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December 13, 1962

Fredericksburg, Virginia (JFK+50) The Union army launched an attack on Confederate positions on Marye’s Heights near Fredericksburg, Virginia today.

The Federals were led by General Burnside while the Rebels were commanded by General Lee. 

In the final assault, the “Irish Brigade” made it to within 30 yards of a stone wall at the base of the heights.  

At this point, Confederate infantry fire stalled the Irish advance. 

 Of 12,300 Federal soldiers killed in the battle, two-thirds fell in front of the stone wall.  

Of the 1200 Irish Federal soldiers who attacked, 545 were killed, wounded or missing. 

As the victorious Lee surveyed the scene from the heights, he said:

“It is well war so so terrible else we should grow too fond of it.”

President Kennedy was the first President of Irish descent (both parents were Irish-Americans).  He also became the first President to visit Ireland during his term of office. 

In his visit of June 1963, the President addressed the Irish Parliament & presented the flag of the Irish Brigade.  

Here are some of his remarks on that occasion.

“Mr. Speaker, Prime Minister, Members of the Parliament:

I am grateful for your welcome & for that of your countrymen.

One of the most brilliant stories of that day was written by a band of 1,200 men who went into battle wearing a green sprig in their hats. 

They bore a proud heritage and a special courage, given to those who had long fought for the cause of freedom. 

I am referring, of course, to the Irish Brigade. 

General Robert E. Lee, the great military leader of the Southern Confederate forces, said of this group of men after the battle:

‘The gallant stand which this bold brigade made on the heights of Fredericksburg is well known. 

Never were men so brave. They ennobled their race by their splendid gallantry on that desperate occasion. 

Their brilliant, though hopeless, assaults on our lines excited the hearty applause of our officers a& soldiers.'”

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