Irish faithful to either Side

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXIX (2) start of chapter

In their zeal for the cause which Irishmen on each side mutually and of necessity espoused, they did not at all times, perhaps could not, make due allowance for the feelings and convictions of their countrymen who fought under opposing banners, or fairly consider the position in which they were placed, and the influences by which they were surrounded. Thus, while the Northern Irishman could not comprehend how it was that the Southern Irishman, though sympathising with every passionate throb of the community in which he lived, and whose every feeling or prejudice he thoroughly shared, could possibly take up arms against the Union—against the Stars and Stripes—that 'terror of tyrants and hope of the oppressed;' in the same way, the Southern Irishman could not reconcile it to his notions of consistency, that the very men who sought to liberate their native land from British thraldom should join with those who were doing their utmost to subjugate and trample under foot the liberties of a people fighting for their independence. But, were the struggle to be fought over again, both—Irishmen of the North and Irishmen of the South—would fall inevitably into the same ranks, and fight under the same banner; and though each could not, at least for a time, do justice to the motives of the other, every dispassionate observer, who took their mutual positions into account, should do so. An American general, one of the most thoughtful and intelligent men whom I have ever met, remarked to me one day:—

'Nothing: during the war was more admirable than the fidelity of your countrymen, at both sides, to the State in which they lived. North or South, they were equally devoted, equally faithful, sharing in every emotion of thecommunity of which they formed part. I know that some of your countrymen at our side could not make allowance for those on the other side, and in fact wouldhear nothing said in their defence; but I always held the conviction that not only could they not have done otherwise, consistently with their duty, but that themanner in which they did it redounds to their lasting honour. The war has tried the Irish, and they stood the test well, as good citizens and gallant soldiers. This has been my opinion from the first; and it is the same nowthat the war is happily at an end.'

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America