How significant was Irish involvement in the Crimean War of 1854

How significant was Irish involvement in the Crimean War of 1854

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How significant was Irish involvement in the Crimean War of 1854-6? What does the level of reaction to the war in Ireland tell us of Irish public attitudes at that time? The “utterly futile adventure in the Crimea 1 ” has become to be illustrated by Florence Nightingale, the Charge of the Light Brigade and the horrors of the Crimean Winter and that it was “undoubtedly the worst managed war of the century 2 .” Nevertheless, Irishmen were enthusiastic to partake and did so in several capacities: in the army, navy, support services, medical services, as journalists and in administrative roles. Their involvement can be noted as having been insufficiently profiled in contemporary and modern historians’ documentation of the war but they were indeed over-represented in every field. Ireland itself was gripped with the “Crimean Fever” that captured the public attention in France and Britain too and perhaps their support was more consistent than their allies as there were numerous Irishmen that excelled in their field, in stark contrast to their English counterparts, and were heralded as heroes in Ireland. Some such heroes were present in the leadership of the British Army, namely Lieutenant-General George De Lacy Evans and Brigadier-General John Lysaght Pennefather, who were the two generals to come out of the war with their reputations in tact after their significant displays of leadership at the Battles of Alma and Inkerman and for Pennefather, the siege at Sevastapool. De Lacy Evans was in command of the 2 nd Division and as Russell reported “the only general in his army who had ever commanded a division in the field 12 .” and at Alma 540 men from his division were killed, “testimony to the crucial role they played in the attack 3 ” and even had to lie to the Duke of Cambridge in order that his 1 st Division would support De Lacy Evans’ move to overcome the “Great Causeway.” This not only illustrates the poor organisation of attacks but also a lack of leadership from Lord Raglan who in this instance allowed the 1 st Division to stand by idle and later at the “Affair of Mackenzie’s Farm.” The talents of the two Irishmen were not challenged however as there was no prevailing tactical strategy yet formed a cohesive command between each other, managing to side-step the ambitious animosity that consumed other commanders like Lord Cardigan. De Lacy Evans and Pennefather also gained the respect of their troops (one for his confident command and the other for his foul language), a large number of whom were Irish. Five regiments served in the British army in Crimea, three of which were cavalry and the other two were infantry and based on a series of calculations by modern historians it is possible to estimate that this contributed to 33% of an 111,313 strong British army. David Fitzpatrick concludes that given the size of the Irish population at that time, the Irish were over-represented in the British army 4 . Irish soldiers, however, did not just fight for the British in the Crimea: for the Turkish,
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This note was uploaded on 04/27/2008 for the course HISTORY Ireland 18 taught by Professor Drmurphy during the Spring '08 term at Trinity College Dublin.

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How significant was Irish involvement in the Crimean War of 1854

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