Irish Creole

Has anyone ever heard of Irish Creole? Recently, I found references in Civil War documents to “Irish Creoles”. It was a surprise as I had never thought that the Irish could be considered Creole. However, the author of the Civil War document (simply I.G. in the publically printed letter in the Newspaper, Mobile Register and Advertiser, April 19, 1863) attempted to correct another author’s reference (Ora) to the 18th and 19th Louisiana Regiment dubbed the “Irish Creole” Regiment. The author (I.G.) argued in 1863 that the term Irish Creole was “unjust”. I’ve excerpted the document below from the Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook:

I notice that my friend “Ora,” in speaking of the victory of the 18th-20th
Louisiana regiment, in the challenge drill at Tullahoma, dubs it the “Irish
Creole” regiment. You should know the regiment better, Ora should know
enough not to call Creoles Irish, or Irish Creoles, and not leave out the
Americans, Germans, Dutch, Prussians and others, that assist in the
composition of this cosmopolitan and truly model regiment. Are Col. Richard
and Lieut. Von Zanken “Irish Creole” names? The epithet seems to infer a little
disparagement because being a Louisiana regiment it is not composed exclusively
of Creoles; this is unjust. The regiment should rather be the more admired in that
it so truly represents the mixed character of the population of
New Orleans, whilst typifying its loyalty; showing how completely men of
different nationalities can become welded together as one man in the one great
cause. Call it “Irish Creole” or whatever else you choose, this is a true
Louisiana regiment, reflecting honor upon the noble old State that sent it forth,
and upon the army to which it is attached.
I. G.

Evidently, during the time period that this was written, the term Creole, meant something entirely different from what we identify with creole today. In the APG mailing list a Certified Genealogist gives her qualified interpretation of “Creole”. You can read the post here.

Excerpted thread below:

With respect, I must offer a different stance. I base my views on three
decades of studying “Creoles” in the original records of every Gulf Coast
and Mississippi Valley settlement (as well as many in Caribbean
settlements), including original records held in Spain, France, Mexico, and
Cuba–as well as having published on the subject in peer-reviewed journals
and university presses within history, sociology, literature, and genealogy.

Creole is a culture, not a color.

Historically, Creole was *not* defined as a *mix* of Spanish and African (or
any other). Nor did it matter how many generations removed one might be or
whether one lived at Pensacola, New Orleans, Mobile, St. Augustine, or
elsewhere. Many Gulf Coast settlers lived in all these regions and used the
same terminology.

In the colonial era, Creole simply meant “anyone born in the colonies with
ancestry from elsewhere.”* One could be French Creole, Spanish Creole,
German Creole (as with the Palatines who settled the German Coast of
Louisiana under the John Law regime), English Creole (as with a number of
late 18th-century migrants to Florida and Louisiana), Black Creole (i.e.,
full African ancestry), or Creole of color (meaning a blend of Caucasian
with African and/or Native American). One can even find the term used in
some colonial Chesapeake records for those “born in the colonies” of
supposedly pure English ancestry.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Creole writers of the ilk of Grace King
and George Washington (but not Kate Chopin) attempted to redefine the term
“Creole” to mean “pure white.” With the growth of genealogy in the
early-to-mid 1900s–it being primarily a white pursuit at the time–many
families had a strong desire to promote this definition. That distortion has
not stuck. In the post-Roots era, the pendulum has swung to the other
extreme, with many individuals applying the term exclusively (but
erroneously) to multiracials of Creole background.

*Two notable exceptions do exist to the generality that “Creole was anyone
born in the colonies with ancestry from elsewhere”: (1) French Canadians;
and (2) Acadians exiled from Isle d’Acadie (think Longfellow’s
_Evangeline_). Even after settling in Louisiana, the Acadians retained their
unique identity–at least until one married a Creole, at which point he or
she generally carried the identity of whichever culture they lived among.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
APG Member, Tennessee

I thought that this was interesting to note. I posted a question to the creolegen group and am hoping that creole researchers may have more information about the historical references. I also posted the Certified Genealogist’s view, which obviously is different from the historical definition of creole. It seems as if the Civil War author, I.G., believed that the term “Irish Creole” was disparaging or, as I.G. said, “unjust”.

[May 22, 2008] The National Park Service, Creoles and Creoles of Color
“…The word “Creole” comes from the Portuguese word “criollo” which means roughly “native to a region.” The word is used in many of the colonial regions settled by the Portuguese, French, and Spanish in the New World, and its precise meaning varies according to the geographic setting in which it is used….”

