Tuesday, December 29, 2009

His Last Full Measure - Notre Dame Student Frank Baldwin Falls at Stone's River

The University of Notre Dame gave freely of its priests, sisters, and students during the Civil War, and several ended up losing their lives in the cause.

As this week marks the anniversary of the Battle of Stone's River, it's a good time to write about a Notre Dame student who gave his "last full measure" during the war at the battle: Frank Baldwin.

Frank (Francis) Baldwin was a student for just one year at Notre Dame: 1860-61...he left school that spring - at only 16 - to join "Mulligan's Irish Brigade" (23rd Illinois Infantry); other Notre Dame boys had joined the unit as well. He was captured at the Battle of Lexington (Missouri), paroled, and sent back home to Elkhart, Indiana.

In November 1861, back at Elkhart, Frank - with his friends Norman Strong and C. W. Green - left Elkhart by train and boat and joined the 44th Indiana at Paducah, KY. He participated in the battles at Ft. Donelson, Ft. Henry, Shiloh, and Corinth.

On December 31, 1862, at Stone's River, the 44th was advanced too far and was flanked by the Confederates. Hearing the order to fall back, Frank Baldwin (now a 2nd Lt.) and Green, his constant companion, crossed a field where they were exposed to a "galling cross-fire."

As they reached a fence, Green thre his firearm over the obstruction and yelled to Baldwin to do the same. Green pressed on but never saw Frank Baldwin alive again. On the Saturday after the 3-day battle, Green took a detail of six men and found Frank Baldwin's lifeless form at the fence.

Twenty-seven year later, a handsome monument was dedicated to the Elkhart men who volunteered, fought, and died during the war. The monument was erected at the expense of Silas Baldwin, Frank's father, a leading man in Elkhart.
I'll post more information on the monument in the near future.

You can read more about young Frank Baldwin and other brave Notre Dame men at the Battle of Stone's River in my forthcoming book: Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Perform Bravely the Battle of Life - William T. Sherman and the 1865 Notre Dame Commencement Exercises

President Barack Obama put the University of Notre Dame in the headlines (and vice versa) this past spring when he was invited as the speaker for the 2009 commencement exercices.

The university (such as it was) was much smaller in 1865 but it secured one of the most popular of the country's citizens to speak at its commencement that year: William T. Sherman! The victorious Union general had come to northwestern Indiana to gather up his family (his wife, Ellen, was living in South Bend and his children were attending Notre Dame and St. Mary's as grammar school students).

His remarks were extemporaneous but no less inspiring for the graduates in attendance, including these stirring words:

"So I call upon theyoung men here to be ready at all times to perform bravely the battle of life. We might never have to go to war anymore on this continent but then again we might. War is possible and we must be ready for that contingency. But more than this I want to say that there is a kind of war which is inevitable to all - it is the war of life. A young man should always stand in his armor, with his sword in hand an his buckler on. Life is only another kind of battle and it requires as good as generalship to conduct it to a successful end as it did to conquer a city, or to march through Georgia."

Sherman's speech is the first of many in a wonderful book: Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses by Fr. William D. Miscamble (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003). It includes more than two dozen addresses from 1865 through 2001.

Look for Sherman's entire commencement address - and learn more about the Sherman family and Notre dame - in my book Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory, coming from The History Press in late 2010!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Notre Dame's Civil War Student-Soldier-Poet

Several Notre Dame students enlisted in Union regiments at the outset of the Civil War. Of their record of service, one wartime student wrote, "Many of them became distinguished; many more took their place in the private ranks, content so that they did their duty well."

One of those student soldiers was Timothy E. Howard; one historian has referred to him as the "consummate Notre Dame man."

Howard was born on a farm at Northfield, Michigan, in1837, one of seven children born to parents that were natives of Ireland. He attended the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame, from which he graduated in 1862.

On February 5, 1862, he enlisted in the Twelfth Michigan Infantry, and two months later was severely wounded at Shiloh and disabled from further service.

Howard returned to South Bend and accepted a position with Notre Dame, having a distinguished career as a professor and as a lawyer.

Howard was also a poet, and published a small volume, Musings and Memories, in 1905. Among the poems in his collection was "Convalescent," in which he described the Battle of Shiloh, where he was wounded, and his recovery in the hospital:


Through the open hall door comes a balm to my pain;

For the fresh winds of morning are fanning my brain;
And hilarity, borne from the groups on the porch,
Tells the wounded and dying there's joy in the world;
As there will be while life has a spark in his torch,
Though ten thousand an hour were to Tartarus hurled.

Ah, now I can see them. Two sit on the step;
And one leans by a column; one plucks at the nep
That is growing beneath; and two, I am sure,
Are talking of home; their voice is so pure,
And so low, that no soldier could ever mistake;
Such tones the loved only and absent may wake.

And some are more boisterous, telling of fight,
And the way that we put the bold foemen to flight.
How their eyes are now flashing, those gallant young boys.
Hear great Indiana and grand Illinois,
Minnesota and Iowa, Kansas afar,
Ohio and Michigan, boasting of war.

And dark-haired Missouri, now joined in the fray,

With a twinkle in his eye, as he sits on the plinth,
Says, we nearly were granted and prenticed that Day
To the Southmen, with Beauregard, hot from Corinth.

So the brave, mellow lads while away the bright morn;
And their stories recounting, their deeds are new born
So they live the brave battle all over again,
Or whisper of firesides, for still they are men.


And I am better, too, at length.
Kind heaven daily gives me strength;
And now I long to tread the grass,
To look upon the trees and skies,
To jostle people as they pass,
And catch the friendship of their eyes.

Dear God, how long within this ward
I wait, where death still stands on guard;
Where still o'erhead, and down the stair,
The shuffling feet their burden bear,
Some farmer boy that bravely died,
With kindly strangers at his side.

And I? Nay, then, I 'll not repine;
But pain shall still my soul refine;
Though long, so long, this cot I keep,
With bandaged wound, and feverish sleep,
And utter weakness, unto death—
The quivering eye, the feeble breath.

Yes, I am thankful. Maimed and dead
Have rested here, on many a bed;
But life and limb to me are spared,
And faithful hands for me have cared.
And now, this heaven-like morn of May,
Comes laughing life from death's decay;
While breath of flowers, and limpid air,
And songs of birds, my gladness share.

The lengthened miles before me lie,
Where the rushing train full soon shall hie.
And I shall walk the well-known street,
Where every sod my foot shall greet;
And I shall lift the dear old latch,
Where glistening eyes for me do watch;
And I shall stand in the open door,
Where welcome waits me, o'er and o'er.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where Do "Fighting Irish" Come From?

In doing research for my forthcoming book, Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010), one of the questions I wanted to answer is where the school's wartime students came from.

Fortunately, the excellent archives at the University of Notre Dame has an online student index tool that covers the years 1849-1912!

The tool allows you to search by last name as well as other keywords. I used the index to mine all the student data by state and country for the academic years 1860-61 through 1865-66.

Typical entries look like this:

Those names - Robert A. Pinkerton and William Pinkerton - are interesting on several accounts. First, they are in the photo below (from Library of Congress), although it was taken a few years before they began their studies at Notre Dame. Second, they are the sons of famed detective and Union spy Allan Pinkerton!

Some summaries of the data are provided below. A full table, listing enrollments by state and year, will be in the book. Some interesting patterns do emerge, though. Consider the total enrollments by year:

1860-61 = 203
1861-62 = 220
1862-63 = 274
1863-64 = 405
1864-65 = 543
1865-66 = 659

Note that enrollment continued to increase during the Civil War years. This was no small accomplishment, as many colleges faced decreasing enrollments or had to close altogether.

Notice also the breakdown by region below. Not surprisingly, Indiana and Illinois account for about half the students; throw in Michigan and Ohio and you are up above 70%. Still, notice that the "Border" states and even Confederate states contributed a fair share of students!

Midwest/Plains = 79%
Far West = 1%
Northeast/New England = 7%
Border States = 7%
Confederate States = 6%

Foreign = <1%

Those sectional differences would lead to some wartime fisticuffs on campus, but that's a story for another day!

This wasn't a "scientific" survey by any means and I did have to make some compromises along the way. For example, the enrollment figures include those for the college proper, the minims in the grammar school, and the orphans and destitute in the trade school. Furthermore, I counted each student for each year they were enrolled. For some students this was single year (they counted once) and for others it could be as many as five terms (and they were counted five times).

