Brian K. Burton’s book Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles makes reference to an account of a fascinating incident that occurred at White Oak Swamp Bridge on 30th June 1862, part of the Peninsula Campaign. The Irish Brigade were positioned here as part of the Union rearguard during the Federal retreat/change of base to the James River. Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was tasked with applying pressure to the Union positions at this location, and the fighting principally manifested itself in the form of an intense artillery duel. William Watt Hart Davis of the 104th Pennsylvania Regiment was also present as the shells began to fall, and he witnessed an extraordinary sight as the Irish Brigade endured the barrage:
An Irish camp woman, belonging to a New York regiment, made herself quite conspicuous during the action. She remained close to the side of her husband, and refused to retire to a place of security. She was full of pluck. Occasionally she would notice some fellow sneaking to the rear, when she would run after him, seize him by the nape of his neck and place him in the ranks again, calling him a “dirty, cowardly spalpeen,” and other choice epithets. The flying shells had no terrors for her. During the hottest of the cannonade, this courageous woman walked fearlessly about among the troops, encouraging them to stand up to their work. Her only weapon, offensive or defensive, was a large umbrella she carried under her arm. In one instance she shamed a commissioned officer into returning to his duty. She belonged to the Irish Brigade, and her stout person, full, red face and broad language betrayed her undoubted origin.
As seen in a previous post, the Irish Brigade women certainly seem to have been formidable characters! (1)
(1) Burton 2001: 254, Davis 1866: 123;
Burton, Brian K. 2001. Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles
Davis, William Watt Hart. 1866. History of the 104th Pennsylvania Regiment