‘The Flag that Has Given Protection to Persecuted Countrymen’: An Irishman’s Service to Union & Parents

This is my first reblog from the Irish in the American Civil War blog, which is a very interesting exploration of one of the important ethnic dimensions of the Civil War. This article might be of interest to my readers because it deals with the historical basis for some of the characters in “Gettysburg”/”The Killer Angels,” which I wrote about earlier this summer. This is a long read but well worth it. Nice job!

Irish in the American Civil War

Perhaps one of the best known of all Irishmen to serve during the American Civil War was Buster Kilrain of the 20th Maine Infantry. Buster plays a major role in Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels, and was portrayed by actor Kevin Conway in the film Gettysburg. Kilrain, a loyal soldier and confidant of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, died of wounds received during the 20th’s famed actions on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Of course Buster Kilrain is a fictional character– no one of that name ever served with the 20th Maine. However, real Irishmen were present in the regiment’s ranks. One of them was Tommy Welch, who like his fictional countryman was among the defenders of Little Round Top. Tommy shared other traits with Kilrain; both were among the older men in the regiment, and unfortunately both were destined not to survive the war. The pension file that…

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