Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Michigan Historical Review" Reviews "Notre Dame and the Civil War"!

I want to thank the Historical Society of Michigan for publishing a very kind review of my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010), in the most recent issue (Fall 2011) of their publication, Michigan Historical Review. Excerpts are below.

The review was written by Rev. Anthony J. Kuzniewski, S.J., Professor of History, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Fr. Kuzniewski is the author of several publications, including Faith and Fatherland: The Polish Church War in Wisconsin, 1896-1918 (winner of the 1973 Kosciuszko Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Award), Thy Honored Name: A History of the College of the Holy Cross, 1843-1994, assistant editor of Waclaw Kruszka: A History of the Poles in America to 1908 (multivolume annotated translation of original work), articles in The Catholic Historical Review, Milwaukee History, Polish American Studies, American National Biography, Eerdmans' Handbook to Christianity in America, The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, and in separate anthologies edited by Robert Trisco, Frank Mocha, Frank Renkiewicz, and Sally M. Miller. In 2002, Fr. Kusniewski received the Holy Cross Distinguished Teaching Award.

As you can imagine, it's an honor to receive such a kind review from a distinguished professor, historian, author, and man-of-the cloth.

Excerpts: "In telling the story of Notre Dame and its role in that conflict, Schmidt makes abundant use of archival materials belonging to the university, and of those deposited with the men’s and women’s branches of the Congregation of the Holy Cross...

"The story Schmidt relates is a dramatic one. More than one hundred students and alumni eventually participated in the Civil War...Notre Dame men were a part of virtually all of the major battles that involved the Army of the Potomac and Grant’s Army of the Tennessee...Father Edward Sorin, Notre Dame’s founder and president during the Civil War, was concerned about the large number of Irishmen and other Catholics in the Union armies and eventually supplied seven priest-chaplains...Finally, the CSC sisters, under the leadership of Mother Angela Gillespie, were staffing ten Union hospitals by the war’s end, serving heroically in challenging and often disheartening and dangerous conditions.

Notre Dame and the Civil War is lavishly illustrated with fine portraits of participants in the war and of the monuments constructed to honor them after the conflict ended. The text abounds in quotes from primary documents, which are cited in the endnotes. They add color and life to Schmidt’s account...This useful account of Notre Dame’s participation in the Civil War will be of particular interest to alumni and supporters of the school. It will also be helpful to some future historian who may attempt to write a general account of the war’s impact on institutions of higher education."

Thank You Michigan Historical Review and Fr.

Read other reviews of Notre Dame and the Civil War here:

America's Civil War
Magazine (here)

Patrick McNamara's Blog (here)

Civil War News

Civil War Librarian (Rea Andrew Redd) (here)

Almost Chosen People/The American Catholic (Don McClarey) (here)

Confederate Book Review (Robert Redd)(review and interview!) (here)

Irish in the American Civil War (Damian Shiels) (here)

South Bend Tribune
Feature (here)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Meet Me in St. Louis! (at the St. Louis Civil War Round Table!)

Meet Me in St. Louis!

I'll have the great privilege and pleasure of giving a presentation about my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010), to the Civil War Round Table of St. Louis (MO) on Wednesday evening, October 26, 2011.

Come and join us!

You can learn more about the "who, what, when, where, etc." at their terrific website (here).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Meeting Fr. Corby's Family - Stories and Letters and Relatives

There are a great number of joys in being a writer, especially one who writes about history (and I can assure that the money, what little of it there is, is not one of them!).

Two of my favorites are: 1) what you might call "cross-pollination": learning and sharing information with others interested in the same subject, often in ways you'd never thought of; and 2) my favorite favorite: interactions with readers.

As you'll learn below, both of these joys were fulfilled this week and at the same time when I received a kind note from a reader, made all the more special because he has a very special connection to people I have been researcing and writing about for years now. They were also kind enough to share a letter - from 1892 - that is posted below.

Some background first:

Anyone who has read my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010), or is at all familiar with the school's role in the Civil War, knows that Fr. William Corby plays a large part in that story. He has been the subject of several posts on this blog (for example,

Just as interesting as Fr. Corby's own story is that of other members of his family, which are also closely connected with the University of Notre Dame, St. Mary's Academy, and the Congregation of the Holy Cross:

Fr. Corby was the son of Daniel Corby (1798-1875). A native of Ireland, Daniel arrived in North America at the age of 24. He first landed in Quebec and proceeded to Montreal where he met and married Miss Elizabeth Stapleton. Two years later he moved his young family to Detroit, where he became very successful in the real estate business. He was very notable in Catholic circles of Michigan and Detroit where he supported the construction of hospitals and churches.

A memorial article in The Michigan Catholic in 1886 declared that "there was not a charitable work commenced in his lifetime that he did not aid generously and continuously."

The Michigan Catholic article also noted some details of his family life:

"His life was not without affliction and trials.
Five of his children were carried to the tomb in early years; his wife who shared his early struggles and who bore him a large family died in 1842. He remarried in 1844 Margaret, widow of John Walters, sister of General John McManman, now deceased. Of his children, two are in the religious state. His eldest daughter is Sister Mary Ambrose of the Convent of St. Mary's Academy, Notre Dame, Ind. His eldest son is a distinguished ecclesiastic, Rev. W. Corby, C.S.C., of Notre Dame University, of which institution he is an ex-President...Michael T. Corby, A.M., resident of Chicago; John and Thomas, his remaining sons, reside at Connor's Creek. His daughters, Teresa, wife of Cornelius Corbett, Supt. of the W. U. Telegraph Co., and Miss Minnie Corby, are residents of Detroit."

Daniel Corby was especially associated with two churches in Detroit: St. Mary's and St. Joseph's (a "daughter" church of St. Mary's). Indeed, Daniel was referred to in the Michigan catholic article as "the fiscal agent of St. Joseph, for he cashed the many drafts of this saint, so frequently appealed to, with a liberality unparalleled."

St. Joseph's parish in Detroit has a wonderful website (here), with an equally wonderful and interesting section (here), where I learned in the parish's "History Corner" that "Some of [Daniel Corby's] 12 children became parishioners then and some of his descendants are still members of St. Joseph Church today."

You can imagine how excited and honored I was that Mr. Patrick Degens - one of the descendants of Daniel Corby and author of the "History Corner" - sent me the following e-mail in the past few days:

"I had to buy your book when I saw the frontice page on "McNamara's Blog" (note; you can see Patrick McNamara's kind review of my book here) . My great grand uncle was Father William Corby."

WOW! Patrick goes on to relate some wonderful family stories and history related to Fr. Corby and his extended family:

"My father was the youngest of 16 children, He was born in 1895. One of his older sisters lived with us when I was growing up and she remembered Father Corby when he came to Detroit to visit the family when she was a very small girl. She said he asked her if she knew who he was and she answered that she did. When he said, 'Who am I?' She told me she said; 'God.' She added that she was very small."

What a wonderful story, and it undoubtedly warmed the heart of Fr. Corby, known widely for his geniality and humor.

Mr. Degens continued:

"My grandmother attended St. Marys Academy at South Bend when Father Corby's sister was the head mistress there, Mother Ambrose. I have a letter that she wrote to my grandmother that came with a large box of muslin she had sent to my grandmother for making sheets. She asked for prayers from all the children for herself. It was a very touching letter. My grandmother was invited to Notre Dame for the dedication of the statue there of Father Corby. She went by train and attended the ceremonies. I never knew any of my grandparents as they had all passed before I was born."

In a later e-mail, Patrick kindly shared the content of that letter from Sr. Mary Ambrose, with the following notes on his family:

"My grandmother was the daughter of Thomas McManman and Elizabeth Corby McManman (1826-1874). Elizabeth was the first born child of Daniel Corby (1798-1875) and Elizabeth Stapleton Corby (1808-1842), also Father William (1833-1897) Corby's parents. Their sister, Mary Agnes (b.1829) became a Holy Cross nun taking the name of Sister Mary Ambrose. The following is a letter she wrote to my grandmother Elizabeth McManman Degens (1854-1934).
Note that in the letter below, Winnie was a half sister to Father William and Sister Ambrose"

And now for the letter:

St. Joseph Academy
South Bend - Ind
June 5, 1892

My Dear Libbie,

I have been promising myself the pleasure of answering Your letter - written after your visit - and will devote My free time this after noon in discharging this pleasant duty. Your visit was a real treat. Only too short. If I had you and Winnie back after you had gone I would not let you go until after Easter. I felt very lonely after you left. I was glad that you enjoyed your trip to Chicago and that yourself and Michael had the pleasure of meeting. Michael enjoyed the visit very much and so did Father.

I received your postal. Was sorry to hear that you had been ill, but hope that you are better. Were the things I sent of any use to you did you make the sheets and pillow covers? How is Winnie, did she leave the Wayace - I would like to know her address as I wish to write her. You Detroit people are not very generous about letters we have to be satisfied with one in a year in some cases three and five years.

The school year is fast drawing to a close, in less than three weeks we will be free and be assured that I am very glad. We will close the house and all go to St. Marys for the vacation. Our retreat will take place the 2d of July and the Priests retreat on the 9th. We will depend on your good prayers for us during that time. I have great faith in the prayers of Children. Have your little Children say a Hail Mary every day from the 2d to the 14th of July. What consolation our holy Religion gives us. We can ever be united in God by means of prayer and obtaining from each other the countless blessings. The month of Our Blessed Mother is over. The Devotion was observed in all the churches. The May processions were very fine.

I was at St. Mary's for the Dedication of St. Angela's Hall and the Closing of the Month of May. There were eight Priests from Notre Dame. Father Corby preached, the procession was grand Two hundred Pupils and about two hundred and fifty Sisters.

Has there been any rain in Michigan. There has been constant rain here for five weeks. It is clear today and be assured we enjoy the sunshine. I am anxious to hear from you and to know how Winnie is. Love also to the Children from me.

Remember in your prayers
Your Affectionate
Sister M Ambrose

Thank you, Mr. Degens; it was an honor and a privilege to hear from you!

As if that wasn't enough: in another twist, Patrick also shared:

"My cousin John Carey, also a Corby descendant, writes the History Column for the Washington Times and he also represents Father Corby at the annual gathering at Gettysburg. He is retired from a career in the Navy. His grandfather was Father Corby's brother, Tom. Actually his half brother. Another kindred spirit in the world of history."

Kindred spirits, indeed!

As it turns out, not knowing that Patrick and John were related, John Carey had corresponded with me earlier this spring and summer. John is graduate of Notre Dame (1976) and a Commander, United States Navy (Ret.). You can find some of his past Washington Times history pieces as well as other writing at his "Civil War Stories of Inspiration" blog here.

Is it any wonder that this is my FAVORITE part of writing?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Notre Dame Chaplain Profiles #5 and #6 - Frs. Bourget and Leveque

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 these posts for previous profiles:

#1 = Fr. Paul E. Gillen, CSC (here)
#2 = Fr. Peter P. Cooney, CSC (here)
#3 = Fr. Joseph C. Carrier, CSC (here)
#4 = Fr. James M. Dillon (here)

Recall that Fr. James Dillon died shortly after the Civil War, in no small part from the privations of serving as a chaplain...Below is an excerpt from my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) describing some of the life and ministry of Fr. Zepherin Joseph Leveque and Fr. Julian Prosper Bourget, as a chaplain in the Union army. Unfortunately, we do not know as much as Frs. Leveque and Bourget as the other chaplains, but they still deserve to be remembered.

Unlike the other Notre Dame priests who served as chaplains, Frs. Leveque and Bourget were assigned to hospital duty and not to a particular regiment...sadly, both men died during the Civil War while serving as chaplains. May they rest in peace.

In 1861, Father Sorin kept good his promise to send another priest to minister to the Catholic troops; that priest was Father Zepherin Joseph Lévêque, a Canadian by birth. While as zealous as the other Holy Cross priests from Notre Dame, Father Lévêque was also sickly and did not serve for long. On February 13, 1862—just a few months after arriving—he fell ill and died while visiting a fellow priest in New Jersey. Father Lévêque did not seem to have a commission with a particular regiment, although an obituary in the New York Herald stated that “the members of Company K, Twelfth Regiment, New York State Militia” were invited to attend the funeral. (1)

Another priest, Father Julian Prosper Bourget, had come to Notre Dame from the Holy Cross Mother House in France in early 1862. At Father Sorin’s suggestion, Father Bourget left for the military hospital at Mound City, Illinois, where he cared for many wounded and dying soldiers. Unfortunately, his stay—like Father Lévêque’s—was not long. Father Bourget contracted malaria and died at the hospital on June 12, 1862.


(1) “Obituary of Rev. J.M.Z. Leveque,” New York Herald clipping, February14, 1862, Lévêque File, Indiana Province Archives Center, Congregation of the HolyCross, Notre Dame, Indiana (IPAC)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

College Life in the 1860s - Part II

One of the challenges of being a Civil War "enthusiast" is that, well...there's a lot about which to be "enthused" because the subject crosses so many areas of interest.

In doing background research for my most recent book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010), I did some background reading on the history of other colleges in the Civil War and it has become an abiding interest.

One of my favorite books during that research was Willis Rudy's The Campus and a Nation in Crisis: From the American Revolution to Vietnam (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996).

I've also posted on a few other colleges that are taking advantage of the Civil War Sesquicentennial to commemorate their contributions during the Civil War:

Hobart College (Geneva, NY) (here)
University of Pennsylvania (here)

Of course there are many more...if you are aware of other good websites describing the experiences of institutions of higher education during the Civil War, let me know, and I'll happily post about them here!

Adding to that body of knowledge is a terrific new (April 2011) softcover (unillustrated) re-issue of a 2004 hardcover (illustrated) by Robert F. Pace, Ph.D.:

I want to thank the kind folks at the Louisiana State University Press for sending me a review copy!

I recently finished the book and I can give it an unabashed A+!

From the publisher's website:

A powerful confluence of youthful energies and entrenched codes of honor enlivens Robert F. Pace's look at the world of male student college life in the antebellum South. Through extensive research into records, letters, and diaries of students and faculty from more than twenty institutions, Pace creates a vivid portrait of adolescent rebelliousness struggling with the ethic to cultivate a public face of industry, respect, and honesty. These future leaders confronted authority figures, made friends, studied, courted, frolicked, drank, gambled, cheated, and dueled–all within the established traditions of their southern culture.

For the sons of southern gentry, college life presented a variety of challenges, including engaging with northern professors and adjusting to living away from home and family. The young men extended the usual view of higher education as a bridge between childhood and adulthood, innovatively creating their own world of honor that prepared them for living in the larger southern society. Failure to obtain a good education was a grievous breach of honor for them, and Pace skillfully weaves together stories of student antics, trials, and triumphs within the broader male ethos of the Old South. When the Civil War erupted, many students left campus to become soldiers, defend their families, and preserve a way of life. By war's end, the code of honor had waned, changing the culture of southern colleges and universities forever.

Halls of Honor represents a significant update of E. Merton Coulter's 1928 classic work, College Life in the Old South, which focused on the University of Georgia. Pace's lively study will widen the discussion of antebellum southern college life for decades to come.

There is a LOT to recommend this book to readers:

1) It's relatively short (117 pages of main text; 27 pages of Notes/Bibliography; index) and that's a good thing! As one of my favorite historians and writers, Jason Emerson, has declared: "the publication of short books and monographs has lessened extensively in recent years...the page count of a work should have no impact on its overall historical, literary, or pedagogical value." Indeed! Dr. Pace packs a lot of information into this short book and yet is supported by an impressive amount of scholarship. (You can learn more about Mr. Emerson in another post, here).

2) Dr. Pace mined nearly a hundred collections of letters, papers, and diaries at several institutions...readers will be impressed - and perhaps surprised - at how much extant primary material there is representing first-hand accounts of antebellum college life in the South...graduates of the following institutions will be especially gratified at how much attention they get in the book, among more than twenty colleges that are mentioned throughout: University of North Carolina, University of Virginia, University of Alabama, and Hampden-Sidney College.

3) In the first chapter, Dr. Pace discusses academic life at the institutions, including faculty, curriculum, cheating, and commencement. This included the choice of whether or not to even attend college: it wasn't necessary for most professions, but Dr. Pace argues that for Southern adolescents and families it was a matter of honor...this honor and distinction also applied to what college the young man attended, so that attending a "second-rate" school could bring shame on a family. One of the more interesting discussions in the book is on it turns out, it was more important to cheat and pass and graduate, than to skip cheating but fail.

4) In the second chapter, the author describes campus life, including accommodations, noise, clothing, fire, pests, heating, illness, and dining. One of the most interesting discussions in this chapter was a description of the institution of slavery on college campuses in the antebellum South, including the use of servants as part of tuition as well as brutality against the slaves.

5) In the third chapter - easily the most entertaining - Dr. Pace describes "Sowing Oats and Growing Up" including amusements, entertainment and relationships. Dr. Pace describes the prevalence of drinking alcohol among the young men - or "getting tight" as it was called back in the day. Social fraternities - especially literary societies - were also very popular and intense rivalries grew amongst competing societies on several campuses. The most interesting part of this chapter was Dr. Pace's description of the pursuit and courting of females by male college students in the Old South.

6) In the fourth chapter, Dr. Pace discusses "Honor and Violence" including rules, pranks, riots, guns, and duels. Dr. Pace describes how college administrators struggled with student conduct, some of it whimsical and some of it deadly, either purposefully or accidentally.

7) In the fifth and final chapter, Dr. Pace discusses "College Life and the Civil War." This includes secessionist and (most interesting!) Unionist sentiment among students and faculty, on-campus militia units, enlistments among the student body, financial challenges faced by the colleges during the war and - finally - how the war changed Southern college life forever.

8) The MOST IMPRESSIVE aspect of this book is the extensive use of first-hand accounts of students throughout, based on his use of period letters and diaries.

If I have any criticisms, they are few:

A) Some academic works can be flawed in that an sometimes artificial "meme" is forced on the this case, Dr. Pace sometimes spends words in "forcing" a theme of a Southern "Code of Honor" to describe the students' behaviors and expectations. Rarely did the students' own words bear this out, though.

B) Somewhat related: I've done enough reading of college life in the North during this same era to wonder whether Dr. Pace was successfully able to describe a distinctly Southern "way" of college life as there are just so many similarities.

These are minor quibbles, however, and they do not detract from this EXCELLENT book!


Thank You, LSU Press!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

College Life in the 1860s - Part I

"Life started every morning at half past five during my four years [at Notre Dame], but since then I have forgotten all about the rising sun." - James McCormack, Notre Dame student, 1863-67

I recently had the pleasure of reading a terrific book - Halls of Honor: College Men in the Old South by Robert F. Pace (Louisiana State University Press, 2011 softcover reprint of the 2004 hardcover) - after receiving a review copy from the GREAT team at LSU Press.

I am going to post a review of the book here in the next day or advance of that, though, I thought I'd post an excerpt from my book Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) that "dovetails" nicely with Dr. Pace's Halls of Honor, in that it describes college life at Notre Dame in the 1860s, away from the battlefields.

In fact, I have posted a few previous items about 1860s college life at Notre Dame, including:

Student Body at Notre Dame in the 1860s (here)
Wartime Fisticuffs on Campus at Notre Dame (here)
Early Military Training at Notre Dame (here)
School Year Holidays at Notre Dame in the 1860s (here)
Lincoln's Inauguration - A Letter from Notre Dame (here)
The reaction to the firing on Ft. Sumter (here and here)
1865 Commencement Excercises at Notre Dame (here)

Below is an excerpt from Notre Dame and the Civil War that includes some additional great first-person accounts of life as a student there in the 1860s. Enjoy!

Historians can thank James McCormack for leaving one of the best descriptions of student life at Notre Dame during the war years. “My first semester at Notre Dame all furnishings were very simple, really crude,” he recalled, adding that “the real improvements took place during the second semester. Steam heat superseded wood fires, as no coal was used in that section. All the rooms and halls had individual stoves and it took the time of one Brother to keep the fires alive.” (1)

Indeed, Father Sorin wrote that directly because of the war, “laborers became so scarce that it was hard to find men to cut fire wood” and that the school’s council found itself “face to face with the almost impossible task of obtaining the amount of wood necessary for the winter, which had already set in.” After the “most serious deliberation,” the council resolved to introduce steam heating (as had already been done at St. Mary’s). It was already November, and “there was not a day to spare,” Father Sorin continued, adding that “the work was urged forward with all possible haste, and by Christmas the college was heated satisfactorily and economically.” (2)

James McCormack also remembered improvements in the sleeping arrangements:

Cotton mattresses were introduced to take the place of ticking stuffed with straw or corn shucks. From then on the boys snored louder and longer. The students seemed happier, as they felt Notre Dame was considering their comfort as well as their education. Better living conditions brought about an increase of students each year during my time at Notre Dame so that beds had to be put in the galleries of Washington Hall to take care of the overflow. (3)

As a new soldier, Orville T. Chamberlain recalled the crowded conditions during his school days, writing in late August 1862 that his unit had “marched through [Louisville] to a house where we stayed overnight. A thousand men in one room is worse than the dormitories at Notre Dame.” (4)

Of a typical day as a student, McCormack recalled:

Wednesday was the recreation day instead of Saturday. Life started every morning at half past five during my four years, but since then I have forgotten all about the rising sun. We went to Mass on Wednesday mornings—that was the only required church attendance during the week. The real work of the day started with a study hour at six o’clock, breakfast at seven, dinner at twelve and supper at six p.m. We returned to the study hall at seven and at eight we retired after a very short day that began at five thirty a.m. So far as living was concerned, the boys never had reason to complain. The food was plain, but bountifully served. We had the usual supply of turkey and mincepie on holidays—in fact, I can still taste the delicious pies and breadmade by the good Sisters of the Holy Cross. (5)

Orville Chamberlain agreed with McCormack on the quality of the table fare, writing home before the war: “Our diet here is not luxurious, unless you think ‘luxurious’ to be derived from the Latin lux and make it partake of its original signification [“light”]; still we are in no danger of starvation, and they get up pretty good dinners.” Of church attendance, Orville grumbled that “[w]e have to attend…a great deal here” but admitted that the previous week’s sermon had “suited me exactly.” (6)

McCormack might be forgiven for his dubious recollection that “the boys never saw South Bend except on arriving and departing from Notre Dame.” To be sure, Father Sorin did everything possible to keep his students from town; if they had to go for a purchase or other business, they were required to be in the company of a prefect. Still, unauthorized forays did happen, especially to imbibe at South Bend taverns. One school history notes: “There is hardly a page of the disciplinary record on which it is not written…‘this student, arrested for intoxication and lodged in the South Bend jail, was sent home.’” Father Sorin placed notices in the local papers asking the citizens to report any serious misbehavior. (7)


(1) James M. McCormack, typewritten essay of Notre Dame life during the Civil War and after, 1863–67, Notre Dame Student Collection (CNDS), 7/15, Archives of the University of Notre Dame (UNDA).
(2) Edward Sorin, CSC, The Chronicles of Notre Dame du Lac, trans. William Toohey, ed. James T. Connelly (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), 285–86.
(3) McCormack, typewritten essay
(4) Letter, Orville Chamberlain to Joseph Chamberlain, August 23,1862, Chamberlain Papers, Box 1, Folder 8, Indiana Historical Society (IHS)
(5) McCormack, typewritten essay.
(6) Letter, Orville Chamberlain to “Friends,” March 4, 1861,Chamberlain Papers, Box 1, Folder 8, IHS.
(7) McCormack, typewritten essay; Arthur J. Hope, Notre Dame: One Hundred Years (Notre Dame, IN:University Press, 1948), 103.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Radio Interview About "Notre Dame and the Civil War"

I had the great privilege and pleasure of speaking with Mrs. Madeline Johnson about Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) and other interesting topics on her radio program, "Life to the Full," sponsored by the Radio Ministry of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (TX).

The program aired on Sunday, 19 June 2011, and Mrs. Johmson kindly extended permission for me to share the audio (15 minutes), embedded in the YouTube video below (note that this is an audio clip only, with an image of the book's cover as a video "placeholder.")

Enjoy and Thank You for listening! (and special thanks to the incomparable Madeline Johnson!)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Swaddled in History! (The Multi-Generation Story of My Baptismal Clothes)

I've had the great privilege of being interviewed by bloggers Donald Thompson (here and here) and Robert Redd (here) in which I was able to explain from whence my interest in history, generally, and Civil War history, especially, come.

I was pondering lately, though, why I would have more than an interest it, and rather a passion.

Perhaps it's because I was literally "swaddled in history" almost from birth as witnessed in the clipping below from the June 16, 1964 edition of the Hays (KS) Daily News:

Off and On Main Street
By L. M.

It is too bad this baby was unaware of the distinction which surrounded his baptism but he will doubtless be reminded of it many times when he reaches the age of understanding for it is a set of most unusual circumstances which will be of interest to readers in this area.

James Michael Schmidt, son of Mr. and Mrs. Terrance C. Schmidt was baptized at Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Topeka on May 31. Grandparents of the baby are Mr. and Mrs. Alvin M.Weigel of Pratt and Mr. and Mrs. Elmer C. Schmidt of Hays.

For his baptism James wore a hand crocheted cap which had been worn by four generations and a hand sewn dress which had been worn by three generations of his family. The cap was first worn by James F. Giebler of Severin, 72 years ago at his baptism on July 10. The dress was made by Mrs. James F. Giebler and will be 49 years old in August. It was first worn by their eldest daughter. The cap and dress have been worn a tbaptisms by twelve children, 39 grandchildren and one great-grandchild of Mr. and Mrs. Giebler and it has been worn in Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Florida and many parts of Kansas.

The four generations wearing the cap are: James F. Giebler, maternal great grandfather, Mrs. Alvin Weigel of Pratt, maternal grandmother ,Mrs. Terrance C. Schmidt of Topeka, mother, and James Michael, son of Mrs. Schmidt.

So, there you go! Maybe that's where I get my passion for history!
Do some quick math and you'll see that the cap is now 119 years old and the gown is now 96 years old!

The cap and gown are still in our daughter was the fifth generation to wear it, in 1986!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Notre Dame's Civil War "Roll of Honor" - James E. Taylor - With Sword *and* Brush

As I have mentioned in previous posts and in the Preface of my book, Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010), I have a long-term goal of cataloging and researching Notre Dame's Civil War student-soldiers.

You can find an initial list here.

My previous student-soldier profiles are listed below:

Cassius M. Brelsford - 113th Illinois Infantry (here)
John C. Lonergan - 58th Illinois Infantry (here)
Timothy E. Howard - 12th Michigan Infantry (here)
Frank Baldwin - 44th Indiana Infantry (here and here)
Felix Zeringue - 30th Louisiana Infantry (CSA) (here)
Michael Quinlan - 27th Virginia Infantry (CSA) (here and here)
Thomas E. Lonergan - 90th Illinois Infantry (here)
Orville T. Chamberlain - 74th Indiana Infantry (here and here)

There are many more profiles to come!

Today's post introduces readers to another Notre Dame Civil War student-soldier - James E. Taylor, 10th New York Infantry, although he is probably better known for his paint brush and charcoal pencil than his soldiering!

Taylor was born in 1839 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, a blacksmith, died when James was only seven, and his mother turned to sewing and boarding tenants to make ends meet. A few years later, she moved the family to northwestern Indiana, and James and his brother Richard both attended Notre Dame from 1850 to 1851. They returned to Cincinnati, and James—only twelve years old—helped the family by working various odd jobs. His passion, though, was in the arts, having shown a talent for drawing and painting at an early age. Indeed, he lost many a job because “his employers would catch him drawing when he should have been working,” one Taylor biographer declared.

At the age of fourteen, Taylor submitted some drawings to Nicholas Longworth, a vintner and real estate tycoon and patron of the arts in Cincinnati. Mr. Longworth, impressed with the boy’s work, sent him to an art academy in the city, where Taylor, according to his autobiography,“mastered the rudiments of drawing which have since stood [me] in such good stead.” Taylor became famous in the region for his panoramas of the American Revolution and the John Brown raid; noted orator Reverend Henry Bellows admired the paintings and brought Taylor to New York to study art. A year later, the Civil War began, and as Taylor wrote, he “laid down the brush…and shouldering his gun at his Country’s Call went to the Front” with the 10th New York Volunteer Infantry.

Taylor mustered out as a sergeant at the end of his two years’ service,“through which Ordeal he passed Unscathed owing to fortuitous Circumstances,” he wrote. In his spare time, he had created a portfolio of sketches of camp life, and rather than reenlist, he showed the sketches to Frank Leslie, publisher of the popular weekly Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Taylor spent the rest of the war as a “special artist” for Leslie,who counseled Taylor to pay attention to every detail, “even sticks, stones and stumps…regardless of flying bullet and shell.” Taylor soon became one of America’s best-known artists, and he worked for Leslie for another twenty years before retiring to his studio, where he did freelance work until he died in 1901.

