Monday, January 31, 2011

Civil War Artifacts at Notre Dame - The Sword of Meagher - Part II

In my previous post (here) I included some photos of the Civil War sword of the Irish Brigade's intrepid leader, General Thomas F. Meagher. The photos were taken by friends of mine who had the opportunity to visit the Archives of the University of Notre Dame.

The purpose of this post is to describe the ceremony in which the sword was given to the university in 1914, and - in doing so - illustrate Notre Dame's connections with Meagher and the Irish Brigade and why the university is indeed a fitting place for it to rest.

The report of the presentation of the sword was covered in newspapers from Maine to New York to Pennsylvania to Indiana to Texas to Montana, and points in between. Typical of the coverage was this small item on the front page of the March 5, 1914, issue of The Gettysburg (PA) Times:

My favorite, though, was a report the same day in a Wisconsin newspaper (Stevens Point Daily Journal) that tied the record of Meagher and the Irish Brigade with that of Notre Dame's Civil War student-soldiers and the Holy Cross priests it sent as chaplains, and predicted the day - not too far off - when her sons and priests would again be sent to fight, this time in the Great War:

"While the heroic deeds of the men of the Irish brigade were the ones of which the orators had the most to say,it was not of them alone that they spoke. Rev. Father Corby, one of the presidentsof Notre Dame, who had given the brigade absolution for the dying as it rushed forward to meet Lee's veterans at Gettysburg, shared with Meagher in the honors of the evening. When Roger C. Sullivan, acting as chairman, predicted that if another war should break out Notre Dame would furnish both Corbys and Meaghers to the nation, the applause was the greatest."

Details on the actual ceremony were re-printed from the Notre Dame Scholastic in the Journal of the American-Irish Historical Society (Vol. XIII, 1914, pp. 320-331). A link to the entire article is here...excerpts are below.

In the speeches you will read how the sword passed from Meagher to his widow to a fervent admirer of Meagher, to the admirer's niece, and finally to the university.

More important, you will read why they thought Notre Dame the perfect resting place for Meagher's sword.

Read also the letter from one of the bishops who could not attend the ceremony but still has a poignant message, indeed.


MARCH 4, 1914

The ceremonies that marked the presentation of the sword of General Thomas Francis Meagher to the University of Notre Dame, like the life and works they commemorated, were simple, dignified and beautiful. Accompanied by an escort of honor, consisting of the commissioned officers of the cadet regiment, a color guard, a rifle squad, and a detail of first sergeants, the sword was borne through the aisles of Washington Hall, to the stage, where the officers saluted, the guard presented arms, and the buglers sounded the stirring martial strains that had so often inspired the gallant men of General Meagher's own command, the immortal Irish Brigade.

Father Cavanaugh introduced the chairman of the meeting, Hon. Roger C. Sullivan of Illinois, who presented Senator Walsh of Montana.
Senator Walsh's Speech Of Presentation

Mr. Chairman, Right Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Faculty of the University, Assembled Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am charged with the very delightful duty of presenting to this ancient and honorable institution the unsullied sword of General Thomas Francis Meagher, the gifted orator, the zealous patriot, the redoubtable warrior, the genial and cultured gentleman. Associations hallowed and unusual cluster about him.
On the pedestal of a magnificent equestrian statue of this singularly brilliant genius, erected in the grounds of the capital at Helena, my home, is chiseled his eloquent exordium upon the sword, delivered when he was a young man just out of college...

By what strange combination of circumstances has it come to pass that I, a citizen of the remote state of Montana, am permitted now to confide to this University this interesting relic? ...He came to the territory in September of 1865 under appointment by President Johnson as secretary of the territory, but in the absence of the governor he became, and remained until his untimely death on the first of July, 1867, its acting governor...

Conspicuous among the throng of Meagher's friendly contemporaries was one Andrew—universally referred to as Andy— O'Connell. Andy came to Terre Haute, in this State, as a boy, and as far west as Leavenworth, Kan., before he arrived at his majority. That region had not yet arrived at the dignity of statehood when he joined the rush to Pike's Peak. He maintained his headquarters on the site of the present city of Denver until he joined the stampede to Montana in 1864....
He was fiercely Irish, and he worshiped Meagher. His unobtrusive kindness in her affliction, at the time of General Meagher's death, endeared him to Mrs. Meagher, and when she was about to leave to return to the home of her parents and friends in the state of New York, she left with him this prized sword. She died childless without giving any directions as to its disposition. Andy, some ten years ago, crossed the divide, leaving his earthly treasures, including this sword, to his niece whom he had brought out from Terre Haute during the early 70's when she was a girl.

