Saturday, January 23, 2010

What Kind of Training? Aaaaaaaaarmy Training, Sir!

Even before the Civil War started, the students at Notre Dame were prepared for a fight.

While military training was not compulsory at Notre Dame, a tradition of drilling can be traced to the late 1850s, when the student-organized "Continental Cadets" could be seen marching across campus and local towns in their blue-and-buff Revolutionary War-style uniforms.

In 1859, the South Bend Tribune reported:

"Our town was enlivened on Wednesday morning by a parade through the streets of the Notre Dame Continental Cadets, a military company composed of the students of the University. Their drilling, maneuvers, and marching made a fine impression and their patriotism is highly commendable."

Even the minims, the young students in the lementary school program got into the act. They were organized as the "Sorin Cadets" or "Washington Cadets." n the fall of 1859, a Notre Dame student wrote to his mother:

"A new military company was formed among the smaller boys. Party spirit ran high in electing a captain. A week before the election, the two candidates were busy electioneering. Frank Bigelow was elected by a large majority."

University of Notre Dame archival records include some financial ledgers showing expenses for the cadet uniforms. Another great source is local period newspapers, and my book will include an excerpt from a previously-unpublished (in the Notre Dame literature, anyway) article describing a terrific pre-war parade of the Continental Cadets through the streets of Mishawaka, Indiana!

What of the cadets and the Civil War? One wartime student wrote:

"Almost every member of the Continental Cadets became a real soldier in the army, and none were braver men or truer patriots. Many of them became distinguished; many more took their place in the private ranks, content so that they did their duty well. They were of the unknown, unheralded heroes; whether sick, or wounded, or dead, they were of the mighty majority who finally restored the union...Notre Dame is honored in her loyal soldier students, who showed, even to the shedding of their blood, how deeply inculcated were the lessons of patriotism which they had received from their Alma Mater."

Many of the cadets became distinguished in the war and I will post on them individually in the future.

Of course, Notre Dame has an excellent and courageous military heritage well after the Civil War and to today, which you can learn more about here:

Remember to tell your friends and family - especially Fighting Irish fans - about this blog and about Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

FISTICUFFS at Notre Dame (and St. Mary's!) During the Civil War

Anyone who think the connection between wars and campus unrest began with the Vietnam Era needs to read about the American Revolution!

Campus unrest of all types also occurred during the Civil War: opposition to conscription, prewar debates over slavery and secession, tussles between working-class "townies" and (presumably) elite "gownies," etc.

At Notre Dame, founder Fr. Sorin did his best to keep the peace, but as he wrote in 1864: “In times of war, and especially of national or civil war, all the passions of the poor human heart are to be dreaded.”

And with enrollment increasing each year, including an influx of Southern students, he recognized that “so much more serious did the danger” of those passions become. Indeed, Fr. Sorin admitted to his superiors that, among the student body, “there was far from anything like unity of views…in political matters: the two camps were, on the contrary, clearly divided.” He credited the school’s heavenly patron for the fact that the young men at Notre Dame “lived in harmony even whilst their fathers and brothers were slashing one another some hundreds of miles away.”

Despite Fr. Sorin’s representations of "harmony," however, there were in fact some unpleasant incidents as heated sectional arguments began in the classroom and on the playground and led to fisticuffs. Some examples:

  • In one instance, John B. Walker – “a stout, handsome youth, aggressive and foremost in expressing his loathing for Southerners” - had a bitter dispute with Billy Welsh, which Billy reciprocated with a kick to John’s head.
  • In another, the St. Joseph Valley Register reported
"An affray occurred between two students named Parker and Donovan…Donovan is from Vicksburg, Mississippi, and, like many other students at Notre Dame from the Rebel States, entertains and expresses views not in harmony with the Union sentiments at the North, or with those held by Parker, who resides in Lafayette [IN]. Out of this political difference, a previous quarrel had arisen between these two and very unfriendly feelings had continued to exist. [On]...a holiday for the students...Parker and Donovan simultaneously approached the swing, each in a bad humor, trying to take possession and neither willing to give up to the other. Finally, they were induced to yield the swing to a third party, and retired. Threats passed between them, and Donovan picked up a club and threw it at Parker, but not hitting him. Parker picked up the same club and struck Donovan with it twice, first on his shoulder, then on his head, fracturing his skull."
  • But my favorite:
Even the Sherman family couldn’t avoid fisticuffs, as shown in this episode of the general's daughter, Minnie, who was a student at St. Mary's Academy:

A celebration was planned for Washington’s Birthday in 1864, but the sisters had forbidden the wearing of any partisan colors. Minnie, however, had pinned a small flag to her dress and - so decorated - met a southern girl in the hall. The southerner snatched the flag from Minnie’s dress and stomped on it. Nothing happened for an hour, but then:

"A carriage drove up at furious speed. Hardly waiting for the horses to stop, Mrs. Sherman jumped out, rushed into the recreation room, pinned a fresh [flag] on Minnie, and wanted to know why her daughter could not wear the flag her father offered his life for."

