Sunday, July 3, 2011

Gettysburg and Lowell's Irish

I've spent 6 days this week with some hardy volunteers walking the ranges.  The task is daunting.  I have to train myself to stop reading the inscriptions of each stone I walk by.  If you drive down St Peter's Ave. on your right is an obelisk belonging to Captain David Roche who died 148 years ago today.  I leave it to the words of Lowell/s Charles Sampas as he wrote in 1945 at the end of WWII-

Just as the battles of England were won on the playing fields of Eton, so, too, spine of the battles of our Civil War were won on the playing fields of the Bartlett and Mann and other schools, as well as the drilling grounds ol the North and South Commons.
For in the late 1830's, the military tradition was strong here. Young men—as always—loved uniforms, loved marching, had their own companies. This is in sharp contrast to the era following the First World War when militarism took a nose-dive and the young men of Lowell abhorred its trappings and mannerisms. The pacificism of young Lowellites in the 1920's was indeed a far cry from the pro-Civil War tradition hereabouts.
For example, in Lowell history there must be a chapter reserved for The Hill Cadets The boy from the Acre. The Fighting Irishmen who wrote such a magnificent chapter in the Civil War. Their exploits could fill a book! , Who shall forget gallant "Davey?" David W. Roche, captain. He had enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Hill Cadets, which was attached to the 16th Massachusetts infantry. How proud he uas of his men! What great care he took of them' And why not? They -were men of superlative courage, they never retreated, they went forward or they died they knew no other choice.
Captain Roche lived that code And he died by that code He was killed in the midst of that panorama of madness that
was Gettysburg—in that battle which shall ever range with the greatest of battles' The Somme, The Ardennes, Stalingrad, Two Jima He died amidst the cannon roar, the horses, the agony of that deep summer day.
Of whom it was written: "He was one of Ireland's most noble sons, possessed of the real Irish impetuosity and courage."

Roche would not be the only casualty that day.  On the day of his funeral other bodies were being sent home from the Pennsylvania battlefield.  And some never were to return to the home town.  The Courier on the day of his funeral states that another group with new uniforms would be leaving to join the Union forces.
It makes the work we are doing in the cemetery that much more valuable. 

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