*See Footnote
*See Acadians in Grey – referenced 13th-20th Louisiana Regiment not the 18th-20th Louisiana Regiment
*See National Park Service – Creoles and Creoles of Color

About Louisiana Genealogy Admin

I manage several RootsWeb mailing lists and message boards, support Louisiana Cemetery Preservation, am a former Louisiana and Mississippi librarian, have been researching genealogy of my family since 1988, and write and promote several blogs supporting either Louisiana genealogy or Louisiana cemeteries.
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4 Responses to Irish Creole

  1. Mills says:

    I’m curious. You state that “the Certified Genealogist’s view … obviously is different from the historical definition of creole.” Being the Certified Genealogist in question (as well as a historian of all things Creole for the past 30+ years), I’d be interested in hearing what you consider the “historical definition of creole,” along with the evidence on which you base your definition of that culture. –Elizabeth

  2. Louisiana Genealogy Blogs says:

    Historically, the term “creole” in 1863, was used with a negative undertone and connotation, by the author, I.G., who also stated, “The epithet seems to infer a little disparagement because being a Louisiana regiment it is not composed exclusively of Creoles; this is unjust.” The evidence that I.G. held a different definition of “creole” is in quotes. Meaning that in 1863 the author felt “creole” was possibly an insufficient generalization of the 18th and 20th Louisiana Regiment and that he, quite possibly, had an opinion that differs from a current definition c. 2008 of “creole”. I.G.’s opinion of “creole” likely was disparaging as he inferred. [Main Entry: Merriam Webster on-line http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disparage dis·par·age Listen to the pronunciation of disparage Pronunciation: \di-?sper-ij, -?spa-rij\ Function: transitive verb Inflected Form(s): dis·par·aged; dis·par·ag·ing Etymology: Middle English, to degrade by marriage below one’s class, disparage, from Anglo-French desparager to marry below one’s class, from des- dis- + parage equality, lineage, from per peer Date: 14th century 1 : to lower in rank or reputation : degrade 2 : to depreciate by indirect means (as invidious comparison) : speak slightingly about synonyms see decry] Additionally, I.G. felt that “creole” DID NOT encompass the German, Prussian, American, Dutch soldiers within the 18th and 20th Louisiana Regiment. I do not have the benefit of reading what Ora wrote about the “Irish Creole” Louisiana Regiment, however, it appears that I.G. held a different view of what he determined as “creole” in 1863 vs. what was defined as “creole” by a Certified Genealogist.

    Thank you for commenting.

  3. Louisiana Genealogy Blogs says:

    From: Acadians in Grey

    http://www.acadiansingray.com/13th-20th%20Con.%20Regt.%20Inf.htm#13th-20th%20Consolidated%20Regiment%20Volunteer%20Infantry

    From Sifakis, Compendium of C.S. Armies: Louisiana, 94-95:

    Organization: Organized by the consolidation of the 13th and 20th Infantry Regiments at Shelbyville, Tennessee on November 30, 1862. Broken up at Mobile, Alabama in February 1865. The two regiments were recreated and promptly placed in new field consolidations.

    First Commander: Randall L. Gibson, COL [brigade commander from September 20, 1863, promoted BG January 11, 1864]

    Field Officers: Samuel L. Bishop, MAJ [January 11, 1864]; Francis L. Campbell, MAJ [January 2, 1863], LTC [January 11, 1864], COL [November 1864]; Edgar M. Dubroca, LTC [?]; Charles G. Guilett, MAJ [mortally wounded January 2, 1863]; Leon Von Zinken, LTC, COL [September 30, 1863; retired November 1864].

    Assignments: D.W. Adams’ Brigade, Anderson’s Division, 2nd Corps, Army of Tennessee (Nov-Dec 62); D.W. Adams’ Brigade Breckinridge’s Division, 2nd Corps, Army of Tennessee (Dec 62-May 63); D.W. Adams’ Brigade, Breckinridge’s Division, Department of the West (May-Jul 63); D.W. Adams’ Brigade, Breckinridge’s Division, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana (Jul-Aug 63); D.W. Adams’ Brigade, Breckinridge’s Division, 2nd Corps, Army of Tennessee (Aug-Nov 63); D.W. Adams’-Gibson’s Brigade, Stewart’s-Clayton’s Division, 2nd Corps, Army of Tennessee (Nov 63-Feb 65)

    Battles: Atlanta Campaign (May-September 1864); New Hope Church (May 25-June 4, 1864); Atlanta (July 22, 1864); Ezra Church (July 28, 1864); Atlanta Siege (July-September 1864); Jonesboro (August 31-September 1, 1864); Franklin (November 30, 1864); Nashville (December 15-16, 1864)

    From Bergeron, La. Confed. Units, 106:

    “This regiment was formed at Shelbyville, Tennessee, on November 30, 1862, with an aggregate strength of 1,075 men [from consolidation of the 13th and 20th regiments Infantry]. The regiment was heavily involved in the Battle of Murfreesboro; 187 of its men were killed, wounded, or missing on December 31, 1862, and 129 on January 2, 1863. The names of 22 men were placed on the government’s Roll of Honor for gallant conduct in the battle. The regiment spent the winter and spring near Tullahoma. In late May, the regiment went to Jackson, Mississippi, to join General Joseph E. Johnston’s army. The men saw some fighting in the Siege of Jackson, July 5-25, and retreated with the army to Morton. Returning to the Army of Tennessee in late August, the regiment participated in the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, and captured an enemy battery during one attack. On November 25, the regiment fought in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. During the winter and early spring, the men occupied camps near Dalton, Georgia. They fought at Resaca, May 14-15, and at New Hope Church, May 25, during the Atlanta Campaign. On July 28, the regiment lost heavily in the Battle of Ezra Church. The regiment accompanied the army in its invasion of Tennessee and fought in the Battle of Nashville, December 15-16. In February, 1865, at Mobile, Alabama, the regiment was broken up. The men of the 13th Louisiana were consolidated with those of the 4th and 30th Louisiana regiments and the 14th Louisiana Battalion Sharpshooters; the men of the 20th Louisiana were combined with the remains of the 1st Louisiana Regulars and the 16th Louisiana.”

    CSRC, M320, roll 252

    copyright (c) 2003-04 Steven A. Cormier

  4. Mills says:

    Nothing you have said is, of itself, inaccurate. The problem is with the conclusion you draw from it. One letter to the editor does not define a people or a culture. It does not today and it did not in 1863.

    I.G. in 1863 expressed a simmering resentment among those who descended from Louisiana’s traditionally dominant Francophone culture–i.e., that they were the true Louisianians, as opposed to the “Americains” who took over Louisiana after the Purchase of 1803 and set about altering Creole culture, politics, and laws. In the Francophone view, for those who did not have colonial Gulf or Louisiana roots to call themselves “Creole” was a sacrilege, if not heresy.

    Even though Louisiana in the mid-19th century had an “Anglo-American” governor who billed himself as a Creole, because he was born in Louisiana and courted the Creole vote, the old-line Creole population did not accept him as such–including those who had colonial English, Irish, and Germans roosting in their own family trees.

    When you state that my definition of Creole differs from “the historical definition of creole,” you apparently rest your case on this one isolated view from 1863. However, the year 1863 cannot be used to define a term that existed for more than a century before that.

    Anyone who wishes to understand the meaning of the term “Creole” should study the original civil and church records of Louisiana and the Gulf–the *originals*, not the processed (and in that process, altered) abstracts that have been published.

    One might also read, more easily, three publications of the acknowledged authority on the subject, Professor Joseph G. Tregle Jr. (Ph.D., History), formerly of the University of New Orleans. Tregle’s principle works on this subject are:

    Tregle, Joseph G., Jr. “Early New Orleans Society: A Reappraisal,” _Journal of Southern History_ 18 (February 1952): 20-36.

    ——. “On That Word ´Creole´ Again: A Note,” _Louisiana History_ 23 (Spring 1982): 193-98.

    ——. “Creoles and Americans,” in Arnold A. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon, eds., _Creole New Orleans_ (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992), 131-85.

    To quote one passage as representative of the whole: In the second source, Tregle offers “a number of more recently discovered instances of usage of the term as found in letters, newspapers, and official records of the antebellum period” (pp. 193-94). “All,” he points out, “support the … thesis that Louisianians … used the word primarily to designate *anyone native to Louisiana,* regardless of race, ethnic origin, language, or social position. The[se instances] go far to confirm what is still the most accurate historical definition for the antebellum years, that of Joseph H. Ingraham in _The Quadroone_ of 1841 [who wrote]:
    “‘The term *creole* will be used throughout this work in its simple Louisianian acceptation, viz., as the synonym for *native.* …. The children of northern parents, if born in Louisiana, are ‘Creoles.’ The term, however, is more peculiarly appropriated by those who are of French descent.'”

    Tregle’s examples, all from original sources dated 1794-1852, present precisely the same usage I have, across three decades, collected for the 1750-1900 period from the original church and civil records of almost every colonial Louisiana and/or Gulf Coast settlement.

    From these perspectives, I must repeat: The word Creole simply meant “native” to the colonies. Those original records use the term “Creole” for slaves of all shades, free people of color, and individuals from all of the European nations who intermarried in Louisiana–where the dominant culture was French, but secondarily Spanish. The only excusions, as I mentioned in my original post on APG-L, were the Acadians and French-Canadians who migrated South–and, as a matter of course, full-blood or or part-blood Amerindians who lived in the tribal environment. — Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, Samford University Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research

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