Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The First Days of the Civil War at Notre Dame - Part II - A Spirit of Fire

As mentioned in Part I of this post (here), the first days of the Civil War were full of excitement at the University of Notre Dame.

While Fr. Neal Gillespie declared that some students "did not “exhibit a very bellicose spirit nor vapormuch about ‘blood and thunder’ and the ‘cannon roar’ and such like," the additional excerpt below from Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) indicates that some of the students were indeed "on fire":

One student with a decided “bellicose spirit” was William F. Lynch, commander of Notre Dame’s "Continental Cadets." The citizens ofnearby South Bend met at the St. Joseph County Courthouse on the evening of April 15, 1861, to determine their course of action. With party loyalties set aside, the citizenry stood shoulder to shoulder in the packed courtroom, but Lynch—who was in the hall—grew impatient with the speeches and platitudes. He then gave a speech “full of a fiery patriotism that carried the audience with his enthusiasm,” one historian declared. Years later, the Notre Dame Scholastic recalled the thrilling scene:

"He stood up, tall, soldierly; his Irish eyes were glittering, his face pale. The vibrant ring of the first sentence he rattled out above the heads of the good citizens made them catch their breath. In five minutes they were frantic; and when the boy told them he was going to the front to shed the last drop of his blood if needed for the Union, the audience leaped to its feet; cheer after cheer rang out wildly."

Lynch then returned to Notre Dame, where as one report stated, he “set his own cadets afire, or rather…let the blaze out—they were afire already. To a boy they wanted to go to the front by the next train and put down the uprising of the South at once.” Lynch left for Indianapolis to offer Notre Dame’s military company to the state, but Governor Oliver P.Morton was already overwhelmed with like petitions, and he told Lynch to go home and wait. In the meantime, Father Sorin—aware of the fiery patriotism in his student body—praised the cadets for their good spirit but declared that he had no authority to allow boys under twenty-one to enlist without their parents’ permission.


Timothy E. Howard, A History of St. Joseph County, Indiana, vol. 2 (Chicago, IL: Lewis Publishing Co., 1907), p. 716; Notre Dame Scholastic, November 18, 1899, pp. 176-77.

William F. Lynch - perhaps Notre Dame's most illustrious student-soldier - will soon be featured in his "own" post...it's interesting to consider what might have happened if the governor of Indiana had accepted an entire company of Notre Dame men into one of the state's regiments...as it was, the dozens of young men from the school who enlisted straight away were scattered among regiments from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and other states.

No comments:

Post a Comment