It is by the direction of this lady, Mrs. Catherine Young, of Kalispel, Mont., that I now confide it to this University of Notre Dame.

I confess to you that I made an effort to persuade her to present it to the University of my own State...But she remembered with affection and with pride this seat of learning nearer her own birthplace and would not be moved. Founded as it was, and maintained as it is, by an order of teachers like that from which Meagher secured the training that made him a world-famed orator at the early age of twenty-two, and for which he ever retained the highest degree of affection, love and respect, I am forced to believe that he would have approved the choice.

Here let it rest, teaching the youth who repair to these halls that nobility of character is the only sure foundation of greatness; teaching them that the right is always in need of fearless champions, and that the talents that God gave us we are expected to prove to their utmost in order that we may attain to the end and earn the reward which he has in store for each of us.

Reverend Father Cavanaugh's Acceptance

Senator Walsh:—On behalf of the University I accept the sword of General Meagher. I promise it hospitable welcome, safe-keeping and reverent admiration. I thank you, Sir, for the kindly thought which inspired its presentation to this venerable University, which already shelters the old green flag of the Irish Brigade and with which the memory of Thomas Francis Meagher has always been imperishably connected.

For, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, there are special reasons why the sword of Meagher should find sanctuary within these hallowed walls.

The chief good of a university is not that it is a dispenser of knowledge or even a nursery of the common virtues of life. The chief good of a university is that it is a place where ideals survive. If a school dreams of material success as the brightest destiny her sons may achieve; if it sets up money-getting or place-hunting, or even refined and comfortable living, as the chief preoccupations of mankind, such a school deserves no more reverence than the counting-room, the marketplace or the hustings. But if the university tells her children that while large salaries and honorable place are desirable, they are not the whole, nor indeed the best, in life; if she teaches that as the life is more than the food and the body more than the raiment, so the fairest fruit of true education is to hunger and thirst after justice, to admire nobility of soul and strength of character and unselfish devotion to an unpopular but worthy cause, and to cherish dearer than life the ideals of Christian chivalry and Christian civilization—then is she truly Alma Mater, the fostering mother of the soul, finding her crown and glory in the wisdom and chivalry of her sons...

There is another reason why this sword finds fitting sanctuary at Notre Dame. When the passion of the hour flung the great Civil War athwart the imagination of men and the tears of women, the founder of this University, out of his poverty and his faith, out of the love of God and the love of God's children, sent to the lonely and imperiled soldiers fighting at the front seven of his ablest and noblest priests as chaplains. They were to leave the serene atmosphere of the lecture room for the terrors, and horrors of war, the pains and privations of camp and battlefield...Yet in this moment when we recall reverently the memory of the illustrious organizer and leader of the Irish Brigade, let us pause long enough to mention with honor the name of the noble chaplain, Father Corby, once a professor and president of this University, the friend and confessor of Meagher, who at the bloodiest moment of that bloody day at Gettysburg, gathered his men around him, and having made above them the sign of pardon which was ratified in heaven, hurled them full of faith and hope and courage against the chivalry of the South and added another glorious chapter to the history of human valor.

There is yet another reason why the sword of Meagher should be an honored trophy here. When he was organizing the Irish Brigade it was his dream that the command of it should be assumed by another great Irishman, General James Shields, then fresh from his triumphs in the Mexican War. But Shields, generous as he was great, urged the appointment of Meagher himself, and his influence won the day in Washington. For years the sword of General Shields has had its place of honor beside the Green Flag of the Irish Brigade among the historic treasures of our museum; henceforth the sword of Meagher shall rest beside it. They shall be honored as twin tokens of a mighty peril through which our country passed by the Providence of God and the virtue and valor of her sons...

Following Father Cavanaugh's speech of acceptance, Reverend Father O'Donnell read an ode written expressly for the occasion. He chose as his theme, the reunion of the battle-scarred green flag of the Irish Brigade, already in possession of the school, and the sword which had flashed forth upon so many fields, over which the flag of the Brigade had floated. Father O'Donnell conceived all the Irish heroes from all over the earth as present to attend the feast. The "wedding of the sun-gold sword and the sea-green flag" was beautiful in thought and execution, and Father O'Donnell was accorded an ovation when he rose to deliver it.

The chairman then introduced Hon. W. Bourke Cockran...

The following are some of the letters received from those unable to attend the function:

Bishop's House, 800 Cathedral Place, Richmond, Va., February 16, 1914.
My dear Father Cavanaugh:—

I thank you for your invitation to the presentation ceremony of General Meagher's sword and sincerely regret I cannot accept it.

I never pass by Riot field of Fredericksburg without thinking of him, and without going over again in spirit the awful charge from the large open field to the base of Marye's deadly heights. I heard one gentleman say who saw it that he could walk from the foot of the hill into the town of Fredericksburg upon the bodies of dead soldiers, and another who was there told me he counted two hundred and sixty-seven dead soldiers within an area of thirty yards square. And now the grass is growing rich on the plain and the cattle are browsing it.

The wounded were cared for in our little church, and the floor and the walls, the priest told me, were red with blood. The bones of the fallen are with us in the cemetery near the town.

I wish I could be with you. Believe me,
Very sincerely yours,
D. F. O'Connell,
Bishop of Richmond.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Civil War Artifacts at Notre Dame - The Sword of Meagher - Part I

My previous post (here) was about a group of friends from Ohio who recently had the pleasure of visiting the Archives of the University of Notre Dame and saw some precious Civil War artifacts in their collection. That post featured the regimental colors of the 63rd New York Volunteer Infantry of the famous "Irish Brigade."

My friends also got to see another tremendous artifact: the Civil War sword of the Irish Brigade's intrepid leader, Thomas F. Meagher. Meagher hardly needs an introduction to Civil War enthusiasts, but if you do need one, there is a biography at the terrific "The Wild Geese Today" website (here). Damian Shiels has a great post on Meagher artifacts and monuments in Waterford, Ireland (here) on his equally terrific "Irish in the American Civil War" blog.

Many thanks again to friend Gordy Morgan for sharing these great photos!

My next post will describe the 1914 ceremony in which the sword was presented to the university and why Notre Dame is a suitable resting place for the sword.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Civil War Artifacts at Notre Dame - A Famous Flag - Part II

So, you're in town to watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish play against Marquette...what else is there to do? Why, accept an invitation to visit the Archives of the University of Notre Dame and see some AMAZING Civil War artifacts! (And by the way, watch the Irish beat those Golden Eagles!).

That's exactly what some friends of mine from Ohio did and they were so kind to share some photos with me!

"Back Story":

I've had the great pleasure and privilege to be invited to speak to the Mahoning Valley (OH) Civil War Round Table (Youngstown, OH) twice (in 2003 and in 2009). They are a GREAT bunch of folks and I have had the great fortune of becoming friends and keeping in contact with some of them.
The "real story":

Two of them - Gordy Morgan and (bona fide "Golden Domer") Rock Basciano - and their friends and families attended the game and took the time to visit the archives where they were treated to a close look at some great artifacts.

Their host and guide was archivist Mr. Peter Lysy, without whose kind, expert, and enthusiastic assistance I could not have researched and written my book about Notre Dame and the Civil War. Readers of this blog will recall that Mr. Lysy has also written an excellent book about the history and conservation of the colors of the 63rd New York Volunteer Infantry regiment of the famous Irish Brigade (see my previous post about his book here), which is in the collection of the University.

But what's even better than reading about a famous flag? Seeing it in person! Which they did! And Gordy was kind enough to share some photos (see below).

Stay tuned for more photos from their visit this's a hint: Many people have heard of "Meagher of the Sword"...well, you'll get to see "The Sword of Meagher"!


Thanks for sharing, Gordy!

Monday, January 24, 2011

"The American Catholic" Reviews "Notre Dame in the Civil War"!

I want to thank Mr. Donald R. McClarey for posting a very kind review of Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) on his popular "The American Catholic" and "Almost Chosen People" blogs this week.

One thing I was aiming for in this book was to craft a story (backed by good scholarship) that would appeal to multiple audiences: Civil War enthusiasts, Notre Dame almuni ("bona fide" and "subway), folks interested in the history of Catholics in America, and more. As it turns out, Don can count himself among several of those intended audiences, and I am so pleased, honored, and humbled that he found merit in the book!

Thanks, Donald!

And if you have a history blog yourself, check out "Almost Chosen People" and consider adding it to your blog roll (I did at my Civil War Medicine blog!)'s TERRIFIC!

You can read the review here. Excerpts are below.

"I have read hundreds of books on the [Civil] War. Truth to tell, more than a few of the books I have read on the Civil War have left me with a ho hum feeling, not telling me much that I haven’t read many, many times before. I am therefore always pleasantly surprised when a tome on the Late Unpleasantness can give me lots of new information, and such is the case with Notre Dame and the Civil War, by James M. Schmidt...he has brought forth facts and new pieces of information...that I have not read elsewhere.

Schmidt skillfully relates the fever to enlist in the Union army that swept through the students of Notre Dame after Fort Sumter. Along with their students, Notre Dame priests also served as chaplain. Most famous among them was of course Father William Corby, who marched and fought with the Irish Brigade...The book relates the adventures of Father Corby, but also relates the stories of other Notre Dame priests who served as chaplains, including Father Paul E. Gillen, Father James Dillon, Father Joseph C. Carrier and Father Peter P. Cooney...

The Sisters of the Holy Cross...also got behind the war effort. Sixty of the Sisters would serve as nurses during the war. The role of Catholic Sisters as nurses in the Civil War is one of the great largely unsung stories of the War...Mr. Schmidt gives these heroic women their due.

Students and alums of Notre Dame are followed through the war: young Colonel William Lynch who heroically led the 58th Illinois...poet Timothy E. Howard, a private in the 12th Michigan...Sergeant Frank Baldwin who died for the Union at Stone’s River...Lieutenant Orville Chamberlain of the 74th Indiana who earned a Medal of Honor at Chickamauga for his heroism.

While the focus is on the battlefield, the book also keeps an eye on the functioning of Notre Dame during the war. Here the central figure is Father Edward Sorin, founder of Notre Dame and President of Notre Dame. Father Sorin comes across in the book as possessing both the innocence of a dove and the wiliness of a serpent and was a formidable priest, just what Notre Dame needed during that time of trial.

This book is a small gem, only 144 pages in length. Anyone interested in the Civil War and/or Notre Dame, or who simply would like to read a very well written history on a fascinating subject, should pick this up.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"The Best-natured Boys in the Play-yard" - The Pinkertons

While most of the attention on this blog and in my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) is given to the priests, sisters, and students who served as chaplains, nurses, or soldiers during the war, I also discuss other wartime students who may not have shouldered a rifle but still have an interesting "war story."

Among those students are William A. and Robert A. Pinkerton.

Though they didn’t join the army, the Pinkerton brothers shared an exciting war with their father, famed private investigator Allan Pinkerton.
Pinkerton was a native of Scotland but had immigrated to the United States in 1842 in his early twenties. A cooper by trade, Pinkerton set up shop in the Chicago suburbs but soon became engaged and admired for his police work. He was attached to the Windy City’s police force for a short time before founding Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency in 1850 and earning nationwide recognition for foiling and solving railroad and express robberies.

His sons William and Robert were both enrolled during the 1860–61
school year at Notre Dame, where Robert was especially well regarded by his fellow students and the faculty; one of the Holy Cross brothers considered him “the best-natured boy in the [play]yard.” Many years later, William wrote to Notre Dame and recalled that he and Robert both had “the kindest remembrances for the dear old place and everyone connected with it.” Despite their ages—Robert was only thirteen and William fifteen—the boys were as eager as any of their classmates to enlist. William was allowed to leave his studies and join his father—now chief of the Union army’s secret service operation—in the field, while Robert continued his studies at Notre Dame for two more years before joining his father and brother.

William delivered dispatches, escorted agents behind enemy lines, got
a bird’s-eye view of the Confederate lines in one of Thaddeus Lowe’s observation balloons and was wounded in the knee by an exploding artillery shell during the Battle of Antietam. In the latter years of the war, Pinkerton and his sons were assigned to the Mississippi Valley, where they investigated contracting and war claims fraud on behalf of the government. Some of William’s thrilling undercover operations are related in his father’s memoir, The Spy of the Rebellion. After the war, the boys became engaged with their father’s detective agency and assumed control when the elder Pinkerton died in 1884.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Which Jim Gets a Letter from Fr. Pete in Papua New Guinea!

Readers of this blog and of my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) will recall that I happily dedicated the book to my second cousin, Fr. Pete Meis, OFM, Cap., a missionary in Papua New Guinea for the past forty years. You can read about Fr. Pete and the Dedication in a previous post (here).

As soon as I got my first shipment of books I sent a signed copy by airmail to him in New Guinea.
I was so happy this week to get a letter from him, parts of which I share below.

The letter demonstrates his sincere kindness, humility, and spirituality (not surprising) but also an eye for an amazing thread of history (read below to find out!):

Dear Jim...

Greetings and blessings on these days of the new year...

You posted your packet on November 26 and it arrived a few days after Christmas. Thank you for your wonderful gift. You really blew me away! Your note advised me to open and read the first few pages of the book - well, it made me feel so humble to have you dedicate this wonderful book to me. I certainly have done nothing as heroic as the persons of whom you write in this account of the Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters during the Civil War...

I am half way reading through your book and find that your writing style brings these men and women almost to life. I could be sitting here listening to them tell their stories...

Of course when I read the name of Fr. Edward Sorin my thoughts went to Bishop Andre Sorin...these two men might be from the same area or "line" of ancestors in France. Bishop Sorin might be fifty years younger than Fr. Edward...

Another very interesting historical bit of information that I really enjoyed is about St. Martin. Your explanation of how the word "chaplain" came to be used was something I did not know. But from a Capuchin Franciscan point of view we know that Francis of Assisi had as one of his hero saints this very same St. martin. Francis wanted to be chivalrous in everything he did, and as a young man he saw Martin's life and actions as a military person of honor and
generosity so inspiring. Francis was a soldier for a time, but not very good at that. He was better in imitating Martin by his own embracing the leper on the road and caring for lepers in their abandoned condition.

Thank you for the inspiring stories of Fr. William Corby and Mother Angela...

With love,

Fr. Pete

Wow - what a great letter, huh?!

First...Yikes! It took a month for the book to get

In my mind, Fr. Pete demonstrates every bit of missionary zeal and heroism as the Holy Cross priests and brothers demonstrated on the battlefield and in the hospitals.

His mention of Bishop Andre Sorin is so interesting! Andre Sorin was born in 1903 in France, ordained in 1929, appointed Bishop in Papua New Guinea in 1946 and died there in 1959.

Wouldn't it be amazing if he was indeed related somehow to Notre Dame founder Fr. Edward Sorin? I'll have to do some digging!

In any event, the Dedication of the book to Fr. Pete is sincere and well-deserved and this is a letter I shall treasure always!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Penn Quakers Commemorate their Civil War Heitage!

In the spirit of my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010), I always LOVE to see other academic institutions celebrating their Civil War heritage also!

(I have posted earlier on Hobart College's (Geneva, NY) online Civil War material here.)

Therefore, I was pleased to see a brief note in the most recent issue of The Civil War News stating that the University of Pennsylvania - one of the oldest universities in the United States - has launched a website to commemorate its role in the Civil War.

The site includes brief introduction and links to university archive records and some photographic material regarding the College Administration, Student Life, Medical School Administration, Philadelphia Society, Military Service, Scientific Topics, Remembrances, Miscellaneous, and the Class of 1865.

It looks like a GREAT resource for people researching the role of higher education in the Civil War years, the University of Pennsylvania specifically, and/or ancestors who may have attended the university and fought in the Civil War.

Well done, Penn!

you know of other colleges or universities who are commemorating their Civil War heritage drop me a line!

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Confederate Book Review" Interviews the Author! (Me!)

I want to thank Robert Redd for posting a very kind review of Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) on his popular "Confederate Book Review" blog this week.

You can read the review here. Excerpts are below.

Robert followed up the review with an interview with questions that were very insightful and fun to answer! You can read the interview here.

Thanks, Robert!

By the way, while you are at "Confederate Book Review," also take time to read his other great book reviews...he'll also be doing more author interviews and I really look forward to that!

Robert is also interested in the Civil War in Florida, genealogy, and visiting historic cemeteries!

Review excerpts:

"Author Jim Schmidt has written an enjoyable, fascinating, and needed book dealing with Notre Dame and the contribution it's students and administrators made during the Civil War. The culmination of more than a decades research Schmidt has proven that the young college did more than just contribute Father Corby to the war effort...

This is an interesting book and a must read for anybody interested in the history of the University of Notre Dame and also anybody with an interest in the Civil War. The chapters are easy to read and the book can be read as a whole or the chapters as stand alones. The book is well illustrated with b/w photos both vintage and modern. End notes wrap up the work nicely."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Irish in the American Civil War" Reviews "Notre Dame and the Civil War"!

Damian Shiels was kind enough to review my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press) at his "Irish in the American Civil War" blog.

The full review is here and excerpts are below.

Please make sure to check out Damian's terrific blog! He is a trained and professional archaeologist who specializes in battlefield archaeology. Even cooler is that he writes about the Irish in the American Civil War from...IRELAND!

All of his posts are terrific but my favorites are when he posts photos of monuments and cemeteries in Ireland. See some examples here, here, and here!

Thanks, Damian!


"James M. Schmidt has produced a book which charts Notre Dame’s involvement in the American Civil War, following the fortunes of the students, faculty and the school itself both during and after the conflict.

This book is far more than just a run through of those individuals from Notre Dame who served in the Union ranks.
Many other aspects of the University’s war and post-war experience are provided...

This book is written in a logical and easily digestible style, and is well illustrated throughout. The author has carried out extensive research on all aspects of the University’s involvement and experience of the conflict...It successfully provides a sense of the effects of the war on the community of students, staff, past-pupils and families associated with the school ...Notre Dame and the Civil War is a book that should attract a wide readership, not least amongst those interested in the Irish experience of the American Civil War."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Notre Dame Civil War Chaplain Profile #3 - Fr. Joseph C. Carrier

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:

#2 = Fr. Peter P. Cooney, CSC

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. Joseph C. Carrier, CSC, as a chaplain in the Union army.

Genius, Interrupted

Father Joseph C. Carrier was born in France in 1833, the youngest of ten children in a respected and wealthy family. He received his earlyeducation under the care of a private tutor before attending the College of Belley, where he excelled in all of his studies but especially in science and mathematics. Indeed, while only in his late teens, he was appointed professor of natural philosophy (physics) at a small college in Geneva,Switzerland. In 1855, he came to America and decided to enter the priesthood. His patron—the bishop of St. Paul, Minnesota—had high hopes for establishing a religious order and college in his part of the country and thought that the young scholar would be an ideal choice to lead both.

Unfortunately, the bishop died before he or his protégé could act on the plan. Instead, Carrier entered the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame, where he was ordained a priest in early 1861. In May 1863, Father Carrier was serving as a professor of Latin and Greek at the university, as well as a pastor of the church in nearby South Bend, when Father Sorin told him to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice to join General Ulysses S. Grant’s army as a chaplain. Within days, Father Carrier bid farewell to his students and parishioners and set out for Mississippi, where he was commissioned as chaplain of the 6th Missouri Infantry Regiment. In fact,his ministry extended to all of Grant’s army.

By all accounts, Father Carrier was as comfortable among the leading generals of the army as he was among the common soldier. When he met Grant for the first time, the general asked if he was a professor. “Yes,” Father Carrier replied, “I have been years in the college of Notre Dameand am still attached to it.” The general then declared, “You will find that the life of a soldier is quite different from that of a professor and that our tents are not so comfortable as the halls of a college.” The good priest replied, “I understood that before I left Notre Dame, I did not expect to find in the soldiers’ camp all the comforts, the conveniences,and ease of home.” Grant expressed his happiness that Father Carrier had joined his army, and the two men then discussed the progress of the siege at Vicksburg.

While all of Notre Dame’s priests may have steeled themselves for the vagaries of camp life, they must have been less prepared for the constant threat and presence of death. The bookish Father Carrier seemed to be the most sensitive to this grim reality. In advance of the great “Vicksburg mine” explosion on June 25, 1863, Father Carrier witnessed a Union soldier being killed by a Confederate sniper. Father Carrier was “much moved by the terrible sudden…death of the soldier” and “sat at the foot of the tree.” Rather than watch the historic detonation, as his fellow officers were doing, Father Carrier “fell into a deep and irrepressible reverie,” left the scene, went back to camp “and threw himself on hiscot.” To his credit, Father Carrier returned to the lines and ministered to some of the soldiers wounded in the post-explosion charge.

Before the end of the year, Father Carrier was called back to Notre Dame, where he began to place the school’s scientific program on a firm foundation. In 1866, he spent several months in Paris collecting laboratory apparatus and specimens for the university’s museum of natural history.His greatest coup was securing a six-inch telescope as a gift from Emperor Napoleon III. Father Carrier was the longtime curator of the museum and professor of chemistry and physics. He was eventually assigned as a professor at St. Laurent College, near Montreal, and expertly tended themuseum there until his death in 1904.

Learn more about the good Fr. Carrier - including his letter to President Abraham Lincoln and his ministry to the Sherman family in Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory!