Saint Patrick’s Day March 17, 1863
Charles Goddard of Company K, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry attended the festive St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 17, 1863 at the headquarters of the Irish Brigade near Falmouth, Virginia. Young Goddard, 18 was drawn to danger when he was off duty. Charles Ely, his comrade in arms, said of Goddard, “the only thing he did better than getting into scrapes, was getting out of them.” Matthew Marvin’s diary entry for March 17 indicates he also attended this event. His view of the celebration offers a contrast to Goddard’s.
Notices of the upcoming celebration including a Military Mass, a horse race, and other festivities, no doubt captured many soldier’s interest including Goddard and Marvin. The crowd at the brigade’s headquarters in Falmouth was estimated at over 20,000 people including General Joseph Hooker, Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Under the flamboyant leadership of Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher, the Irish Brigade was one of the most colorful units of the Army of the Potomac. The Irish Brigade reflected the characteristics of its leader; it was ferocious in battle and rambunctious between campaigns.
Matthew Marvin’s diary account of the event.
Tuesday March 17
St. Patrick’s day is a big one in the Army of the Potomoc
Horse-racing and steeple chases is the program lots of
whiskie & lots of fun most all the Gen in this part
of the army are present here Heavy firing up the river
Weather pleasent mud knee deep.
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