When the Great Hunger brought the Irish to the United States in great numbers they arrived during an era of anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-Papist discrimination and a general pro-British stance as exemplified by the populist Know-Nothing Party. With the outbreak of hostilities following Fort Sumter the Irish joined the Armies of both sides in large numbers and served with great distinction, heroism and honor; the 69th NY suffered the sixth highest casualties of the more than 2000 Regiments serving the North.
As the battlefield exploits and colorful demeanor of these Sons of Erin became reported feelings started to sway toward a less hostile attitude permitting the process of assimilation to accelerate. These men were truly trailblazers for their exploits permitted the Irish to join the ranks as proud citizens of their adopted land as equal partners and paved the way for the full measure of citizenship we all enjoy today. That tradition of service to the Nation continued as the 69th, the sole surviving Unit of the Irish Brigade, volunteered to a man answering the call for Volunteers for the Spanish-American War.
In 1916, the Regiment was posted on the Mexican Border during the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa.
The entrance of America into WWI found the 69th redesignated the 165th Infantry and selected to be part of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s newly formed elite shock Division – the 42nd (Rainbow). The “Fighting 69th” once again served with great distinction and set a record for combat service that was unequaled.
The tradition continued as the Regiment served from 1940-1945 in the Pacific invading Makin, Saipan and Okinawa adding another chapter to the 69th role of honor.
That esprit de corps, tradition and history of service continues to this day as the “Fighting 69th” continues to serve the Nation and the State as the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry (Mechanized), NY Army National Guard.