The other interesting thing to contemplate are the individual stories: What of the single student from Virginia enrolled in 1860-61 but never to return again? What of the students who were there in 1861 but didn't return until later? Why was there such an increase of students from Tennessee late in the war?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I., II. A, III. A. B, IV. A. 1., V. A. B. 1. a. - OUTLINING!

"No beginner should write without an outline. If I could enforce this as an absolute, I would...what exists in your mind is a creative nebula, not a solar system. It is a chaos of matter which might be organized into a solar system." - Ayn Rand, The Art of Nonfiction

And even though the famous writer's advice was for beginners, consider the habits of another more recent and successful nonfiction writer: Rick Atkinson, one of my favorites, and author of award-winning books such as An Army at Dawn:

"I'm an inveterate outliner. I sit down...I go through all the material that I've got, all the computer files of all the primary and secondary material that I've got and I go through and I decide this is a fact that goes in the trash...This looks interesting...I can see the scene where this goes and I construct this outline and the outline is 250 to 300 pages long...That's the blueprint, that's the map. That lets me know that I know where I'm going. And once I've got the outline done, then I start at the beginning and I go through and you've got to have some flexibility when you've got this roadmap..."

(Quoted from Atkisnon's excellent Booknotes interview with Brian Lamb)

People who write nonfiction write in different ways. Hey, I'm no Ayn Rand...or Rick Atkinson... but what I am is a dedicated outliner. All of my published writing - from the shortest article to my books - has been based on well-developed outlines.

Outlining does more than just organize your thoughts; it also helps with discipline: this is all the more important in short form writing (newspaper columns, shorter magazine, articles, etc.), with strict word counts. Indeed, I still have a word count limit for my new book project, "Marching Onward to Victory"...a healthy word count (30-40K words)...but a word count, nonetheless! I'm really happy that I earned my historical research/writing "bona fides" through shorter column and articles (1-3K words) because it trained me to do several things:

  • I learned to find the point of the story (Focus!)
  • I learned to self-edit (to keep to word counts)
  • I tend to write more often (How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! Practice Practice!)
The outline also helps me from letting one section get too lopsided relative to the rest of the book.

My outlining starts well before I actually begin writing in earnest. In fact, outlines are an important part of any book proposal, and I had been working on and polishing my Notre Dame book proposal (and outline) for some time before submitting it to publishers.

My first step is to simply divide the book into its biggest "parts" - i.e., the chapters. So, I began with:

Chapter 1 - Rumors of War (Student Military Companies)
Chapter 2 - Fishers of Men (Priests as Army Chaplains)
Chapter 3 - Angels of Mercy (Sister-Nurses)
Chapter 4 - Into the Fire (1861-1862)
Chapter 5 - Friends of the Family (The Shermans and Notre Dame)
Chapter 6 - Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (1863-1864)
Chapter 7 - Vote Early and Often (Political Pressure and Fisticuffs)
Chapter 8 - We Happy Few (Notre Dame Veterans)

At about 10 "parts," one of my writing goals will be to balance the chapters at 3-4K words each...mind you, this is a goal..."not so much a rule, more of a guideline" as they said in Pirates of the Carribean.

Now, each of the chapters has a flow/form of its own, so it is further subdivided in a more detailed outline that I develop based on research I've already done and research that is still in progress.

Nonfiction book proposals actually have a "narrative" outline - i.e., anywhere from a few sentences to a few paragraphs to give an idea of the opening ("hook"), body, and closing of each chapter. The more research you've done in preparing the proposal, the more developed the narrative outline can be.

Here's a preview of some of the people you'll "meet" in my forthcoming book, Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010); my narrative outline for Chapter 1 went something like this:

Even before the Civil War started, the students at Notre Dame were preparing for one. Compulsory military training was the custom of the day at most colleges and universities, and a tradition of drilling at Notre Dame can be traced to the late 1850s, when the student-organized “Continental Cadets” began marching across campus in their blue-and-buff Revolutionary War-style uniforms.

