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Irish Soldiers in Colonial America (ca. 1650-1825)
This volume attempts to identify many of the Irish soldiers in the British colonies in North America and the Caribbean from around 1650 until 1825.
Before 1800 Ireland was a separate kingdom but subject to the British king. The last king of Ireland was the Catholic King James II who encouraged the formation of Irish regiments. After James’ defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 most of his forces, around 2,000 men, went to France, in what is known as the “Flight of the Wild Geese”, where they formed regiments in the French Army such as Montcashel’s, O’Brian’s, and Dillon’s. Irish soldiers fought in various campaigns in Europe and in Canada, and probably the Caribbean, until the French Revolution when they were disbanded.
The British Army did not enlist Irish Catholics during much of the 18th century as they were considered likely to be unreliable when opposing the forces of Catholic countries such as France and Spain, which contained many of their countrymen. Ireland was garrisoned mainly by British regiments, though new regiments were raised in Ireland, such as The Royal Regiment of Foot of Ireland and the Inniskilling Regiment.
Irish settlers in colonial America were recruited into local militias, such as the Virginia Regiment or the Montserrat Militia, which are identified in this book. During the American Revolution people of Irish origin could be found in both Loyalist and Patriot units, including the “Volunteers of Ireland”. The Loyalist Claims proved very useful in identifying Irish fighting men.
Between 1789 and 1815 Britain was at war with Napoleon’s France, necessitating an expansion of the British Army. In the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo the British government settled substantial numbers of demobilised soldiers, including Irishmen, in Canada. From about 1780 onwards the British regiments enlisted at least one-third of their recruits in Ireland; this increased to about 40% by the early 19th century owing to demand from the British Army and the East India Company.
For additional information about Irish recruits that served in the Colonies, see “A Historical Record of the 27th [Inniskilling] Regiment”, by W C Trimble, ; Richard Cannon’s “Historical record of the 18th [Royal Irish] Regiment of Foot”, [London 1848]; and Steven M Baule’s “Protecting the Empire’s Frontier, Officers of the 18th [Royal Irish] Foot”, [Ohio, 2013]; as well as the journals of the Army Historical Research Society, and those of the “Irish Sword”.