George Washington Celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day


Throughout his life George Washington had a great deal of sympathy for the struggles of the Irish against their English rulers, seeing in those struggles a mirror for the American fight for independence.  Irish immigrants to America, Protestant and Catholic, were enthusiastic in their embrace of the American cause, and during the Revolutionary War many of the soldiers who served in the Continental Army were Irish or of Irish descent.  Therefore when General Washington heard in March 1780 that the Irish Parliament had passed free trade legislation, he issued the following general order to the Army on March 16, 1780:

The general congratulates the army on the very interesting proceedings of the parliament of Ireland and the inhabitants of that country which have been lately communicated;  not only as they appear calculated to remove those heavy and tyrannical oppressions on their trade but to restore to a brave and generous people their ancient rights and freedom and by their operations to promote the cause of America.

Desirous of impressing upon the minds of the army, transactions so important in their nature, the general directs that all fatigue and working parties cease for tomorrow the seventeenth, a day held in particular regard by the people of the nation.  At the same time that he orders this, he persuades himself that the celebration of the day will not be attended with the least rioting or disorder, the officers to be at their quarters in camp and the troops of the state line to keep within their own encampment.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. The Army was encamped in Morristown, New Jersey that March.

    This year the American veteran is the honoree. As ever, the 69th (now 165) Inf. will lead. Some of these brave soldiers served in Iraq and too many there gave the last full measure of devotion. Many daily are on duty around NY since 11 September.

    Except for the black-hearted occupiers in Ulster, both Catholic and Protestant Irishmen were for independence.

    The NY TV coverage just began.

    The first (on the planet) St. Patrick’s Day Parade was in Boston in 1737.

    The first NYC parade was 1762.

    According to accounts, the Irish Brigade during the CW, after Holy Mass of course, would host colorful celebrations on our Patron Saint’s Holy Day.

    Erin Go Bragh!

    Washington’s mother was Irish . . .

  2. The video implies that George Washington was chosen to lead the Continental Army DESPITE never having led an army in the field. This is not altogether accurate. Washington had certainly led militia in battle. And after Braddock’s fall, command of his army fell to Washington. It was Washington’s leadership and calm demeanor and fortitude in leading the retreat of Braddock’s forces that likely saved them from complete annihilation.

    It would prove to be a well of experience that Washington would dip into time and again during the Revolution.

    Yes, Washington was chosen to command the Continental Army for his character, but it was a character that was famous throughout the colonies because of the reputation he had forged for himself during the retreat of Braddock’s army.

    Primarily, though, he was chosen because he was a Virginian with military experience, as opposed to a hot-headed New Englander.

  3. “And after Braddock’s fall, command of his army fell to Washington. It was Washington’s leadership and calm demeanor and fortitude in leading the retreat of Braddock’s forces that likely saved them from complete annihilation.”

    True Jay, and what is more remarkable is that as a Virginia militia officer Washington had no place in the formal chain of command. He took command as a result of his courage and the fact that he was the only one who had a clue as to how to fend off the French attack and have the army conduct a fighting retreat. After the battle Colonel Dunbar of the Royal Army took command, but Washington and his Virginians were the heroes of the day as Braddock acknowledge before he died. Washington commanded the Virginia militia on the frontier for the remainder of the French and the Indian War. Washington was by far the most experienced American soldier in a land that lacked any regular army.

  4. Speaking of Irish immigration to Amreikay (as the Irish often said) here’s the classic Paddy’s Green Shore, performed by the Irish folk singer Paul Brady:

  5. But if at last our color should
    Be torn from Ireland’s heart,
    Her sons with shame and sorrow
    From the dear old sod will part.
    I’ve heard a whisper of a country
    That lives far beyond the say,
    Where rich and poor stand equal
    In the light of freedom’s day.

    Oh, Erin! Must we lave you,
    Driven by the tyrant’s hand?
    Must we ask a mother’s welcome
    From a strange but happy land?
    Where the cruel cross of England’s thralldom
    Never shall be seen
    And where in peace we’ll live and die
    A-wearing of the green.

  6. Speaking of wearing of the green, today was the 61st annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Holyoke, MA. It lasted about three and a half hours televised on public tv. An estimated 400,000 – 500,00 were there. The route has been being lined with chairs since last Sunday. Last night, city blocks (the starting point of yesterday’s road race) were closed downtown for celebrators at party tents. Lots of green shamrocks painted on the streets and tee-shirts the color of the hat on the Wolfeken song for the runners. The parade had floats, colleens, area town and city officials, depts., schools, bands, the hospital, the Mummers, Rep. Neal and Sen. Olver.

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