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I read on the Miniatures Page not that long ago that story had been debunked and the Union Irish did not face Confederate Irish - was a fictional portrayal in "Gods and Generals". Whatever.
There were many Irishmen in Confederate service along the Sunken Road at Marye's Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg, including a unit (Cobb's Legion) made up predominantly of Irish commanded by Colonel (his promotion to Brigadier General may or may not have been confirmed) Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, brother of Howell Cobb. Colonel Cobb died of wounds sustained in the battle.
It's been awhile, but I recall the story of opposing Irishmen being detailed in both Catton's and Foote's accounts of the battle - that's not saying some theatrical license might not have been taken in the making of the movie. I am not sure there was an exact counterpart to the Union Irish Brigade in the Confederate Army. The existence of the Union Irish Brigade came about as the result of a unique set of circumstances political, personal, and cultural, largely due to the efforts of one man, Thomas Meagher who made it happen. However there were numerous Irishmen in the ranks of both Armies and many were behind the stone wall at Marye's heights. To see their fellow countrymen mowed down (and they were doing the mowing) must have hit the very hearts of those Irish in butternut and gray. But such was the nature of that war. I am reminded of the 1st Union Maryland Regiment facing off across the road from the 1st Confederate Maryland Regiment at Sharpsburg and each blasting each other at point blank range at men who had been friends and neighbors before the War; neither side wanting to be the first to blink.
I hope this helps clear the confusion of the scene in the movie. I felt it captured the tragedy and pathos of the bloodbath well.
I believe the 24th Georgia, led by Thomas Cobb and sometimes called "Cobb's Legion", as Wayne has pointed out, was in the Confederate line at the stone wall below Marye's Heights that day. The unit had a high proportion of Irishmen in its ranks. About 20,000 Irish volunteers fought for the Confederacy during the war. About 120-140,000 fought for the Union.
Ian and Wayne - thanks for the information.
*SIGH!* Nice set, but you can NOT make a set of Union soldiers in gray plastic! It is just never done, even by the cheapo soldier companies. Sure "all silver all the time" Italeri did it, but eventually made Union in light blue & Confederate in gray. & yes, HAT made Union Zouaves in gray, but they could be used as Confederates, plus, thanks to Kent Sprecher, blue sets were available. Oh well, they'll look nice in my Confrdrtate army.