Irish & German– Whiskey & Beer: Drinking Patterns in the Civil War
Thomas P. Lowry; CreateSpace.com
A popular stereotype during the Civil War years was that the Irish were drunk on whiskey and brave in battle, while Germans were said to be drunk on beer and cowardly in battle. Anyone sufficiently interested in the war to be reading Civil War Times probably knows better. But historian Thomas Lowry has devoted extensive research to the topic, looking at 75,964 documented Union courts-martial to reach a reasonable statistical conclusion on just what percentage of offenses committed in the Federal ranks were alcohol-related—and which troops were most likely to commit them.
Accompanying Lowry’s data is a collection of colorful anecdotes (warning: some of them are R-rated), as well as some priceless commentary by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan on specific cases and drunkenness in general, and also a handful of choice examples of inebriation in the Confederate ranks (on learning that 2nd Lt. William H. Patton of the 17th Mississippi had had his rank and pay suspended for two months after his conviction for being drunk, General Robert E. Lee wrote, “Patton should have been cashiered”).
It may well be a matter of opinion how much of this amounts to anything, but Civil War students will at least find Irish & German—Whiskey & Beer an entertaining read.
Originally published in the August 2012 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.