Monday, March 17, 2014

The Last Irish Medal of Honor

The Times interesting story about Okinawa and its version of "Danny Boy" by Isamu Shimoji and Yukito Ara missed the unique connection between that Emerald Isle and New York's Irish.  New York's  fabled "Fighting Irish" 69th regiment won its last Medal of Honor for valor above and beyond the call of duty on April 28, 1945 when Pfc Alejandro Ruiz single-handed stormed and captured a heavily defended Japanese position.   A representative of the 69th read Joyce Kilmer's "The Rouge Bouquet" at Ruiz's funeral in 2010 while a piper played the regimental song "Gary Owen."

Monument to the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg

Above the "Mourning Wolfhound Irish Brigade Monument" at Gettysburg.   On Okinawa the Irish Brigade aka the "Fighing Irish" 69th NYNG fought as the 165th Infantry Regiment.

IN a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
There is a new-made grave to-day,
Built by never a spade nor pick
Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.
There lie many fighting men,        5
  Dead in their youthful prime,
Never to laugh nor love again
  Nor taste the Summertime.
For Death came flying through the air
And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,        10
Touched his prey and left them there,
  Clay to clay.
He hid their bodies stealthily
In the soil of the land they fought to free
  And fled away.        15
Now over the grave abrupt and clear
  Three volleys ring;
And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
  The bugle sing:
“Go to sleep!        20
Go to sleep!
Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
You will not need them any more.
Danger’s past;        25
Now at last,
Go to sleep!”
There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride        30
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
Never fear but in the skies
Saints and angels stand
Smiling with their holy eyes
On this new-come band.        35
St. Michael’s sword darts through the air
And touches the aureole on his hair
As he sees them stand saluting there,
  His stalwart sons;
And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill        40
Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
  The Gael’s blood runs.
And up to Heaven’s doorway floats,
  From the wood called Rouge Bouquet,
A delicate cloud of buglenotes        45
  That softly say:
Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are        50
And your memory shine like the morning-star.
Brave and dear,
Shield us here.

Why is McPherson Anti-Catholic

Andrew Greely, the Jesuit sociologist and author,  once remarked to me about Princeton's James McPherson:  "Why is such an otherwise fine historian so anti-Catholic."  The following raise that question.

"Immigrants were proportionally under-represented in the Union’s armed services...Despite the fighting reputation of the Irish Brigade, the Irish were the most under-represented group in proportion to population, followed by  German Catholics."
       - James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p 606, 1988

"The under-representation of Catholic immigrants can be explained in part by Democratic allegiance of these groups and their opposition to Republican war aims, especially emancipation...Although this group furnished a large number of substitutes and bounty men during the final year of the war — thereby achieving an inglorious visibility — they also furnished a large number of deserters and bounty jumpers."
     - James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 607, 1988

The problem with Professor McPherson's remarks start with the Union army never recording the religion of its soldiers.   Who could possibly know how many were, in fact, Catholic.

The second problem is that there are no census records available telling us exactly how many Catholics, or even Irish, were available for military service during America's Civil War.

The last and most egregious problem is that historians including McPherson confuse the Sanitary Commission Report estimate for the number of Irish born soldiers serving in state volunteer units with the number of Irish serving with Union forces.  The Sanitary Commission Report estimate did not include soldiers in regular army units, nor most from the territories, nor militia units and excluded all the marines and sailors.  Moreover, as acknowledged in the Sanitary Commission report the Union army did not record place of birth for 43 percent of the soldiers.  Not surprisingly, the highest levels of failure to record were in states with the highest concentration of immigrants: Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania.

At the University of Virginia, for example, misrepresenting a source is considered academic fraud:
    False Citation: False citation is falsely citing a source or attributing work
    to a source from which the referenced material was not obtained.  
    A simple example   of this would be footnoting a paragraph and citing a work
    that was never utilized.

Estimates adjusting for Sanitary Commission omissions and separately on Medal of Honor data put the number of Irish born serving with the Union army and navy at over 200,000, at least 50 higher than the uncorrected Sanitary Commission estimate.

Why did Professor McPherson make such an egregious mistake?   Inherited prejudice.

"I share [with my cousin] a great-great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War.  This man, Jesse Beecher, emigrated from England in 1857 and became a prosperous wheelwright in an upstate New York village....Another clue [to why he served] is provided by the name he bestowed on his first child born in the United States: Henry Ward Beecher, after the famous antislavery clergyman."
       - James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades, p 4, 1997

While fans of the Beechers like to remember Harriet and Henry Ward as abolitionists, they avoid mentioning that others in the family were among America's most prominent and rabid anti-Catholics.  Their father Lyman was the author of the widely read anti-Catholic diatribe A Plea for the West, whose fiery sermons instigated the Ursuline Convent Riots in 1834.  In 1855, Beecher's son Edward authored The Papal Conspiracy Exposed,  of which Orestes Brownson observed: "Dr. Beecher is haunted by strange visions of a papal conspiracy against American Protestantism and American liberty, and in his agitated dreams he calls out upon his countrymen to put an extinguisher upon Catholicity."

Never mind that Princeton University's other name is "Old Nassau", a celebration of William of Orange-Nassau, the Dutch conqueror of England and victor at Ireland's Battle of the Boyne, which sealed the tragic fate of Ireland's Gaelic-speaking Catholic peasantry, writing in stone the proto-Apartheid Penal Laws which oppressed the Irish even into the 20th century.

That the history profession accepted McPherson's egregious canards without objection can be summed up in The New York Times choice of reviewer for the book:  Hugh Brogan, a British historian, whose only objection was to the grey background of the book's maps.

Make a racist or anti-Semitic remark and you'll lose your job or your business.  Defame the Irish and the Catholics and they award you the Pulitzer Prize.