Irish Cross Memorial New Orleans

Irish Cross Memorial New Orleans
The Celtic Cross Memorial in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Adrian McGrath. Click the image for the story about the cross.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Blue and Gray: How The Civil War Turned the Irish into Americans

Irish soldiers in the Union Army
NY 69th with Catholic priest, c.1861
Library of Congress/ Wikimedia Commons

By Adrian McGrath

The Irish fought in the American Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, in large numbers and with great distinction. Over 150,000 Irish immigrants and thousands more Americans of Irish descent fought for the Union; and more than 30,000 (perhaps as many as 40,000) Irish fought for the Confederate States. Their service in the American military -- North and South -- more than anything else, helped to transform the Irish from unwelcomed and often despised immigrants into accepted and respected Americans. The transformation did not occur at once, however. There would be nearly a century before an Irish Catholic would be elected president of the United States, but the Irish soldier in the American army was what started the Irish Catholics on the road to assimilation and acceptance. After the Civil War it was a natural progression from being an American soldier or sailor to being a city police officer or firefighter, and then a business entrepreneur, educator, journalist, or politician.

Although many Irish came to America just before the war, some had been coming from early colonial days. The first group of Irish who came to America around the time of the American Revolutionary war, 1775 to 1783, were mainly Protestant and Scots Irish Presbyterians. The Scots Irish immigrants were people of Scottish descent, often from the Scottish Lowlands near the border with England, who were “planted” by the English government into lands in Ireland held by Irish Catholics. They were not native Irish originally. The Presbyterian Scots Irish had suffered somewhat under the discriminatory state-sponsored, pro-Church of England (or related Church of Ireland) Penal Laws which were enforced in English controlled Ireland; but they were more “acceptable” to the British than the Catholic Irish.

Many Scots Irish (also called Ulster Scots) moved to the Southern colonies (or states) and to the western territories near the Appalachian Mountains. (Andrew Jackson’s family from Carrickfergus, Ireland, for example, went to South Carolina and then Tennessee.) Although there was some discrimination against the Scots Irish, both in lands under British control and in colonial and early America, the strongest prejudice was against the native Irish Catholics.
Andrew Jackson could be elected president in the 1800s being Scots Irish Protestant, but it was unthinkable that an Irish Catholic could be elected president then.

After the Napoleonic Wars and especially after the Potato Famine in Ireland, 1845 to 1850, huge numbers of Irish Catholics came to America. Over one million Irish Catholics came to America because of the Famine. Most of the Catholic Irish went to the major ports and cities in the Northeast, especially New York, Boston, Philadelphia, but also to Chicago and parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the South most of the Irish Catholics went to New Orleans, a major port city and the most populous city in the South just before the Civil War.
Anti-Catholic illustration depicts
the Pope plotting to rule America, 1943.
Prejudice existed well after the Civil War.
Wikimedia Commons

New Orleans, unlike most other major cities in the United States then, had a strong Catholic heritage having been governed for many years by Catholic France and later by Spain. Other places in the South with some Irish Catholic immigrants were Savannah, Georgia; Mobile, Alabama; and Charleston, South Carolina. But with the sole exception of New Orleans, most of the South paled to the North in Irish Catholic immigration.

Interestingly, New Orleans was the sixth most populous city in the United States just before the Civil War, and it was larger than many Southern cities combined. It was the exception to the rule, however, as the North, in total, had over 20 million in population while the South had just five million whites in population with four million enslaved African Americans in 1860. See US Census 1860 at Wikipedia.

By the 1850s in America, the Irish Catholic immigrants and their descendents were suffering from widespread anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment. The situation was made worse by a political group, which grew out of the old Whig Party, called the Native American Party (not to be confused with American Indians) which was hostile to immigrants and especially people of non-Anglo-Protestant backgrounds like the Celtic Irish Catholics.
Anti-Irish Catholic riot
Philadelphia Nativist Riot, 1844
Wikimedia Commons

The party changed its name to the American Party later on, but it is better known to history as the Know Nothing movement. It acquired this odd name because when asked about this movement, a Know Nothing, who liked his secrecy, would say he “know[s] nothing” about the movement. So, it functioned more like a secret society than an open political party. It feared and hated all things Irish and Catholic -- often claiming that the Roman Catholic Church would try to dictate political and religious policy in America. The Know Nothings believed that the immigration of Irish, and also German Catholics at that time, would fundamentally transform and ruin American culture.