Note: All quotes are from Oliver Jensen, “War Correspondent: 1864,” American Heritage 31, No. 5 (August–September 1980): 48–64. You can read the full text of the article here.

The premiere source on James E. Taylor - indeed perhaps the most detailed account of wartime life and work of any "special artist" - is Taylor's With Sheridan Up the Shenandoah Valley in 1864: Leaves from a Special Artist's Sketch Book and Diary, which remained unpublished and held by the Western Reserve Historical Society (Ohio), until being released by Morningside Press in 1989 (in a hard-to-find edition).

You can also learn more about Taylor at the Smithsonian's online "Drawing the Western Frontier: The James E. Taylor Album" exhibit (here).

See here for a WONDERFUL image of Taylor in a Zouave uniform as part of the 10th New York (Michael J. McAfee Collection)

Taylor Portrait (Smithsonian) (above)
Example of Taylor Art (below)
Obituary - New York Times - June 23, 1901 (below)


He Was a Famous Artist and War Correspondent of the Rebellion

James E. Taylor, a war correspondent and artist of the rebellion, whose pictures of the Indian, negro, and soldier became famous throughout the United States, died yesterday at his home, 1460 Lexington Avenue, after a brief illness. Death was due to a complication of diseases; Mr. Taylor was born In Cincinnati, Ohio, and early showed remarkable skill with his pencil and brush. He was educated at Notre Dame du Lac University, at South Bend, Ind., and upon graduating from there painted a panorama of the American Revolution.

At this time he was only eighteen years of age, and his work and perseverance attracted the attention of the late Rev. Henry W. Bellows, D. D., of All Souls Church, New York. Dr; Bellows advised the young man to go to New York and study art, and offered to assist him during his first year's course. The offer was accepted, and the young artist arrived at the great metropolis in 1860, determined to make a reputation for himself, but the war fever seized him, and he enlisted with the Tenth New York Volunteers of National Zouaves and went to the front with them. He made good useof his spare time, and prepared a number of sketches of camp life and the stirring incidents of the opening of the rebellion.

After serving two years and reaching the rank of Sergeant, Taylor decided to enlist again, but was advised to apply for a position, as war correspondent. The very first man he went to — Frank Leslie — engaged him, and published the sketches he had made and assigned him to follow Sheridan's army. He remained with Gen. Sheridan in the principal engagements and "Little Phil's" famous ride.

With the close of the campaign in the valley, in December, 1864, when the main body of Sheridan's army departed to reinforce Grant at Petersburg, Taylor was ordered to Gen. Butler's front on the James River, and remained there, to picture his dusky friends and bluecoats, until after the blowing out of the bulkhead of the Dutch Gap Canal, which incident he constructed from a. sketch he made of the canal under fire when it was being dug. After the explosion he went to Matanzas by steamer, and thence to Port Royal, to again join Sheridan's army, then about to leave Savannah on its march through the Carolinas to menace Richmond and aid Gen. Grant in its capture.

He made the journey of 1,000 miles on horseback with the Seventeenth Corps, and finally arrived at Richmond, after many exciting incidents. At the close of the rebellion he went South to portray the negro and the Indianfor Leslie's and continued with that magazine till 18S3. He was the detailed artist to the Peace Commission with the Indians that held council at Medicine Lodge Creek in 1867, and was sent to Santo Domingo with the Annexation Commission in 1870, during Gen. Grant's Administration, onboard the frigate Tennessee, which vessel was reported lost, as it was missing for a week.

Among his most famous paintings was "The Last Grand Review," painted for Gen. Sherman, depicting- the victorious Union troops wheeling into Fifteenth Street from Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington,D. C., on May 21, 1865. The plates of this picture were stolen, and it was widely sold throughout the United States and Europe. Four of his pictures are now in the publi clibrary at Washington. About five years ago he retired, and spent much of his time in travel. He was sixty-one years old and a bachelor. Funeral services will be held at his late residence on Monday at 10 o'clock.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The University of Notre Dame Archives Comes Through Again!

I have posted before (here, here, here, and many more) on how critical the kind, expert, and enthusiastic assistance of the Archives of the University of Notre Dame (AUND) was to my successfully researching and writing Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010).

Likewise, I've mentioned before (here) interesting connections between the Notre Dame/Civil War project and my current Galveston (TX)/Civil War writing and research project, especially the involvement of Catholic sister-nurses in both cases.

As it turns out, the University of Notre Dame Archives also has some great material to support my Galveston/Civil War project, and - perhaps to many readers of this blog - unexpectedly!

It's no surprise that a primary mission of the AUND is to collect, preserve, and make accessible the permanent historical records of the University of Notre Dame...however, from the late 1800s, the University has also committed itself to documenting the history of the Catholic Church in the United States; to that end, the University Archives has acquired historical material and papers from the bishops of Baltimore, Bardstown-Louisville, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Vincennes-Indianapolis and many other Sees.

Among the diocesan papers they maintain are those of the Archdiocese of New Orleans (La.), including more than 34 linear feet (!) of records from 1786-1897.

So...what does this have to do with my Galveston/Civil War research project?

The connection lies in Bishop Jean Marie Odin (1800-1870). Odin was the first bishop of Galveston (1847) but just as the Civil War was starting, he was named as the Archbishop of New Orleans. You can read more about Bishop Odin at the "Handbook of Texas Online", specifically his entry here.

Odin was beloved by the people of Texas (especially Galveston) and many persons from Galveston maintained a steady correspondence with Bishop Odin over the course of the war.

Fortunately, to help researchers, the AUND has made available online its "Calendar" of correspondence, which serves an excellent finding aid, with summaries of the correspondence.

I've been able to secure copies of more than a dozen letters written from Galvestonians to Bishop Odin in New Orleans during the war, although there are many more. From what I can tell, these have not been used in the Galveston/Civil War literature-to-date, and I am confident that the information I'll glean from them will 1) make the book all the more interesting and 2) add to the scholarship of Galveston and the Civil War.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

GREAT News for Notre Dame/Civil War and e-Readers!

Just got some great news from my publisher, The History Press: Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory will soon be available in several e-Book formats (!):

I’m writing with exciting news from The History Press. We’re continuing to pursue the rapidly expanding opportunities for electronic editions of our books, and we plan to include your title, Notre Dame and the Civil War, in a new batch of e-books that we will bring to market in the coming weeks. We believe that we can reach additional portions of the audience for your book with an electronic edition distributed through the most prominent e-book sales channels, and we plan to begin that process immediately. This will take up to twelve weeks to complete, and you do not need to take any action. We will be in touch again when distribution of your e-book begins.

Stay posted for more details!

For an interesting take on e-Book trends, check out the always interesting and reliable Ted Savas of Savas-Beatie at his "Publisher's Perspectives" blog, here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Harry's Just Wild About "Notre Dame and the Civil War"!

I want to thank Harry Smeltzer for writing a very kind review of Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) in his "Harry's Just Wild About" feature in the July 2011 issue America's Civil War magazine.


"The author consulted an impressive array of unpublished archival materials to relate how the school...answered the call to arms when the time came. Wile detailing the experiences of the men - and nuns - in the field, Schmidt doesn't neglect campus life during and after the war."

Thanks, Harry!

And whether you get the magazine by subscription or pick it up at the newsstand, make sure to check out Harry's article in the same issue: "Irvin McDowell's Best-Laid Plans" - The general was surprised by a fresh contingent of Rebels at Bull Run - or not. It is really interesting and well-written!

And - especially - make sure to visit Harry's excellent blog "Bull Runnings - A Journal of the Digitization of a Civil War Battle" is one of the best and most popular Civil War blogs out there!

Read more reviews of
Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory:

Patrick McNamara's Blog (here)
Civil War News (here)
Civil War Librarian (Rea Andrew Redd) (here)
Almost Chosen People/The American Catholic (Don McClarey) (here)
Confederate Book Review (Robert Redd)(review and interview!) (here)
Irish in the American Civil War (Damian Shiels) (here)
South Bend Tribune Feature (Howard Dukes) (here)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sister Act TWO!

I'm pleased, honored, and humbled that The History Press - publisher of my recent book Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory - saw fit to extend me a contract for a new book project, tentatively entitled Galveston and the Civil War: An Island People in the Maelstrom.

You can read more about the book project and what I hope to accomplish here.

As it turns out, the Notre Dame project and the Galveston project share something in common: the role of Catholic sister-nurses!

I have written about the Holy Cross sister-nurses of Notre Dame and St. Mary's Academy several times on this blog (here, here, and here).

While the Holy Cross sister-nurses represented one of the largest contingents of Catholic sisters to serve as nurses, the sisters in Galveston - of the Ursuline order - represented one of the smallest, if not the smallest, contingent, but their contributions and sacrifices were no less important and their bravery no less intrepid.

According to the "Handbook of Texas Online":

URSULINE ACADEMY, GALVESTON. The Ursuline Academy at Galveston was established in February 1847 by Ursuline Sisters from New Orleans, who had arrived on January 16. The school, Galveston's first parochial school, was on a ten-acre campus. Attended by girls of all faiths, the academy opened in 1854, closed for a time in 1857 during a yellow fever epidemic, and was used as a hospital by both sides during the Civil War. The main Victorian Gothic building, constructed by Nicholas J. Clayton along with the convent in the mid-1890s, sheltered more than 1,000 refugees during the Galveston hurricane of 1900. A total of 306 students enrolled in 1930, and the girls' high school, elementary school, and kindergarten had an enrollment of 225 in 1940. In January 1947 the school celebrated its centennial, and by 1949 the campus comprised seven or eight acres with the academy building, a brick chapel, and monastery. Hurricane Carla damaged both the academy and convent in 1961, and the buildings were subsequently demolished. The campus chapel, redesigned by Clayton, stood from 1871 to 1961, while the convent remained from 1854 to 1973. In 1968 the Ursuline girls' school consolidated with Kirwin Catholic High School and the Dominican girls' school; it was renamed O'Connell High School for Msgr. Dan O'Connell.

See also at the "Handbook":

Ursuline Sisters

I am really looking forward to telling their story as part of this new project!

I will use some of my favorite secondary sources on Catholic sister-nurses in the Civil War, sources on the history of Catholic institutions in Texas, the Archives of the Central Province of the Ursuline Sisters, and a rarely-used archival source that I will feature in a future blog post! If you have other ideas, let me know!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Holy Cross Sisters: Navy Nurse Pioneers!

I have posted before (here and here) about the Holy Cross sisters of the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary's Academy that served as nurses during the American Civil War (and I will be posting even more!)

One of their most remarkable accomplishments during the war, that they were the pioneers of the United States Navy's nurse corps, is described in the excerpt below from Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010).


On Christmas Eve 1862, three Holy Cross sister-nurses boarded the USS Red Rover, the navy’s first floating hospital ship. According to the navy’s own official history, the women represented another important first: “[They] may truly be said to be the pioneers or forerunners of the United States Navy Nurse Corps as they were the first female nurses carried on board a United States Navy Hospital Ship.”(1)

Built in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1859, the Red Rover began its riverine life as a commercial side-wheel steamer. In late 1861, the Confederacy bought the steamer in New Orleans, renamed it CSS Red Rover and used it as an unarmed barracks for soldiers and sailors assigned to a nearby floating artillery battery. In early 1862, the Red Rover made its way up the Mississippi River but was abandoned a month after being damaged in a Union naval bombardment. Federals captured the ship, and following on-the-spot repairs, the steamer made its way to St. Louis, where the newly christened USS Red Rover was refitted as a floating hospital for the Western Gunboat Flotilla.

