‘Pickett’s Irish’ Saturday at English Camp

National Park historian Mike Vouri and folk musician Michael Cohen provide a close look at the Irish in the antebellum U.S. Army in words and song Saturday, 2 p.m., in the English Camp barracks.

Admission is free. A golf cart is available to transport disabled persons to and from the parking area. Call 378-2902 or 378-4409 for additional special access information.

In July 1860, Capt. George E. Pickett’s Company D, Ninth Infantry on San Juan Island was composed of three officers and 73 enlisted men. Sixty-five of the enlisted troops were foreign-born and of these, 43 were Irish.

Moreover, in a comprehensive survey of the 5,000 men accepted into the U.S. Army in 1850 and 1851, 2,113 were Irish out of 3,516 total foreigners.

“And those numbers correspond to immigration patterns of the antebellum period,” Vouri said. “The rolls jumped from 151,000 in the 1820s to more than 2.3 million in the 1850s.”

A number of factors contributed to mass immigration, the principal of these being the great potato famine of the late 1840s, which brutally swept through Ireland taking more than a million lives and leaving the survivors destitute.

Those coming to America found most jobs taken by those who had arrived in two previous waves. Those were spurred by mass evictions of tenant farmers from great estates owned by the English aristocracy.

In addition to historical anecdotes, the program will capture the atmosphere of the period through traditional American folk songs as only Cohen can deliver them.

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