Facing discrimination and prejudice, the Irish Catholics in America were often denied access to employment opportunities and social advancement. Ugly signs and ugly attitudes like “No Irish Need Apply” were prevalent when the immigrants sought work.
Want ad from NY Times, c. 1854
"No Irish Need Apply"
Wikimedia Commons

There were several cases where anti-Irish Catholic riots occurred in major cities such as in Philadelphia, New York, and even New Orleans. In some cases the Irish Catholics, often through a fraternal organization called the Hibernians, had to physically stop angry and violent anti-Catholic mobs from attacking or even burning down Catholic churches in major American cities. The St. Augustine Catholic Church was burned in the Philadelphia Nativist Riots in 1844.
Bigoted people often called the Catholics insulting names like "Papist" and "Romanist."

St. Augustine Catholic Church, 1844
Set ablaze by anti-Catholic mob
Philadelphia Nativist Riots
Wikimedia Commons

As a result the Irish immigrants, who were usually unskilled and uneducated, except in their Faith, found employment doing the dangerous and difficult work no one else wanted such as digging canals with picks and shovels, mining coal, or working as stevedores and “screwmen” who loaded bales of cotton and other cargo into the holds of ships on the waterfront.

Know Nothing Flag
Wikimedia Commons

But there was another thing the Irish had proven they could do and do very well -- fight.

So, when the American Civil War started, it was no surprise that the ranks of the American armies, both North and South, were filled by the Irish and Irish Americans. The list of Irish in the war would be very long. They were sometimes undisciplined, rowdy, and reluctant to respect authority. But when the battle started, they were among the very best soldiers and always ready for a fight. Wise army officers understood this and after a while just let them be. This was certainly the case with the Irish in the Louisiana Tigers from New Orleans who served with Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and the Fighting 69th from New York City who famously saw action at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, among other places. These were among the most famous, fiercest, and most daring soldiers during the Civil War. They were, in short, the shock troops of the army. Whether in the North or the South, the reputation of the Irish was that of a fighter.
New Orleans captured
by Union ships, 1862
Wikimedia Commons

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, which takes place as General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. In it, supposedly, one of Lee’s officers told one of Grant’s officers that the reason the Union Army won was because it had more Irish troops than the South did. The story is probably made-up, but it nevertheless reveals a truth -- the Irish soldiers, much like the presence of African American soldiers and German immigrant soldiers, played a vital role in the Union’s victory.

This victory for the United States over the Confederate States preserved the Union and ended slavery, but it also was a major victory for social and political progress for the Irish in America. Prejudice still existed; but after their distinguished service in the military, the patriotism of the Irish to America could not be reasonably questioned.

Following are some of the units the Irish served in during the American Civil War.

Fighting for the Union:

The largest and most famous units came from New York state. The “Fighting 69th” of New York was led by Irish born General Thomas Meagher (pronounced as MAHR). It had its origins way before the war in 1851 with Irish volunteers. This was probably the most famous of all the Irish units during the war. It was part of the Army of the Potomac’s Irish Brigade and saw combat throughout the war but notably at Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Gettysburg.
Catholic Chaplains in the
New York Irish Brigade, 1862
Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania had units with names like Hibernia Greens, Irish Volunteers, Montgomery Guards (named after an Irishman who fought in the American Revolutionary War), and the Emmet Guards (named after the Irish political leader Robert Emmet.) Philadelphia had the 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (Irish Regiment). It was deliberately named after the famous New York 69th to honor them. One Irish officer, Michael Corcoran of New York’s Irish Legion, encouraged the Irish in Philadelphia to join the Union Army by telling them their training would help in one day forming a unit of veterans to fight the British.  

Wisconsin had many Irish units including the Mulligan Guards, the Emmet Guards, and the Wisconsin Irish Brigade (the 17th Wisconsin Regiment). Massachusetts had the mainly Irish Columbian Artillery, the 9th Massachusetts, and the 28th Massachusetts. Interestingly, the Columbian Artillery was one of several Irish volunteer militias existing before the war. Some of these units were disbanded under anti-Irish and anti-Catholic political pressure from the Know Nothings. The Columbian Artillery, however, pretended to be a literary society and so avoided being shut down by the state government. When war came, however, it was ready for military, as well as literary, action. It then became part of the 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also called the “1st Irish.”
Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher
Leader of the NY Irish Brigade
Wikimedia Commons

Other Northern states with significant Irish units were Illinois with the “Irish Brigade of the West” or 1st Illinois, Indiana, Maine with the 15th Maine under Col. John McClusky, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Vermont with the Emerald Guards led by Irish born Captain John Lonergan who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg.

Fighting for the Confederacy:

Louisiana had many Irish in the war. New Orleans was the South’s largest city by population and had the largest number of Irish Catholics in the entire South. Between 30 and 40 thousand Irish served in the armies of the Confederacy. The South was overwhelmingly Protestant, but New Orleans was a Catholic city historically. Many of the Irish in the South blended into Southern culture and saw the act of secession by the Rebels as similar to the Irish attempt to gain independence from Britain. Some Irish were against slavery like the General Patrick Cleburne who became known as the “Stonewall of the West.” He even advocated freeing the slaves and allowing them to join the Confederate Army. But other Irish feared that if the slaves were freed they would compete for working class jobs, while other Irish felt the Abolitionists ignored the harsh conditions under which the Irish immigrants suffered in factories up North or in the dangerous work they had to do as a result of discrimination.

Whatever the case, although the Irish did join the various armies in the Confederacy, with the exception of two regiments in the Louisiana Tigers which were mainly Irish and mainly from New Orleans, there were no large Irish units or “Irish Brigades” as in the North.  

New Orleans had a population that was about one quarter Irish, at least 24,000 strong. It supplied the largest single number of Irish (and predominantly Irish Catholic) soldiers from the South. Like some other places, New Orleans had units with names like the Montgomery Guards, Emmet Guards. But the most famous bunch by far was a very rough crew who worked on the waterfront called the “Wharf Rats.” They became of part of Roberdeau Wheat’s 1st Louisiana Special Infantry Battalion called the “Louisiana Tigers.” They fought against the famous New York 69th at First Bull Run (or First Manassas) and then in the Shenandoah Valley under Stonewall Jackson. Other Irish were in the 6th Louisiana Infantry Regiment and the 7th Louisiana Infantry or Pelican Regiment. There were Irish from Louisiana serving in Virginia, in Tennessee, and in the Western Theater, west of the Mississippi.
Gen. Patrick Cleburne
Confederate from Ireland
Advocated freeing the slaves
Wikimedia Commons

New Orleans fell to Union forces in April of 1862. It supplied the Rebels with soldiers early in the war for about one year, although much of the rest of Louisiana remained in Rebel hands until 1865.

Mobile, Alabama had an Irish unit called the Emerald Guards which formed from a group of firefighters, the Mechanics Fire Company. They carried a green flag with a shamrock and a harp on it and the warcry “Faugh A Ballagh” (pronounced FAWK a BAL ak) which meant “Clear the Way.” This type of flag and warcry was seen in many Irish units up North as well.

Arkansas had the 15th Arkansas Regiment which was led at one point by Patrick Cleburne. It had many Irish soldiers including a unit of Irish riverboat workers called the Napoleon Grays.

Savannah, Georgia had a number of Irish Catholic soldiers in the Irish Jasper Greens. (William Jasper was a Revolutionary War hero.) The Lochrane Guards from Georgia, which had many Irish, fought at Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg in 1862 and tragically fired upon their fellow Irishmen in the Irish Brigade in the Union Army attacking the Heights.

Texas had many Irish from Galveston and also in a unit called the Jefferson Davis Guards. Virginia had Irish in the Montgomery Guards and the Emerald Guard; and the 1st Virginia Infantry Battalion had many Irish.

Because of their dedicated service in the American Armies during the Civil War, the Irish proved they were patriotic, trustworthy, and very brave. They were willing to fight, die, and kill for their new country. And the did it all very, very well. One of the typical mottos on an Irish battle flag had the words, “Go where glory waits you.” That is where the Irish soldier went during the Civil War. And by seeking glory, he eventually found justice for his people and for America.

Anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bigotry still lingered on in America, but it became less and less acceptable. The heroic service of the Irish soldiers in the American Civil War, however, guaranteed that the Irish would eventually become Americans in full.

Sources and Further Reading:

Irish-American Units in the Civil War by Thomas G. Rogers, Osprey Publishing, Great Britain, 2008; The Civil War by American Heritage; Wikipedia’s article “Irish Americans in ghe American Civil War” at “; Wikipedia’s article on the Irish Brigade at; Wikipedia’s article on Anti-Irish Sentiment at;  All photos are in public domain from wikimedia commons. The photo of the Irish soldiers with the Catholic priest is in public domain at ; The anti-Catholic illustration of the Pope is in public domain at ; The anti-Irish Catholic riot in Philadelphia 1844 is in public domain ; No Irish Need Apply sign at public domain; Know Nothing flag at ; New Orleans captured by Union ships is public domain at ; Chaplains in the Irish Brigade,_c._1862(corrected).jpg ; Photo of Meagher at ; Photo Patrick Cleburne at ; Photo of the burning of the St. Augustine Church is at in public domain ; wikipedia's article on ant-Catholicism at

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Irish Soda Bread and Spotted Dog

Irish Soda Bread (left) and Spotted Dog
(Photo by Adrian McGrath)

By Adrian McGrath

There are several foods which are traditionally Irish or Irish American -- Corned Beef and Cabbage, Ham or Irish Bacon and Cabbage, Irish Stew, and Shepherd's Pie. And, of course, Irish Coffee.

But certainly one of the most famous and popular foods is Irish Soda Bread. It is inexpensive to assemble, quick and easy to make, fairly nutritious and filling, and tastes great. Related to this is the Spotted Dog which is Irish Soda Bread with raisins and Sultanas (a type of golden raisins) or Currants and sometimes made with whole wheat flour.

The history of the bread goes back to the 1800s with references in various books and journals. However, the process to make soda bread might originate centuries ago with the Native Americans. See history of soda bread at the website for The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread.

In addition to flour, the key element in the bread is a leavening agent -- something to make it rise. Unlike soda bread, most breads use yeast which leavens or rises the moistened flour into soft bread. But Irish Soda Bread uses a chemical reaction of a base plus an acid which releases carbon dioxide gas bubbles which causes the bread to rise.

There are today many possible recipes for Irish Soda Bread, and a quick search of the internet or an Irish cookbook will show various possibilities. Traditionally, however, Irish Soda Bread had just four ingredients -- flour (usually from soft wheat), salt, baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), and buttermilk.

Traditional four ingredients for Irish Soda Bread
Flour, buttermilk, salt, baking soda
(Photo by Adrian McGrath)

Sour milk might have been used in place of buttermilk too. Native Americans would have used the ashes from a burned plant or vegetable as a type of base or potash. When the base potash was mixed with the lactic acid in the buttermilk or sour milk, the chemical reaction released a gas or very small bubbles which caused the flour to rise when baked.

The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread has a fascinating, in depth article on the history of Irish Soda Bread. See Soda Bread. In it, it states that in 1861 in a Dublin based academic journal called “Chemistry and Chemical Analysis” published by the Ireland Commissioners of National Education that soda bread became popular due to difficulties in obtaining yeast. It says that carbonic acid was the key factor, obtained from bicarbonate of soda. When mixed with flour and sour milk, which is an acid, the mixture will rise when baked.

Sliced Irish Soda Bread (left) and Spotted Dog
(Photo by Adrian McGrath)

The website for The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread also states that in 1850 there was an article in the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science which discussed, of all things, Soda Bread. It stated that during the Irish Potato Famine bicarbonate of soda became popular with people to make bread from flour without yeast.

Of course, it must be added that soda bread was not a solution in any way to the famine. Most of the Irish people did not have access to wheat flour at all, much less to flour leavened by baking soda and buttermilk. The Irish were starving to death with no food source at all; all the food which was plentiful in Ireland, including wheat, was controlled by the British. Much of it was exported for profit, while the Irish starved or emigrated mainly to America. The famine was not merely the result of rotten potatoes but of centuries of British oppression in Ireland which left the Irish populace largely dependent upon one source of food -- potatoes.
To read more about this topic, see my earlier article on Coffin Ships and the Potato Famine.

There may have been other discussions of Soda Bread in earlier publications, but it seems that the first general use of the term and the baking process appeared around the early or mid 1800s. The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread has information on this topic here

So, soda bread probably originated in America with American Indians and then was acquired by European settlers, was brought to Europe by the British, but was used mainly by the Irish.

The Irish Food Board called Bord Bia, a government agency in Ireland that deals with food and agriculture and is much like the Department of Agriculture in the USA, gives its own recipe for Irish Soda Bread. See bread. It uses flour, buttermilk, salt, and soda as in the traditional recipe; but it also adds an egg, margarine, and cream of tartar.
Uncooked Irish Soda Bread (left)
and Spotted Dog
(Photo by Adrian McGrath)

I made my own Irish Soda Bread and Spotted Dog and included some photographs. I will not give the exact recipe because I think people can experiment with it and find what they like best.

But in general for the basic soda bread, I used the traditional four ingredients -- all purpose white flour, sea salt, baking soda (not baking powder), and buttermilk. Use about one cup of flour to a half teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda. Moisten the mix with buttermilk until thick and gooey. Bake for about a half hour or more around 350 to 400 degrees.  Traditionally, a cross is cut with a knife in the top of the powdered, round loaf before putting into the oven. It is said this releases angels, wards away evil, or has a religious significance.

The Spotted Dog I made the same way except I added some whole wheat flour and a bit more sea salt and lots and lots of raisins.

Bake it, slice it, and top with butter and honey or jam.
In Ireland they would serve Irish Soda Bread with tea, probably. But I prefer coffee.

Sources and further reading:
Bord Bia, Irish Food Board website at; The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread at and their history page at ; Wikipedia article on Soda Bread at; Irish Cooking by Ruth Bauder Kershner Weathervane Books, 1979, (Ottenheimer Publications, Inc). All photos in this article are by Adrian McGrath.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Daniel Daly, USMC: “Do you want to live forever?”

By Adrian McGrath

Dan Daly, USMC
Double recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
We often hear the expression “The Fighting Irish.” Maybe we think of the famous Union Civil War unit from New York, the 69th regiment -- whose legend was intensified during World War I. Maybe we think of the famous football team from the University of Notre Dame which bears that name. Or maybe it is the stereotype of the Irish immigrants who fought their way up against poverty and prejudice, or maybe the Irish rebels who fought for centuries to get their independence from Britain back in Ireland. Whatever the case, the Irish and fighting seem to go together.

It would be difficult to find a better example of the Fighting Irish (along with Audie Murphy, of course) than Sergeant Daniel “Dan” Daly of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) who was awarded the Medal of Honor (Congressional Medal of Honor) twice by the president of the United States and was awarded a host of other medals and awards of great distinction including the Croix de Guerre from France.

Along with service in the police forces and fire departments in America, the Irish in the United States were -- and still are -- very well represented in the armed forces of the USA. Sergeant Daniel Daly is an outstanding example of this tradition. He was referred to by General Smedley Butler -- the only other US Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor twice --  as
“The fightingest Marine I ever knew.” And Major General John Lejeune (after whom the famous Marine headquarters Camp Lejeune is named) called Dan Daly “the outstanding Marine of all time.”

Both of Dan Daly’s parents (according to available genealogical evidence) were born in Ireland, as were all of his brothers and sisters. His father was John Daly from Cork, Ireland. Dan's mother's maiden name was Donovan; she was born in Cork too. They were married in Bandon, Murragh, Cork, Ireland in 1865. His siblings' names were Timothy, David, Julia, Mary, and Frances -- all Daly, from Cork. Dan was, however, born in Glen Cove, New York in 1873. His parents most likely lived through the Great Famine in Ireland (Potato Famine), 1845 to 1850. See wikitree for more information on Dan Daly's ancestry. Dan grew up in the area of New York City -- Oyster Bay, Queens, New York. He sold newspapers as a youth and tried his hand at boxing and sports.

