“Kelley's Irish Brigade”


"Come all you that hold communion With southern Confederates bold." The singer tells how Union soldiers came to Missouri, but were routed by Kelley's brigade. He recalls their troubles in Ireland, and hopes for states rights


This is a really, really strange piece. Belden notes that there are Union broadsides of Kelley's Irish Brigade. And the Union *did* have an Irish Brigade commanded by Col. Patrick Kelly; this unit, organized by General Meagher, was in fact, one of the most famous units in the Army of the Potomac. (For some background on this unit, see the notes to "By the Hush.")

If the spelling "Kelley" be accepted, there was also a union general Benjamin Franklin Kelley, who commanded troops (though seemingly not an Irish Brigade) in West Virginia.

But why adapt it to the Confederacy (which is what Belden suggests happened, and I can see no grounds for argument)? And why to Missouri?

The only general officer in the Confederacy named Kelly was John Herbert Kelly (1840-1864), and he *did* serve in Missouri in 1861 -- but he was only a captain at the time. By the time he achieved a brigadier's star in late 1863, he was in Braxton Bragg's army, and he commanded cavalry, not infantry, so he couldn't have led an Irish brigade. The song simply doesn't make sense. - RBW


  1. Belden, pp. 355-356, "Kelley's Irish Brigade" (1 text)
  2. DT, KELLBRIG (Belden's text, mistakenly said to come from Randolph)
  3. Roud #7768
  4. BI, Beld355A


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1912 (Belden)
Keywords: Civilwar political
Found in: US(So)