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St. Michael »s College 






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L- u-C.t.<'-t 


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Very Reverend Edward Sorix, 
superior-general of the congregation of holy cross. 

Memoirs of Chaplain Life 


OF Notre Dame University, 


Chicaqo : 

La Montk, O'Donneli. & Co., Pbintkbs, 


APR 3 1954 

Copyright, 1893, 


Veey Rev. W. Cobby, C. S. C. 


c/< Q) cL^n^ i y c^^i^l!^-i^i^L^ ^ 

i^ilially and l^eepectfully dedicated to 

W$ Eminence, 

Barnes (^at|dinal (pibbons, 

le (Pqeat ^ajotj-feneijal of ^bqist's }Xr\m}^ 

in c^meijjca. 


This little book embraces the experience of three 
years spent in active service during the great Civil 
War. The subject deserves an abler pen, more con- 
sideration and time than I can bestow upon it. I 
have written these pages in hours, and half -hours, 
snatched from my official duties, which frequently 
demanded my attention, and so engrossed my 
thoughts that it became difficult to bring them back 
to the work on hand. 

The chief merit, if any, will be found in the sub- 
ject itself. It will "suggest more than is written. I 
have tried to give a realistic account of every-day 
life in the army, and have recorded, chronologically, 
incidents, exactly as they occurred under my notice. 
I have purposely avoided lengthy descriptions of 
battles, since these have been written over and over; 
in fact, every school-book is full of them. The 
movements of the army, however, are given, so that 
one who takes time to read the following pages will 
have a comprehensive idea of the various campaigns 



made by the great "Army of the Potomac," from the 
commencement, under McClellan, in 1861, up to the 
time of the surrender of Lee, under Grant, in 1865. 

Besides a short sketch of Fathers Dillon, Ouellet, 
and Gillen, I give a valuable account, written by 
Father Egan, of his own experience and labors. 
Finally, an able article from the gifted pen of my 
friend and " companion in arms," Maj.-Gen. St. 
Clair A. Mulholland, of Philadelphia, recounts the 
chivalry of the soldiers — and especially of the Irish 
soldiers — who won imperishable glory in the defense 
of right on innumerable battle-fields. No wonder 
the Irish soldier is so renowned, since he springs 
from a fearless race, whose valor has been tested in 
a war that was incessant for three hundred years, 
with the Danes and Normans, followed by contests, 
more or less fierce, for centuries, with England. 

My object in presenting this book to the public has 
been to show the religious feature that existed in the 
army. In the presence of death, religion gives hope 
and strength. The Christian soldier realizes that 
his power comes from the " God of battles," not 
from man. Very valuable services have been ren- 
dered me in the preparation of this book by my 
esteemed friend, M. F. M. The retiring modesty 
of my friend will not allow me to say more. 



I take great pleasure in giving first place in my memoirs to 
the following letter, which came to me through my esteemed 
friend, Maj.-Gen. St. Clair A. Mulholland, from Prince Philippe, 
Comte de Paris. This letter needs no comment. His Royal 
Highness speaks from personal observation. 




As with all old soldiers, it is an agreeable pastime 
for me to tell "War Stories," or incidents of the late 
war. Most persons, especially the young, listen with 
more than ordinary interest to such narratives com- 
ing from a veritable participant. I will try to give, 
in my own blunt way, for the benefit, and perhaps 
for the edification, of my readers, the reminiscences 
of three years spent, during the active campaigns of 
the late war, in the "Army of the Potomac," under 
McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, Meade, and Grant. I 
feel satisfied that there is no one who has tried to 
furnish such material for war history as I propose to 
relate. The subject is entirely new. Many of my 
companions, now dead, could have done much better 
in furnishing this information; and, had they lived, 
no doubt would have told very rich and interesting 
experiences during those years so full of thrilling 
events. Now, therefore, as God in His goodness has 
been pleased to spare my life amid the perils of the 

battle-field, the fevers of camp-life, the miasma of 



swamps, and, too, long after most of my companions, 
especially among the chaplains, have passed away 
to their reward, I will try to give my experience in 
as simple a form as possible. 

The war, in 1861, particularly after the first "Bull 
Run," became the absorbing question throughout 
the nation. Young, active, patriotic, and even pos- 
sessed (in my own conceit) of zeal for the salvation 
of those destined to fall in the pending stupendous 
contest between two powerful opposing armies, I 
volunteered my services as chaplain to an organiza- 
tion which was being formed in New York. This 
I did at the request of my superior. Very Rev. E, 
Sorin, now Superior-General. I resigned my profes- 
sorial duties- in the University of Notre Dame, Ind., 
and, taking up the lively sentiment expressed in an 
old song, 

"I'll hang my harp on a willow tree, 
I'll off to the wars again; 
A peaceful home has no charm for me, 
The battle-field no pain," 

away I went, took the train from Chicago on the 
Pittsburg & Fort Wayne Railway directly to Wash- 
ington to meet the soldiers with whom I was to 
spend three years. It was much like getting mar- 
ried. We made the engagement " for better, for 


worse; for richer, for poorer, till death do us part." 
On my journey I thought over the problems of the 
future — the chances of ever returning to my bright, 
prosperous college home, of the dear ones I left 
behind. Occasionally, my meditation was broken by 
the beauty of the scenery which attracted my atten- 
tion along the route. 

I had never been East before, and I need not say 
that, like "Our Country Cousin," I was not a little 
surprised at the features of its landscapes. The 
beautiful valleys, the lofty mountains, the ravines 
dipping down to a frightful depth — the ravine below 
me seeming as deep as the mountain was high above 
me — the rugged old gray rocks standing out in huge 
bulk, cutting their monster figures in bold relief 
against the blue vaults of heaven, filled my mind with 
sentiments of awe. The sun glittered on the mount- 
ain tops, which cast their long shadows over us, and, 
as we passed rapidly along, we crossed rivers which 
seemed to be rushing away from the bloody strife 
ahead of us. In these waters the sunlight dances, so 
to speak, with never-ceasing motion. I felt alone, as 
space widened between me and home. I felt strange, 
in new lands, among new people. Then, as the even- 
ing came on, and the sun gave place to the pale moon, 
my meditation on the doubtful future came back to 


me, and I mused on the life, as yet untried, amidst 
soldiers and great armies. Finally, tired of what I 
had seen, heard, and imagined, I tried to forget all 
and rest. But soon appeared long lines of soldiers, 
marching to the sound of drum and fife; officers (on 
horseback) dashing at breakneck speed, their scab- 
bards rattling at their sides, while the glistening 
blades flourished in the air, beckoned their com- 
mands of "Forward!" Then came up the flying artil- 
lery, breaking through every obstacle; while, on the 
flanks, the swift cavalry men, mounted on well-capar- 
isoned horses, fresh for the wild sport, flew past the 
infantry, to cover dangerous advances of the enemy 
on either side. The words, "Forward!" "Double- 
quick!" "Load!" "Prime!" "Aim!" "Fire!" 
resounded in war-like tones, and the great battle-field 
presented a scene panorama-like — muskets crashing, 
cannons booming, shells bursting — then a sudden 
loud, crashing sound, as if half the earth had 
exploded! The train had stopped with a terribly 
uncomfortable jerk. Just then I awoke. I arrived 
in Washington, late in the night, in the fall of 1861. 
I made inquiry for a Catholic church, and was 
directed to old St. Peter's, on East Capitol Hill. 
Here I found hospitality for the night. The good 
old pastor, long since gone to heaven, seeme 1 at first 


very uneasy. He had never seen me before; but 
after a short time he was convmced that I was not a 
fraud. I had rather a grave, honest face that was in 
my favor, and which, in many close places, during the 
war and afterward, proved a satisfactory introduction. 
In a short time we were in full confidence, and he 
asked me about my trip, where I came from and 
where I was going. I answered him, as best I could, 
and told him I was chaplain of the Irish Brigade. 

"Oh!" said he, "the brigade has just arrived 
from New York. I met a Rev. James Dillon this 
morning who also came to be a chaplain." 

" Where is he now, may I ask? " 

" He is stopping with Rev. Father Walter, pastor 
of St. Patrick's Church in this city." 

Next morning I said Mass, took a slight break- 
fast, and hastened to St. Patrick's. Father Dillon 
had just gone to camp. However Father Walter 
was able to give me all the necessary information, 
and during the forenoon I met good old Father Paul 
Gillen, C. S. C, who drove me in his " Rockaway " 
across the " long bridge " that passes over the Poto- 
mac River to Alexandria, Va. A short distance out 
from the city, I found the Irish Brigade in camp. 
Now I shall tell about chaplain life, beginning with 
that of the Irish Brigade, which has no mean record 
for devotedness and bravery. 



Chapter I^-A Short Sketch of the Irish Brigade 17 

Chapter II— Irish Brigade Chaplains- First Camp 21 

Chapter III— Chaplains — Their Work --Character of 

the Soldiers— Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher 27 

Chapter IV— Irish Brigade Takes the Field 32 

Chapter V- Brigade Shipped to the Peninsula— Inci- 
dents-Soldiers Killed -May Devotions— Trooper 

Confesses, etc 39 

Chaptp:r VI -Short Description of the Locality— A few 
Historical IN otes— Prince of the House of Orleans 

-Mass 45 

Chapter VII— Home of Mrs. George Washington — 
Noted Kivers— Land of the Red Man in Capt. 

