ESSAY: Civil War history is all around us

As the Gazette recently noted, commemorations begin this year marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The milestone also is an opportune time to trace ancestors on both sides of the conflict in battles across Virginia, including the Williamsburg area.

A family connection is what recently brought my wife, Mary Lynch Rogers, and me to nearby Malvern Hill, located off John Tyler Highway (Route 5) about 15 miles south of Richmond. On July 1, 1862, more than 160,000 men – about 80,000 on each side— clashed there in one of the bloodiest battles of the war. One of the Union officers from the Irish “Fighting Ninth” regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was Mary’s great-great- grandfather, James F. McGunnigle, who was hit in the collarbone by a rebel musket ball.

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