The Batallon de San Patricio, or Saint Patrick’s Battalion, a unit in the Mexican Army comprised of brave Irish and European immigrants to the U.S., has long held legendary status for fighting to defend Mexico from invasion and conquest during the 1846-48 U.S. war of aggression against Mexico.
Primarily Irish and European Catholic immigrants who were among the millions fleeing famine and civil war, the San Patricios were conscripted into the U.S. war on Mexico only to face anti-Catholic and xenophobic bigotry from wealthy and conservative officers in the U.S. Army. The embittered migrant soldiers were forced to attack both military and civilian targets in a fierce campaign widely regarded as the first imperialist war launched by the U.S., with the primary purpose of expanding an empire of slavery into sovereign Mexico for the benefit of southern aristocrats.
Unable to continue bombarding Catholic cathedrals and shedding the blood of primarily Indigenous and mestizo Mexicans, hundreds of immigrant U.S. servicemen began to defect from the U.S Army, joining their fellow Catholics in the Mexican Army, where they quickly earned a reputation for being one of the most battle-hardened and valiant units in the republic's military.
After fighting in several key battles, the San Patricios were eventually defeated. While many of the non-Irish deserters to the Mexican Army from Germany, France, Italy, Poland, England and other countries were pardoned or given light sentences following U.S. military courts-martial, Irish defectors were executed for treason and lynched en masse on September 12, 1847.
The San Patricios are celebrated as martyrs in Mexico and Ireland, where they are honored for their valor, selflessness and resistance to the rapacious policies of the United States in a war that even Gen. Ulysses S. Grant called "one of the most unjust wars ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation." Each year on September 12 and March 17, the fighters are commemorated with music, parades and celebrations of Mexican-Irish relations, ties and cultural affinity.
teleSUR takes a look at the St. Patrick's Battalion, who put their humanity above their allegiance to the warmongering U.S. government.