The 1st Battalion, Virginia Infantry Regulars were organised in May 1861 of Irishmen from Hanover county and the city of Richmond. Its five companies were known as the ‘Irish Battalion’. It fought in many engagements from First Manassas to Fredericksburg, and later in the war was assigned to General Headquarters and as Provost Guard for the Army of Northern Virginia. The Richmond Daily Dispatch carried a number of articles during the conflict that refered to the Irishmen, including a poem written specifically for the newspaper by one of the Battalion, which it ran in its 23rd December 1861 issue.
THE IRISH BATTALION
When old Virginia took the field,
And wanted men to rally on,–
To be at once her sword and shield,–
She formed her First Battalion.
Although her sons were volunteers,
And brave as ever bore a brand,
The good old lady had her fears,
That they might prove but weak of hand.
She therefore wisely cast about,
For men of mettle and of mould.–
With nerve of steel and muscle stout,
Like those that lived in days of old.
She wanted men of pluck and might,–
Of fiery heart and horny hand,–
To wield the pick as well as fight;
Or build a breastwork out of sand.
Or should she march to meet the foe,
That threatened on her Western border,
She wanted willing men to go,
When told to put her roads in order.
Or should the volunteers retreat,
With baggage that might make them carry,
‘Would blunt the edge of their defeat,
To bear a hand and help them carry.
Or should some die of fell disease,–
The surgeon having failed to save,–
Sure men who work with so much ease,
Would volunteer to dig a grave!
For these, and reasons quite as sound,
When old Virginia went to war,
She circumspectly viewed the ground,
And plumped the middle man from taw!
In other words, to change the figure,
When she stood up and took her rifle,
And put her flogger on the trigger,
She meant to work, and not to trifle.
And standing thus, yet wanting them,
Some regulars to rally on,
She took three hundred Irishmen,
And formed her First Battalion.
And when the storm of battle sweeps,
Where fiercest foemen sally on,
There, hard at work, or piled in heaps,
She’ll find her bold battalion.
Middle Mountain Sept. 28th, 1861.
Richmond Daily Dispatch 1860-1865
Soldiers & Sailors System