiments, their most famous unit was the Irish Brigade. Therefore, the actions and treatment of the Irish Brigade greatly influenced the way immigrant service in the Civil War is remembered. This was similarly the case for their family and friends on the home front in New York. These individuals united behind their loved ones fighting in the Union Army and showed their support for them through ethnic festivities and religious ties.
Through their service to the Union, Irish Americans in New York embraced their ethnicity and created a shared loyalty to one another that united the group amidst rampant nativism. This diasporic identity found in New York’s Irish-American population was only reinforced and heightened by military service to the Union during the Civil War. Rather than relinquish their ethnic bonds and become “Americanized,” their identity as workers, Democrats, soldiers, Americans, or as an ethnic group was prevalent throughout their lives. This fluidity of identities allowed the Irish in New York to push for greater rights while building their ethnic culture in America. Their hard-fought efforts led to the emergence of cultural diversity in the United States, which countered the Anglo-American Protestantism of the nineteenth century.
Smithmyer, Abbi E., "New York Sons of Erin: Nativism, Identity, and the Importance of Irish Ethnicity in the Civil War Era" (2020). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 7611.