Voyage of Mercy by Stephen Puleo

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Want to know why Ireland hates England? Well, here is one of the many reasons!

Quick synopsis: The story of America’s first true humanitarian mission during the Great Irish Famine.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: One of the donations to Ireland came from the Choctaw Indian tribe. Why is that significant? They were the people forced to endure the Trail of Tears just fifteen years prior.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: During the famine, Ireland was still a net EXPORTER of food stuffs. England never slowed the exports even while the people of Ireland starved. Yeah, Irish hatred of the Brits making more sense now?

My Take: Not a good look, England! Great look, USA!

Black ’47 is a reference to the worst year of the Irish Famine (Or Great Hunger). England’s policy (read: unconscionable indifference) of making the Irish fend for themselves meant little was done for Ireland in the beginning of the famine, which lasted 4 years. Additionally, when they did finally act, it was often late, plagued with administrative nonsense, and then ended prematurely.

Enter the United States. For the first time in its history, the US government chose to perform a purely humanitarian mission to help the people of Ireland. The mission was quickly executed while the people of the US contributed even faster than the wheels of government could work.

Puleo focuses on two main characters in his book: an American ship captain and Irish Catholic priest. It is a short book comparatively to the events, but Puleo does a fantastic job of giving you all the facts you need without getting too in depth. He also hammers England’s indifference and incompetence, which I truly appreciated as a person of Irish ancestry.

Yes, I am filing this under “true crime.” Slainte.

Verdict: A great book about an event that is equal parts horrible and uplifting. It is high level enough even for people who have no idea about these events.

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Voyage of Mercy by Stephen Puleo
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