Smith's Time, etc r)3 

Chapter VIII -Pastimes and Realities— Battl > of Fair 

Oaks, or Seven Pines 59 

Chapter IX- Bigots -True Freedom, etc 66 

Chapter X -Chaplains During and After the Battle — 

Hospitals ^^ 

Chapti:r XT^Malaria in the Camp 80 

Chapter XII -The Seven Days' Fight 86 

Chapter XIII— Rest and Discipline 91 

Chapter XIV- A " Mihtary Mass " 99 

Chapter XV— Leaving the Peninsula— March Severe- 
Dust Terrible— Food Wanting » 193 



Chapter XVI— Feat of " Jack Gasson "—The Battle of 

Antietam 109 

Chapter XVII— The Camp at Harper's Ferry— Ban- 
quet, Reconnaissance, etc 116 

Chapter XVIII — An Army Execution 122 

Chapter XIX— The Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg . . . 128 

Chapter XX— Camp Life at Fredericksburg 134 

Chapter XXI— St. Patrick's Day at Camp Falmouth . . . 138 
Chapter XXII— Collections Made in the Brigade for 

the Poor in Ireland 146 

Chapter XXIII— Incidents and Reflections 152 

Chapter XXIV— Battle of Chancellorsville , 158 

Chapter XXV— Our Return to Camp Falmouth 165 

Chapter XXVI— In Camp and on the March 170 

Chapter XXVII— Frederick, Maryland 175 

Chapter XXVIII— Gettysburg 179 

Chapter XXIX -Gettysburg— The Twenty-fifth Anni- 
versary IQ'J 

Chapter XXX— -Anniversary Exercises— Gettysburg . . . 191 
Chapter XXXI— From Gettysburg to the Rappahan- 
nock 201 

Chapter XXXII--An Officer's Preparation for Execu- 
tion 208 

Chapter XXXIII— We Go to New York City and Return 213 

Chapter XXXIV— The Execution of a Soldier 220 

Chapter XXXV— The Battle of the Wilderness 229 

Chapter XXXVI— The Battle of Spottsylvania 234 

Chapter XXXVII— Our Life at the " Front " 242 

Chapter XXXVIII — Execution at City Point— Moth- 
er's Letter 246 

Chapter XXXIX— New Recruits— Expedition to " Deep 

Bottom" 252 



Chapter XL — Explosion of a Great Boat Filled with 
Ordnance — Second Expedition to Deep Bottom — 
Horse Drinks in James Kiver and is Frightened — 
Battle on the Weldon R. R. — Men at Cards Shoot 
and Drop a Confederate from a Tree— Capt. 
Brownson Killed 258 

Chapter XLI — The Third Anniversary of our Brigade — 

" MiUtary Mass," etc 264 

Chapter XLII — " Passes"— Eight Priests of Holy Cross, 
Notre Dame, Chaplains — Archbishop Ireland and 
Bishop M'Mahon, Chaplains —A Noble Southern 
Priest 269 

Chapter XLIII-The Rev. James M. Dillon, C. S. C, 
Chaplain of the Sixty-third N. Y. Vol., Irish Bri- 
gade 286 

Chapter XLIV— Roman Catholic Chaplains in the War 

—The Rev . Thomas Ouellet, S . J . , Irish Brigade 299 

Chapter XLV— The Rev. Paul E. Gillen, C. S. C, as 

Chaplain 307 

Chapter XLVI—The Rev. Constantino L. Egan,0. P. 312 

Chapter XLVII — Continuation of Father Egan's Nar- 
rative 332 

Chapter XLVIII — The Irish Brigade in the War for 

the Union 350 



r I IHE brigade known as the " Irish Brigade," com- 
-L posed hirgely of recruits from New York City, 
under the command of Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, 
had the greatest number of Catholic chaplains. This 
brigade had, of course, its history. When President 
Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers, the call was 
responded to promptly. The general impression at 
the time was that the disturbance at the South would 
not last long, and the volunteers were enlisted for 
ninety days only. Under this call the Sixty -ninth 
New York Infantry, a militia regiment which so dis- 
tinguished itself at the first battle of Bull Run, in 
July, 1861, offered its services, which were accepted, 
and the regiment, accompanied by Capt. (after- 
ward Brig. -Gen.) T. F. Meagher and his Zouaves, 
all under the command of Col. Michael Corcoran, 
"went to the front." At this first Bull Run battle, 
the Sixty-ninth New York fought desperately; but 
the gallant Col. Corcoran was captured with several 
of his command, and was carried off to Richmond, 
where he was kept prisoner for thirteen months. 
2 (17) 


Rev. Thomas F. Mooney, of New York, went out as 
the chaplain of the Sixty -ninth, but was obliged, in 
a short time, to return home to attend to very im- 
portant duties assigned him by his ordinary, Most 
Rev. Archbishop Hughes.* The soldiers, at the 
President's call, had enlisted for ninety days only; 
and before the memorable battle of the first Bull 
Run, which took place July 21, 1861, the term hav- 
ing expired in the case of several regiments, on the 
20th, many militia regiments from Massachusetts, 
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and one from New York, 
besides a battery, returned home. The Sixty-ninth 
agreed to continue. They did so, and "fought like 
Turks." After this battle was over, the Sixty-ninth 
was disbanded in New York, the time having expired 
sometime before. Here we start. We leave Col. 
Corcoran a prisoner in Richmond, and the old Sixty- 
ninth, with Meagher's Zouaves, mustered out of the 
service, with honor to both officers and men. 

Thomas Francis Meagher, who distinguished him- 
self at Bull Run, set about recruiting, not a single 
regiment, but a brigade. In a short time, with the 
help of other efficient persons, he organized three 
Irish regiments. The old Sixty-ninth re-enlisted, 
and was joined by the Eighty-eighth and Sixty-third 
New York regiments. Each of these enlisted for 
"three years, or during the war." To this brigade 
of three New York regiments were subsequently 

* Rev. Bernard O'Riley, S. J., replaced Father Mooney for a 
few weeks, until the Bull Run battle terminated that campaign. 


added the Twenty -eighth Massachusetts Infantry, 
the Sixty-ninth* and One Hundred and Sixteenth 
Pennsylvania Infantry, and Hogan's and McMahon's 
batteries. The brigade in question was ever after 
known as the Irish Brigade, and was commanded 
by Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher. The six regi- 
ments composing this brigade had five Catholic 
priests as chaplains. Rev. James Dillon, C. S. C, 
chaplain of the Sixty-third; Rev. Thomas Ouellet, 
S. J., chaplain of the new Sixty-ninth, and the writer, 
chaplain of the Eighty-eighth. Rev. Father McKee, 
chaplain of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Penn- 
sylvania, soon fell sick and resigned ; he was replaced 
by Rev. Father McCuUum. The latter, unable to 
endure the hardships of campaign life, also resigned, 
leaving the brigade with three Catholic chaplains, 
namely, Dillon, Ouellet, and Corby. Besides these, 
there were other Catholic chaplains in the Army of 
the Potomac. Paul E. Gillen, C. S. C; Father 
O'Hagan, S. J.; Father ^Martin, of Philadelphia; 
Father C. L. Egan, O. P.; Father Thomas Scully, 
of Massachusetts, and Rev. Doctor Kilroy. These I 
mention with no regard to precedence, excepting as 
they come to my mind. Most of those mentioned in 
this last list remained only a short time in the army. 
Some were taken sick, others were too old and could 
not endure the fatigues and privations, others belong- 
ing to religious orders were called home for special 

*The Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania was aftr a time assigned 
to another brigade in the same corps. 


duty. Of this number, however, Father Paul E. 
Gillen, C. S. C, was a veteran. Father Egan 
entered the service about the last of August, 1863, 
and remained to the very end of the war. Father 
Gillen started at the beginning and stayed until the 
end of the war. Other chaplains, known as " Post 
Chaplains," rendered valuable services in the hospi- 
tals, encouraging the sick and wounded, and adminis- 
tering the sacraments to the dying; but here I intend 
to speak principally of those connected with the 
Army of the Potomac, in the "field" and at the 



TO make a starting point for the reader, we shall 
commence with the Irish Brigade located near 
Alexandria, Va., across the Potomac from Washing- 
ton, in the fall of 1861. This brigade will form the 
most important center of our ecclesiastical labors dur- 
ing the war, in the Army of the Potomac, and of this 
narration. First, because, as I have said, it had the 
greatest number of priests, and second, because the 
Sixty -third, Sixty-ninth and Eighty-eighth New 
York regiments, forming the principal part of the 
brigade, were almost exclusively Catholic, both officers 
and privates. At no time during the war, from the 
organization of the brigade till after the '^ surrender 
of Lee," was it without a priest; and men from various 
sections of the army, during the active campaign, 
when they needed the services of a priest, directed 
their steps to the Irish Brigade, where they were 
sure to find one. To this brigade, as a rule, were the 
generals also referred, when a priest was needed to 
assist men sentenced to death by court-martial. The 



brigade was quartered on elevated ground about two 
miles from Alexandria, where it remained from the 
early fall of 1861 until the spring of 1862. No fight- 
ing worthy of notice was done during the winter, 
but picket duty, drilling, police and other camp duties, 
kept the men busy. 

