Cathy Barton—autoharp and vocal; Dave Para—guitar and vocal; Lee Worman—flute

Col. James Mulligan The Irish distinguished themselves fighting for both sides during the Civil War, though the majority probably fought for the Union Army. In Missouri the Irish presence was perhaps most in evidence during the Battle of Lexington in September 1861. Among the 3,500 Union soldiers defending the town against General Price's army of over 12,000 men was an Illinois Irish brigade known as the “Western Irish Brigade” or “Mulligan's Brigade" commanded by Colonel James Mulligan, a popular Chicago Irish politician turned soldier, who was soon placed in command of all the Union forces at Lexington. Although the Federals fought with determination, they were finally overwhelmed by superior numbers and by the fact that Price's men cleverly used watered down hemp bales found in fields and in a nearby warehouse as a kind of movable breastworks. Moving ever closer to the Federals, they were able to make one final rush and force Mulligan's troops to surrender. During the Civil War numerous songs appeared about the Irishman's well-documented courage under fire, such as “Meagher is Leading the Irish Brigade," and “Corcoran's Irish Legion.” Even the Confederacy had songs about Irish-Americans, such as “Kelly's Irish Brigade,” a reworking of a northern broadside with substituted Confederate references. Only a few of these songs have survived the passage of the years; “Honest Pat Murphy” is one that is still sung. Originally entitled “Pat Murphy of Meagher's Brigade,” the piece seems to have lost its specific references to Gen. Thomas Meagher of New York and is now about a generic Irish Union soldier in a generic Irish Union brigade. A close variant of this melody was also used for a comic Confederate song written by Charles L. Ward entitled “Think of Your Head in the Morning.” We first heard the song sung by Folk-Legacy recording artist Ed Trickett of Brookville, Maryland. “Honest Pat Murphy” can be found in Irwin Silber's Songs of the Civil War, as well as on the Folkways album Songs of a New York Lumberjack, a compilation of New Yorker Ezra Barhight's traditional songs sung by folklorist Ellen Stekert.

Says Pat to his mother, “It looks strange to me
Brothers fighting in such a queer manner,
But I'll fight till I die if I never get killed
For America's bright starry banner.”

Far away in the East came a dashing young blade,
And the song he was singing so gayly,
'Twas honest Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade
And the song of the splintered shillelagh.

The morning soon broke, and poor Paddy awoke,
He found rebels to give satisfaction,
And the drummer was beating the Devil's tatoo,
They were calling the boys into action.

Far away in the East was a dashing young blade,
And the song he was singing so gayly,
Was honest Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade
And the song of the splintered shillelagh.

Sure, the day after battle, the dead lay in heaps,
And Pat Murphy lay bleeding and gory,
With a hole in his head by some enemy's ball
That ended his passion for glory.

No more in the camp will his letters be read,
Or the song be heard singing so gayly,
For he died far away from the friends that he loved,
And far from the land of shillelagh.

© Big Canoe Records, 1993