Wednesday, March 15, 2017


[Excerpted from The Irish in America by John Francis Maguire, 1868]

But there is a grave amidst the countless graves that
mark the scene of one of the deadliest conflicts of the war,
on which I would drop a kindly tribute — that is the grave
of Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, one of the noblest of the
soldiers of the Confederacy.

Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was born within a few miles
of the city of Cork. His father — the son of a country
gentleman in Tipperary — was for many years physician of

the dispensary districts of Ovens and Ballincollig; his
mother. Miss Ronayne, was a lady from Queenstown.
Patrick, the youngest of three sons, was partly educated
for the medical profession; but his tastes, from his earliest
youth, tending to a military career, and, owing to his
father's second marriage, which resulted in a second and
numerous family, not being able to purchase a commission
as an officer in the British Army, he in his eighteenth
year enlisted in the 41st regiment as a private soldier.
He remained in the service until he was twenty-one^ when
he was purchased out by his friends. But these three
years of military training in one of the most thoroughly
disciplined armies of Europe was of incalculable advantage
to him in after life. He emigrated to America when the
war broke out; and it found the young Cork man prac-
tising with success as a lawyer in Helena, Arkansas.

I have been favoured with an admirable biographical
sketch of General Cleburne by this attached friend and
distinguished commander. General W. T. Hardee, one of
the most thoroughly accomplished soldiers of either army;
and referring the reader to that sketch, which will be
found in the Appendix, I shall here simply indicate what
manner of man was this Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, who
learned his knowledge of military drill and discipline in
the ranks of the 41st British regiment of infantry. To
begin, then; this heroic Irishman, who was as strong as a
wall of granite to the foe, was as simple as a child, and
as modest as a girl; and that voice that rang like a
trumpet when cannon roared, and balls whistled about his
head, was low and gentle and hesitating when he was
exposed to the most formidable of all batteries to him, a
pair of eyes in the head of any woman of moderate youth
or ordinary attractions. His personnel is thus sketched by
a worthy countryman of his, whom he visited in Mobile, on
the occasion of the marriage of his friend General Hardee,
whose  ‘best man’ he was on that interesting occasion :  In
person he was about five feet nine or ten inches high,
slender in form, with a wiry active look. His forehead
was high and broad, with high cheek bones, cheeks rather
hollow, and face diminishing in width towards the chin,
the upper features being more massive than the lower.
The general expression of his countenance in repose was
serious and thoughtful ; but in conversation he was ani-
mated and impressive, while his whole air and manner
were remarkably unpretending.'

General Cleburne dining one day with the good Irish-
man whose words 1 have quoted, informed him that he
had made up his mind during the war to be a total
abstainer, because he found that in his pistol practice and
in playing chess, of which game he was remarkably fond,
even one glass of wine affected his aim, or interfered with
his calculation. He determined, therefore, while the war
lasted, and he was responsible for the lives of others, and
the results consequent on the manner in which he should
discharge his duties, that he would abstain altogether
from the use of all kinds of liquor.

Cleburne was in favour of arming the negroes as sol-
diers, conferring upon them and their families freedom as
a bounty. He, with several distinguished generals, signed
a petition to President Davis to that effect, and he per-
sonally offered to take command of a division of such
troops, when raised. But the movement failed on account
of the opposition which it met with. In private conversa-
tion he said that the general sentiment of the world was
against the Confederacy on the question of slavery, and
that Southerners could look nowhere for active sympathy
unless they made some such arrangement as he mentioned :
and he unhesitatingly expressed his belief, that the success
of the cause depended upon its adoption. He did not
pronounce a decided opinion against slavery in the abstract,
but he regarded the system in the South as having
glaring defects and evils, especially the utter disregard
of the married rights of the slaves, which, he said, was
enough to deprive the States in witch this evil existed
of the aid of Providence in the war. The opinions held
by General Cleburne were those emphatically expressed
in writing and from the pulpit by the Catholic Bishops of
Richmond and Savannah.

The opinions of a man of Cleburne's stamp, as to the
character of the Irish as soldiers, I give in the words of
the friend who heard them expressed by that great General :
 ‘In reference to the relative merits, as soldiers, of the
‘different kind of men in the service, he said he preferred
‘the Irish, not on the ground of their courage, for of that
‘there was no lack in the Confederate service, but for
other qualities, highly useful in war. After a long day's
‘march they generally had their tents up first; they were
‘more cleanly in their persons ; under the fatigue of hard
‘work, or a heavy march, they showed more endurance,
‘and recovered sooner; they were more cheerful under
' privation; and above all, they were more amenable to
‘discipline. These, he said, were highly useful qualities in
‘war ; and from actual observation he was persuaded the
' Irish soldiers possessed them in a higher degree than any
‘other people that came under his eye.’

Cleburne was one of those Irishmen who never could
understand how it was that his countrymen of the North
could join with the 'Yankee' to oppress and crush the
South; but had he been a lawyer in a Northern or North-
western State, he might have been equally surprised if
anyone had accused him of turning his military knowledge
to the same purpose. His countrymen throughout the
Northern States were proud of his splendid reputation;
while in the South it was not considered second to that of
the very greatest of its commanders. And when he died
— struck by a storm of bullets, as the fore feet of his horse
were planted on the Federal ramparts — a wail of sorrow
and a shudder of despair passed through the land. A
tower of strength had fallen. The dauntless soldier sleeps
in peace in the cemetery whose solemn beauty elicited
the strange remark, as he gazed on it a few days before he
gloriously fell, "It is almost worth dying to rest in so sweet
a spot."

I heard the heroic Irishman thus spoken of by two brave
men — General Buckner and General Hood — who had been
with him in many a memorable fight, and many a bril-
liant victory. Referring to his name, the first-named
general said : —

And particularly did I recall the virtues of the Irish character,
when a few short months ago, I stood, in the twilight hour, over
the grave of one of the noblest sons of Ireland. As I looked upon
the plain board inscribed with his name in pencil lines, and upon the
withered flowers which the fair hands of some of our countrywomen
had strewn upon his grave, I wept silent tears to the glorious memory
of General Patrick Cleburne. He commanded a brigade in my division,
and afterwards succeeded me in the command of troops whom I cannot
more highly praise than to say he was one uf the few who was worthy
to command such men. And conspicuous amongst such gallant men,
and worthy soldiers of such a glorious leader, were Irishmen, who illus-
trated their high military virtues on so many fields, and displayed
on so many occasions their fidelity to the cause they had espoused.

And thus spoke General Hood, who bears in many a
scar and wound eloquent testimonies to his desperate but
unavailing gallantry: —

During the late war it was my fortune to have in my command
organisations composed of your countrymen, and it gives me pleasure
to assert that they were always at their post. And among these brave
men was to be found the gallant Cleburne. His name carries me to
the heights near Franklin. And his last remarks, just before moving
forward, I shall ever remember. He said : 'General, I have my division
in two lines, and at ready. General, I am more hopeful of the success
of our cause than I have ever been since the war commenced.' Within
twenty-five minutes this brave soldier was no more. Within an hour
an army was in mourning over the great loss. Thus ended the career
of this distinguished man — hopeful even at the last hour, but doomed
to disappointment as all other men.