Mother Angela happily offered her sisters as nurses on the unique
floating hospital, and when the Red Rover was transferred to the navy in late 1862, she sent Sister Veronica Moran, Sister Adela Reilly and Sister Callista Pointan from the Mound City hospital for service on the steamer. They were joined by two African American women, who served under their direction. Other Holy Cross sisters also served on the steamer, but Sister Veronica and Sister Adela served continuously until November 1865. The sister-nurses earned fifty cents per day (ten cents more than their counterparts in the army), though they were subject to the same irregular pay as soldiers and sailors (in a hospital account book, Mother Angela chided: “The paymaster is generally very tardy, leaving an interval of several months between his appearances”).(2)

The Red Rover set out on December 29, 1862, leaving Mound City and passing down the river toward Memphis, then Helena, Arkansas, and finally to the Yazoo River, where it received orders to guard the mouth of the White River while the flotilla bombarded Arkansas Post (Fort Hindman), Arkansas, and transported troops to storm the fort; the wounded were transferred to the Red Rover after the successful assault. Even though the Red Rover was a hospital ship, the steamer was armed and sometimes a target. On January 21, 1863, Rebel artillery fired on the Red Rover, and two shots entered the hospital. Sister Adela recalled that during the Vicksburg campaign, the Red Rover “was near enough to hear the firing and also to see the boats running the blockade.”(3)

The USS Red Rover and its Holy Cross sister-nurses were featured in a handsome series of engravings in the May 9, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly. The caption declared:

This institution…is under the charge of Surgeon George H. Bixby and Dr. Hopkins, and is an untold comfort to our sick or wounded sailors. The sketch shows the main ward, in which are accommodations for over two hundred patients. The Sister is one of those good women whose angelic services have been sung by poets and breathed by grateful convalescents all the world over. The convalescents are placed in a ward for their sole use, where they smoke, read, and generally enjoy themselves. The boat itself, a clean, roomy craft, is under the command of a gallant old sailor.(4)

In addition to being a generous and contemporary tribute, the engravings are thought to be the only wartime depictions of the Holy Cross sister-nurses in action.


(1). E. Kent Loomis, “History of the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Red Rover,” Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Division of Naval History, Ships’ History Section, Report No. OP 09B9, 1961, 7.
(2) Mary D. Maher, To Bind Up the Wounds: Catholic Sister Nurses in the U.S. Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999), 91.
(3) Barbara M. Wall, “Grace Under Pressure: The Nursing Sisters of the Holy Cross, 1861–1865,” Nursing History Review 1 (1993): 80.
(4) Harper’s Weekly, “The Naval Hospital Boat ‘Red Rover,’” May 9, 1863, 299.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Week 1864 with Notre Dame's Fr. Cooney

I have profiled Notre Dame Holy Cross priest Fr. Peter P. Cooney in previous posts (here and here).

As mentioned in those previous posts, 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 Congreg
ation of the Holy Cross,” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, 1933. The archives also maintains his wartime diary.

One of those letters to Fr. Cooney's brother was written on April 26, 1864, and he describes his religious duties and efforts during Holy Week leading up to Easter Day 1864:

Blue Springs, Tennesse (near Cleveland, Tenn.)

April 26, 1864

My dear Brother:

I am very surprised that I did not receive a single word from you since I left home. I have, I think, written you at least three or four letters. I hope that carelessness is the only reason why you did not write; and if you were sick or otherwise unable to write, you should have got some one to write me even a few lines. My health is and has been very good, thanks be to God.

I have been for the last two months very busy in preparing the men to complete their Easter duty, otherwise I would have written oftener, to you. Our division consists of about twelve thousand men and there are Catholics in every regiment. Protestants attend the sermons by thousands in the open field. I have baptized many of them and prejudice against to the Church is gone almost entirely.

A short time ago I baptized and gave his first Communion to the Major General commanding our division. He is now a most fervent catholic and his example is powerful over the men of his command. I have every assistance from him in anything that I require for the discharge of my duties.
He is extremely kind to me.

After coming here it was very chilly and even cold and I had neither stove nor fireplace to warm my tent nor could I get any; nor brick or stone to build a chimney. During "holy week" we have about ten inches of snow on the level. Though it lasted but a few days, it was very damp and chilly.

He was at Mass on Holy Thursday and saw that I had no stove. He went to his headquarters and took a stove from one of his officers and sent it to me. The officer gave it cheerfully, although a protestant, when the General told him that I had to hear confessions and say my office in a cold tent, without fire. I have been very comfortable since, I have a fine tent in which I say Mass every morning.

The General is vice-president of a temperance society that I have established in the regiment. We meet the first Sunday of every month. At our last meeting after I had finished my lecture to them on temperance, I invited the General, who is also a member, to say a few words to the members. He cheerfully c
onsented and made quite a speech on temperance. You may imagine the influence of a Majpr general in full uniform over the minds of officers and men who were present.

The General's name is D.S. Stanley. he waas brought up in Ohio and is an officer in the Regular army. I was at his headquarters yesterday evening and he gave me his photograph which I send you. He wrotehis name on it. I would like to have it fixed with one of mine the same as that of Major general Rosecrans', as a remembrance of their piety and our companionship in the trials of this war.

Another battle is expected ina short time. The main body of the Rebel army is at Dalton, Georgia, about eighteen miles from this place. I hope God will protect me in the future, as he has in the past. After the coming battle I will go to Indiana with the men's money and from there home for a few days, God being willing...

I hope you are well. Practice your religion Dear Brother, attend to your business at home. I was glad to see by the papers that there would be no draft in Michigan. I shall write you soon again. Write soon. My love aand blessing to my mother and all.

Your affectionate brother,

P.P. Cooney, Chaplain
25th Reg. Ind. Vol.


There is an artist in our brigade who took the picture of our regiment at Mass on Easter Sunday - my tent, etc. It was sent to Cincinnati to be engraved. It makes a beautiful picture. It will cost about five hundred dollars; when finished I will send a copy.

Did you get the book I sent you? The spring is very backward here although very warm now. I do not suppose the vegetation is any furth
er advanced than it is at this time in Michigan.