Dan joined the Marines in 1899 hoping to see action in the Spanish American war, but the conflict ended as he was finishing training. Soon, however, Daly would see more intense combat than could have been imagined. He was attached to the Asiatic Fleet and sent to Peking during the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. It was in this conflict that he was awarded his first Medal of Honor.

The Medal of Honor -- often referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor -- is the highest award possible for an American military member for acts of valor and is usually awarded personally by the President of the United States.
US Army Soldiers Relieving the
Siege of Peking, 1900, Boxer Rebellion
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons) 

The US Embassy in Peking was under siege by the Boxers. These were militant Chinese who were resisting foreign and Christian influences in China. They were expressly against Chinese who became Christians. Because the militants were skilled in various martial arts, the Westerners called them “Boxers.” The Chinese government was apparently divided on the issue of the Boxers with some siding with them supporting the Qing government and others more tolerant of foreign influence and trade.

A small squad of Marines, including Private Daly, were sent to support the US Embassy. Upon arrival they discovered it had been damaged. So, the Marines went to get supplies for repairs to fortify the area near the embassy, while Private Daly volunteered to stay alone at the damaged embassy as a guard. They did not expect an enemy attack that day.

That night, however, the Boxers made a surprise attack. They came in waves. Defending the position, and the American diplomatic team there, was Private Dan Daly … alone. He fought off the attackers killing about 200 of them. When his brother Marines returned to the base the next day, they could not believe their eyes. They saw a scene of destruction with smoke and dead Boxer bodies everywhere. And they saw Daly … alone ...still at his post.

He had single-handedly destroyed the attacking force and saved the American diplomats.
For his outstanding actions, he received the Medal of Honor. The citation said, in part: "The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private Daniel Joseph Daly, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism ... in action in the presence of the enemy during the battle of Peking, China, 14 August 1900 ... Daly distinguished himself by meritorious conduct."

His second Medal of Honor came from his combat in Haiti in 1915. The US Marines had been sent to Haiti as a protecting force against rebel insurgents called the Cacos. President Woodrow Wilson, using the Monroe Doctrine, sent the Marines to protect Americans in Haiti and American interests. The Cacos were fighting against the government of Haiti which was friendly to the USA. Dan Daly had risen to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant by this time.  

A small platoon of Marines, including Daly, had been sent to reconnoit the Cacos position in the jungle, when suddenly they were attacked by about 400 of the enemy. As the Marines moved across a small river to find a better defensive position, their only machine gun was lost when
the horse to which the gun was strapped was shot and killed. Horse and gun sank to the bottom of the river.

US Marines in Haiti, 1915
(Photo from Wikipedia)

That night, while the Marines prepared their make-shift defensive positions and the enemy prepared for a massive attack which was sure to occur the next morning, Dan Daly swam to the bottom of the river with his Marine knife and cut loose the vital machine gun. Reportedly, he killed seven of the enemy with his knife in the mission while also dodging enemy bullets.

Daly returned to the other Marines’ position. Now armed with a machine gun, as well as Marine rifles, the Marines, with Sergeant Daly, made a three-pronged, preemptive surprise attack against the enemy, killing many and dispersing the rest.  In an incredible feat of daring, Dan Daly had helped defeat an overwhelming enemy force.

It is interesting to note that in this battle -- sometimes called the Battle of Fort Dipitie, named after the enemy fort which later fell to the Marines -- both of the only double Medal of Honor recipients from the US Marine Corps were present. Smedley Butler, then a major, led the Marine reconnaissance unit, and Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly was the key part of the unit.

For his extraordinary actions in this battle, Dan Daly was awarded his second Medal of Honor. The citation said in part: "Gunnery Sergeant Daly fought with exceptional gallantry against heavy odds throughout this action."

But he was still not done.

US Marine recruiting poster,
1918, Devil Dogs (Teufel Hunden)
chasing the German dogs
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
In 1918 the USA was now at war with Imperial Germany. The Germans had transferred a huge force from their Eastern Front once Russia dropped out of the war and a peace treaty was made with the new Russian government. The war weary British and French had to face a revitalized German force in the Kaiserschlacht or Kaiser’s Battle which used new infiltration tactics and stormtroopers which were cutting holes deep into the Allied lines.

The Germans were on the march to Paris. If they could capture the city after four long and draining years of struggle, the already demoralized French might capitulate. The British and their still new and unprepared American ally would have little choice but to withdraw and sue for peace. The war would end in a German victory.

The Germans now took a position just thirty miles from Paris called Belleau Wood. The French and British began to fall back in the face of the German onslaught. The American high command sent in, in desperation, the only troops available and ready -- The US Marines.

The legend and lore of the United States Marine Corps is accompanied often by memorable statements made by Marines in times of great danger during combat. Two such statements came during The Great War which we today call World War I. Both occurred at the Battle of Belleau Wood.

The French commander advised the US Marine commander, newly arrived at Belleau Wood, to withdraw as the French did and seek a better defensive position to which the Marine officer gave the first immortal Marine statement from World War I.

Captain Lloyd W. Williams, USMC, of the 5th Marine Regiment said, “Retreat? Hell! We just got here.” And with that the Marines did not retreat but held their ground and stopped the Germans.

US Marines in Belleau Wood
Geoeges Scott, Collier's - 1921 painting
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons/public domain)

The other most memorable statement came from First Sergeant, Dan Daly.
During the Battle of Belleau Wood, a Marine unit was surrounded by the Germans and about to be over run, so it seemed.

Sergeant Daly looked at his men, his fellow Marines, some of whom were now wounded and exhausted, and whom he loved and admired and said: “Come on, you Sons of B-----s, do you want to live forever?”

And with that Daniel Daly and his Marines made a surprise charge at the enemy, killing many and driving the rest away. (Sgt. Daly later told the press he really said: “For Christ’s sake, men. Come on! Do you want to live forever?”)

It is said that the US Marines had more casualties at the Battle of Belleau Wood than in all the other battles the Marine Corps was in throughout its entire history to that point. But the Marines won the battle and stopped the Germans. The US Marines -- and the US Marines alone -- saved Paris and prevented an Allied defeat. The French government later changed the name of Belleau Wood to honor the US Marine Corps. It is called “Bois de la Brigade de Marine” -- Woods of the Marine Brigade.

It was also at the Battle of Belleau Wood where the US Marines earned the nickname “Devil Dogs” (Teufel Hunden in German). The frightened Germans called the Marines that name, being especially impressed by their tenacity and by the Marine tendency to have each man fire his rifle with carefully aimed accuracy. The Germans began to fear that each time a Marine fired just one round from his rifle, a German soldier would be hit.

Daniel Daly could have easily received a third Medal of Honor for his actions at Belleau Wood, but there was a new rule that limited the honor to two per person. (Only 19 military members in US history have earned the Medal of Honor twice.) So, he was given the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and the Medaille Militaire from France instead; and the Marine Corps offered to make him an officer. First Sergeant Daly (who preferred to be called Gunnery Sergeant Daly) refused saying he did not want to be “just another officer” and preferred to be “an outstanding sergeant.”

Dan Daly survived the war and retired as a Sergeant Major. He later worked as a bank guard, living peacefully in New York with one of his sisters from Ireland, and died in 1937.

He was a powerful force and a tremendous fighter, but he was only five foot six inches tall and weighed 132 pounds during most of his Marine Corps career. He was small in size but great in fighting spirit.

A Leatherneck, a Devil Dog, and a Fighting Irish American. The son of Irish immigrant parents, Daniel Daly, USMC was truly a great American hero and legend.

Sources and further reading:
An excellent source covering his biography and Irish ancestry at; Daily Caller article “Meet The Marine Who Nearly Earned 3 Medals of Honor” by Marc Sterne at ; A website about the US Marines at ; Wikipedia article on Daniel Daly at ; A discussion from the Wild Geese website about Dan Daly at ; A website for US Marine Detachment 858 at ;
Marine Corps quotes at ; photo of Dan Daly public domain from Wikimedia Commons at ; photo of the Devil Dogs from Wikimedia Commons at ; US Marines in Belleau Wood photo is at; Photo of Siege of Peking Boxer Rebellion public domain at,_Boxer_Rebellion.jpg ; Photo of US Marines in Haiti at ; battle of Fort Dipitie at Wikipedia at