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.
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
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….”