The Irish Soldiers and the “Naygers” CONTENT NOTE: This poem contains an offensive racist term

“Some tell us ‘tis a burning shame
To make the naygers fight,
And that the thrade of being kilt
Belongs but to the white;
But as for me, upon my sowl –
So liberal are we here –
I’ll let Sambo be murthered instead of myself,
On every day in the year.
On every day in the year,boys,
And in every hour of the day,
The right to be kilt I’ll divide wid him,
And divil a word I’ll say.
“In battle’s wild commotion
I shouldn’t at all object
If Sambo’s body should stop a ball
That was coming for me direct.
And the prod of a Southern bagnet,
So generous are we here,
I’ll resign and let Sambo take it
On every day in the year.
So hear me all boys, darlins,
Don’t think I’m tippin’ you chaff,
The right to be kilt we’ll divide wid him,
And give him the largest half.”

Title:The Irish Soldiers and the “Naygers”

Author:Charles G. Halpine

Publication:Manchester Examiner

Published in:Manchester

Date:March 26th 1864

Keywords:politics, war


This poem with its offensive racist terms is by ‘Private Miles O’Reilly’, actually a pseudonym for the Irish writer Charles G. Halpine who enlisted in the 69th New York infantry in 1861. His poems on the subject of the American Civil War became famous and this one addresses the question of whether black soldiers should be enlisted in the Union army. Halpine uses the persona of O’Reilly to present an apparently prevalent view that black soldiers should be used as ‘cannon fodder’. The poem is followed by this note: [Note: “If the popularity of a composition such as this be any test of its accordance with the spirit of the multitude, there can be no doubt that the fighting part of New York, whether American or Irish, agree with Miles O’ Reilly on the negro question.”] SR