Skip to content

Rebel Sons of Erin by Mort Kunstler

Ft. Donelson Campaign February 13, 1862
Historical Information
They too fought for the Cause. America's Irish community – like so many other Americans – was divided by the Civil War. Irish volunteers in the North achieved fame through the battlefield exploits of units like "Meagher's Irish Brigade." Less known, but no less fervent in their patriotism, were Southern Irishmen – who promptly took up arms in defense of the South and Southern Independence.

Most prominent among Irish Confederate commanders was General Patrick R. Cleburne, and among the best-known Irish Confederates were the troops of the 10th Tennessee, C.S.A. Outfitted in new uniforms trimmed in red, and equipped with British Tower muskets from the War of 1812, they endured a regimental baptism of fire during the Fort Donelson Campaign of 1862.

At 1:25 p.m., on Thursday, February 13, 1862, the 10th Tennessee (Irish) engaged the enemy at Erin Hollow near Dover, Tennessee. It was the only combat the troops would experience as a full regiment. Shoulder-to-shoulder beneath their regimental flag of Irish green, they poured fire into the Federal ranks. Their well-crafter uniforms had been supplied by one of their own – Lieutenant Colonel Randal W, McGavock – an affluent former Nashville mayor who had outfitted the entire regiment. Into battle with him went McGavock's personal battle-flag, which served as reminder to this troops that he was with them.

McGavock was a stirring presence at Erin Hollow. Observed historian Ed Gleeson in his book Rebel Sons of Erin: "There was a big, mounted, red-haired officer in a red-and-gold trimmed uniform, with a green feather in the red lining of his gray hat, pointing a sword that flashed in the afternoon sun. Above him at a higher point on the hill was a green flag, with white shamrocks, flapping in the Tennesee wind."

They were the defenders of their Southern homeland.

They were the Rebel Sons of Erin.

Mort Künstler’s Comments
My first painting of an Irish regiment - Raise the Colors and Follow Me! - was done in 1989 for the U.S. Army War College. It was introduction to the major contribution made by Irish Americans to both sides during the Civil War. Most students of the war are familiar with the role of Irish troops in the Northern army, but less is known about Irish troops in Confederate service.

One of the most fascinating Irish regiments in the war was the Confederate 10th Tennessee, which I first learned about while reading a biography of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Now the regiment is fully profiled in Ed Gleeson's regimental history, The Rebel Sons of Erin. Ed and his work have been most helpful to me in researching this painting, so I have given it the name of Ed's book as a tribute to him.

Other historians have also given me valuable advice. Tom Cartwright, the historian at the Carter House in Franklin, Tennessee, uncovered important information and a rare photograph of the 10th's Private Patrick Griffin. Sheila Morris Green, an assistant curator at the Tennessee State Museum, consulted with me about the regiment's original flag and the personal banner of Lt.Col. Randal W. McGavock - both of which are held in the museums collection. McGavock's banner is in the foreground of the painting, and the regimental flag - which was huge - dominates the center of the picture. Robert Wallace of Ft. Donelson National Military Park was also helpful in confirming details.

The entire regiment at this time was furnished with new uniforms by Lt. Col. McGavock, who was the former mayor of Nashville. The uniforms were carefully described by Private Jimmy Doyle in his diary, which has been preserved. Although the 10th Tennessee was considered one of the best equipped regiments in the war's Western Theater, its troops were armed at this time with flintlock muskets from the War of 1812.

The moment depicted in Rebel Sons of Erin is the engagement at Erin Hollow, which occurred on February 13, 1862, during the Ft. Donelson Campaign. It was the only time the entire regiment engaged in battle as a complete unit. I hope this painting not only captures one of the war's dramatic moments, but also increases the awareness of Irish participation - North and South - in the Civil War.
Original price $700.00 - Original price $1,150.00
Original price
$700.00 - $1,150.00
Current price $700.00
Rebel Sons of Erin by Mort Kunstler: Paper Signed Artist's Proof Unframed