The Civil War, Day by Day

Rebel Sons of Erin

Rebel Sons of Erin

The 10th Tennessee fought at Fort Donelson with antiquated muskets first used by state militia in the War of 1812.

They, too, fought for the Cause. America’s Irish community - like so many other Americans - was divided by the War Between the States. Irish volunteers in the North achieved fame through the battlefield exploits of units like “Meagher's Irish Brigade.” Less known, but no less fervent in their patriotism, were Southern Irishmen - who promptly took up arms in defense of the South and Southern Independence.

Most prominent among Irish Confederate commanders was General Patrick R. Cleburne, and among the best-known Irish Confederates were the troops of the 10th Tennessee, CSA. Outfitted in new uniforms trimmed in red and equipped with British Tower muskets from the War of 1812, they endured a regimental baptism of fire during the Fort Donelson Campaign of 1862.

At 1:20 p.m., on Thursday, February 13, 1862, the 10th Tennessee (Irish) engaged the enemy at Erin Hollow near Dover, Tennessee. It was the only combat the troops would experience as a full regiment. Shoulder-to-shoulder beneath their regimental flag of Irish green, they poured fired into the Federal ranks. Their well-crafted uniforms had been supplied by one of their own - Lieutenant Colonel Randal W. McGavock was a stirring presence at Erin Hollow. Observed historian Ed Gleeson in his book Rebel Sons of Erin: “There was a big, mounted, red-haired officer in a red-and-gold trimmed uniform, with a green feather in the red lining of his gray hat, pointing a sword that flashed in the afternoon sun. Above him at a higher point on the hill was a green flag, with white shamrocks, flapping in the Tennessee wind.”

They were the defenders of their Southern homeland.

They were the Rebel Sons of Erin.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.