A Flag of Ol’ Ireland?

The flag is green, it pictures a harp, shamrocks and its motto reads, “Erin Go Bragh,” which is usually translated as “Ireland Forever!”  To be sure now this is certainly a flag of old Ireland.  Well, not exactly.  It is the flag of Irish volunteers known as Los San Patricios or the Saint Patrick’s Battalion.  The battalion fought in the Mexican War, but not with the American Army.  Rather, the San Patricios fought with the Mexican Army.

Irish immigrants escaping the potato famine in their homeland often arrived destitute in America.  With the Mexican War looming, many of these men were recruited straight from the ships into the U.S. Army.  As soldiers they experienced hardships normal for military service in wartime, but additionally they experienced prejudice commonly aimed at new immigrants.   Many found they had more in common with the Mexicans they had been sent to fight.  Disillusioned, they left the American ranks, deserting to volunteer on the side of their former enemies.  Thus the Mexican Saint Patrick’s Battalion formed.  The Mexican Army provided these Irish volunteers with a flag that honored their Irish heritage.

The American Army prevailed in the conflict, and many captured San Patricios were executed as deserters.  Nonetheless, their flag survived.

In years since, the strong Irish symbolism of the flag has made it a favorite to express Irish nationalism or simply to announce pride in an Irish heritage.   However, few who display the flag today know of its origin and the sad story of the men who carried it into battle.

One Response to “A Flag of Ol’ Ireland?

  • Kevin
    9 years ago

    John, where I can purchase one of these flags? I’ve been looking for the flag for a friend of mine and so far no luck…

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