Our camp was called Camp California, in honor of 
our Maj.-Gen. Sumner, who commanded the division, 
and who had recently been in command of regular 
troops in California. I am amused when I read the 
works of some historians, who, looking entirely on the 
bright side of the picture, try to impress their readers 
with the beauty of this camp, and who draw largely 
on their powers of imagination to give a poetic touch 
to the scene. No doubt, the scenery on the south side 
of the Potomac, where we were, is very picturesque, 
with its lofty hills, fertile valleys, and the majestic 
river flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. But let us 
look on the other side of this poetically described 
camp — when poetry is forgotten in the presence of 
stern reality. Everyone who campaigned in Vir- 
ginia will agree with me in the statement that the 
Virginia mud, after winter rains, is the worst mud 
he ever encountered, except, perhaps, the "gumbo" 
of Dakota and parts of Texas. The soil is a reddish 
clay, and very porous. I have pushed down a pole, 
with my hands, nearly ten feet in Virginia soil, and 
have had my powerful horse bogged in an ordinary 
highland corn-field. (No wonder Burnside "stuck in 
the mud"!) Our camp was laid out in streets, and 


the army regulations, fully carried out, conduced to 
make the men as comfortable as possible; but these 
streets, rained on continually, worked up by the 
tramping of the horses and the heavy wheels of the 
loaded army wagons, were a sight! They resembled 
exactly, except as to color, the mud-pits where clay 
is mixed for the manufacture of brick. Then, too, 
the roads passing back to Alexandria from the camp, 
and toward Washington, and even in Washington, 
on all the unpaved streets ( and there were few paved 
streets in Washington in those days), were in a most 
terrible condition. One day I saw an officer attempt 
to cross the street in front of my tent in Camp Cali- 
fornia. When he reached the center, his boots 
sank so deep in the tough clay that he was obliged to 
call a soldier to dig him out with a spade. Even 
then, as he attempted to pull out one leg the other 
would sink, and so on, till it became impossible for 
him to extricate himself except by pulling his feet 
out of his boots and escaping in his stocking feet. 

Anyone who has spent considerable time in an 
active campaign knows how quickly trees, fences, 
and all adornments, disappear before an army en- 
listed for war. As Gen. Sherman is reported to 
have said to a female citizen who complained of the 
cruel injuries the soldiers were inflicting on her prop- 
erty: "Why, madam, war means cruelty!" so it is 
needless to say that Camp California and all the 
other camps soon presented anything but the appear- 
ance of Elysian Fields. The scene was one of dreary 


waste, tented with "houses of canvas," which was. 
white when it left the factory, but smoke and Vir- 
ginia mud had changed its color somewhat. This 
was nobody's fault; it was the fault of circumstances; 
it was the fault of war. Here Rev. James Dillon, 
C. S. C, Rev. Thos. Ouellet, S. J., and the writer, 
spent the winter of 1861-1862. We were prisoners in 
tents on the hill ; for from these tents we could make 
no egress, except to plunge into the mud so deeply 
that it became a question of losing our boots. All the 
officers, chaplains included, wore boots with long legs, 
and it was only with great difficulty that they were 
made fit for use, after even a short tramp in Virginia 
mud. This reminds me of a boot-black, who was 
called upon to clean the boots of an officer entering 
Washington. He worked diligently for a long time, 
and finally called out to a companion in his profes- 
sion : 


"What d'you want?" was the laconic reply. 

"Lend me a spit! I've got an army contract!" 

Our tents were as good as could be expected, and 
both officers and men were very kind to us; but im- 
agine a man living in a tent all winter, with less 
accommodations than lumber-men find in the wilds 
of Minnesota! No beds except some army blankets 
placed on boards, conveniently arranged, and some of 
us enjoyed the luxury of a buffalo robe. In these 
tents we had small stoves; and our fuel was green 
pine, which, in many cases, furnished more smoke 


than heat ; so that frequently we were obliged to open 
all the doors — that is, turn back a flap of the canvas 
at either end of the tent, and let the cold, damp wind of 
Virginia pass through and dispel the pungent vapor. 
However, all these discomforts were luxury in com- 
parison with life during an active campaign. Wait 
until we go farther! 

I shall make it a special point to write of every-day 
life, and the hardships and privations which neces- 
sarily attend such a life. Most authors, in writing of 
war, confine themselves to descriptions of battles, 
thereby gratifying the morbid taste of the masses 
who wish to read of carnage and strife ; but there is 
more interest in the real every-day life of the soldier. 
From a candid account the reader will understand 
that a soldier suffers a thousand times more from 
every-day hardships in war than from the simple 
fact of entering a battle-field, where, for a few hours, 
he is in the midst of bloody strife, and, perhaps, at 
last receives a flesh wound — "good for ninety days" 
— or drops to speak no more. The mother, the sister, 
the loving ones at home, when retiring at night, or 
when enjoying a good warm dinner, sigh and ask: 

"Where is Thomas, or James, or William, now? 
Have they any comforts? Is there anyone to care 
for them?" 

Oh, you of a younger generation, think what it 
cost your forefathers to save our glorious inheritance 
of union and liberty! If you let it slip from your 
hands you will deserve to be branded as ungrateful 


cowards and undutiful sons. But, no! you will not 
fail to cherish the prize — it is too sacred a trust — 
too dearly purchased. 

Horses, used for drawing provisions, fuel, and other 
necessaries, died in the camp during that winter, in 
great numbers, and had to be replaced entirely by 
mules, that could sleep in mud and live on chips! 



FATHERS Dillon and Ouellet, being in New York 
when the brigade started for Camp California, 
Virginia, went on with it; but I, who enlisted and 
was "mustered in the service" at the same time with 
the above Fathers, could not, and did not, reach 
Camp California till sometime later. I was trans- 
acting business in the interest of Notre Dame in 
Illinois and Wisconsin when the news of my appoint- 
ment by the Governor of New York reached me, and 
as soon as I could dispose of the business matter, I 
started directly for Washington, D. C, where I 
arrived, ready to "report for duty," in the fall of 
1861. As mentioned above, Fathers Dillon, Ouellet, 
and Corby were in charge of three regiments, each 
forming, as it were, a congregation. During the win- 
ter we spent our time in much the same way as par- 
ish priests do, except in this — we had no old women 
to bother us, or pew rent to collect. We celebrated 
Mass, heard confessions, preached on Sundays and 



holydays. During the week, many minor duties 
occupied us. We were called on at times to admin- 
ister the pledge to a few who had been indulging 
too freely, to settle little diflaculties, and encourage 
harmony and good- will; to instruct such as needed 
private lessons on special points of religion, and 
everywhere to elevate the standard of religion, moral- 
ity, and true patriotism. This formed the winter's 
work, not only for the chaplains of the Irish Brigade, 
but also for all Catholic priests so engaged. But as 
I started out with the idea that the Irish Brigade 
was, as it were, "headquarters" for Catholic labors, 
I must keep to it. 

Here let me say a word about Gen. Thomas Fran- 
cis Meagher, whose character is, I think, not well 
understood by many. Gen Meagher was more than 
an ordinary gentleman He possessed high-toned 
sentiments and manners, and the bearing of a prince. 
He had a superior intellect, a liberal education, was 
a fine classical writer, and a born orator. He was very 
witty, but more inclined to humor; was fond of witty 
or humorous persons, and admired those who pos- 
sessed such gifts. He was a great lover of his native 
land, and passionately opposed to its enemies ; strong 
in his faith, which he never concealed, but, on the 
contrary, published it above-board; and, wherever he 
went he made himself known as a " Catholic and an 
Irishman." He was well instructed in his religion, 
and I should have pitied the one who had the temer- 
ity to speak disparagingly of it in his presence. 


Although not what we would call a pious man, he 
loved his faith, and assisted in making religion take 
a front rank. For example: With his natural fond- 
ness for sports, and with a desire to keep up life and 
energy in his command, he would make elaborate 
preparations for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day; 
and while organizing steeple chases, hurdle races, 
etc., in the morning, all attended Mass and listened 
to the sermon; he, in person, acting as master of 
ceremonies, directing the band when to play during 
the divine service; but this will be noticed more in 
exte7iso in a future chapter. The above shows some- 
thing of the character of the man. Besides being, 
as we all know, as brave as a lion, he did not neglect 
going to confession from time to time, especially 
before battles. It is to be regretted that, at times, 
especially when no fighting was going on, and time 
grew heavy on his hands, his convivial spirit would 
lead him too far. But by no means must it be con- 
cluded from this that he was a drunkard. It was not 
for love of liquor, but for the love of sport and jovi- 
ality that he thus gave way, and these occasions 
were few and far between.* Besides, he was polite 
and gentlemanly, even when under the influence of 
liquor; never sinking to anything low or mean, 
beyond indulging too freely in unguarded moments. 

* It has been insinuated that he was in Hquor when he was 
drowned in the Missouri River; but this is contradicted by 
the Rev. J. St. Onge, then missionary out West among the 
Indians, and now pastor in Troy, N. Y. 


His appearance was very much in his favor, being one 
of the finest-looking officers in the whole army; and, 
mounted on a magnificent horse, surrounded by a 
"brilliant staff" of young officers, he was a fit repre- 
sentative of any nation on earth. It is not surprising, 
then, that a man of his intellect and noble per- 
sonal character drew around him, not a low, unedu- 
cated class, but rather refined and gentlemanly 
officers and men, recruited mostly from New York; 
while many came from Boston, Philadelphia, Jersey, 
and even from Europe, to join his standard. 

The officers of his command were, for the most 
part, men of superior education, gallant beyond any 
around them in the army; and as for bravery, this 
they imbibed with their mother's milk, yea, it was 
born in them."* The "rank and file" was com- 
posed of healthy, intelligent men, far above the 
average, and in many cases of liberal education. 
Here I would state that I frequently noticed supe- 
rior men on guard, and engaged in other inferior 
duties. In my regiment, as private soldiers, there 
were seven first-class lawyers! Last, but not least, 
the surgeons of this brigade were among the first 
in the army — Dr. Keynolds had no superior. This 
little bit of personal history is necessary to show 
that the Irish Brigade was not entirely unworthy 
the title of "Headquarters of the Church in the 
Army of the Potomac." Moreover, it shows with 

* Note on page 31. 


what material the chaplains had to deal. Remember, 
too, that this great body of officers and men was, 
I might say, entirely Catholic, and one may easily 
infer that the influence, for good or evil, was con- 
siderable. When, later, the brigade was joined by 
the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts and the One Hun- 
dred and Sixteenth Pennsylvania regiments, besides 
McMahon's Battery and the Sixty-ninth Pennsyl- 
vania — many of the four last being Catholic — there 
was a body of about 4,000 Catholic men marching — 
most of them — to death, but also to the glory of 
their Church and country. I regret that I have not 
more data concerning the illustrious Corcoran Le- 
gion. But were we to count in the Legion composed 
of 3,000 Irish Catholics; the Ninth Massachusetts, 
with 800; the Third Brigade (known as the '' Ex- 
celsior," with Father O'Hagan as chaplain), in 
which there were no less than 1,300 of the same 
faith, we should number, in solid bodies alone, in 
the Army of the Potomac, over 9,000 Catholic sol- 
diers, not to mention odd numbers in every regi- 
ment in the army. A full page of history, in all 
justice, should be given to such a respectable body of 
Christian soldiers — unique in character, unique in 
faith, unique in nationality ; but ever brave and true 
in support of their adopted country. 

[Note.] — Several officers who served in the Austrian Army, 
and in various other armies, figured later on in the Irish Brigade, 
and many distinguished Irish-Catholic officers and men who 
served in the Papal Brigade in defense of the temporal power 
of His Holiness, subsequently joined the Irish Brigade here. 
Many others from the same organization were to be found in 
various parts of the Army of the Potomac. 



IT is not the object of this narrative to write a 
history of the war, or of a part of it even, but I 
must give sketches, here and there, to bring out the 
part taken in the movements by the chaplains. On 
March 5, 1862, general orders were given to "strike 
tents" and "march!" This put the whole Army of 
the Potomac in motion. The Irish Brigade was up 
and doing at three o'clock in the morning. Oh, I 
remember well that dreary morning! It was not 
frosty, but a raw wind, and a miserable, drizzling 
rain chilled us as we were hastily preparing to 
depart on our first march — our first campaign. It 
took a long time to get everything ready. We, the 
chaplains, had more than ordinary preparations to 
make; for, besides the ordinary "traps" required, we 
had to take all the necessary vestments, altar stones, 
missals, etc., for the celebration of Mass. At last, 
about seven or eight o'clock, all were in motion. 
Father Dillon and myself, being of the same order, 
generally went in the same boat, so to speak. When 
everything was ready, we thought of something to eat. 



I took a small sack and put into it a few pounds of 
''hard tack" crackers hard as pieces of brick. This 
I suspended from the pommel of my saddle, and it 
rested against the shoulder of my horse. He was a 
poor, old, gray horse. One of the officers, a colonel, 
who was in constant motion, borrowed my horse — an 
active, strong animal — and the quarter-master fur- 
nished me with this as a substitute. Now I wished 
to appear in such style as befitted my position in the 
regiment on the first march; but on this animal I 
-made a very sorry figure. Moreover, when all the 
troops were crossing a small stream of water, this 
brute got into the middle of the creek and would 
go no farther. Here the gallant chaplain of the 
Eighty -eighth sat, trying to persuade the old gray 
to proceed, but to no purpose, while officers and men 
were passing and looking on. Finally, one of the 
men, by the gentle use of his bayonet, encouraged 
the animal to move. I had my own horse next day. 
The roads were in a terrible condition, and the 
poor men who loaded themselves before starting from 
camp, with boots, stockings, underwear, etc., kept 
casting them off on the roadside as they felt them- 
selves unable to carry them any longer. It was a sight 
to behold the variety of articles along the road for 
miles, and many of these very articles had been sent 
to the soldiers for their comfort by tender-hearted 
wives, mothers, and sisters. We marched all day till 
late at night, then halted on a bleak corn-field. It 
still rained, and a cold March wind blew dismally. 


Father Dillon and myself were very tired, and we tried 
the "hard-tack"; but, resting against the horse all 
day, the sack of crackers had absorbed the rain and 
the perspiration, and they smelt of "old gray horse," 
and, in fact, tasted of "old gray horse." We had 
nothing else. In the morning we had placed every- 
thing in an army wagon, even our buffalo robes and 
army blankets, so that we were now left without any- 
thing to eat and with nothing to sleep on. Father 
Dillon got off in the shelter of some brush, and, after 
the fatigues of the day, slept a little. Some men 
wanted to go to confession, as we expected to be in 
battle next day, and I sat on the roots of an old tree 
and heard all who came; but most of the men were 
entirely exhausted, and they soon fell asleep on their 
gum blankets, while I sat on some sticks the rest of 
that night, near the fire which the soldiers had 
started. The wind, now blowing a gale, drove the 
smoke into my face, and when I moved to the oppo- 
site side, the shifting wind drove me back to my 
former position. Thus I spent that night, after 
marching the previous day about eighteen miles in 
rain and mud, with no dinner and no supper, followed 
by no sleep. 

But, you may ask, where are the materials that 
were put into the army wagon? They are there, 
but the wagons are "stuck in the mud "— Virginia 
mud — ten or fifteen miles behind. Next morning 
we rose from the ground! — to march! No break- 
fast, and, as we advanced, we left the army wagons 


still farther behind us. The soldiers always carried 
a small quantity of coffee, army crackers, "hard- 
tack," and a chunk of pork, so they had something 
"to keep life in them"; but the chaplains depended 
upon the army wagons, which they did not see for 
five or six days after leaving Camp California. Not- 
withstanding these discomforts, all moved on. It is 
a mistake to think that the soldiers, even the line 
officers, know where the army is going, and just 
where the enemy will be found. These things are 
known only to a few of the principal officers in com- 
mand, and not always to them. They frequently 
have to find the enemy in much the same manner as 
hunters find the location of lions and tigers in a 
Bengal jungle. But this much we knew— we were 
going toward Manassas and old Bull Run battle-field; 
and this had something to do with the condition of 
our nerves, especially in the case of those who had 
never had a chance to "smell powder." 

That same evening we reached Manassas, and we 
found that the enemy had retreated hurriedly and 
left behind them valuable stores. Here the men 
found some "jerked beef." They called it "junk"; 
but, no matter, it was sweet to starving, green chap- 
lains, who had never campaigned before, and did not 
know how to take care of themselves. We got some 
fresh "hard-tack" — not that which "smelled of 
horse and tasted of horse" — and some black, but 
hot, coffee. We were new men for awhile. Shortly 
afterward it began to rain, in the usual dreary 


Southern fashion of raining. Some of us were partly 
sheltered by an old tent that had been left by the 
enemy, and, as the ground was nothing but mud, the 
soldiers piled in the tent some brush, and on this 
brush-pile we sat, '^ Sicid nycticorax in domicilioj'' 
For about two days after, we had no food; but, 
finally, on a countermarch, we met a Suttler who 
was selling, in limited numbers, small cakes at from 
25 cents to $1.00 apiece — for money was not con- 
sidered by the hungry men, and the kindness on 
this march of Lieut. J. J. McCormick and Capt. 
Moore I will never forget. On the 13th, or there- 
abouts, having accomplished our mission — namely, 
to find out all about the enemy, his location, move- 
ments, etc. — we expected to return to Alexandria 
at once, and take shipping for the Peninsula. I, 
being the youngest of the chaplains, was started 
back in advance to secure altar-breads, altar-wines, 
etc., for the Peninsular Campaign. In the mean- 
.time the enemy made a show of fighting. Our troops 
were ordered back. When I heard this in Alex- 
andria I started at once for the " front"; and on my 
way, while passing over the old Bull Run battle-field, 
I found myself in the dark, amidst dead men's bones, 
and a stillness that was death -like. Nothing was 
heard, except, now and then, a piercing sound from a 
screech owl. I pushed on, however, and after some 
miles, heard a shrill, frightful voice cry out: "Halt! 
Who comes there?" 
"A friend," I replied. 


"Advance, friend, and give the countersign." 
But, not knowing the countersign of course, I 
entered into an explanation; but it was of no use, I 
had to dismount and surrender. Soldiers on picket 
duty must obey orders, and I was made a prisoner. 
Fortunately, I was captured by soldiers of my own 
corps d^armee^ and, after being brought to headquar- 
ters, the general in command, Ma j.- Gen. Richard- 
son, being from my native State, Michigan, identified 
me, and directed the soldiers to "take good care of 
the chaplain of the Irish Brigade, and escort him 
to his command." This they did with much courtesy. 
Next day was Sunday, and the chaplains did all they 
could to sanctify the day. I do not remember what 
other chaplains provided, but I remember very dis- 
tinctly the altar constructed under my supervision, 
for I was determined to say Mass. There were no 
boards, no boxes, no tables, in the entire camp, and 
the camp was in a dense woods. The soldiers cut 
some pine branches and fastened them to a tree, as 
a slight shelter for the future altar. Then they drove 
four crotched sticks in the ground and put two short 
pieces, about two and a half feet in length, from one 
crotch across to the other; they then cut down a tree, 
and having cut off a length about six feet, split the 
log in two, and placed the pieces of split timber, flat 
side up, lengthwise, to form the table of the altar. 
This, the rudest of altars, I dressed, as best I could, 
with the altar linens. Two candles were lighted, and 


Mass was celebrated in the forest of Virginia, after a 
fashion to rival that of the most destitute Indian 
missionary that ever put foot on the soil of the 
Huron Nation. 



ABOUT the end of March, 1862, all the troops 
were ordered back from the movement on Man- 
assas (the enemy having retreated toward Rich- 
mond), to take shipping on the Potomac and be 
transported to the Chesapeake Bay, and, finally, to 
the Peninsula. About 1500 of the Irish Brigade 
were placed on the Ocean Queen — about which 
there was plenty of ocean but not much queen ! The 
vessel was certainly a fine one; but, hired by the 
Government simply to convey troops, its management 
had no responsibility in regard to beds, food, or any 
of these necessities of life, and our trip to the Pen- 
insula was one of considerable deprivation. The 
chaplains said their oiSice, and the other officers 
fasted. Thus we might say, with ''Jack," the servant of 
Dean Swift, "we were on the road to heaven." "My 
master," said he, "is praying and I am fasting, and 
if fasting and prayer is not the road to heaven, I 
know no theology." The troops in the other ships 



were not even as well cared for as we were. Finally, 
after leaving Fortress Monroe, we landed at Ship 
Point, Virginia. 