The other northern girls; more brought out their own colors and small decorations...the southern girls took exception, and as one sister recalled:

“Words soon led to blows, and almost in an instant the whole school with few exceptions were engaged in a pitched battle.”

You can read all about these "passions of the poor human heart" in Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press) later in 2010!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Notre Dame Students Fighting for the Rebs?! (Part II)

The other day I posted on an interesting research thread that seems to indicate a student enrolled at Notre Dame in 1860-61 left that spring, returned to Virginia, and enlisted with the Confederate army.

Today, I add to that story, but first I want to introduce you to someone: Linda Cunningham Fluharty.

Linda maintains an amazing website with more than 500,000 genealogy and history files, especially related to Civil War soldiers from West Virginia as well as "pioneer nurses" of West Virginia. She is also the author of several books on the Civil War, which you can find here. Linda is extremely generous, answers ALL her e-mails, and when I did a search for "Michael Quinlan" and "27th Virginia," her excellent webpage on the "Shriver Grays" (the local company that Quinlan joined) was the first "hit." I explained my research thread to Linda and she responded in less than a day with an amazing amount of information, newspaper clippings, etc., on Michael Quinlan!

Some of the information confirms what (little) I had already discovered and much of the great new information has to do with Quinlan's early years, his family, and his death. While neither of us have yet been able to confirm this is the same Michael Quinlan enrolled at Notre Dame, 1860-61, it certainly seems more likely he could be!

Some of the highlights of her excellent and generous research findings:

  • He was associated with the most affluent families in Wheeling.
  • By 1850, Michael (and three other Quinlans) were orphans living in the home of a local and wealthy merchant.
  • In the 1860 census, Michael (along with three brothers) are shon as residing in the home of Mary Zane; each of the boys had estimated personal estates valued at $6000.
  • Michael is listed as a printer (remember this from Post I)
  • Michael is found in the roster of a community militia group in Wheeling in 1859 called the Virginia State Fencibles.
  • He was diagnosed as having Valvular Heart Disease (remember the disability discharge I showed in Post I) and Michael and his siblings were all dead by 1878.

The next step is to follow up with Notre Dame to see if they still have any period records that show he is the same Michael Quinlan described above. I'll post any additional information I get!


Readers - PLEASE visit her excellent website and tell her I sent ya!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Notre Dame Students Fighting for the Rebs?! (Part I)

I've recently come across a really interesting research thread for my "Notre Dame in the Civil War" book project which I hope pays off!

After the firing on Ft. Sumter, approximately 60 Notre Dame students left school to join the Union ranks, most of them with units from Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Some of these are well known (and you'll learn more about them in future posts!) while others were happy to do their duty and come home.

I had not heard of any Notre Dame students that joined the Confederate ranks...until now!

In my survey of the student enrollment records from 1860-1865 I came across a single student from Virginia: one Michael Quinlan, Wheeling, VA (now WV, of course), who was at Notre Dame from 1860-61 and did not return the following year:

I didn't think it would be unusual - given the "sectional difficulties" - for Michael to have either been called back home or want to go back home himself. However, on a lark, I entered "M* Quinlan" into the National Park Service Soldier and Sailor System (using "Virginia" and "Confederate" as qualifiers) just to see if he *might* have been a soldier and received a few hits:

By clicking on the regiment links, I learned that the "Irish Bn" was formed in the city of Richmond and Hanover County, so it seemed less likely. The 27th Virginia, however, was formed from Alleghany, Rockbridge, Monroe, Greenbrier, and Ohio counties...and Wheeling, VA, is in Ohio County(!)

Next, I used my subscription at to explore the Compiled Service Records of the two Michael Quinlans in the 27th Virginia Infantry. One of the two actually enlisted with the 27th in Covington and was listed as a "laborer." The other, though, enlisted in Wheeling (!) and is listed in one document as a "printer" but in a subsequent disability discharge certificate he is listed as...a "student"(!)

So far, things are looking up! Stay tuned for my next post...I received some excellent assistance from a genealogist specializing in soldiers from West Virginia - including the 27th Virginia - and learned even more!

Admittedly, the fact that Michael Quinlan (may have) fought for the Confederacy is a small part of Notre Dame's epic story in the war, but it is a very interesting (and new!) fact, indeed!