A Poem for the Irish Battalion

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.


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


Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: 1st Virginia, Virginia

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

5 Comments on “A Poem for the Irish Battalion”

  1. devlin stricklin
    November 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    long live the south my our brothers live happyer

  2. Burns English
    March 3, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

    Any research on the Montgomery Guards out of Richmond, VA 1st Va Company C.? My GG Grandfather was a Captain in the Co., William English originally from Mitchelstown, county Cork
    Thank You, Burns

    • March 10, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

      Hi Burns,

      Thanks for sharing that information- I would be interesting in finding out more about him, do you have many details on him? I haven’t looked in any great detail at that unit but his service records should be available. You can email me at irishamericancivilwar@gmail.com if you want and we can have a chat about him. Great that you know where in Ireland he was from, that is unusual.

      Kind Regards,


  3. November 19, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    Hello Damian,

    I just discovered your site while doing research for a client who’s ancestor was one of the Irish Battalion in Virginia. I am a genealogist located in Charlottesville, Virginia and just wanted to connect.
    I am often at research sites Madison, Orange, Richmond and Charlotteville if there is something I can locate for you.

    Great information, thank you.

    Happy Hunting!
    Pam Brady, APG
    North Garden, VA

    • December 10, 2015 at 8:22 am #

      Hi Pam,

      Really glad you found the site of use! Hopefully it can continue you to help you in your work in the future!

      Kind Regards,


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

%d bloggers like this: