The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Walt and the Other Whitmans

How long had the Anglos and the Irish been at war, culturally speaking?

The animosity between descendants of English and Scottish immigrants, and the more recently arrived Irish, had been under way for a full generation, but its roots went back even further. Throughout the colonial period, Anglo-Americans had looked on the French Catholics in Canada as their foe, and because the Catholic Irish sometimes fought as their allies, they received a similar kind of brand. And when the Irish came “off the boat” in the wake of Ireland’s terrible potato famine, they came as Catholics and as speakers of Gaelic, not English.

Culture, religion, and linguistics all played their part in creating a gulf between the English speakers who had been around for a long time and the Gaelic speakers who had just arrived. Of course, the children of these Irish immigrants would soon learn English, but the prejudices against them remained strong, as is shown in the following story reported in The Atlantic Monthly.


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