‘Faugh A Ballagh!’: The 17th Wisconsin at Corinth

The morning of 3rd October 1862 had not gone well for Major-General William Starke Rosecran’s Union forces. Holding the northern Mississippi town of Corinth, they had been attacked around 10am by Confederate forces of Major-General Earl Van Dorn’s Army of West Tennessee. By early afternoon, pressure on the Federal advanced position had grown so great that it was in danger of being overwhelmed. A new line was desperately needed to stave off the enemy advance. It would form on the Irishmen of Colonel John Doran’s 17th Wisconsin Infantry, which had spent the morning in reserve behind the Union left. (1)

The 17th Wisconsin were organised in Madison and mustered into service on 15th March 1862. The men were largely drawn from the state’s Irish community, and Corinth was to be their first major action. When the battle opened the 17th had initially been kept in the rear to guard the brigade camp. However, as the Federal situation deteriorated, the regiment was ordered to the battlefield just after 1pm. Colonel Doran remembered that as they approached the front they were greeted with ‘as hearty a cheer as was ever raised for the sons of Erin.’ (2)

Federal troops in Corinth Mississippi during winter 1862 (Photographic History of the Civil War)

Federal troops in Corinth Mississippi during winter 1862 (Photographic History of the Civil War)

The 17th Wisconsin took up a position beyond the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and faced north on a ridge of high ground. Scotsman Brigadier-General John McArthur arrived to take control of events and began to form other regiments to the Irishmen’s left, creating a new Union line that ran between the 17th and Battery F, one of the earthen redoubts defending the town. Doran detailed Companies B, F and G forward to act as skirmishers and feel for the enemy. Firing erupted as they encountered the thus far victorious Confederates, and they took their first casualties; Captain Hugh McDermott of Company B fell severely wounded with a gunshot wound in the chest. (3)

As the Rebels drove in the 17th’s skirmishers fire began to intensify on the main Union line. The gunners of Lieutenant Mitchell’s Battery F, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery took the brunt of the punishment, and cannoneers began to fall. It was now just after 2pm. Brigadier-General McArthur determined that it was necessary to drive the Confederates back in order to save his artillery, and so asked Colonel Doran if he could ‘charge successfully on the brigade doing such execution.’ He replied that he could, and he turned to his men to prepare them to assault the Rebels. (4)

The green-flag regiment prepared their ranks and surged towards the enemy crying ‘Faugh A Ballagh’, a gaelic war-cry meaning ‘Clear the Way’. The remainder of the Union line charged forward in echelon with them, and the Rebels were driven back some three-quarters of a mile. At this juncture the Confederates regrouped and were reinforced, and it became necessary for the Federal troops to fall back to avoid envelopment. Tragedy then struck the Badger State Irishmen, as they came under fire from a wholly unexpected direction. Two exhausted Union regiments, the 14th Wisconsin and 15th Michigan, had been ordered back into the fray having fought with heavy loss earlier in the day. Coming upon their retreating comrades they mistook them for Rebels, before ‘discharging their muskets into the Seventeenth’, after which they ‘turned and ran.’ (5)

Federal troops overlooking the tracks in Corinth, Mississippi, 1862 (Library of Congress)

Federal troops overlooking the tracks in Corinth, Mississippi, 1862 (Library of Congress)

The 17th Wisconsin successfully withdrew to the main entrenchments around Corinth, where a series of strong fortifications and batteries protected the town. McArthur commented on the field that the men had ‘made the most glorious charge of the campaign’ and also complemented Sergeant-Major John Nichol who had commanded a party of skirmishers. The battle was renewed the next day, but the unit was not heavily engaged. The 4th October assault ended in slaughter for the Confederates as they attempted to penetrate the strong defensive positions; they were left with no option but to withdraw. (6)

The 17th Wisconsin Infantry would go on to serve in the Vicksburg and Atlanta Campaigns, and ended the war taking part in the Grand Review in Washington D.C. The regiment lost five killed and twenty wounded during the fighting of 3rd October, although a number of of the latter category succumbed to their wounds. The impact of the Battle of Corinth on the survivors and their families could be lifelong, as was the case for those men disabled as a result of their injuries. The names of the killed and wounded in the 17th Wisconsin at Corinth are as follows:

Company B: Captain Hugh McDermott (wounded), Private Hugh Greenwood (wounded, discharged disability), Private Thomas Gaffney (wounded, later died), Private Otto B. Thomas (wounded, later killed at Vicksburg), Private Edwin Sykes (wounded), Private Carroll W. Gifford (wounded), Private John Fahey (wounded, transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps)

Company C: Private Anthony O’Brien (killed)

Company D: First Sergeant William Maas (wounded, discharged disability), Sergeant James Dempsey (killed), Private Terence McElroy (killed)

Company E: Private Andrew Holcomb (wounded, later died)

