Irish Americans of Cleveland

History of the Cleveland Irish

Cleveland Irish During The Civil War

from The Irish Americans & Their Communities of Cleveland
by Nelson J. Callihan &
William F. Hickey

The Irish always have had quirks in their collective character. The local variety was to prove it beyond question in 1863, when a goodly number of them marched off to war and an equal number closed the port of Cleveland by staging a massive strike, a most unpatriotic action, to say the least. No amount of persuasion by the city fathers could bring the Irish to halt their strike that was supposedly denying their brothers the means to do decent battle with Johnny Reb.

The Irish, who were in on the founding of almost every labor union in this area, had picked a most propitious moment to stage such a strike. There were higher wages to be gained and the shippers could well afford them, seeing as how Cleveland was then "The Queen of the Lower Lakes," the busiest port of any. The shippers thought otherwise and hired scabs from far and wide to replace them. While it seemed a sensible move, it never came off, because the Battle of Cleveland ensued and it took the entire police force of the city to quell the disturbance. The Irish stevedores had much the best of it, according to eyewitness reports, as they had a solid defensive position and "better throwing accuracy."…

Besides, the Irish manning those barricades on the Cuyahoga were in no mood to apologize for their community's efforts on behalf of the Union cause and the same was true of Irishmen in every city, North and South, in the country. What's more, there were no draft riots here, as no one needed to be drafted. Cleveland's Irish volunteered in numbers far larger than anyone suspected they would and they saw action on scores of battlefronts. To get an idea of how many answered Abe Lincoln's call, all one need do is to study the list of names of Civil War veterans inscribed on the walls in the display room of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Public Square. One-third of all naval volunteers from this area were Irish, which isn't a bad showing, considering that they comprised only 10% of the population…