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Confederate Rainbow

As we all know, during the Civil War, an expansive, democratic, progressive, multiethnic North defeated a bigoted and reactionary South, so that government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not perish from the earth. Like so many commonly held beliefs about the war (which are now being enforced as official, indisputable truths), the picture is jaundiced. (In this respect, rather, it is like many other official untruths: For example, that the war was fought for the benefit of the slaves, that Andersonville was worse than Northern prisons, or that Confederates were vicious barbarians who made war on women.)

Most know about Meagher's Union Irish brigade and its heroic charge at Fredericksburg. Kelly O'Grady sheds some interesting light on a familiar story: Gen. Meagher never exposed himself to fire; while, so far from being an exhibition of Irish-American adherence to the Union cause, the Fredericksburg debacle caused a great decline in Irish support for the war. And Meagher was not much of an Irish patriot—unlike John Mitchel, a true Irish nadonalist, who served the Confederacy and gave it the lives of two sons. Pope Pius IX, at the instigation of the heroic Confederate priest John O'Bannon, strongly condemned and curbed Union recruiting. As a Dublin newspaper observed in 1861, "We cannot but recollect that in the South our countrymen were safe from insult and persecution, while 'Nativeism'...

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