If you have never attended an event of this nature, I urge you to do so. The first time I attended, I was unsure of what I might encounter. I found history that was alive and well. I saw men and women proud of their lineage and willing to share it with others.
The huge crowd heard the Knoxville Pipes and Drums, along with the 17 Lancers Pipes and Drums as they marched down the street in full regalia of Scottish and Irish kilts. They heard Amazing Grace played by a solo bagpiper, as the melody permeated the little villa of Dandridge. They witnessed pride in being an American as all stood with heads uncovered, hands over hearts, as the JCHS Patriot Singers performed our national anthem. I felt chills run up and down my body as I listened and watched ‘Old Glory’ flutter in the wind. I saw Americans honoring the land that they love.
The event was filled with history, including Scots-Irish music, Irish Step dancing, art, and jewelry. General Jackson (Dan Buckner), General Pendleton (Ken Creswell), General Lee (Chaltas), and Butternut (Roger Kelley) shared a magnificent War Between the States uniform display with the large crowd. Uniforms of both armies were laid out on five 4×8 pieces of plywood. Each particular item of clothing was explained. A typical soldier’s backpack, haver sack, ‘house wife’, canteen, weapons, and gear where on display.
One of the uniforms on display was created by Hiram C. Berdan, who was the founder of the Federal Sharpshooters. The uniform was green and they used a rifle with a scope. The had to hit a 10” pattern at 200 yards. The Confederate counterpart wore a butternut color uniform and their weapon of choice was a Whitworth or Sharps. Butternut had on display a Richmond rifle with a mounted telescope. The New York National Guard Cadet shell jacket was very popular, as was the brigadier general’s frock coat. The period chaplain’s frock was discussed and the importance of a field chaplain tending to the spiritual needs of those wounded and dying. The children were invited to try on a uniform and were delighted to have a picture taken with the presenters.
David Chaltas, in the persona of General Lee, shared some touching stories of the Irish Brigade, such as the Confederate Irish Brigade fighting their Federal Irish Brigade at Marye’s Heights. He painted a picture of the sadness and sorrow felt after the shooting had subsided and they realized that the battle had pitted brother against brother. The Confederates held the stone wall that served as impenetrable breastworks, as well as the high ground. General Longstreet exclaimed that a ‘chicken couldn’t live on that field”. The Federals charged over an open field towards Marye’s Heights. Within a few minutes, the Federal Irish Brigade laid wounded upon the frozen ground. Realizing the significance of the tragedy, the Confederate Irish Brigade gave a vocal Irish salute to their fallen brothers. One can only imagine the heartbreak of such a scene on that cold December day.
He also told a story entitled ‘Father’. The following is a synopsis of that tragic story. His name was Sergeant Driscoll. He enlisted into the Union army based on his beliefs and was considered to be one of the best shots in the Brigade. His son had chosen to join the Confederate army and, due to his tenacity of spirit and audaciousness, was promoted to an officer. Both served their hearts’ calling. Both loved their country. Both loved their family yet each heard a different drum.
On July 1, 1862, a fierce battle raged at Malvern Hill, in Henrico County, Virginia. The Federal forces found themselves being hammered by a company of Confederates within the tree line. Every time the boys in blue tried to advance, they were greeted by a hail of bullets which were singing and stinging like hornets. They were in dire straits.
Captain Conyngham, of the famed Irish Brigade, noted that the well-trained soldiers within the clump of trees were commanded by a bold and daring officer. The junior officer was seen dashing around fortifying his position and directing the volley with precision. He knew if he was to advance, he would have to take out the leadership. He called upon his sergeant to do just that. Sergeant Driscoll took careful aim and waited until the Confederate officer stepped out from behind the tree line. He did not have long to wait. The officer bravely, yet carelessly showed himself and Sergeant Driscoll’s bullet immediately found its mark. The Confederate officer was cut down in his tracks and his company began to dissolve.
The Irish Brigade under Captain David Power Conyngham rallied and moved towards their objective. Upon reaching the body of the brave Confederate officer, Captain Conyngham told Sergeant Driscoll to ensure that the officer was dead. The words of Captain Conyngham capture the moment.
“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. The dead soldier was his son who had gone South before the war.”
Sergeant Driscoll stood there in shock and the look upon his face cannot be expressed by words. The company was ordered to charge but the Sergeant remained glued to the scene. The men in blue pressed on and soon were in the heat of the battle. Suddenly the men noticed Sergeant Driscoll charge past them. He had taken off his coat and probably laid it over his son as tribute to him. He charged into the Confederates without thought of himself, calling out for all to follow him. A bullet hit its mark and he fell, but immediately was up charging those men who had followed his son in battle. Suddenly another volley hit him and he fell to the ground to move no more. He answered the call of his son and went home to become the boy’s father once again.
A Civil War Treasury of Tales, Legends, & Folklore, Edited by B.A. Botkin, Random House Inc, 1960, ISBN 0-88394-049-3, Page 83
The Irish Brigade and Its Campaigns, With Some Accounts of the Corcoran Legion, and Sketches of the Principal Officers, Conyngham, D.P., 1867, reprinted in Botkin, B.A.
-By David Chaltas