Sympathy conquering Irritation

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXX (5) start of chapter

A distinguished Irish clergyman of the Catholic diocese of Cincinnati, who publicly and privately discouraged the movement, remarked to me:—'It is idle to say that this feeling—call it infatuation if you like—has not a strong hold on our Irish population, or that the organisation does not embrace within it many men of the best character and the purest motives. I have every day ample experience of the fact that this is so. I will give you a case in point. I was sitting at this desk one evening, busily writing, when a visitor was announced. He was a penitent of my own, and I assure you I was very proud of him, for there could not be a more respectable young man, or one who was in every way better conducted. He was likewise singularly thoughtful and intelligent, and held an excellent position, "Father," he said, "I want you to do me a great favour." I told him, what was quite true, that I should be happy to do anything in my power to oblige or serve him. "Well, Father," said he, "I want you to take charge of this little parcel for me—it contains $600. I am going at once on a very important journey, on which much depends. I am not at present at liberty to say anything more, but you shall soon know all about it; but if you don't hear of me in six months, send this money to my parents in Ireland, with this letter." I received the money and the letter from him, and promised strict compliance with his request. I did not press him as to the nature of his journey, for he was studiously reserved on that point; and when he took leave, it was with a display of emotion not very common with him, for he was almost invariably cool and collected in manner. In less than ten days after we parted at that door, I was shocked to read in the morning paper the account of his death,—he was one of the raiders, and he was killed in the fight at Fort Erie.'

From the Southern States—Alabama, Louisiana, the Carolinas, Florida, Texas—young men had come up to the extreme North on this expedition; and had it been even momentarily successful, or had there been the least connivance with the movement on the part of the Government of the United States,—had, in fact, those who first crossed the frontier but the opportunity of making a stand, and holding their own even for a few days, vast numbers would have flocked to the green standard from every State in the Union. That Southern men, or Confederates, should take any active part in the movement was extraordinary, considering the feeling of exasperation that still lingered in the Southern mind, the result of the late war. This feeling was quite as strongly felt by Irishmen in the Confederacy as by Americans; and though there was, of necessity, a sympathy between Irishmen at both sides of the line, still there was a lurking sentiment of irritation not a little aggravated by the policy of the extreme Radical party, as proclaimed through their press, and sought to be enforced by legislation. An incident, which reached me through more than one source, will indicate, better than any description, the feeling of the Irish in the South as to the part taken by their compatriots of the North in the war.

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

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