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US Civil War propaganda?

Paul Burke 17 Dec 10 - 07:35 PM
Bobert 17 Dec 10 - 07:42 PM
GUEST,Visitor 17 Dec 10 - 07:44 PM
GUEST 17 Dec 10 - 07:58 PM
CET 17 Dec 10 - 08:00 PM
michaelr 17 Dec 10 - 09:08 PM
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Subject: US Civil War propaganda?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 07:35 PM

On the House Devils recording I reviewed lately, there's a song called "On the Hush"- about an Irish immigrant conscript advising his compatriots not to emigrate to America. It's brilliantly done - mind haunting- but on reflection I can't help thinking it's actually very well made Confederate propaganda.

Hear's you Boys, take my advice
To Amerikay I'd have ye's not be comin;
For there's nothin' here but war
Where the murderin' cannons roar,
And I wish I was back home in dear old Erin

The subject of the song was conscripted immediately on arrival in the USA- did this happen (legally or otherwise)? And "on the hush" suggests that it was meant to be illicit- what were there laws about "spreading false information" then?

Any historians like to comment?

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Subject: RE: US Civil War propaganda?
From: Bobert
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 07:42 PM

Depends... Where is Erin???

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Subject: RE: US Civil War propaganda?
From: GUEST,Visitor
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 07:44 PM

I just recently finished David T. Gleeson's "The Irish in the South", which had a few notes on northern Irish as well. While I unfortunately don't have the book handy to give you the exact quotes, he did mention this. Irishmen were conscripted - they played a large part in the New York City draft riots. I also remember something about recruitment in Ireland - some men were apparently convinced to immigrate without realizing they had commited themselves to enlistment in the Union Army. I wish I could give you the direct quotes...I'd recommend the book if you're interested in reading about Irish immigrants in America.

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Subject: RE: US Civil War propaganda?
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 07:58 PM

Non-citizens were allowed to serve in the US Civil War (on both sides), but citizenship was a requirement for the draft. Since there was a five-year residency period required before an immigrant became eligible for citizenship, nobody could legally be drafted right off of the boat. On the other hand, a non-citizen could volunteer on his own or he could accept payment to "substitute" for a legitimate draftee. Since illiteracy was rife (among both citizens and immigrants) and scams were a lot less subtle then, I have no doubt that more than a few Irishmen (and others) accepted $50 and signed a Substitute form without understanding what they were doing.

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Subject: RE: US Civil War propaganda?
From: CET
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 08:00 PM

The song is actually "By the hush", not On the Hush. I believe the phrase simply means "quiet now boys, listen to me".

There's no reason to believe that the song is anything more than what it appears to be, which is the recounting of an Irish immigrant's experiences of fighting in the Union Army.

The song was recorded by the great Canadian folkorist, Edith Fowke, from Mr. O.J. Abbott who was over 80 when he sang the song for her in Ottawa ca. 1959. He had learned it from a farmer's wife in the Ottawa Valley in the 1880's. Mr. Abbott is the only known source. There is more information in Folksongs of Canada by Penguin.

I am not expert enough in Civil War history to know how common conscription of recent immigrants was, but conscription was certainly introduced at some point after the war began. It fell more heavily on the poor than on the rich, who could pay substitutes to take their places, so conscription of a poor Irish labourer just off the boat sounds plausible.

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Subject: RE: US Civil War propaganda?
From: michaelr
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 09:08 PM

A few years ago, I wrote a song on that subject conflating the "recuited off the boat" theme with my own immigrant experience. It's called "Dreams and High Hopes" and can be heard here.

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