'Noblesse oblige'

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXIX (12) start of chapter

The same officer who indulged his men in the exciting game of brickbats on the eastern rampart of Fort Sumter, was in command of a sand-bank battery of three guns, situate between two narrow marshes, the solid land being about eighty yards in front. It was one of the most important positions in the defence of Charleston, and was not taken until the evacuation of the city. On the 16th of June 1862, the Federals made a desperate attempt to take this battery, but were foiled by the pluck with which the Irishmen defended it against overwhelming odds until they were reinforced; the body of the Confederates being 800 yards distant when the attack commenced. And never was pluck more called for than on this occasion, owing to the panic which seized the commander of the picket in front of the fort. That officer suddenly rushed in, right over the battery, having made no resistance to the advancing enemy, whose numbers scared away his wits for the moment.

'What means this conduct? ' sternly enquired the Irishman.

'Oh, you can do nothing—it's impossible—you must retire—the enemy are in overwhelming strength—it's no use—it's madness to resist them—you can do nothing against such desperate odds.'

'You can retire if you please, and nobody will be anything the wiser; but if I left my post, the whole world would know of it; and sooner than do anything that would affect the honour and reputation of Irishmen, or of Ireland, I'd stay here till Doomsday.'

This was no vain boast; for, after expending their ammunition, the Irishmen fought with clubbed muskets, and with such savage energy, that the enemy were kept at bay, and the important position held until the body of the Confederates had time to come up. Then commenced a battle which fiercely raged from the early dawn of that summer's morning to half-past 8 o'clock, when the Federals were compelled to retire. It was known as the Battle of Secessionville, and was admitted to be one of the severest of the war in the South.(58)

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