Company F: Sergeant John Keenan (wounded, discharged disability), Corporal Peter Gallagher (wounded, later died), Private Timothy Scanl0n (killed), Private Patrick Tiernan (wounded, transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps)

Company H: Corporal George Winkle (killed), Private Maurice Kerins (wounded, discharged disability), Private Ansel J. Bugby (wounded, discharged disability)

Company I: Captain Julius G. Nordman (wounded), Private James Conners (wounded, later died of disease at Vicksburg), Private Henry Closson (wounded, discharged disability in 1864)

Company K: First Sergeant David S. Bishop (wounded, discharged), Corporal David Converse (wounded, transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps), Private Andrew Conley (wounded, transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps) (7)

(1) Cozzens 1997: 181-3; (2) Quiner 1866: 644, Official Records: 350; (3) Cozzens 1997: 181-5, Quiner 1866: 644, Official Records: 350; (4) Cozzens 1997: 182-3, Official Records: 350-1; (5) Love 1866: 516, Cozzens 1997: 183, Official Records: 351; (6) Love 1866: 516; (7) Quiner 1866: 646, Roster 1886: 49-82;

References & Further Reading

Cozzens, Peter 1997. The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka and Corinth

Love, William DeLoss 1866. Wisconsin in the War of Rebellion

Quiner, E.B. 1866. Military History of Wisconsin

Official Records Series 1, Volume 17 (Part 1), Chapter 29. Report of Col. John L. Doran, Seventeenth Wisconsin Infantry, including operations October 3-11

Wisconsin Adjutant General’s Office 1886. Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861- 1865, Volume 2

Colors of the 17th Wisconsin Infantry in the Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Civil War Trust Battle of Corinth Page

Corinth Civil War Interpretive Centre

Wisconsin Historical Society: Wisconsin in the Civil War

About these ads

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: 17th Wisconsin, Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, Wisconsin

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

Follow Irish in the American Civil War

Follow Irish in the American Civil War via Social Media

19 Comments on “‘Faugh A Ballagh!’: The 17th Wisconsin at Corinth”

  1. January 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Great description of the action at Corinth and the role of the 17th’s Irishmen. Corinth is well worth a visit today. The railroad tracks still cross in the center of town and some of the buildings on the square are still there.. The sites of at least two of the batteries that formed part of the Corinth defenses still exist. There is an excellent interpretive center for visitors and a storied Bed and Breakfast called The Generals Quarters.

  2. January 9, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    I have seen a photo of the Irish colors of the 17th Wisconsin. The remnants reveal a flag very similiar yo the 69th Pennsylvania’s first Irish flag. A gold Maid of Erin Harp on a Green field.

    The 17th Wisconsin had a circle of the Fenian Brotherhood within its ranks. Brevet General Adam Malloy was Head Centre. Others known members were Captain Garrett Walsh and Captain John Delahunt. Delahunt was present after the war in Ireland and also in Canada as a Fenian

  3. January 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Hi Jim,

    Many thanks- I would love to visit the site at some point down the line!

    Kind Regards,

    Damian.

    • January 25, 2012 at 6:06 am #

      Damian,
      I am glad to see someone getting so involved in the history of this unit. Currently, I am actually trying to start a Civil War re-enacting unit, here in Wisconsin, to portray that unit. It just so happens, one of my relatives had an ancestor that was a member of the 17th Wisconsin. So, hearing about this is really great info. By the way, by any chance, those men in that picture, do you know if they were members of the 17th Wisconsin? I’ve been looking for more information about their uniforms, and have come across very little information. From what I can come up, it sounds as though they would’ve worn your standard Dark Union Blue Sack Coat with Dark Union Blue Trousers. However, it may have been possible for them to be wearing a Frock Coat. There doesn’t seem to be many specifics on that. I do have a website http://www.17wiandmosg.webeasysite.us/
      If you go there, and click on the area to e-mail the unit, make sure to mention the subject. I happen to have pictures of a couple of their original flags. However, you can also find pictures of them at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum website as well.

      • January 25, 2012 at 8:42 am #

        Hi Nathan,

        Many thanks for getting in touch! The men in the photo aren’t the 17th Wisconsin unfortunately, the photo in its entirety shows a mix of regulars, cavalry and volunteer infantry but dosent identify the units.I checked out your website it looks good, I hope you have good success with it! I have not come across anything specific on their uniforms as yet, but I will be looking at them again and if I do find anything I will pass it on. Their green flag is superb, a really nice example- the unit as a whole deserves to better known.

        Kind Regards,

        Damian.

  4. January 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    More great fenian info! Your right it is a really nice example, with ‘Faugh A Ballagh’ and ‘Wisconsin Irish Brigade’ on it, it is one of my favourites!

    Kind Regards,

    Damian.

  5. Jeff T. Giambrone
    June 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    The October 6, 1863, editon of THE NATCHEZ COURIER (Natchez, Miss.) has a long article about the presentation of a sword to Colonel Malloy. In the article the sword is described thus: “The blade, which is of the purest steel and highest temper, has devices etched upon it which naturally awaken the sympathies, and appeal to the patriotism of a true-hearted Irishman – the eagle, the shamrock, the harp of old Erin – these symbols are dear to his affections, while the motto, ‘Erin-go-braugh,’ will awaken many a responsive echo, in the bosoms of our loyal co-patriots of the green and lovely isle.”
    The paper also included Colonel Malloy’s acceptance speech in which he said, “Brother officers of the 17th Wisconsin: I accept your beautiful present with more than ordinary feeling, for on it I see an inscription that is dear to the heart of every honest Irishman. ‘Erin-go-Braugh’ – how many memories cluster round that motto! How many of our fathers have died for it, is not for me to mention here. Suffice it to say that their names and deeds are written on the tablets of your memory. On the reverse side I see the American Eagle, under whose protecting wings we have found that freedom which was denied to us in the land of our nativity. Feeling grateful for these blessings, we have taken up arms in defense of our adopted country. We have done no more than our duty; yet we feel we have nobly done it. The record of the 17th Wisconsin Infantry is bright and unsullied – of it I will not speak, but again thank you for this superb sword, which shall be handed down as an heirloom to my children.”

    • June 17, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Hi Jeff,

      What a fantastic bit of information! Many thanks for sharing it with us- how did you happen to come across it?

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

      • Jeff Giambrone
        June 17, 2013 at 10:47 am #

        Damian,             I found the article by accident – I work at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, and was looking for something totally different in the wartime Natchez newspaper when I ran across the article on Malloy. I thought the description of the sword he was given was very interesting, and I was wondering if it might still exist, and went to Google to find out. I was not able to find any information on the sword, but I did pull up your article, which I missed when it first came out. If you would like a copy of the article, I can scan it and email it to you.

        Jeff

        ________________________________

      • June 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

        Hi Jeff,

        It would be really fascinating to see if his sword is still out there somewhere! I would love a copy of the article if you if it isn’t too much trouble- it is a really good piece! My email is irishamericancivilwar@gmail.com and thanks again for sharing the info here!

        Kind Regards,

        Damian.

  6. Michael J. Burke
    July 25, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    My great-grandfather, Garrett B. Walsh, 17th Wisconsin, started as a private in 1862 and rose in rank to became a Brevit Captain in the battle of Atlanta in 1864 during the March to the Sea. I would love to see a picture of him during the War. Garrett died in 1912; my father was born in 1905 and remembered Garrett . He called him “the Old Solider”

    • July 29, 2013 at 9:09 am #

      Hi Michael,

      Many thanks for the information! Was Garrett born in Ireland? Your family history just goes to show how recently all these events occurred- it is remarkable that your father had memories of him.

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

      • Michael Burke
        July 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

        Garrett was born in Ireland and left it at the end of the potato famine from Cork. family legend has him stowed away on a boat for America. He was caught of course and when he hit the ground in New York he took off for the West. We think California. Made his way back in in 1860 and joined the Irish Brigade I think in 61 or 62 fought with Grant and then Sherman. Garrett stayed with Sherman until the end of the war marched in the Grand Review in Washington. My aunt who was my fathers twin born 1905 described him to me as a man about 5 ft 6in. thin with a long white beard that was yellow around the mouth as was command with old men. Garrett was a teatotaler and she thinks didn’t eat much meet.

      • July 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

        Hi Michael,

        What great memories thanks for sharing them! What an incredible journey many of these men took, from Ireland all the way through to the Grand Review on beyond- quite a story!

        Kind Regards,

        Damian.

      • Jeff Giambrone
        September 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

        Damian, While doing some research the other day, I ran across this obituary of John Patton, an Irish veteran who served in the Crescent Regiment of Louisiana and the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery. It was a long article, so I had to save it in two parts. If you have any questions, just let me know.

        Jeff

        ________________________________

      • September 22, 2013 at 11:50 am #

        Hi Jeff,

        Many thanks for letting me know about this- I would love to read that obituary, is the paper available online? Sounds like a really interesting record of service.

        Kind Regards,

        Damian.

      • Jeff Giambrone
        September 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

        Damian, I attached the article to the first email that I sent – I am attaching it again to this message.

        Jeff

        ________________________________

      • Jeff Giambrone
        September 21, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

        Damian, I forgot to mention in my last message that the article is from The Semi-Weekly Citizen(Jackson, Mississippi) April 19, 1872.

        ________________________________

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Fallen But Not Forgotten – September 17, 1862 – 22,717 American Dead « The Communicator - February 27, 2012

    [...] ‘Faugh A Ballagh!’: The 17th Wisconsin at Corinth (irishamericancivilwar.com) [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,429 other followers

%d bloggers like this: