Friday, February 25, 2011

A REAL "Band of Brothers" - Part II - A Unique GAR Post!

In my previous post (here), I described how some veterans came to Notre Dame after the Civil War to join the Congregation of the Holy Cross as priests or brothers of the order, forming a literal "Band of Brothers."

In Part II of "A REAL 'Band of Brothers'" below, I provide an excerpt from my book Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) in which I describe how the veterans at Notre Dame founded a very unique post of the Grand Army of the Republic. Enjoy!

In the autumn of 1897, the remaining Civil War veterans in the classrooms and halls of Notre Dame decided to join the ranks again,this time by forming their own post—a very special one, in fact—of the country’s most active Union veterans’ organization, the Grand Armyof the Republic (GAR)...a newspaper reported that fall. Besides the notable personalities, Notre Dame’s chapter—Post No. 569—was unique because it was the only one in the country composed entirely of ordained priests or professed religious men as members.

On the evening of October 5, 1897, the Auten Post members of the GAR of nearby South Bend, Indiana, marched in a body from their homes and filed into Washington Hall on campus for the inaugural ceremonies. The university band played a march as the enthusiastic crowd that had waited outside the hall began to enter. Father Peter P.Cooney—installed as chaplain of the new post—offered a heartfelt and patriotic prayer...

Father William Corby—elected commander—then gave a welcoming address followed by additional speeches given by visiting dignitaries.The formal part of the ceremony being over, the balance of the evening was given to sharing war stories and tales of amusement. General St.Clair Mulholland, Father Corby’s old friend and comrade in the Irish Brigade—who had come eight hundred miles to attend—obliged by giving an address full of good Irish humor...

The evening concluded with the reading of telegrams of congratulation from around the country...and a closing address from Father Morrissey, president of Notre Dame, who declared his own pride in the school’s Civil War record...

You can read Fr. Cooney's prayer, Gen. Mulholland's hearty Irish humor, and Fr. Morrissey's closing remarks in Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory.

Below, I happily share an excerpt from a typical newspaper (from the Atlanta Constitution, of all places!) report of the ceremonies:

Atlanta Constitution
November 7, 1897

The Most Unique Organization of Old Soldiers in the World
All Did Gallant Deeds

Notre Dame, Ind., November 6.—In no country of the world is there to be found a more interesting and unique aggregation of battle-scarred veterans than those forming the very latest post to be added to the Grand Arniy of the Republic, which will be known as Post 569, Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Indiana. The commander of the post is the Very Rev. William Corby, by whose consent the story of its conception and formation is made public.

The members of the new post are all brothers and priests of the Order of the Holy Cross of the University of Notre Dame. In all the members number only eleven, but among them are men who have won imperishable fame and honor and whose records are the most renowned of the war. In the autumn of life, with the days of battle, bullets and bayonets long since passed into a mere memory, these old veterans have suddenly awakened in the quiet of their university home to the fact that there is a forgotten band of sympathy between them. All had gone to the front in the sixties and fought valiantly and with distinction. What more appropriate than that they should organize themselves into a post of the Grand Army? A meeting was called and arrangements made for the formal mustering in of the new post with a fitting amount of enthusiasm.

At 7 o'clock of the evening of October 5th the priest post was declared a part of the Grand Army, amid much cheering, speechmaking and flag-waving. The immense concourse of people who gathered to cheer the soldier priests saw under the folds of the flags that were draped on the platform a collection of as splendid specimens of humanity as ever paced the ranks of a veteran army. In the center beamed the genial face of post commander, the Very Rev. W. Corby, once chaplain of the Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers, known in war times as the "Irish Brigade."...

To the right of the brave old chaplain was brother W. A. Olmstead, formerly lieutenant colonel, Second Infantry, New York Volunteers, and colonel of the Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers. He is the surgeon and adjutant of the new post...

To Commander Corby's left sat Peter Paul Cooney, chaplain of the post. Father Cooney was formerly chaplain of the Thirty-fifth Indiana regiment, followed the fortunes of the regiment through the war...

Next to Father Cooney sat Brother John Chrysostom, a stalwart, white-bearded old soldier, whose comrades of the army knew him by his fighting name of Mark A. Wills, of the First Company, Fifty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers...he served all through the war and took part in many of the fiercest battles.

At the other end of the front row sat the grave and scholarly-looking face of Brother Leander was seen. Officers and men who are living will know him as James McLain, of the Twenty-fourth Infantry, United States regular army. Brother Leander is the only member of the post whoas a soldier by profession when the war broke out.

In the rear rank stood Brother Benedict whom the gunners of the First Pennsylvania Artillery knew as James Mantels, a brave and gallant soldier. Next to him stood Brother Ignatius, who before he retired from the world, was known as Igntaz Mayer, and as such participated in many a hotly contested charge with the boys of the 157th Pennsylvania regiment...

He was flanked on the platform by Brother Raphael, a priestly looking man who in his younger days was a dare-devil soldier of the One Hundred and Thirty-First Pennsylvania regiment. The white beards of Brother Cosmos, formerly Nicholas A. Bath of the Tenth Maryland Regiment and Brother Eustachius, once known as John Mclnerny, of the Eighty-third Ohio regiment, completed the line.

Telegrams of congratulations from all over the country were read after the cheers that greeted the mustering in of the new Post had subsided and souvenir tin cups were distributed around when the exercises closed in memory of the days when hard tack was considered a dainty and tin cups were deemed a luxury.

After the enthusiastic ceremonies were over the soldier priests returned to the quiet of tbeir university home, but not to be allowed to forget the mustering night. They have been reminded of it by the receipt of letters and telegrams from every part of the continent; letters from old comrades of whom the quiet-living priests have long since lost sight; letters of congratulation and messages of warm esteem from the members of the fast dwindling army that is bound by the unbreakable chain of campfire comradeship. It will be long before Notre Dame resumes its plain life again.

The Archives of the University of Notre Dame (here) still maintain the records (here) of the unique GAR Post, including handwritten minutes, correspondence, clippings, and photographs, all used in Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A REAL "Band of Brothers" - Part I

"It is not strange…that after the war not a few of the disbanded soldiers and officers found their way as priests and brothers into the ranks of the Community, the heroism of whose members they had admired on the field and in the hospital." - Notre Dame Scholastic, March 31, 1906

Among the really interesting stories connecting the University of Notre Dame and the American Civil War is one that happened after the war: veterans who came to the university to join the Congregation of the Holy Cross as priests or brothers of the order and then performed duties at the university.

They formed a literal "Band of Brothers."

Typical was Brother Leander (James McLain), who entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1872. Born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, in 1842, he served through three years of the Civil War with the 15th United States Infantry as a private and was engaged at the Battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Atlanta. Brother Leander was prefect of one of the halls and taught classes for many years at the university.

One of the most interesting stories is that of Mark A. Wills, who took the name of Brother John Chrysostom. Wills had fought with the 54th Pennsylvania, a unit that saw significant action in the eastern theater during the last year of the Civil War, including the Battle of New Market, the capture of Fort Gregg and the pursuit of Lee to Appomattox, where the 54th was captured in the last week of the war (though released a few days later). In at least one of those fights, Wills was sufficiently shaken to make a battlefield vow to join a religious order should he survive.

You can read a previously unpublished letter by Brother John about that vow in Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010).

The most distinguished record among the new arrivals belonged to William A. Olmsted. Born in Albany, New York, in 1834, Olmsted received his MD from Howard University. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he raised one of the state’s first volunteer companies for the 2nd New York Infantry and was elected captain; he quickly earned a promotion to lieutenant colonel. He then served as commander of the 59th New York Infantry and a brigade commander in the Army of the Potomac, where he was brevetted a brigadier general of volunteers. After
the war, Olmsted served in a medical capacity in the forts on the upper Missouri River, where he became close to (and respected by) the Sioux in his care. Olmsted then entered the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame in the 1890s, studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1901.

I will feature more on Fr. Olmsted in a future post.

Others among the "Band of Brothers" at Notre Dame included:

Brother Cosmas (Nicholas A. Bath)—2nd United States Artillery

Brother Raphael (James C. Maloy)—133rd Pennsylvania infantry

Brother Eustachius (John McInerny)—83rd Ohio Infantry

Brother Benedict (James Mantle)—1st Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery

Brother Ignatius (Ignatz Mayer)—75th and 157th Pennsylvania Infantry

Brother Agatho (Joseph Staley)—8th Indiana Infantry

Brother Richard (William Stoney)—38th New Jersey Infantry

Brother Polycarp (James White)—United States Navy

Brother Sebastian (Thomas Martin) - 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry

(Note: these regimental assignments were gleaned from published school histories and postwar newspaper accounts...I have been able to verify most of them but am still working on a few. Note that I have also seen multiple spellings for some of the surnames).

Stay tuned for my next post..."Band of Brothers" - Part II - A Unique GAR Post!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"The Civil War News" reviews "Notre Dame and the Civil War"!

I'm pleased to announce that The Civil War News published a very kind review of my third book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010).

The review was penned by Mr. John Foskett - a Boston attorney, Notre Dame graduate ('73), and Civil War enthusiast - in the Feb/March 2011 issue, which is now in subscribers' hands! Many thanks to Mr. Foskett and Civil War News!

As with the Civil War News reviews of my previous, books Lincoln's Labels: America's Best Known Brands and the Civil War (Edinborough Press, 2008) and Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine (Edinborough Press, 2009), this review of Notre Dame and the Civil War is special because Civil War News is where I got my writing "bona fides," as I've penned the "Medical Department" column on a regular basis since 2000. CWN editor/publisher Kay Jorgensen (and her late husband, Pete) has been extremely supportive of my writing and research efforts over the years, which I appreciate very much, indeed.

If you don't subscribe to Civil War News, you should! You can learn how to get a sample issue (here).

The full review is (here) and excerpts are below!

"...James Schmidt has done extensive research in the Indiana school’s archives and has produced a short book that documents Notre Dame’s generally unknown and extraordinary contribution to the Northern war effort despite its still-fledgling status after its 1842 founding.

This short, well-written book reflects excellent research, mostly in primary sources, including the university’s archives...

...a worthwhile portrait of the committed role played by a Northern college in the Civil War...

This is a unique addition to the growing body of literature about contributions to the war effort by educational institutions such as Harvard and Yale. Not many were as deeply immersed as Notre Dame, and this book makes that point in a highly readable fashion."

Read more reviews of Notre Dame and the Civil War:

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)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The "Civil War Librarian" Reviews "Notre Dame and the Civil War"!

I want to thank Rea Andrew Redd, aka "The Civil War Librarian" for posting a very kind review of my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory, on his blog today.

You can read the entire review here. Excerpts are below.

Rea is Professor, Waynesburg University, Director of the university's Eberly Library, and an Adjunct instructor in U.S. history. He is also a member of the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves, Pennsylvania Reserves Division, and the Chesapeake Volunteer Guard living history units. His areas of interest and study include Civil War medicine, Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Army Signal Corps, and antebellum politics.

Make sure you check out his excellent blog (here)...Rea updates it frequently and always has great reviews of new Civil War books, television, and cinema, and other news on Civil War history (I know, because I'ma loyal reader!).

Thanks, Rea!


Notre Dame is well served by Schmidt's clear, concise and well cited monograph. On each page is an anecdote that provides insight to the personalities and the climate of the opinions among the students and faculty...Other institutions would be lucky to find writers such as Schmidt to tell the story of their war years.

Other Reviews:

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)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Notre Dame's Civil War "Roll of Honor" - John C. Lonergan

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:

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 - 1st Lt. John C. Lonergan, Co. H., 58th Illinois Infantry.

A brief capsule biography and selected images from his compiled military service record are below.

John C. Lonergan was a native of Batavia, Illinois. He attended Notre Dame from 1855 to 1857 and again from 1859 to 1861, where—among other activities and studies—he was vice-president of the Dramatic Society. Lonergan mustered in with the 58th Illinois Infantry as a first lieutenant in Company H on February 7, 1862, only days before the regiment shipped out for Fort Donelson. He was wounded and captured during the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862, and taken to Montgomery, Alabama, where he was kept a prisoner until he died of his wounds on May 28, 1862. May he rest in peace.

Note in the images below from his service record that Lonergan's commander was Col. William F. Lynch. Lynch was also a Notre Dame student and will be featured in a future profile.

You can learn more about Notre Dame's brave student-soldiers in Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory.

Muster-In Sheet:

May/June 1862 Muster Roll Indicates Lonergan Was Captured at Shiloh:

July/August 1862 Muster Roll Indicates Lonergan Died While a POW:

Service Record Casualty Sheet: