“Clear the Way”: motto of the Irish Brigade.
The spelling is an 18th-century anglicization of the Irish language phrase Fág an Bealach. Its first recorded use as a regimental motto was by the Royal Irish Fusiliers in 1798. It remains the motto of the Royal Irish Regiment today.
It was adopted due to the blood curdling battle-cry of Sergeant Patrick Masterson as he tore into the French ranks, with Ensign Keogh, to capture the first French Imperial Eagle to be taken in battle – during the Battle of Barossa. He was then heard to cry ‘Be Jabers Boys! I have the Cuckoo!’ as he held it triumphantly aloft to rouse the spirits of his men. Alas, Ensign Keogh did not survive the daring dash into the French ranks.
It was popularized outside of Ireland by the Irish Brigade – composed of the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry or “Fighting 69th”, the 63rd & 88th New York Volunteer Infantries, and later the 116th Pennsylvania and 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantries – which fought in the American Civil War.
The commander of the Irish Brigade was Thomas Meagher (pictured above):
Perhaps no other Irishman this side of St. Patrick led a more colorful life, a life that reads like a movie script and epitomizes the label “fighting Irish.”
His sword was on display earlier this year at the Fredericksburg historic site.
The Maximum Leader paid a visit and sent along these images of the sword and of the drum of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteers.