St Patricks Battalion and the Legend of 

John Riley


Many believe the story of a mysterious Irish-American unit the St. Patrick's Battalion (San Patricios), led by John Riley. Looking to flee Ireland’s harsh conditions and famine, many Irish immigrants landed in the U.S. in the mid-nineteenth century. Thousands joined the U.S. army and became part of the forces that invaded Mexico in the Mexican-American War.


For these expatriates, it turned out that life as an Irish-American wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Prejudices against the Irish as being lazy and ignorant, and against Catholics as being foolish, made life in the U.S. difficult and opportunities few and far between.


At the last battle, U.S. forces captured eighty-five San Patricios and convicted seventy-two for desertion. Fifty were executed; others were whipped and branded. 


Though they were treated as traitors by the U.S., they were viewed as heroes by the Mexican government, which awarded them honors and erected a monument in their honor. 


It’s been said that John Riley died of drunkenness at the age of 45, buried under the name “Juan Riley.” But new evidence casts doubt on the circumstances of his death, not the least of which is the cause: many who knew Riley knew of his sobriety, which makes death from drunkenness very unlikely!


Cantina de San Patricio brings the mystery to Pike Place Market.


“We are the San Patricos a brave and gallant band”

Cantina de San Patricio  |  (206) 443 2150  |  1914 Post Alley Seattle, WA 98101

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