Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Notre Dame Civil War Chaplain Profile #2 - Fr. Peter P. Cooney

I'm pleased to add another installment introducing the Holy Cross priests from the University of Notre Dame who served as chaplains in the Civil War.

See this post for Chaplain #1, Fr. Paul E. Gillen

Below I describe the life and contributions of Fr. Peter P. Cooney. I know most people are more familiar with Notre Dame's Fr. Corby - and with good reason - but I have to say, Fr. Cooney is my personal favorite among all of the Holy Cross priests from Notre Dame who served as army chaplains during the Civil War. The fact is, though, they were all good men!

Fr. Peter P. Cooney was born in 1822 in County Roscommon, Ireland. When he was five years old, his family came to the United States and settled near Monroe, Michigan, where he attended the local public schools. Peter Cooney was almost thirty years old when he came to Notre Dame as a student in 1850. After graduation, he taught for some time at a country school. He then decided he was called to the priesthood and rejoined the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame, where he was ordained in 1859. His first appointment was at the University of St. Mary’s of the Lake near Chicago, then under the direction of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Fr. Cooney was set to join other priests in mission work across the United States when the Civil War broke out. In the fall of 1861, Governor Oliver P. Morton asked Fr. Sorin for priests to minister to the Catholics in the regiments that Indiana was sending to the rapidly growing Union armies, and Fr. Cooney was eager to go and was appointed chaplain to the 35th Indiana Volunteer Infantry – also known as the state’s “First Irish” regiment - in October 1861.

Soon after joining his regiment, Fr. Cooney began writing letters, mainly to his brother, Owen, at home in Michigan. Fortunately, those wartime letters have survived. They give wonderful firsthand testimony to his activities as a chaplain, the role his regiment played in some major battles of the war, and the character – especially the religious habits – of some important military personalities of the war, especially General William Rosecrans.

The original letters and his other papers are held by the Archives of the University of Notre Dame. Some of the letters were published by Thomas McElroy in three parts as “The War Letters of Father Peter Paul Cooney of the Congregation of the Holy Cross,” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, 1933. The archives also maintains his wartime diary.

Fr. Cooney and the 35th Indiana did not see significant action until very late in 1862, but when they did, the men – and their chaplain – were in the thick of it. Indeed, Fr. Cooney is mentioned several times in reports the Official Records for his bravery under fire, including:

The Battle of Stones River:

"To Father Cooney, our chaplain, too much praise cannot be given. Indifferent as to himself, he was deeply solicitous for the temporal comfort and spiritual welfare of us all. On the field he was cool and indifferent to danger, and in the name of the regiment I thank him for his kindness and laborious attention to the dead and dying."

The Battle of Franklin:

"Of Father Cooney, chaplain of the Thirty-fifth Indiana, I commend him as an example of the army chaplain; meek, pious, and brave as a lion, he worked with his brave regiment in the valley of the shadow of death, affording the ministrations of his holy religion to the wounded - and dying, and giving words of encouragement to his fellow soldiers."

The soldiers in the 35th Indiana adored Fr. Cooney. A typical story of that fondness can be found in the wartime book, Indiana's Roll of Honor (1864):
"To say that he is much respected by the men of the regiment, is saying too little; he is loved by them. To illustrate this we will relate an incident:
Around a blazing camp fire sat a few comrades smoking their "dudgheens," (short pipes) and discussing strategy with all the intensity of Irish controversialists. Father Cooney came hurriedly along, evidently bent on a visit to some sick soldier. The little squad instantly rose to their feet with the hand to the cap. "Good evening, boys," said the Father, with one of his pleasant smiles, and hurried towards the hospital. "There he goes," said one of the group, "he's always where he can do good, and niver idle. The likes iv him, God bless him, is not to be found betwixt here and the giant's causeway." " Thrue for ye, Tim, by gorra; his match coud'nt be found iv ye thraveled from Dan to Barsheeba," said his comrade. "He'll be sayin his bades among the stars, whin many of his callin' will be huntin' a dhrop of wather in a very hot climate." This last remark was received with a hearty acquiescence by the entire group. Rough and witty as it was, it expressed the feelings of the soldiers for their Chaplain."
When he announced in late 1864 that he would be returning to Notre Dame, the soldiers sent a petition to Fr. Cooney's superior at Notre Dame, begging him to be allowed to stay with them.

You'll get to read more about Fr. Cooney - including a good amount of archival material - in my forthcoming book, Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, late 2010)!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Photo Contest #3 for "Notre Dame in the Civil War" - Elkhart, IN Soldier Monument!

Following up on previous posts (here and here!) regarding the photo contest for my forthcoming book, Notre Dame in the Civil War, the final photo contest is for:

A photo of the Soldier and Sailor Monument in Elkhart, Indiana (see vintage postcard image in this post). I am interested in a full length photo of the monument but also a closeup of the panel that features Notre Dame student Frank Baldwin who was KIA at the Battle of Stones River.