The weather was bad; no end to cold rain, sleet, 
and mud. We had no fresh meat, no vegetables; 
nothing but fat pork, black coffee, and "hard-tack" 
three times a day. We found here many small huts, 
which had been occupied by the Confederate sol- 
diers during the previous winter. Into these we were 
glad to go, since we had no tents. I had, in my 
supply of clothing, three tine new flannel shirts, and 
at this time I thought I would take the advice of the 
kind-hearted Sister who had sent them, and put one 
on. I opened the box in which they had been 
packed, and put one on for the first time. Next 
morning I felt a queer kind of itching all over. I 
said nothing, but pulled out another new shirt, went 
to the river and took a good wash, and put on 
another of the new shirts. Now curiosity got the 
better of me, and looking at the shirt I had just 
removed, I found it full of — excuse the word — clothes 
lice, or "greybacks." I flung the shirt into the river, 
and returned, feeling all right. Next morning I had 
to do the same, and still the third morning did the 
same. Thinking that the soft flannel was the attrac- 
tion for these miserable tortures of military life, 
I flung all my flannel goods into the river and 
contented myself with cold linen. After awhile it 
leaked out that all the offi cers w ere in the same con- 
dition. ^^ 


This, however, was our first experience with "grey- 
backs." They had been left to us as a legacy, and 
were the sole inhabitants of the huts that had been 
evacuated by the routed enemy. Let me say here 
that many a poor soldier who could not procure entire 
suits of new clothes at will, was subjected, not only 
to sufferings from want of good, fresh food, long, 
tedious marches under a scorching sun, with dust 
penetrating every particle of his clothing, or under 
pelting rain and through mud knee-deep, but to 
incredible tortures from these ''greybacks." It is 
easy to laugh about this now, but sensitive persons 
fairly shudder at the thought of this pestilence, worse 
in nature than many of the Egyptian plagues. To 
face this kind of life requires more courage than to 
face the belching cannon and the smoke of battle. 
It is all very well to write war history so that it may 
read like a novel or a romance. You will find some 
writers telling of the Elysian Fields, the beautiful 
mountains, the prancing war-horse, and the shining 
swords and bright bayonets, glittering in the sun. 
While all this is true, it is well to give some of the 
ordinary reality, and do away with some of the 
poetry. It has a good effect, because it brings out 
the true and full historical character of warfare, and 
teaches a lesson to rising generations. "* From a 
knowledge of the hardships of their fellow-citizens 
and forefathers, they set a higher value on the free- 
dom and prosperity thereby secured for them, and 
the consideration of the many evils of war, will 


prevent tbem, in future political contests, from rashly 
provoking the spirit of war, either civil or interna- 
tional. There are times when war can not be avoided; 
but it should be resorted to only after all other 
means have been tried, tried again, and in vain. 
Henry the Great, of France, once ordered some 
bronze cannon of immense size, and caused to be 
engraved on them this terrible motto: "The last 
argument of Kings." 

This may seem to be a slight deviation from my 
narrative, but it is certainly pertinent since it gives 
an insight into the life and labors of the now bellig- 
erent chaplain, under trying circumstances. Moved, 
as he is, by true patriotism, he faces war and its evils, 
but regards it always as a primary duty to attend to 
the spiritual wants of his charge. Just here I recall 
a poor soldier who was accidentally shot through the 
left lung. I happened to be near by, had just time 
to hear his confession, and he breathed his last. All 
the aforesaid labors, trials, and fastings were well 
rewarded by the chance given to save that one soul. 
We have now arrived at May 1, 1862, the chaplains 
"in front" with their commands. A huge tent, 
which belonged, principally, to the Sixty -third, was 
used for a church, and in it we opened the May devo- 
tions. This tent was like a circus tent (very large), 
and many persons could stand under it. When 
prayers commenced, the soldiers dropped down on 
their knees, mud or no mud. Many, however, were 
sharp enough to provide at least a chip to put under 


their knees, to keep them from sinking too deep in the 
mud caused by recent rains. About the camp altar 
the condition was a little better, as the boards taken 
from cracker boxes formed a sort of floor. In this 
tent Mass was celebrated every morning, and prayers 
were said every evening, to which the boys were 
called by the ringing of a small bell through the 
camp, by a drummer boy. Confessions were heard 
also. Many officers and soldiers came here, from 
various parts of the army, and it was like a parish 
service — all except the collection. The Catholic sol- 
dier is glad to find a priest in the army, or even to 
see one in the distance, and it always gives him new 
courage. It is an inestimable privilege for him to 
make his confession, receive Holy Communion, and 
attend Mass, especially when it may be for the last 
time. Soldiers thus prepared go into battle full of 
courage and confidence. I had occasion to go down 
to the landing where the hospital was located, several 
miles from the camp. Here I met a cavalry soldier 
who had not seen a priest since he entered the army, 
nearly a year previous to this date. May 3, 1862. 
He made preparations at once, dropping down on his 
knees on the ground, while I sat on a cracker box 
and heard the confession of the delighted trooper. 
After confession, he arose, and, regardless of his soiled 
knees, expressed his joy, by crying out: "O Father! 
I feel so light!" From that moment he seemed to 
have new life and courage. This soldier lived to pass 
through many battles with brave Phil. Sheridan, 


who was no braver than the soldier herein mentioned. 
There is no more consoling sacrament established 
by our Lord, than the Sacrament of Penance — con- 
fession. It seems to have for those who rarely find 
opportunity to receive it, an infinite charm when 
unexpectedly brought within their reach. The cav- 
alry man mentioned is, at this writing — January 20, 
1890 — still alive, at Notre Dame, in the same com- 
munity with me, leading a good Christian life, but 
much disabled by two large bullets which he carries 
buried deep in his body — bullets which he must, of 
necessity, carry with him to the grave. What a 
coincidence, after nearly thirty years ! What kindness 
on the part of Divine Providence, "without whose 
care not oven a sparrow falls to the ground!" God 
protects His own ; He favors those who trust in Him ; 
He glories in those brave servants who are faithful 
and do not run after false doctrines. " So spake the 
Lord," said the Prophet Elias, and quoted by St. 
Paul: "I have left me seven thousand men that 
have not bowed their knees to Baal." — Romans, xi. 
Thus did the Lord, exulting, so to speak, proclaim 
the number of His servants and friends, men faith- 
ful to His service, and confident in His loving and 
paternal care. 




HERE may be made a note which, I am sure, will 
be interesting to the reader. As I have said, 
our troops embarked and passed on to the Chesapeake 
Bay, the greatest inlet on the United States Atlantic 
Coast — a mighty arm of the sea, about 200 miles long 
and very wide. On its bosom floated the ships that 
bore the notorious Cornwallis, with his troops, to the 
coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia. On its bosom 
also floated the ships that bore George Washington, 
his troops, and the French allies under R(3chambeau, 
to the victory of Yorktown and the final termination 
of the war with England. On these waters, Hamp- 
ton Roads, forming the estuary of the James River, 
took place the memorable naval battle in which the 
novel and famous MerrimaG and the Monitor figured, 
revolutionizing naval warfare throughout the world. 
The Chesapeake receives the Potomac, the Rappa- 
hannock, the York, and the James rivers, each made 
famous by battles which took place on their waters 



and on their banks, during tiie Civil War. The 
Potomac passed between union and secession. From 
it McClellan's army borrowed its name. On the 
Rappahannock is located the city of Fredericksburg, 
made historic by the contests which took place there, 
especially the disastrous battle under Burnside. On 
the James is located the city of Richmond, cele- 
brated as being the capital of the Confederacy. Com- 
ing back to the York River, we notice on its banks 
Yorktown, known by every schoolboy in the United 
States as the place where Cornwallis surrendered his 
entire command of 7,000, and capitulated to George 
Washington, in 1781, after marauding along the 
shores of the Carolinas, and destroying $15,000,000 
worth of American property. But Yorktown obtains 
additional notoriety from the fact that the Confed- 
erates revived the old works of Cornwallis, and forti- 
fied an army there, so that it was considered by them 
impregnable; and, finally, in May, 1862, after spiking 
their guns, about seventy -two in number, they evacu- 
ated a fort which, if held, might have been instru- 
mental in preventing McClellan's march to Richmond. 
This action was a surprise to all, and I think very 
much against their own interests. 

A few miles from Yorktown is Williamsburg, full 
of historical reminiscences. It was the capital of 
Virginia and the seat of the colonial government 
prior to the Revolution. Therefore, who, possessed of 
any patriotism, could pass over the renowned Chesa- 
peake, whose shores have living voices, echoing and 


re-echoing the mighty deeds of heroic men, without 
feeling a thrill of enthusiasm ? Yes, in passing along 
these shores, one should lift his hat in reverence to the 
past, or in memory of the brave soldiers who lie in 
forgotten graves along its shores, and of many other 
fellowmen who have perished, either by the sword 
or by starvation, during the two centuries since the 
colonial days of Sir Walter Raleigh. This may seem 
to be too much of a digression from our main point, 
but I make it for two reasons: First, I could not 
resist the temptation of recalling what made such a 
deep impression on the writer during his campaign 
life of three years in the Army of the Potomac, in 
these memorable places; secondly, because lovers of 
history will gladly read a few lines that recall such 
an impression, and find the narrative of chaplain life 
more interesting. 

Now we will go back and start from the camp in 
front of Yorktown, just before the evacuation of that 
town by the Confederates in May, 1862. Our camp 
was called Camp Winfield Scott, in honor of the old 
general. Owing to the many preparations necessary 
for storming Yorktown, strongly fortified as it was, 
also for the building of bridges over the creeks and 
swamps, considerable time was consumed. This gave 
us opportunity to look around, and to provide clean, 
new garments, to fix up neat quarters, and to get 
accustomed to real soldier life. Here might be men- 
tioned the fact that all tried to make the best of a 
life necessarily exposed to many inconveniences. 


The real chivalry of our army was kept alive by the 
example of our brave and brilliant officers. None 
excelled, and few equalled in this respect, Gen. 
Thomas Francis Meagher, commander of the Irish 
Brigade, while Gen. McClellan, in his capacity of 
commander-in-chief, held the very highest possible 
position in the affection, confidence and respect of 
both officers and men. He was honored, too, by 
distinguished noblemen from Europe, some of whom 
acted as aids-de-camy; the most noted being the 
Princes of the House of Orleans. The Prince de 
Joinville also accompanied McClellan, but not as an 
aid. We found these gentlemen, with others of 
distinguished family, very agreeable; in fact, they 
endeared themselves to many of us by their kind and 
gentle manners. They came to participate in the 
active campaign life, from a desire of perfecting 
themselves, by experience, in the use of arms and the 
strategies of war. They seemed to have a genuine 
love for soldier life. McClellan had the faculty of 
surrounding himself with men of distinction, both of 
this country and of Europe. In the center and at the 
head of the great army, he looked and acted a prince 
of princes, and we may be permitted to borrow words 
from Shakespeare to give expression to his magnetic 
character : 

" By his light 

Did all the chivalry of England move 

To do brave acts." 

Amid all the inconveniences of war life there is 


much of that truly chivalrous spirit which lifts the 
mind from the every-day routine and sends it flying 
back over the dusty pages of history to call up the 
heroic deeds of the great men of the mighty past. 
Many preparations were made in our camp for the 
siege of Yorktown. Our men confessed their sins, 
received Holy Communion, and spent their spare time 
in much serious reflection on the past and the very 
doubtful future, with its possibilities in the coming 
battle or battles. Fathers Dillon, Ouellet, and myself 
were always ready to assist them in their anxious 

As I have said, Yorktown was unexpectedly evacu- 
ated by the Confederates, on May 4, 1862. At once 
we were ordered to advance. We abandoned our 
quarters, leaving the rustic decoration made for the 
devotions of May behind us, and marched on. The 
roads were in a frightful condition, so much so that 
our cannon became imbedded in the mud; the horses 
could do nothing in the face of such difficulties ; they 
could only pull out one leg, and thereby sink the 
othel" deeper. At length, long ropes were tied to the 
cannon carriages, and a few hundred soldiers, with a 
"long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether," 
succeeded in extricating the guns. This was very 
slow work. We finally passed through Yorktown, 
which was filled with concealed torpedoes. No one 
knew at what moment he might be blown "sky 
high." I took care to keep in the center of the well- 
beaten road, watching every step my horse made, 


fearing to encounter a hidden explosive that would 
settle all doubts concerning the future army life as far 
as my horse and I were concerned. Army wagons 
with provisions, tents, ammunition, etc., brought up 
the rear, as usual. 

A certain driver, who was driving six mules with 
a single line, was whipping and cursing away "like 
sixty," as the saying is, when a lean, long-necked 
minister came along, on a horse covered with cooking 
utensils and stores. The minister, feeling it his duty, 
called out: 

"Young man, do you know who made you? " 

"What?" said the driver, stopping a moment from 
his whipping and cursing. 

"Do you know who made you?" repeated the 
minister, this time in a very loud voice. 

"Oh!" said the driver, "this is no time for conun- 

And lifting his great army whip, he struck the lead- 
ing mule on the ear with a snap that sent the blood 

"Go on there!" he cried, "you cursed descendant 

of Pluto!" 

He had heard some one say Pluto, and he thought 
it must mean some very bad beast — bad enough to be 
the origin of mules. Anyhow, the minister retired. 
-^ McClellan pushed on as rapidly as possible, and a 
wing of our army came in contact with a portion of 
the Confederate forces at Williamsburg, and repulsed 
them there. In order to follow orders received from 


Washington, several divisions, including the Irish 
Brigade, were rapidly pushed up the York River and 
to Cumberland, landing on the right bank of the 
Pamunkey River. The other divisions, with the trains 
and artillery, moved in the same direction by land. 
Sunday, May 11, before starting up the river, we 
had a few hours' free time early in the morning. The 
night previous I had caused to be constructed, under 
a small tent, a rude altar, composed, not of carved 
walnut, or of costly cypress, or bird's-eye maple, but 
of cracker boxes, supported by a light frame-work, 
forming a quasi-table, with room enough to place 
on it the altar stone, cards, missal, etc. Here I 
celebrated the Holy Sacrifice — Coram populo, vel 
militihus presentihus. This Mass was attended with 
much devotion, perhaps more than the general public 
would be willing to ascribe to soldiers. But a true 
Christian soldier has for motto: "Fidelity to God 
firsts and to his country next;" and no man can be a 
true, reliable patriot who is a traitor to his Maker. 
The sermon on this occasion was short: "My dear 
brethren, never forget your duty to God." Scarcely 
was the last word of the short sermon heard, when 
the command resounded through the camp: "Fall 
in!" and while the servants hastily folded up the 
small tent, I swallowed from a tin cup my coffee, 
then mounted my horse. While hundreds of thou- 
sands in cities, towns, and hamlets were slowly 
walking to church, and, later on in the day, listening 
to the grand tones of the inspiring organ, the charms 


of classic music, and the eloquence of the pulpit, 
your humble servant was marching on with his 
command, which he never allowed to go alone, fearing 
that his official services might be wanted at any 
moment. Thus I spent that Sunday, but not without 
fruit. A soldier was suddenly taken ill, and I was 
summoned immediately. I had but a short distance 
to go, which was fortunate, for the poor soldier was 
sinking very rapidly. These opportunities for doing 
good were great consolations, and recompensed the 
chaplains for their fatigues and privations, since they 
brought the consciousness that their labors and time 
were not lost. Thus, unknown to nineteen-twentieths 
of the command, good was being done, and the 
soldiers felt a security in knowing that their priest 
was always quite near — in fact, " within gun-shot," 
and ready to serve them at a moment's notice. 





OUR move up the York River brought us to the 
"White House," as it was called. This at once 
marked a spot of much interest to our troops, and 
revealed to our admiring eyes the home of the pretty 
widow, Mrs. Custis, who became the wife of George 
Washington. It was a two-and-a-half story frame 
building, having only six rooms, surrounded, however, 
by several out-offices. The grounds were nicely kept, 
and the parterre in front was particularly charming. 
Gen. McClellan placed a guard on the premises to 
protect the property ; but later on during the war the 
building was burned and the entire surroundings 
assumed a desolate aspect. Even the fine pines and 
cedars that gave a tone of poetic fancy to this historic 
spot were destroyed by the ruthless hand of Mars. 
The property belonged to the Lee family, who inher- 
ited it in a direct line. Gen. Lee's mother being a 
Miss Custis. 

This spot marked a stopping place in our march, 


and in our life, which resembled very much that of 
Gypsies. It also reminded us that we were drawing 
nearer and nearer to the great contest that would end 
in many horrors — bleeding wounds, groaning suf- 
ferers, death to thousands, and tears to the eyes of 
innumerable widows, orphans, and dear ones at home. 
In anticipation of this the chaplains had their places 
of worship arranged as best they could, where, in 
the evenings, men could go to confession and receive 
Holy Communion next morning. With lively faith 
they gathered around the altars, assisted at Mass; 
and as they watched the priest lift the Sacred Host 
on high, many a one said in his heart: "Perhaps 
this is the last time I will see Jesus till I meet Him 
in the life to come." O how many war States, but 
especially Virginia, were sanctified in this way!* 
Thousands of soldiers, looking up to heaven into the 
eyes of the Deity, asking help; the priest, lifting 
up the "Spotless Lamb," calling out to man and 
to the eternal Father: Ecce Agnus > Dei — "Behold 
the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the 
world." A good minister met me on the march one 
day and asked, in all simplicity and earnestness: 

"Chaplain, how do you bring your men to Divine 
service? I see them as I pass your quarters attend- 
ing by the hundreds, if not thousands, every Sab- 
bath, especially, and often during the week. I can 

* Altars erected on hundreds of spots, dotting the land 
bright stars do the firmament. 


not induce my men to attend that way; in fact, very 
few take any interest in religious services." 

" Why, my dear sir, I do not bring them," I replied; 
"their faith brings them." 

A little to the northeast of this location was the 
Mattapony River, which figured on our war maps. 
This river has three small forks, called, respectively, 
the "Mat," "Ta," "Po," and the "Ny," which, 
united, form the name referred to — the "Mattapony." 
Between us and Richmond was the well-known 
Chickahominy River, whose stream, in many places, is 
not more than forty to fifty feet in width, but whose 
shores are marshes or swamps, varying from one-half 
to one mile wide. Heavy forest trees grow in the 
marshes, and make them similar in appearances to 
the great cypress swamps of Louisiana. After pass- 
ing over these marshes one reaches terra firma again. 

Here we found ourselves on the once rich hunting 
grounds of the red-man, which were so much desired 
by the whites. It was while the famous Capt. John 
Smith was passing up this Chickahominy River that 
he was captured by the Indians, and would have been 
sacrificed to the "Great Spirit," but for the inter- 
vention of the gentle and kind-hearted Pocahontas, 
who, moved by compassion, saved his life at the risk 
of her own. Our minds were carried back to the 
time of this gentle " child of nature" (over three 
hundred years ago), and we reflected what changes 
had taken place in the lands where she exercised a 
chastening and refining influence over the brave but 


savage warriors of those days. This place was at that 
time filled with red-men, and innumerable wild beasts 
roamed at will and furnished an abundant supply of 
food for the children of the forest. Here could be 
seen the elk, wild deer, the cinnamon bear, the coon, 
wild turkey and fowls of infinite variety. Now what 
do we see? Two great armies on either side of the 
river — descendants of civilized European stock, chil- 
dren of Christians — making ready, with all the most 
destructive engines of war, to slaughter each other, to 
cause human blood, brother's blood, to flow in 
streams ! Alas, for the errors of poor human nature ! 
But, humanurn est errare — "it is human to err." 
We can understand this savage inclination in the 
untrained barbarian, but not in the enlightened 
Christians of the nineteenth century ! '^0 temporal O 
mores! " If at this time the sweet, gentle Pocahontas 
could return as an angel of peace to her old home 
and cast herself between the belligerents, doubtless 
their passions would be cooled and the bright vision 
would kindle fraternal charity in every heart. 

We have not yet, however, reached the Chicka- 
hominy River. We are still on the banks of the 
Pamunkey, up which are coming the army supplies — 
men and material pretty well mixed. As the men 
land, we notice a wonderful variety. Here comes a 
regiment of Zouaves, known by their red dress -caps, 
white leggings, and baggy trousers. Now we see a 
company of cavalry, their short jackets and well- 
fitting trousers trimmed with yellow. Next come the 


engineers, who wear dark blue trimmed with orange; 
and, finally, the regular infantry men, attired in the 
ordinary blue uniforms with dark trimmings. These 
soldiers, constantly coming in from the ships, soon 
became very busy unloading the necessaries of war 
in infinite variety. It would remind one of the 
slight-of-hand man or prestidigitator, who, from one 
hat, may take a sponge cake two feet in diameter, a 
p^r of live rabbits, a lady's costume, and a bottle or 
two of wine. From the vessels our men took the 
indomitable army mule, army wagons, corn, baled 
hay, flour, pork, *' hard-tack," suttlers, with all their 
traps, cartridges, cannon caissons, cannon balls, can- 
non shells, powder, crow bars, and perhaps a few tooth- 
picks. The latter were hardly essential. While all 
this necessary work was going on, many of our men 
were engaged in building eleven new bridges, found 
indispensable for crossing the swamps and the Chicka- 
hominy River. 

In the meantime the chaplains kept up the Chris- 
tian fervor of their men by celebrating Mass and 
hearing confessions. Frequently, also, some good 
soldier, who had not the time or the facilities for 
writing, requested the priest to do so for him. Such 
letters would, invariably, be addressed to a dear 
wife, mother, sister, or brother, who was only too 
anxious to know how John or James fared at the 
" front." Hundreds of such letters passed home- 
ward, and in time the dear ones would write to the 
chaplains of the brigade, asking for more information. 


At the time, such letters passed for what they were 
worth then and there; but now, over a quarter of a 
century since, these letters would be worth an incal- 
culable amount of money. They were generally 
very simple and straight to the point; and oh, how 
full of heartfelt interest! And the answers! What 
an infinite variety of expressions, prompted by mater- 
nal love and solicitude, or by the fraternal anxiety, 
but hopeful courage, would fill pages; and then the 
affectionate and tender-hearted sister could not sup- 
press the wail of grief that filled her soul at the 
thought of the privations, hardships, and exposures 
to which her dear brother was subject. The priest 
was a go-between, exercising, as best he could, his 
offices of Christian charity in numerous ways. It 
was touching to see how those who had never seen us 
wrote confidingly of their family affairs; just as 
children to their fathers, not only Catholics, but also 
non-Catholics. What a proof of an unconscious but 
divine faith! 




ON May 31, 1862, Gen. Meagher, wishing to 
keep up the spirits of his men, organized a 
steeple chase and a mule race, and numerous prizes 
were offered. Steeple chases, as a sport, are not 
extensively known or practised in this country. The 
preparations are made by building hedge or brush 
fences, digging ditches six to eight feet wide, etc. 
Then the gentlemen (in this case officers exclusively), 
mounted in jockey dress, ride over this ground, and, 
with their horses, jump the fences and ditches they 
come to throughout the course. Six, or perhaps as 
many as eight, enter for the contest and go abreast. 
As the jumping is very hazardous, it becomes exceed- 
ingly exciting. Not unfrequently when a horse and 
rider had unfortunately fallen into a ditch another 
horse and rider, coming close behind at full speed, and 
unable to stop, would go down to join the melee^ or, 
in some extraordinary cases, jumping over the fallen 
horse and rider, keep on, bent on winning the prize. 
It was certainly a great novelty to many of us, who, 



born in the States, had never before seen such recrea- 
tion, which must unquestionably have been the 
invention of wild Irishmen, who did not know what 
fear is! It was an ordinary occurrence to see men 
with dislocated arms, broken shoulder-blades, and 
black eyes ; and, in some cases, the horses were killed 
outright, or disabled so that they were shot to put 
them out of pain. 

The mule race was laughable beyond expression. 
Each teamster rode his adversary's mule, and the 
mule "in last" was the one that took the prize; 
consequently no one wanted to get in last, because it 
would give the prize to his opponent. Such whipping 
and roaring I never heard. It made all wild with 
jollity. When several of the obstinate brutes ran 
and stuck their heads into shanty windows on the 
route, and performed many still more ridiculous 
freaks, the merriment grew almost into a craze. 

In the midst of all this, the cannon opened their 
brazen mouths and belched at our troops the missiles 
of death. These were quickly responded to by those 
of our troops who were in the vicinity of the attack. 
The drums beat the "long roll," and a cry "To 
arms! " flew along our lines. Lieutenants, adjutants of 
various rank, and orderlies came with reckless speed, 
their horses covered with sweat and panting with 
fatigue and excitement, which they seemed to have 
caught instinctively from the surroundings and from 
their earnest riders. In a few moments we were 
marching to the scene of contest. 


Now we had to test the Chickahominy swamps. We 
marched all night till about two o'clock in the morning, 
over the corduroy roads that kept some of us out of 
the swamps ; but when it came the turn of the cavalry 
and artillery to cross the swamps and river, there 
were scenes that beggar description. The rain, 
which had fallen in torrents a short time previously, 
had swollen the river and filled the swamps to such a 
degree that the logs forming the corduroy roads were 
partly floating, and some of the eleven bridges that 
had been built by the troops were swept entirely 
away. The night was dark, and the bridge we had 
to cross was at first called the '"Grape-vine Bridge"; 
but before the cavalry and artillery passed over, it 
was given a new name, more appropriate to the 
dilapidated, unsafe condition in which we found it in 
the darkness of the night. It was renamed the 
" Devil's Bridge." Horses fell in vain attempts to 
plunge their way ; the artillery got stuck ; harmony 
of action and voice left the ranks, and we were bogged 
in the dark, dismal swamps of the Chickahominy. 

In the midst of all this distressing confusion and 
real hardship, we mused over the New York, Phila- 
delphia, and other gentle, innocent heroes, who would 
awaken that morning from a sound, refreshing sleep, 
get up at eight o'clock, or later, come down to break- 
fast, pick up the morning paper, and glance over the 
" army movements," and, thinking that the army 
should rush to the '' front" as the firemen go over 
Broadway and other well-paved streets to a destructive 


fire, remark: "How slowly that army moves!" I 
can not dwell on this point now, nor is it to my pur- 
pose; but I must say that many well-meaning men 
passed criticisms on the conduct of the war, who 
would have formed very different opinions had they 
known one-tenth of the difficulties such as I have 
simply alluded to ahoye, en passant. These great 
difficulties were to be met with on all occasions when 
anything like a general move had to be made. To 
mobilize a great army, taking into account the 
hundred thousand details, contingencies, etc.., is an 
undertaking but partially comprehended by men 
having a military education, but with no practical 
experience, and fully comprehended even by few 
experienced military men. From this standpoint 
one may easily see how absurd it is for men with no 
experience and no military education, hundreds of 
miles away from danger of bullets, to pass judgments 
off-hand, and vehemently condemn seeming mistakes, 
which may, in reality, be great military manoeuvres. 
As I have said, we passed most of the night reach- 
ing the scene of contest, called Fair Oaks or Seven 
Pines. We halted in the dark on a field nearly 
surrounded by woods, and tried to rest for a short time 
on the wet ground, to recover some of the strength 
lost by the fatigues of the night. In the morning 
when we opened our eyes we found that we had been 
sleeping with the dead! Many a poor soldier lay cold 
in death just where he fell in the battle of the 
previous evening, and we saw the gha&tly appearance 


of their bodies, which had been, as it were, our bed- 
fellows, and a shudder passed through our hearts. 
In this situation we could see the effects of the 
desperate struggle of the previous day. May 31, 1862. 
We were told that had it not been for the Thirty - 
seventh New York ''Irish Rifles" and three brave 
Michigan regiments forming Berry's Brigade, the 
Confederates could have called the day entirely their 
own ; but these regiments repulsed the enemy with 
considerable loss. Taking a hasty look over the 
locality, I saw on every side dead men, dead horses, 
broken muskets, caissons smashed to pieces, and 
general destruction of life and property. The 
impression made on my mind then, about twenty-eight 
years ago, is still as fresh as if it were only yesterday 
that I witnessed the scene. 

