The Military Prior to 1900.



The Irish have a reputation as fighters.  Why not!  When you are treated as a tenant or serf in your own county?  Job opportunities are non-existent?  People are dying from famine?  You are treated badly because of your religion?  The military provides food, pay, adventure, and foreign travel!  Of course, you might be killed or maimed, but this can be equally probable in Ireland. Depending where you go, you might be fighting with those of the same religion against the power that is enslaving Ireland.

Some of the earliest examples of becoming a member of the military was not by choice.  Since the Irish were British citizens, albeit second class, they were subject to “press gangs”- who raided areas to “press” or force men into the British Navy or Army, particularly in periods of conflict.  Was this legal?  Questionable, but that wasn’t a topic for debate.

What about foreign armies or navies?  They needed people also.  By placing men into units with others of the same persuasion, an Irish lad could be assigned to a unit where Irish was spoken.  Yes, you needed a rudimentary vocabulary of the foreign language to understand orders, but for the new-comer, Irish was often used at the unit level Thus, we see Irish units in various armies world-wide.  
    ●The British Army had between ten to fifteen Irish units at various times.  The Royal Dublin Fusiliers (Figure 1 ) and the Enniskillen Dragoons to name a few.

    ●The French Army had an Irish Brigade. (Figure 2).   Several of Napoleon’s Field Marshals were descendants of Irish emigres.  One of the best known was        Marshal Patrice McMahon.  
    ●The Army of Flanders had the Tercio Irlanda. (Figure 3)
    ●The Belgian Army had  (Figure 4) an Irish unit who was, in part, responsible for the defeat of the British at Fountenoy.
    ●The Papal Army had an Irish Battalion .  (Figure 5)
    ●The US Navy refers to Admiral John Barry as “the Father of the U.S. Navy” for his exploits in the Revolutionary War (Figure 6).
    ●The US Army had several Irish units in the American Civil War.  The Fightin’ 69th Regiment (Figure 7) was well known, but there was also the Irish Brigade, which held the line at Gettysburg, among others, contributed to  defeating the Confederacy. Of course, there were Irish in the Confederate Army also.   

    ●The Mexican Army had the San Patricio Battalion (Figure 8)    
    ●In Argentina, Admiral Brown of the Argentinean Navy (Figure 9) lead his country to Independence.
    ●Simon Bolivar had an ample representation of Irish-born troops in his Army.
    ●In Chile, O’Higgens and McKenna fought for independence from Spain. (Figure 10).

The list can continue on.  The Irish became known as tenacious fighters.  Their presence is reflected on Irish stamps and stamps of other counties.

Wikipedia, Irish Military Diaspora.