"That splendid summer morning of June 26, 1861, Irish soldiers from the Ninth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers paraded from Long Wharf to Boston Common for a final muster before heading off to fight in the Civil War.
"The regiment was commanded by forty-year-old Colonel Thomas Cass, a native of Queen's County (now County Laois) and a Bostonian since 1829. When the unit formed earlier that spring, heeding the call of Governor John Andrew, more than 1,000 Irish had signed on for three years of service. They came from Boston and the nearby towns of Salem, Milford, Marlboro and Stoughton. Boston Pilot publisher Patrick Donahoe had raised the money to outfit and train the Irish, who were stationed in barracks near Faneuil Hall. They spent the final weeks on Long Island in Boston Harbor, which had been converted to a training center for many of the state's fighting battalions.
"That morning they had taken a boat over to Long Wharf and were greeted by a crowd of 800 men and women from various Irish organizations, who followed them up to the Common.
"Leading the procession was Galway's own Patrick S. Gilmore, leader of the city's most famous military band. The Juvenile Drum Corps of music teacher M.J. Mooney was also marching in step, creating a heartbeat of excitement on their bass and snare drums. Gilmore's Band played "Hail Columbia" and "St. Patrick's Day," the unofficial twin anthems of the American Irish."
Excerpts from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past by Michael P. Quinlin (Globe Pequot Press: 2004).
For year round information on Boston Irish history and heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com
For year round details on Irish cultural events, visit IrishBoston.org.