Harry Harrison’s Invasion of Ireland

A Stars and Stripes in Peril Scenario




Harry Harrison in Stars and Stripes in Peril imagines a counterfactual where the Union and Confederacy combine forces to attack Britain. In the second book of the series they invade Ireland and set it “free”.


Rather than give page references, I’m going to reference chapters in italics.


The Plan


Meagher’s Fenian Circle have infiltrated a dozen revolutionaries into Ireland (The Secret Plan), and we’re confidently informed that their cells are free of informants. Of course, if a single one of them is arrested by the police the entire plan will fall apart, but obviously none are (which is strange considering how freely the one agent in Ireland we follow talks to strangers about it). We have several pages of (inaccurate) atrocities the British have committed, and we get onto a plan.


We’re told the British have 20-30,000 troops in Ireland, and they’re concentrated at Curragh, Belfast, Dublin and Cork. In actuality all that are at Belfast and Cork are recruiting stations, but the British are at war with the US so we can forgive some changes. There is no mention of the Irish Militia made at all, and IRL they certainly would have been called out (as they were during the Crimean and Indian Mutiny), adding some 30,000 troops to the British.


We’re told in a meeting between Sherman and Lee how well fortified Ireland is against external attack. The meeting also proposes some odd attitudes to ethnicity in Ireland, Lee states as long as his regiments invading Belfast are a mix of Confederate Protestants and Catholics from Louisiana no-one in Ulster will take issue with being invaded. Sherman and Lee conclude they should land in the unpopulated West, and utilise the Irish railway system to move their armies, and subvert the telegraph system in the South, since the entire population will obviously automatically side with the invaders (Fighting Back). Finally we’re treated to another two pages of “The English are B******s”.




230 pages down, 100 to go.


The US have concentrated 4 ironclads in the Azores for the invasion of Ireland without anyone noticing (let alone the British squadron in that area). They are:



Dictator is delayed by a boiler explosion, and so the rest of the “Great Fleet” makes for Ireland. They contact HMS Wasp (called a Revenue cutter, in actuality a Sloop of War and under refit at Portsmouth: http://www.pdavis.nl/ShowShip.php?id=185 ), which “blunder(s) into the outer screen of fast ironclads” and strikes her Colours without firing a shot, and is taken as a prize.


The attacking fleet then separates into three fleets/ expeditionary forces:



The 2nd Fleet


This Fleet enters Galway Bay, which apparently is defended only by 3 Mortello Towers (details of the bays defences at: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/fortifications/index.htm ), which are taken by storm. Although I’ve no idea what the 30 man garrison of one tower was doing while the Irish Brigade roll a barrel of gunpowder up to it in daylight (having waited) and spent several minutes tamping it with rocks.


Meanwhile the Irish Brigade have infiltrated all over the Bay and are busy pinning any British defenders. The Irish Brigade is also reinforced with the 23rd Mississippi Gatling Regiment, although the Americans haven’t bother to bring horses to pull the Gatlings. They use the Gatlings to quickly overwhelm any resistance and are entraining for Dublin by mid morning.


We’re told the entire Telegraph system is knocked out by the dozen Fenian infiltrators, and the train system is obviously all manned by Fenian sympathisers, and the stationmaster was in the “Royal Irish Rifles” (formed 1881).


The Train stops at Athlone, a Company gets out to attack a RIC barracks, then the same to the Cavalry Barracks at Mullingar, then the remainder go onto Dublin (i.e. about half the 69th NY, they’re invading Dublin with 500 men).


At Dublin he’s met by 100 Irish Volunteers, and horses to haul the Gatlings, which are used to crush all resistance. The USS Avenger (hang on, earlier we’re definitely told four ironclads, now a fifth?) arrives.


A subaltern of the Royal Hussars (formed 1969 by amalgamation) wonders what regiment these blue jacketed people are, which is odd as all British Light Cavalry (including Hussar Regiments) wear Blue Jackets….


We get another regiments name (32nd Pennsylvania) during the fighting too, while USS Avenger somehow delivers close fire support to the troops in Dublin.


Sherman then dispatches the 15th Pennsylvania and 10th New York to Belfast.


The 1st Fleet


Here Jackson is supported by the local Irish Volunteers (a private Militia group set up in 1914, yes 61 years later). They land the day after the 2nd Fleet (this is probably a typo), and then force march 25 miles to Limerick City, including a series of flank manoeuvres (realistically this is 3 days marching under contact), then engage in vicious street fighting in Limerick City, which is settled by the Gatlings (okay, they’re pushing Gatlings without horses, this is now 8 days marching).


Jackson then sacks Limerick to stop his troops getting drunk (how’s that one work?), then entrains for Cork, having re-established contact with Sherman by Telegraph.


He then takes Cork “almost before the first bugle call” in a “new kind of war” called “lightning war”.


The 3rd Fleet


This fleet is headed by Dictator, yes, the same ship which had a boiler explosion and had to drop out of the attack (and is specifically mentioned to have missed the attack on p302 of my edition). The fleet consists of Dictator in the van, 8 troopships and Stalwart in the rear (meaning the Defender must have been with the 1st Fleet).


Lees fleet enters Portrush without resistance and his 8 troopships quickly disembark their troops (Longstreet is with them). His force includes Marines, once of whom has an 1873 Colt Peacemaker (yes, a weapon that won’t be invented for 10 years). Portrush apparently only has two trains (with flatcars for the Gatlings), so as many as can fit in two trains (1,000 men?) entrain for Belfast, the rest prepare to march on Coleraine. En route the trains seize several others (and miraculously aren’t involved in a head on collision down the single track).


The Army apparently hasn’t brought food either, instead they appropriate what they need and pay for it with “good US greenbacks”, probably worthless demand notes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_Note ), which can’t have helped the situation. The then seize (“and pay for”) horses off the streets of Belfast to haul their Gatlings and attack the barracks on North Queen Street.


This is interesting, because the infantry and artillery barracks on North Queen Street he’s referring too aren’t manned at the time…


Of course, the first thing General Tarbut (note, no such officer is on the army list) does is send a runner to Scotland in a fishing boat. Notably, the author comments “Loyalist or Republican, he did not say”, which is incredibly odd because no such distinctions had yet developed, and wouldn’t until about 1920.


The Regiment in North Queen St is named as the 83rd (that’s the 83rd County of Dublin, yes, an Irish Regiment), but they’re blasted out when the 33rd Mississippi take some 12 pounder smoothbore guns from next door (never mind the British never really used a 12 pounder smoothbore, going from a 9 pdr smoothbore to a 12 pdr rifle)


The Curragh


Meanwhile General Napier is in command at the Curragh (that’s the Napier who is in India?). General Hooker is attacking him (from what fleet did Hooker land?).


Hooker lines up all his forces behind a hedgerow, the British go to ground before his breachloading rifles and then flank the Americans with Cavalry. Apparently Hooker then machineguns the lot with his Gatlings.


The British Counterattack


That Captain brings news to Britain and swiftly a counterinvasion is organised with the “Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders”, or rather the 79th Highlanders (who were destroyed in the last book) and another regiment (these two apparently are the Glasgow garrison, in reality Glasgow is vacant in 1863, and only one battalion is present in Scotland).


The British then order the Horse Guards (The Household Brigade I assume), Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (formed 1968 from the 5th, 6th, 7th and 20th), Green Howards (then called the 19th Regiment, Green Howards is post WW2), Scots Guards (which Bn and why not use the contemporary Scots Fusilier Guards), Scots Greys (i.e. the 2nd Dragoons) and Kings Regiment (formed 1958) are also sent.


The two regiments from Glasgow are immediately massacred by Gatlings under “Clebourne” (probably Cleburne, the CS General and staunch Irish Unionist?) and “he had never heard a Gatling before” is a line from the engagement. Perhaps not, but Volley Guns are very old hat in Europe and the Gatling is nothing more than that. More troops are fed in as they arrive from Britain, until Jackson arrives with his troops, force marches around the Brits and take them from the rear.


The British actually have a warship (well 3). The ironclad Conquerer (10 inches of armour, 14 guns) easily dispatches Stalwart, but then meets Virginia and Avenger and is sunk easily. Intrepid and Valiant meet Dictator and are saved when her engines breakdown again (but don’t finish her?). Confusingly, Dictator and Avenger seem to swap places several times in the narrative.


The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland


Finally, Harrison has the Americans and Catholic Irish happily ethnically cleanse Ireland of any Brits or Protestants. Good show, the Ireland problem simply solved by killing or expelling any opposition.




Very difficult to wargame, since much of the above doesn’t make sense. However, a roughly Orbat of the American Invasion Forces might be:


1st Brigade – Limerick-Cork-Dublin-Belfast

Stonewall Jackson (Brigade Commander)

15th Pennsylvania

10th New York


2nd Brigade – Galway-Dublin

Sherman (Brigade Commander)

69th New York (Meagher’s Irish Brigade)

23rd Mississippi

32nd Pennsylvania

? (Hooker’s, assumedly Massachusetts)


3rd Brigade – Belfast

Lee (Brigade Commander)

33rd Mississippi (Longstreet)

? Louisiana (The Louisiana Tigers)


It doesn’t seem a lot, but when you remember it took 74 ships to land Sherman’s Port Royal Expedition of 12,000 men, it seems too much. The 8 troopships in the 3rd Fleet would lift maybe 1,500 troops (i.e. two slightly understrength regiments), the 2nd Fleet might carry 2,000 troops.


8 Regiments named or inferred, maybe an invasion force of 4-6,000 men. Not even a Division.


What would have been


Sherman might well have easily silenced the Galway defences (although not as easily as in the book), and then he gets into Galway City and has 3,000 Irish Militia to fight through, and they’ve real artillery not gatlings.


For those wondering the relative effectiveness of a Gatling, a Gatling weighed 90kg (plus the carriage), the model 1865 could fire about 150 rounds per minute, roughly the same as a company of riflemen, but could only sustain this for a short period of time (maybe 90 seconds until the hopper needs refilling). It consumes about 6-7kg of ammunition a minute (brass cartridges are heavy), and thus will require dozens of people per gun as ammunition bearers, since no one thought to bring horses.


As such it is a defensively very useful weapon, if dug in, but offensively useless. In the kind of street fighting described they’re going to be even worse, since unlike a company of riflemen, they can only engage one target at once. There’s a reason they didn’t catch on…


Anyway, if Sherman entrained, he’s detaching companies (maybe 50 men) to deal with dug in Regiments of 600 men with better weapons and artillery. The train line will be cut behind him. Of course, OTL this cavalry barracks is actually unoccupied…


Arriving in Dublin, he’s got potentially 10,000 troops to take with 3-400 men and a couple of Gatlings. IRL Dublin is home to an Infantry Division, a Cavalry Brigade and a Militia Brigade in peacetime (6,000 regular infantry, 1,500 regular cavalry, 3,000 militia infantry, several dozen field guns))


Jackson might fare better, as he’s only 4,000 Irish Militia, 2,000 regulars at the depot and about a hundred heavy guns to face after his 25 mile heavily laden forced marched, but I doubt it.


Lee has it easy, there is no garrision at all in Ulster, although there are about 10,000 militia to oppose him, mostly Catholics.


Hookers Regiment of 500 men is facing a full Corps (including Militia) of 15,000 men. As if 30:1 odds aren’t good enough, they have the best part of 100 guns to smash the Yankee invader. A quickly calculation shows that even at the ridiculously low hit rates achieved in battle, the Yankee force will all be dead in 1.3 minutes for no British loss.




Harrison needs to do more bloody research.


Appendix: British Forces in Ireland July 1863 (OTL)



Infantry Brigade composed of the 2/19th, 36th and 58th

Cavalry Brigade composed of the 10th, 11th and 15th Hussars



Infantry Division composed of the 1/10th, 1/11th, 2/12th, 2/21st, 29th, 45th and 86th

Cavalry Brigade composed of the 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards and 4th Hussars


Northern Division of Militia (4 Brigades)

71st, or Fermanagh Regiment of Militia

80th, or Royal Tyrone Regiment of Militia

102nd or the Prince of Wales's Donegal Regiment of Militia


77th, or Royal North Down Regiment of Militia

79th, or Queen's Own Royal Rifles Antrim Regiment of Militia

108th Louth Regiment of Militia

112th, or Royal South Down Regiment of Militia


75th, or Armagh Regiment of Militia

101st, or Cavan Light Infantry Regiment of Militia

121st, or Monaghan Regiment of Militia


Southern Division of Militia (4 Brigades)

82nd, or South Mayo Regiment of Militia

91st, or Galway Regiment of Militia

93rd, or Roscommon Regiment of Militia

111th, or Leitrim Regiment of Militia

120th, or North Mayo Regiment of Militia

124th, or Sligo Regiment of Militia


87th, or South Cork Regiment of Militia (Light Infantry)

94th, or Clare Regiment of Militia

107th, or Kerry Regiment of Militia

116th, or North Cork Regiment of Militia (Rifles)

123rd, or Royal Limerick County Regiment of Militia


Eastern Division of Militia (4 Brigades)

84th, or Tipperary (Duke of Clarence's) Regiment of Militia

99th, or Wexford Regiment of Militia

127th, or Kilkenny Regiment of Militia


98th, or King's County Regiment of Militia

104th, or Queen's County Regiment of Militia

114th, or Westmeath Regiment of Militia

119th, or Royal Meath Regiment of Militia


70th, or County Carlow Regiment of Militia

92nd, or Wicklow Regiment of Militia

88th, or Kildare Regiment of Militia

100th, or Royal Dublin City Regiment of Militia

109th, or Dublin County Regiment of Militia


Coastal Defence Division of the Militia

85th, or Prince of Wales's Royal Longford Regiment of Militia

103rd, or Limerick City Regiment of Militia

110th, or City of Cork Regiment of Militia

128th, or Waterford Regiment of Militia


Depot Battalions (In time of war each recruits to Division strength, except Fermoy which becomes a Corps)


Athlone: Depot of 1/25th, 2/25th, 36th, 47th and 67th (1,000 men)

Belfast: Depot of 26th, 49th, 62nd, 63rd, 76th and 96th (1,200 men)

Birr: Depot of 1/21st, 2/21st, 40th, 53rd, 58th, 65th and 106th (1,400 men)

Buttevant: Depot of 1/18th, 2/18th, 46th, 80th and 87th (1,000 men)

Cork: Depot of 1/24th, 2/24th, 27th, 48th, 57th, 99th and 109th (1,200 men)

Fermoy: Depot of 1/11th, 2/11th, 1.13th, 2/13th, 1/14th, 2/14th, 28th, 33rd, 68th, 69th, 89th, 95th, 107th and 108th (2,800 men)

Limerick: 1/3rd, 2/3rd, 1/17th and 2/17th (800 men)

Templemore: 1/8th, 2/8th, 1/9th, 2/9th, 1/16th, 2/16th, 39th and 86th (1,200 men)