When the guns fired on Ft. Sumter and President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers, the citizens of South Bend, Indiana, met at the courthouse to determine the course of action to be taken. There, Bill Lynch, a tall and soldierly Notre Dame student – and commander of the Continental Cadets – denounced the secessionists and declared that he would, if need be, “shed his last drop of blood for the Union.” The crowd “leaped to is feet” as “cheer after cheer rang out wildly” and a company of soldiers was raised on the spot. Lynch then returned to the school where, as one report stated, he “set his own cadets afire, or rather…let the blaze out – they were afire already.”

Lynch was only one of several UND students who took up arms. “Almost every member of the Continental Cadets became a real soldier in the army,” one student wrote many years later, adding, “Many of them became distinguished; many more took their place in the private ranks, content so that they did their duty well.”

Fr. Sorin praised the cadets for their good spirit but declared that he had no authority to allow boys under twenty-one to enlist without their parents’ permission.

The chapter will introduce (at least) three Notre Dame students who especially distinguished themselves in the war: Lynch - first of the 23rd Illinois Infantry and then colonel of the 58th Illinois – was severely wounded at Yellow Bayou, Louisiana, and was brevetted a brigadier general; Robert Healy, another Notre Dame graduate, who succeeded Lynch as commander of the 58th Illinois and also earned a brevet promotion to brigadier; and, especially, Orville T. Chamberlain, a student who joined the 74th Indiana in 1862, rose through the ranks from private to captain, and earned the Medal of Honor for bravery under fire at Chickamauga.

Also of interest are students Robert and William Pinkerton, the sons of detective – and Union intelligence chieftain - Allan Pinkerton, who pulled his sons out of UND so that they could assist him in the field.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Book Project...and a New Blog!

Welcome to my new blog, a companion to my Civil War Medicine blog!

I'm pleased to announce that I have signed a contract with The History Press (Charleston SC) for a book on the interesting and important role that the University of Notre Dame played in the American Civil War! Tentatively titled: Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory, the book is scheduled to be published in late 2010!

You'll be able to follow along with my research and writing (and maybe even help me!) by following this blog! Add it to your blogrolls and tell your friends (especially if they are Notre Dame fans!).

To get you started, here is a synopsis: Even the casual Civil War enthusiast can probably point to one or more colleges or universities that played a role in the American Civil War; a few that come to mind are the graduates of West Point and the Naval Academy who fought on both sides; the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Harvard Regiment,” as it was largely under the leadership of young Harvard grads; and Company A of the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, also known as the “University Greys,” composed entirely of students from Ole Miss at Oxford.

Few institutions of higher education, though, can boast of the sacrifices made by the University of Notre Dame (UND). Over the course of four years, Notre Dame gave freely of its faculty and students as soldiers, sent its priests to the camps and battlefields as chaplains, and its sisters to hospitals as nurses. Though far from the battlefields itself, the war was still ever-present on campus, as Notre Dame witnessed fisticuffs among the student body, provided a home to the children of a famous general, responded to political harassment, and tried to keep at least some of its community out of the fray. When the war was over, a proud Notre Dame welcomed back several bona fide war heroes, mourned the loss of some who made the ultimate sacrifice, and became home to a unique veteran's organization.

While sketches of UND’s role in the Civil War have appeared in published school histories, memoirs, and/or biographies, they are usually brief or limited to one personality or aspect of the experience. Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory will be the first book to incorporate this interesting story into a comprehensive and unified narrative.

A number of personalities will be introduced and their roles discussed, but a few deserve special mention:Fr. Edward Sorin, the founder of UND, who shepherded the school through its wartime crises; Orville T. Chamberlain, a UND student who rose through the ranks of the 74th Indiana – from private to captain - and earned the Medal of Honor for bravery under fire at Chickamauga; Frs. William Corby and Peter Cooney, two UND priests who served with special distinction as chaplains in the war, one in the east and one in the west; the family of William T. Sherman, whose children attended UND during the war; and Schuyler Colfax, an Indiana Congressman seeking re-election during the war, who put political pressure on UND.

At the same time, larger issues – anti-Catholic prejudice, the draft, regional politics, the general experience of institutions of higher education in the period, etc. – will be addressed.

In addition to memoirs, school histories, biographies, and period newspapers, the book will rely heavily on material – much of it unexplored and unpublished - in the UND archives.

More to come, soon!