CIVIL WAR OP-ED: A Southern Saint Patrick's Day Remembrance

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
CIVIL WAR OP-ED: A Southern Saint Patrick's Day Remembrance

You don’t have to be Irish to wear the green on Saint Patrick’s Day!

He was nicknamed “Stonewall Jackson of the West” during America’s War Between the States.

Monday March 17, 2014 is Saint Patrick’s Day and it’s also the 186th birthday of one of Ireland’s sons: Patrick Ronayne Cleburne.

 A statue of Cleburne was unveiled in the year of our Lord 2009 at Confederate Park in Ringgold, Georgia and a life-size bronze statue of General Patrick R. Cleburne was unveiled in 2012 at the Helena Museum of Phillips County, Arkansas. The Patrick R. Cleburne Confederate cemetery in Jonesboro, Georgia is also named for him. 

There has been much written about the 150,000 Irishmen who fought for the Union during the War Between the States “1861-1865” but did you there were 30,000 equally brave Irishmen who fought for the Confederacy? It is written that by population a comparable number of Irishmen fought for the Confederacy as did those who supported the Union.

The 8th Alabama Irish Brigade made their mark in history fighting for the Confederacy and is remembered for their Erin Go Braugh! flag with a field of green with Faugh A Ballagh on the bottom that is Irish for “clear the way.”

Among the Union Armies fighting Irish was the 69th New York but….

Did you know the Confederacy’s units included the 10th Louisiana and the 10th Tennessee Infantry which were formed at Fort Henry in 1861 and defended Fort Donelson before becoming part of the Army of Tennessee?

Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was born on March 17, 1828, in Ovens, County Cork, Ireland. He was an Anglo-Irish soldier who served in the 41st Regiment of Foot of the British Army. He is however best known for his service to the Confederates States of America.

He was only eighteen months old when his Mother died and only fifteen when his Father passed away. He tried to follow in his Father’s footsteps, Dr. Joseph Cleburne, in the field of medicine but failed his entrance exam to Trinity College of Medicine in 1848. He immigrated to America three years later with two brothers and a sister and made his home in Helena, Arkansas.

In 1860 Cleburne became a naturalized citizen, lawyer and was popular with the residents.

He sided with the Confederacy at the outbreak of the War Between the States and progressed from the rank of private of the local militia to major general.

Cleburne, like many Southerners, did not support the institution of slavery but chose to serve his adopted country out of love for the Southern people and their quest for independence. In 1864, he advocated the emancipation of Black men to serve in the Confederate Armed Forces.

Cleburne participated in the Battles of Shiloh, Richmond, Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold Gap and Franklin. He was killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864 while charging the enemy lines with his sword held high.

Yankee troops were quoted as dreading to see the blue flag of Cleburne’s Division on the battlefield. General Robert E. Lee referred to him as “a meteor shining in the clouded sky”.

William J. Hardee, Cleburne's former corps commander, had this to say when he learned of his loss: "Where this division defended, no odds broke its line; where it attacked, no numbers resisted its onslaught, save only once; and there is the grave of Cleburne.”

Gen. Cleburne was engaged to Susan Tarleton of Mobile, Alabama. Cleburne is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Helena, Arkansas.

A good book “A Meteor Shining Brightly” Essays on Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne” --edited by Mauriel Phillips Joslyn, is a good source of information about Cleburne.

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Johnson is a speaker, writer of short stories, author of the  book “When America stood for God, Family and Country” and Chairman of the National and Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Confederate History and Heritage Month committee. http://www.facebook.com/ConfederateHeritageMonth. He lives in Kennesaw GA, near Atlanta.

April is Confederate History and Heritage Month. Read more on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ConfederateHeritageMonth

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