Today, the Irish St. Patrick’s Day Commemorative Silver Medal remembers the recognition General Washington gave to the Irish along with a day off to the continental army 237 years ago.
From Donahoe’s Monthly Magazine, Boston, March 1891:
St. Patrick’s Day in 1780.
I was much interested in the extract from the Army and Navy Journal, headed “Historical—Washington Against Cider.”
With reference to the order directing the celebration of St. Patrick’s day, the “morning order” sounding apocryphal, and the date “ 1796 ” must be “ 1776.” Washington was President in 1796, not General in the field.
Whether or not “morning orders” were issued by Washington from his “H. Q., Greenville, March 17, 1796,” certainly St. Patrick’s day was celebrated in 1780 by order from him.
Headquarters, March 16, 1780.
The General congratulates the army on the very interesting proceedings of the Parliament of Ireland, and of the inhabitants of the country, which have been lately communicated.
Not only do they appear calculated to remove the heavy and tyrannical oppressions on their trade, but to restore to a brave and generous people their ancient rights and privileges, and in their operation to promote the cause of America.
Desirous of impressing in the mind of the army transactions so important in their nature, the General directs that all fatigue and working parties cease for tomorrow, the 17th day, held in particular regard by the people of that nation.
At the same time that he orders this as a mark of pleasure he feels in the situation, he persuades himself that the celebration of the day will not be attended by the least rioting or disorder.
The officers to be at their quarters in camp, and the troops of each State are to be in their own encampment.
Division Orders, March 17, 1789. —The commanding officer desires that the celebration of the day should not pass by without a little rum issued to the troops, and has thought proper to direct the commissary to send for the hogshead which the colonel has purchased already in the vicinity of the camp.
While the troops are celebrating the bravery of St. Patrick in innocent mirth and pastimes, he hopes they will not forget their worthy friends in the kingdom of Ireland, who, with the greatest unanimity have stepped in opposition to the tyrant, Great Britain, and who, like us, are determined to die to be free.
The troops will conduct themselves with the greatest sobriety and good order.
The reference to their trade was the struggle for independence before 1782. “To promote the cause of America,” refers to the vote in the Irish Parliament refusing to send troops “ to cut their brothers’ throats in America,” as a member called the Tory resolution.
The above orders are excerpts from the “military orders of the day” issued to the “ Main Guard and Morristown Picket” from Feb. 15, to April 7, 1780, while the American army under Washington was stationed at Morristown, N. J.
If I mistake not, a copy of the “Picket” is preserved in Morristown, and another one in Trenton.
At any rate, the manuscript of this order belongs to a St. Louis lady, whose grandfather was an officer in the “Main Guard and Morristown Picket.”
That Washington was well acquainted with the Irish in this country and valued them highly, is certainly shown by his order that St. Patrick’s day be celebrated in 1776, “with all due respect and decorum,” and in 1780, “as a mark of pleasure.”
What fun there would be if the President offered a holiday on St. Patrick’s day, 1891!
Yet there was more Irish blood spilt for the Union‘s cause, from 1861 to 1865, than there was blood spilt by the whole Continental army, from Lexington to Yorktown.—- R. F. FARRELL, in N. Y. Sun.
The Irish St. Patrick’s Day Commemorative Silver Medal shows with an image of the saint in stained glass.