War of Secession and foreigners

Jan 2018
Sturgeon Lake Mn.
During the War of the Rebellion (the American War Department name for the American Civil War) the American Regular Army had a great many foreign born soldiers in the ranks, mainly Irish and German. Many of the Irish had previously been British regulars and quite a few had deserted from the British army while stationed in Canada and crossed to the United States and enlisted as American regulars for the better pay and conditions.
Dec 2011
Late Cretaceous
What were the motivations of Canadian volunteers? Were they mostly on the Union side?

Awesome photo by the way, when was that taken? Is it a reenactment event?
It is a re-enactment, photo is taken from this news story:

Canada unveils monument to US Civil War

As to the motivation of Canadian volunteers, there is no simple answer. Some may have joined purely for the adventure, some for political motivation, there were Canadians with John Brown on the Harpers Ferry Raid, while some sided with the South for fear that Canada would be attacked next, and some joined for cash:

Conscription in 1863 brought a total of only 807 enlistments from Maine residents,but more than 1,600 Canadians signed on as substitutes for about $700 per person.

Canadians Serving in the Civil War

An estimated 30,000 Canadians joined the US Forces during the Vietnam War with around 12,000 seeing combat in S E Asia.
Last edited:
Feb 2016
If your talking about the ACW yes.
The North had units of Italians, Germans, Irish, Polish, French and even one unit of Scottish and one unit of English, though this had to be mixed with a half battalion of Irish.
Many of these were immigrants, also many Canadians joined the north.

The south also had some predominantly Irish units like the Louisiana Tigers, and a Polish Corps. They also had a large number of foreigners dispersed among its regular regiments... but nowhere near to the same extent as the North. Several confederate privateers and commerce raiders had CSA officers and largely British crews.
Feb 2016
Here are a list of regiments for the Union.

39th New York- Garibaldi Guards. These had several companies of Italians, but most of the battalion was German.

58th New York- Pulaski Guards- mainly Poles and German speaking Poles.

55th NY volunteers- Lafayette Guards. French speaking regiment.

36th NY - formerly NY British volunteers. Half British half Irish.

79th New York- Scottish “highlanders”

15th Wisconsin- Swedes and Norwegians.

63rd NY, 69th NY, 88th NY, 116th Pens, 28th Mass, 9th Mass, 11th Wis, 9th Con, 37th NY, 69th Pen, 10th Oh, 23rd ill, 90th ill, 35th Ind, 7th Mis, 30th Mis- some of the 21 majority Irish units.

8th NY, 45th NY, 52nd NY, 54th NY, 29th NY, 9th Oh, 32nd Ind, 27th Pen, 74th Pen, 4th NY Cavalry and at least 3 artillery batteries- Germans.
Likes: Scaeva
Feb 2016
In the confederate states.
There were several Irish regiments.

The 10th Tennessee- was officially an Irish regiment.

The 6th Lousiana were an Irish Zouave regiment.
Most famous were the 8th Louisiana “Tiger” Zouves, mainly Irish dockers from New Orleans.

24th Georgia - unofficially an Irish regiment.

Ethnic themed regiments were less common in the CSA. Several Texas regiments had 1-2 companies of Germans.
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Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
Although many of the characters in the film Glory were fictional (the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the events depicted were historical, but most of the enlisted soldier characters were invented by the writers), Sgt. Major John Rawlins, the character played by Morgan Freeman, was probably partly inspired by First Sergeant Robert John Simmons. Simmons was also killed in the attack on Ft. Wagner.

1st Sgt. Simmons was from Bermuda originally and had served in the British Army there before emigrating to the United States.

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