The US Census taken in 2010 revealed that approximately 12% of Americans are of Scottish or Irish descent. That is more than 36,000,000 Americans. The immigration of the Scotch and Irish to the United States of America began in the 1700s and peaked in the mid 1800s.
The first large group of Scot-Irish immigrants came to America under the leadership of Reverend James McGregor. This group arrived in Boston, Massachusetts and most of this group settled in New Hampshire. This was a religious group seeking a country where they would be free to practice their beliefs.
Between 1845 and 1852, in Ireland, more than one million Irish perished from starvation and disease. Potatoes were the main food crop in Ireland at the time and a disease called potato blight spread throughout the potato farms, ruining the crops. During this time, another one million Irish would immigrate to America seeking a better way of life for themselves and their families. The loss of these two million people or almost 25% of the population of Ireland forever changed that country.
Once in America, these Scottish and Irish immigrants struggled to survive. Many were uneducated and had no skills or training for any occupation other than farming. The men worked as laborers and the women worked as domestics in private homes or as maids in hotels. These immigrants built strong, but poor communities that were centered on their Catholic faith. The men worked on the railroad, bridge and road projects that were part of a growing America. The immigrants settled in established cities including Boston, Chicago and New York.
These immigrants were disliked and discriminated against by other Americans. However, when the Civil War broke out, Scottish and Irish immigrants enlisted in the Union army, in large numbers, to defend their new country. This mass enlistment, more than any other event, changed the sentiment of many Americans. They began to accept these immigrants and integrate them into their cities and societies.
Scottish and Irish immigrants came to America to survive. They brought with them their Catholic faith and their dedication to family and communities. Once here this group of immigrants proved they were hard workers and would take on the toughest and most dangerous jobs to support their families. After the Civil War, the Scottish and Irish immigrants began to take on jobs that served their new country. They became firemen, policemen and career military men.