David Rovics sings his song remembering the hundreds of Irish recruits in the US invasion of Mexico in 1846 that turned on their commanders and fought on the side of Mexico. While this event is little known in American history, what is even less known is that some of the soldiers in John O’Reilly’s battalion were former slaves who escaped from their owners in the US army to fight alongside the Irish and Mexican San Patricios.
As James Callaghan wrote in American Heritage magazine:
Mexican sources state that O’Reilly quickly recruited forty Irishmen and four esclavos negros–slaves brought along with Taylor’s army as grooms and valets to Southern-born officers. In Georgia or Alabama freedom was a long and treacherous run northward; in Texas it was a river away, and these blacks were free men and soldados de Mexico now.
Of the twenty-nine members of Saint Patrick’s Battalion that survived, most were hung as traitors. The images accompanying David Rovics’ song are from the film One Man’s Hero.