The first soldier to lose his life in the American Civil War was Daniel Hough, a former farmer from Co. Tipperary. The unfortunate man died following an accidental explosion that took place while the Fort Sumter garrison fired a salute to the flag following their surrender. That explosion wounded a number of other men, and within days Hough was joined in death by another Irishman- Edward Gallway– the second soldier to lose his life in the Civil War. The fact that the first two men to die both hailed from Ireland was perhaps unsurprising, given that there were more Irish-born than American-born troops in the Sumter garrison. It was news of Gallway’s death that appears to have reached Ireland first. At a time when few envisaged the slaughter to come, one Irish newspaper, in reporting his fate, was remarkably prescient about what the conflict would cost not just America, but Ireland. Their prediction that “the lives of her exiled children will be offered in thousands”, proved remarkably accurate. Unhappily, so did their warning that “many a fireside…will be filled with mourning as each American mail arrives.” That certainly proved the case for the Gallways, who would experience it for a second time before the guns fell silent.
Edward Gallway (there a number of variants of his surname, including Gallwey and Galway) was not a typical Irish soldier. He was well-educated, and prior to his enlistment had worked as a clerk. He enlisted on 23rd November 1859 in Moultrieville, South Carolina, at the age of 20 and was described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, with grey eyes, fair hair and a fair complexion. The register of enlistments records that the 1st United States Artilleryman “died Apr. 14 ’61 accidental explosion of gunpowder while firing salute after bombdt at Ft. Sumter S.C.” His death prompted the below piece in the Dublin Nation, which was later carried in the Weekly Wisconsin Patriot on 20th July 1861. (1)
THE IRISH ON THE DEATH-ROLL
Of five thousand men who marched from New York in one week for the war in the South, three thousand were Irish. From nearly every city in America, the scene of similar departures, we hear of like proportion of the Irish element in battalions; for whenever there is danger to be braved or courage to be displayed, the Celtic exile is found in the foremost ranks. Let England be troubled as she may for her cotton bales, it may be truly stated that Ireland will be more deeply, more mournfully, affected by the disasters in America, than any other country in the world. The lives of her exiled children will be offered in thousands. Many a mother’s heart in Ireland, long cheered by the affectionate and dutiful letter and the generous offerings of filial love, will be left lone and widowed by the red bolts of war. Many a fireside from Dunluce to Castlehaven will be filled with mourning as each American mail arrives. Even already it has begun. Already, light as is the reckoning of dead, Ireland has paid the largest penalty. It was only a day ago we were told that three young men had been killed by the bursting of a gun at Fort Sumter. We now find that, of the whole garrison which defended the fort, the greater, part were Irish; while of the three killed at the sallyport, two were Irishmen! One of these was Edward Galway, of Skibbereen, in Cork county, as brave a young Irishman as ever stood on a tented field; and higher tribute still, as affectionate and dutiful a son as ever cheered a parent’s heart. In his native town where he and his honored parents were known but to be respected and loved by all, the news has caused a gloom and sorrow- the utterance of earnest sympathy and the presage of dark fear that threaten many a parent’s heart besides the on thus stricken now. Each one begins to realize the horrors of such a war as that now enveloping America; a war threatening as much sorrow, widowhood and affliction to the home of Ireland, as of America itself.– To the families of our fallen countrymen it must, however, be a proud feeling that they have fallen nobly, attesting the gratitude and fidelity of Irishmen to the homes of their adoption. Yet for us, as we behold this mournful spectacle of valor and devotion in such a cause– our brothers falling in a strife that never should have been waged– we cannot restrain the death-cry of Sarsfield, on Landenalion:– “Oh that it were for Ireland!” (2)
Although lacking in accuracy in some detail (e.g. the proportional number of Irish, and the fact that three Irish were killed at Fort Sumter), much of the piece accurately foresaw what was to come. For the Gallway family in Skibbereen, that included the death of a second son. His name was Andrew Power Gallway, a Major in the 173rd New York Infantry, often referred to as the 4th Metropolitan (Brooklyn) Regiment. He had enrolled at the age of 25 on 13th September 1862. His obituary in the Cork Examiner of 10th August 1863 is shown below, as is his obituary, which accompanies his muster roll abstract and identifies his nativity precisely to Greenpark, Skibbereen. (3)
Another gallant soldier and gentleman has been taken to a better world. A. POWER GALLWEY came to the United States from Ireland about six years ago. He was a son of the late Andrew Gallwey, Esq., of Greenpark, and was related to the Powers’ and other ancient families of the county Cork. He entered the banking house of his cousin, Mr. Gebhard, of the firm of Schuchard & Gebhard, soon after his arrival in New York, and continued to reside there until the present war broke out. His honest, jolly face, graceful manner and lively conversation will long be remembered by the habitues of the opera and those who were in society at that period. Gen. Meagher having selected him, together with the late Temple Emmet, as members of his staff, he was with the Irish Brigade until the close of General McClellan’s campaign on the Peninsula. Last summer he was appointed by Governor Morgan, Major of the 173d Regiment, N. Y. S. V., and served with his regiment under Gen. Banks.—He was acting as Colonel of his regiment at the time of the attack on Port Hudson, and was shot through the right lung while leading his men in the charge on that place. His wound was not considered fatal, yet he only lingered till July the 8th, when he died. He was well educated, of a refined nature, with which was combined deep religions feeling, and by his kindness of heart and open frankness, had made many warm friends in this country. He was fond of open air exercise, field sports and feats of horsemanship, and was perfectly familiar with the use of the gun and the rod. Many in N. York will remember the songs he wrote and sung and the many stories, some merry, some pathetic, which he was accustomed to tell. The news of his death will produce a sad feeling in the hearts of all who ever knew him. May heaven support his widowed mother in another country in this irreparable loss of her darling son. W. (4)
If you would like to read more about the Irish in Fort Sumter, there is a section dedicated to it in my book, but you can also learn of the experiences of Dubliner Commander Stephen Rowan, who attempted to relieve the Fort, here, musings regarding the nativity of the first fatality, Tipperary’s Daniel Hough, here, and the claims of Galwegian James Gibbon to have been the man who fired the first Federal shot of the war here.
(1) U.S. Army Register of Enlistments; (2) Weekly Wisconsin Patriot; (3) New York Muster Roll Abstracts; (4) New York State Military Museum;
References & Further Reading
Weekly Wisconsin Patriot 20th July 1861
Cork Examiner 10th August 1863
U.S. Army Register of Enlistments (NARA)
New York Muster Roll Abstracts (New York State Archives)
New York State Military Museum. 173rd Regiment Newspaper Clippings