Rules and prize as described in previous post apply to this one as well.
I've already received some nice entries for Contest #1 (Fr. Corby at Gettysburg) and #2 (Nuns of the Battlefield).
The deadline is June 30, 2010 for all three contests so there is still plenty of time!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Photo Contest #2 for "Notre Dame in the Civil War" - "Nuns of the Battlefield" in DC!

Following up on yesterday's post regarding the photo contest for the statue of Father Corby at Gettysburg, the next photo contest is for a photo of the "Nuns of the Battlefield" monument in Washington, DC!

Rules and prize as described in yesterday's post apply to this one as well.

Deadline is June 30, 2010!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Photo Contest #1 for "Notre Dame in the Civil War" - Fr. Corby Statue!

Get out those "Brownies" boys and girls! I need a few modern photos for my forthcoming book, Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010), so I am sponsoring a photo contest! The rules and guidelines are below.

Photo Contest #1 is for the Father Corby Statue at Gettysburg!

(see National Park Service photo below as an example...

Get those photos in!


Rules (aka "small print")

1) Anyone 13 years and older in the United States can enter the contest.
2) Only one photo may be entered per person, so pick your best! It does not have to be a recently taken photograph.
3) Submissions for the contest will be accepted between May 14th, 2010 and June 30, 2010. Winners will be announced in July 2010
4) A winner will be chosen. The winner will receive a free copy of the forthcoming book. If the photo is published in the book (pending the final decision of the editors at the publisher), then full credit for the photo will be given to the contestant.
5) The author, James M. Schmidt, will be the sole judge of the contest.
6) Photos must be submitted by e-mail to Jim Schmidt at schmidtjamesm at gmail dot com using the subject line "Father Corby Photo Contest"
7) Image quality of all submitted photos is an important consideration. When submitting please try to upload the highest quality photo that you can.
8) Individuals submitting photos must possess the full rights to their submitted photos. Photos including material of questionable ownership or taste may be excluded.
9) Individuals submitting photos into the contest retain full rights to their photos, including ownership, but through the act of participation (entering a photo into the contest) will also grant to Jim Schmidt and the publisher non-exclusive, worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free license to reproduce, distribute, and display the submitted photos which might include, by example, methods listed below:

- The right to publish the photo in the forthcoming book with credit to the contestant
- The right to publish the photo on this blog and other social media (e.g., facebook, etc.)

10) By entering the contest the participants agree to indemnify and hold harmless Jim Schmidt and the publisher, its affiliates, employees, and officers from any issues, losses, or actions emanating from or in relation to the photo contest. This would include any losses or issues related to third party claims of copyright infringement or violations of personal privacy.
11) Each participant in the photo contest is responsible for ensuring that they possess the full rights to the photos that they are submitting.
12) Jim Schmidt at his sole discretion reserves the right to terminate, suspend, or modify the photo contest.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Sherman Papers at Notre Dame

In writing my forthcoming book, Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, fall 2010), I recently finished a chapter about the interesting connections between the family of Union general William Tecumseh Sherman and Notre Dame:

Sherman's wife, Ellen Ewing, was related to the Gillespie and Phelan families, both of which had strong connections to the university and her sister school, St. Mary's

The Shermans sent their children Willy, Minnie, and Tommy to Notre Dame and St. Mary's during the war

Ellen Sherman arranged for Notre Dame to send one of its priests - Fr. Charles Carrier - as a chaplain to Grant's army at Vicksburg

Fr. Carrier was at the bedside of the Sherman's young son Willy when he died of "camp fever" at Memphis in 1863

General Sherman gave the commencement address at Notre Dame in 1865

There is another very important connection between the Sherman family and Notre Dame that exists to this day: the William T. Sherman Family Papers.

Indeed, any serious scholarship about Sherman and his family begins at the Archives of the University of Notre Dame (UNDA), which is custodian of the collection. Per the UNDA website:

The William Tecumseh Sherman Family Papers, as they were deposited in the University of Notre Dame Archives by Miss Eleanor Sherman Fitch, the granddaughter of General Sherman, prior to her death in 1959, consisted of correspondence, clippings, photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, various legal papers and documents, cancelled checks, bankbooks, financial ledgers, drafts for and copies of articles, speeches and military orders, and explanatory notations -- sometimes on the items themselves and sometimes on separated sheets. This material ranged from the year 1808 to the year 1959 and consisted of originals, photostats, microfilm, typewritten copies and handwritten copies. the nucleus of the collections had been gathered and preserved by Philemon Tecumseh Sherman followed the death of the father, General Sherman. It was subsequently augmented by Miss Fitch, Philemon's niece, who added items in her own possession, typewritten copies which she had made of various items in the collections itself, items or copies of items which she was able to acquire from the others, and her own explanatory notes.

UNDA has made browsing the collection and looking at original documents from your computer very easy!

There is an excellent and well-organized online index to the papers:

There are hyperlinks to original documents:

The original documents can be viewed as thumbnails or as high-quality TIFF images

There are also hyperlinks to typed transcripts of some of the material.

The material proved extremely helpful in my research and writing and it can prove useful to you as well!