The Battle of Malvern Hill, also known as the Battle of Poindexter’s Farm, was fought on July 1st, 1862. The battle was the last in a series know as the Seven Days Battle. The Union lost around three-thousand men and the Confederates lost over five-thousand; however, the greatest tragedy was a father’s grief when he realized he shot his own son.
In today’s post I will be sharing eye-witness accounts of the division and grief families faced as the country was torn to pieces during civil war. Captain D. P. Conyngham was an officer in the Irish Brigade and describes a gut-wrenching moment when Sergeant Driscoll learns he has shot and killed his own child. The Seven Days Battles took place between June 25th to July 1st, 1862. The two different sides fought at Gaines Mills, Savage Station, Glendale, and Malvern Hill.
The battles would attempt to end the Civil War in what is known as the Union’s Peninsula Campaign. The fighting took place in appalling heat and terrible conditions with high causality numbers. According to James M. McPherson in his book titled Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era “When the seven days of fighting were over, Lee counted 20,000 men lost while Union commander McClellan tallyed 11,000. Little of strategic value was gained. General McClellan withdrew his Union troops to the north allowing General Lee to begin his attacks on Union positions in Northern Virginia.”
The Civil War divided a nation, fracturing families as the North and South broke apart. The following primary source details anincident in the Battle of Malvern Hill in which a Union officer, Sgt. Driscoll, faces a great tragedy. Captain D. P. Conyngham was an officer in the Irish Brigade, Driscoll’s brigade, and described the incident shortly after the war.
“I had a Sergeant Driscoll, a brave man, and one of the best shots in the Brigade. When charging at Malvern Hill , a company was posted in a clump of trees, who kept up a fierce fire on us, and actually charged out on our advance. Their officer seemed to be a daring, reckless boy, and I said to Driscoll, ‘if that officer is not taken down, many of us will fall before we pass that clump.’
‘Leave that to me,’ said Driscoll; so he raised his rifle, and the moment the officer exposed himself again bang went Driscoll, and over went the officer, his company at once breaking away.
As we passed the place I said, ‘Driscoll, see if that officer is dead – he was a brave fellow.’
I stood looking on. Driscoll turned him over on his back. He opened his eyes for a moment, and faintly murmured ‘Father,’ and closed them forever.
I will forever recollect the frantic grief of Driscoll; it was harrowing to witness. He was his son, who had gone South before the war.
And what became of Driscoll afterwards? Well, we were ordered to charge, and I left him there; but, as we were closing in on the enemy, he rushed up, with his coat off, and, clutching his musket, charged right up at the enemy, calling on the men to follow. He soon fell, but jumped up again. We knew he was wounded. On he dashed, but he soon rolled over like a top. When we came up he was dead, riddled with bullets.”
SOURCE: Voices From The Storm: The Tragedy At The Battle Of Malvern Hill by Battefields.org and also found on Eyewitness to History: Battlefield Tragedy
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BOOK PICK OF THE DAY
Written in a clear and engaging narrative style, this book analyzes the pivotal campaign in which Robert E. Lee drove the Union Army of the Potomac under George B. McClellan away from the Confederate capital of Richmond, VA, in the summer of 1862.
The Seven Days’ Battles: The War Begins Anew examines how Lee’s Confederate forces squared off against McClellan’s Union Army during this week-long struggle, revealing how both sides committed many errors that could have affected the outcome. Indeed, while Lee is often credited with having brilliant battle plans, the author shows how the Confederate commander mismanaged battles, employed too many complicated maneuvers, and overestimated what was possible with the resources he had available. For his part, McClellan of the Union Army failed to commit his troops at key moments, accepted erroneous intelligence, and hindered his campaign by refusing to respect the authority of his civilian superiors.
This book presents a synthetic treatment that closely analyzes the military decisions that were made and why they were made, analyzes the successes and failures of the major commanders on both sides, and clearly explains the outcomes of the battles. The work contains sufficient depth of information to serve as a resource for undergraduate American history students while providing enjoyable reading for Civil War enthusiasts as well as general audiences.