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Gov. Patrick Issues Proclamation Marking Sesquicentennial of Civil War Regiment that
Served With Distinction in the Irish Brigade

BOSTON, Mass. - On December 13, 1861, some 1,000 men who had volunteered for military service earlier that fall - most of them born in Ireland or to Irish immigrant parents - were designated the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and mustered into the Union Army at Camp Cameron on the Cambridge/Somerville line. 

    Today, 150 years later, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a non-profit living history organization dedicated to telling the extraordinary story of these ordinary men are pausing to remember their service and sacrifices during the American Civil War.  

   Gov. Deval L. Patrick has issued a proclamation designating December 13, 2011, as 28th Massachusetts Irish Volunteers Day in the Bay State and the reactivated unit, based in Attleboro, will be tracing the historic unit's movements at major battle reenactments in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania over the next four years. 

    "The 28th Massachusetts was not just another Civil War regiment," said Major Steven Eames of North Berwick, Maine, a Mount Ida College history professor who was a founder and serves as military commander of the present-day unit that bears the regiment's name.  "Its reputation for coolness and courage under fire, the harp and shamrocks on its distinctive green battle flag, and its Gaelic war cry of 'Faugh a Ballagh' (Clear the Way) all set the 28th apart."

    "But what distinguishes the unit most of all," Eames continued, "is how committed its Irish volunteers were to their common heritage, each other, and proving to a skeptical America that they were just as devoted to preserving this country and its freedoms as those who were born here." 

    After serving briefly in the Carolinas during the second summer of the Civil War, the original 28th Massachusetts joined the legendary Irish Brigade in late 1862 and saw action in most major eastern theatre engagements: Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Overland Campaign, and the siege of Petersburg.  

    The regiment was present for Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse and marched in the Grand Review of the Armies through Washington, D.C., marking the end of the war, before its surviving veterans returned home to Massachusetts in June 1865.

    Among all federal infantry regiments that served during the Civil War, the 28th Massachusetts ranked seventh in total losses.  Roughly one-quarter of the 1,746 men who served in the unit were killed, died of wounds or disease, taken prisoner, or reported missing.  

    David Grace of Gloucester, who is president of the recreated 28th Massachusetts and serves as the unit's First Sergeant, became a Civil War living historian, in part, he explained, to pay tribute to the Irish immigrants who willingly served in spite of the many hardships and widespread discrimination they faced in their adopted land.

    "For sure, joining the army provided them with instant employment, food and clothing, but no one made them put their lives on the line," Grace said.  "They volunteered, and I think that says an awful lot about the Irish character."

    In all, nearly 150,000 men of Irish birth or heritage served in the Union Army.  

    The reactivated 28th Massachusetts has been keeping the memory of the original regiment alive for more than a quarter-century.  The unit first took the field in 1984 and today is one of the oldest and largest Civil War living history organizations in the Northeast, with members from all six New England states, Pennsylvania, and the Canadian province of Ontario.         

    To read a complete regimental history of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, learn more about the Irish experience in the American Civil War, or find out how you can become a living historian with the recreated 28th Massachusetts, visit the regiment's web site:

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