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 cheating...as 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 book...in 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 so...in 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.