Civil War Ballads: The Opinions of Paddy Magee

Like “Paddy’s Lamentation,” “The Opinions of Paddy Magee” expresses the opinion of an Irish immigrant during the American Civil War. Unlike Paddy’s Lamentation, however, this song celebrates the contributions United States citizens made during the Irish Potato Famine and suggests Irishmen repay that debt by fighting to preserve the Union. David Kincaid recorded this song for his album The Irish Volunteer (1998).

I’m Paddy Magee, sir, from Ballinahee, sir,
In an illigant ship I come over the say;
Father Donahoe sent me, my passage he lent me–
Sure, only for that, I’d a walked all the way!
He talked of America’s freedom and glory;
“Begorra,” says I, “that’s the counthry for me!”
So, to ind a long story, I’ve now come before ye,
To give the opinions of Paddy Magee.

Whin Ireland was needing, and famine was feeding,
And thousands were dying for something to ate,
‘Twas America’s daughters that sent over the waters
The ships that were loaded with corn and whate:
And Irishmen sure will forever remember,
The vessels that carried the flag of the free;
And the land that befriended, they’ll die to defend it,
And that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

John Bull, ye ould divil,
Ye’d betther keep civil!
Remimber the story of ‘Seventy-six,
Whin Washington glorious he slathered the Tories;
Away from Columbia you then cut your sticks.
And if once again you’re inclined to be meddling,
There’s a city that’s called New Orleans, d’ye see,
Where Hickory Jackson he drove off the Saxon–
Now that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

Brig. Gen. Michael Corcoran of the “Fighting 69th,” a primarily Irish-American regiment

I’m sure none are bowlder the musket to showlder,
Enlisting to learn the sojering trade–
With Corcoran fighting, in Meagher delighting,
They swell up the ranks of the Irish Brigade.
With Columbia defying the bould British Lion,
The sons of ould Ireland forever shall be;
I’ll have no intervention, if that’s their intention–
And that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

Though now we’re in trouble, it’s only a bubble,
We’ll soon make the foes of the Union retire;
Foreign knaves that would meddle had better skedaddle,
For them Uncle Sam has a taste of Greek fire!
They’ll find if they try it, Columbia’s a giant,
And victory perched on the flag of the free;
For the American nation can whale all creation–
And that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee

I haven’t been able to find the origins of “The Opinions of Paddy Magee,” but apparently it’s an Irish-American folk song from the Civil War era. David Kincaid is a contemporary rock musician and Civil War reenactor, who painstakingly researched songs for an album entirely devoted to the Irish experience in the American Civil War. Each song is accompanied only by traditional instruments available to musicians in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Kincaid discovered these song lyrics on old broadsides and lyric books, mostly without accompanying music.

Between 175,000 and 200,830 Irish immigrants served during the American Civil War, the overwhelming majority for the Union. Between 1845 and 1852, a famine gripped Ireland, resulting in mass deaths and emigration. Hundreds of thousands of Irish fled to America, particularly Boston and New York City. The regiments that comprised the Union Army’s famed “Irish Brigade” came from New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

In the Movie Gods and Generals (2003), there’s a scene during the Battle of Fredericksburg in which civilians discuss the tragic irony that crops from those farm fields were sent to Ireland during the famine, and that they helped feed many of the men in the Irish Brigade who were slaughtered on that very ground. Highly speculative, but it makes for compelling drama.


Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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