Untold Stories: Washington and His Army Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

General George Washington wished the British to “restore to a brave and generous people,” the Irish, “their ancient rights and freedoms.” 

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick is one of the most impactful individuals in history, without exaggeration; he not only converted Ireland to Catholic Christianity almost single-handedly (not to mention driving out all the snakes), but this evangelization ensured that Western civilization, both pagan and Christian, would be preserved through Europe’s dark ages and later disseminated to the world again by the “Isle of Saints and Scholars.” 

One under-appreciated aspect of George Washington’s character is the number of Irish aides, generals, servants, and friends he had at a time in American history when those of English descent had a good deal of prejudice against the Irish, particularly the Catholic Irish. These included Washington’s favorite aide, Irish Catholic immigrant John Fitzgerald; Washington’s aide and the man credited with first calling this country the United States of America, Irish Catholic immigrant Stephen Moylan; Irish-born father of the American Navy, John Barry; the peasant-born architect who designed and built the White House at Washington’s express desire, Irish Catholic immigrant James Hoban; and Washington’s key spy/double agent during the war, Irish Presbyterian immigrant Hercules Mulligan.

On one occasion, according to Colonel Allan McLane, Washington got directly involved in the constant tensions between his Irish and German soldiers—and it was on St. Patrick’s Day itself that the fracas occurred. It was during the hard winter at Valley Forge in 1778, when tempers were no doubt already worn thin by the lack of adequate supplies and the harsh weather, and the Germans started the trouble with an insulting gesture, setting up a mocking scarecrow of St. Patrick. The Irish assembled and swore vengeance, refusing to be quieted.

At this, Washington, having ascertained the [claims of] entire innocence [from] the [German] troops rode up to the Irish and kindly and feelingly argued with them, and then requested the Irish to show the offenders and he would see them punished.

They could not designate anyone [specifically]. ‘Well,’ said Washington, with great promptness, ‘I too am a great lover of Saint Patrick’s Day, and must settle the affair by making all the army celebrate the day.’

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Posted by CatSalgado32

Catherine Salgado is a columnist for The Rogue Review, a Writer for MRC Free Speech America, and writes her own Substack, Pro Deo et Libertate. She received the Andrew Breitbart MVP award for August 2021 from The Rogue Review for her journalism.

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