An inspection of a battle-field immediately after 
the battle has a very depressing effect on the mind, 
more so even than the battle itself. In sequestered 
places were a number of wounded and dying. The 
priests of the Irish Brigade visited them and rendered 
such assistance as Catholic soldiers were in need of, 
and then passed through our mind forebodings of 
what the day might bring forth. I must say that the 
outlook was not an exhilarating one. By this time, 
full daylight, June 1, 1862, we noticed the advance 
of the Confederate troops. They came en masse, 
presenting a bold front. All the faith and piety 
preached during the few previous months must now 
be put into practice. Our men of the Irish Brigade 


blessed themselves with more than ordinary fervor, 
offered a few fervent prayers to God and His Blessed 
Mother, and then, resigned to fate, they passed, even 
in the face of impending perils, an occasional joke, or 
quoted a line of poetry. A balloon which had 
appeared above the raging conflict on the previous 
day, had informed Gen. McClellan of the movements 
of the Confederates, and he knew that they were 
taking advantage of our critical position — our right 
wing being unprotected — a failure on the part of 
McDowell to fill that vacancy with his 40,000 men, 
as he was expected to do. Besides this failure, the 
recent rains had swollen the small stream of the 
Chickahominy until it was a raging torrent, and 
the marshes had become expansive lakes, with 
part of the Union troops on one side and part on the 
other! This rendered McClellan's position extremely 
hazardous, and the Confederates were fully confident 
of an easy victory, knowing, as they did, that 
McDowell with his great command was not near to 
assist McClellan in any way. They took into con- 
sideration, also, the embarrassment caused by the 
unprecedented floods in and along the shores and 
marshes of the Chickahominy 

At daylight the Confederates advanced, and the 
"long roll" had already called to arms all the Union 
men then on the ground. The conflict commenced 
early, and increased in fury until a "tenderfoot" felt 
that hell had opened its gates and let loose hundreds 
of thousands of demons, "shapes hot from Tartarus," 


whose ferocity knew no bounds, and whose single 
aim was destruction, without mercy to friend or foe. 
While the battle increased in violence and pressed 
the Union front, Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher's 
action, with his Irish Brigade of infantry and his 
battery of eighteen ten-pound Parrot guns, is thus 
described by Dr. James Moore, United States sur- 
geon, in his complete history of the war: "Gen. 
Meagher, at the head of his famous Irish Brigade, 
advanced gallantly, and, charging with great fierce- 
ness, mowed down the rebels by platoons. They were 
compelled to retreat, while a storm of shells from the 
Parrot guns accelerated their flight." (Page 172.) 
Healy, in his history, speaking of the same battle, 
says: ''Meagher's gallant brigade was then brought 
up to relieve the hard-pressed regiment. Advancing 
with their well-known war-shout, they closed with 
fearful ferocity on the foe, and for an hour mowed 
them down almost by companies." 



TTTHAT has all the last chapter to do with the 
^^ chaplains? some reader may ask. It has 
everything to do with them. It shows that the 
doctrines they preached did not make cowards. It 
furnishes one more grand historical fact to shut the 
mouths of bigots who wantonly take every occasion 
to stir up animosity, quite unnecessarily, against 
Catholics. The press holds out to the American 
people the great power of the Pope, and tells them 
that by his power and office he directs Catholic 
politics in the United States, and that our great 
American free institutions are in danger! "The 
Pope and the Catholic Church will be their ruin! " 
In the first place, let me ask, should we have any free 
institutions or any free country at all, were it not for 
Catholics ? I write not as a foreigner but as a native- 
born American citizen. Was it not a Catholic — 
Columbus — who discovered this country ? Was it not 
Catholic Spain that encouraged him, and furnished 
him the means? Consult history. Wherein have 
the Catholic Church and the Catholic people in this 



country failed in patriotism? Tell me that! and do 
not try to frighten good people with the ghost of a 
Pope coming over here to destroy our free institu- 
tions. The Pope loves the United States, as he has 
frequently asserted, and he has other occupations, 
besides uprooting national institutions within her 
borders. The Catholics of various nations showed 
their love for this country during the struggle for 
independence, for national freedom. 

Many civilized nations seemed ripe for liberty 
when the superhuman blow was struck over a century 
ago and the glorious fruit fell at the feet of America. 
Like birds let out of a cage, the people who had 
come over here from Europe felt that they had left 
behind them a prison life. They left behind them 
oppressive laws. They left behind them an over- 
bearing aristocracy; and as new generations sprang 
up, the very thought of being kept on their native 
soil, unwilling servants of worn-out social systems 
and ungrateful masters, caused a deep, strong desire 
to spring up in their hearts for absolute, unconditional, 
and everlasting freedom. The great lakes, the beau- 
tiful, inspiring torrents that continually rush to the 
sea, the extensive and fertile prairies; yes, even the 
rich and impenetrable forests, homes for the wild 
man, homes for birds and beasts, had fired the minds 
of Americans and told them by the voice of nature: 
" You are our sons, and you must be sons of freedom, 
now and forever." A voice was lifted; it was wafted 
over the Atlantic, A favorable response came from 


various nations of Europe. From every city on this 
continent, from every town in the country, from 
every village and hamlet on the plain, from every 
ship in the harbors, from every cabin in the forests, 
and from the living hearts of millions of men, went 
up that same cry for liberty. In response to this 
universal demand, Ireland sent her brave sons to 
do battle in the cause of liberty. Poland sent an 
illustrious Kosciusko. Alsace sent a noble DeKalb. 
From France and her Catholic king came the great 
and patriotic Lafayette and the noted Rochambeau, 
with thousands of French Catholic soldiers. With- 
out the aid of these truly brave, talented, and gallant 
men of the Catholic faith the United States could 
not have gained her independence, and would be to- 
day, in all probability, a humble colony of England, 
just as we see our neighbor Canada. Not to speak 
now of the friendly reception given to Lafayette by 
Marie Antoinette, nor the favorable disposition of the 
king to the American cause in promising an army 
and a fleet, nor of Eochambeau at the head of 6,000 
French Catholic soldiers, let us simply refer to York- 
town. Behold, rapidly advancing on the historic 
waters of the Chesapeake Bay, Count de Grrasse with 
a powerful French fleet. He joins Washington, the 
two forming an army of 12,000 heroes. Washington 
takes one redoubt and the French take another. 
Corn wallis, with his 7,000 well-trained British soldiers, 
is compelled to surrender to the combined American 
and French armies. ; This virtually ended the war 


with England, and secured that greatest boon of 
liberty. The joy that passed through the nation was 
never before equaled. In no struggle into which 
our dear country has been precipitated, either with 
England, Mexico, or the late conflict of the rebellion, 
can you find a lack of gallant generals, officers of 
every rank, with tens of thousands of brave, hardy 
sons of the Catholic Church in the ranks and at the 
front, the place of peril, called in war times the "post 
of honor." 

Yes, wellnigh on every page of the history of the 
United States you find recorded the brave deeds 
of Irish Catholics, and Catholics of all nations, 
including American Catholics, who labored zealously 
in the cause of American liberty; and still we have 
the mortification of hearing, through the press, from 
the pulpit, and even in legislative halls, the hue and 
cry: "Catholics will destroy our free institutions!" 
Did not Catholics furnish the material to make them ? 
And why should they destroy their own work ? Why 
should thoy be debarred rights purchased by the 
purest blood of their noblest sons ? Shame on bigots 
for their ingratitude ! Shame on bigots for this lack 
of a sense of justice! Shame on bigots for casting 
dishonor on the memories of the men who saved their 
lives and the honor of this country! Shame on 
bigots for vomiting out spleen on the very men who, 
shoulder to shoulder with their own forefathers, won 
for them, on bloody battle-fields, the liberty they now 
enjoy. Hold! Enough! Thank God, it is only from 


bigots any cause of complaint comes. The national 
finger of scorn should be pointed at such men till they 
hide their diminished heads behind the mountains of 
some remote island far beyond the borders of a free 
and fraternal nation. These few remarks are not 
intended for a general fault-finding with men not of 
the Catholic faith in this country. No, we have 
reason to be thankful to all, excepting always the 
bigots. Some of the finest tributes I ever read to our 
faith came from Protestant pens — from honest, well- 
meaning men. Men of this kind are more numerous 
in our happy and prosperous country than in any 
other country in the world.' Once more, let bigots 
cease their useless vituperation; let the Gospel, not 
scandal, be preached from the pulpit. Let the press 
temper its language and be inspired by the noble, 
manly spirit of our forefathers. Let the legislative 
bodies allow no bigotry, but deal only in justice, 
equity, and truth with all men. Then, and not till 
then, can we call ourselves a free people, bound 
together by the most sacred ties that patriotic blood 
is able to cement. 




rpHE battle of Fair Oaks was over and niglit spread 
-■- its dark mantle over the bloody scene, but could 
not hush the groans of wounded men. Neither could 
it bring the desired refreshment and comfort to those 
nearly dead from fatigue, hunger, thirst, loss of blood, 
and excruciating pain. Those who lost much blood 
by severe wounds suffered terribly from the cold 
night air — a natural consequence. Here I may 
remark that in the early part of the war the provis- 
ions for the sick and wounded were very imperfect. 
Not because of a want of necessary supplies by the 
Government, which desired to see all the men in the 
service provided with necessaries, and even with 
luxuries, but from want of organization on the part 
of those officers whose duty it was to attend to this 
branch. Neither was it their fault. It must be 
remembered that most of our officers, while brave and 
attentive to duty, still lacked experience. Nearly all 
were novices. On this occasion, especially, circum- 
stances precluded the possibility of having everything 



as it should be. For instance, to have hospital tents, 
cots, and a hundred and one other things required for 
alleviating t!ie sufferings of the wounded. Many of 
the severely wounded lost everything — blankets, 
utensils, and provisions.* The country was in a terri- 
ble condition, covered to a great extent, as we have 
seen, with water, and to convey by wagons the thou- 
sands of tons 'necessary on such occasions was no 
small task. Later on during the war, with more 
experience and better organization, the surgeons were 
able to give better and more prompt attention and 
assistance to those in need. But, no matter how well 
organized, no matter how attentive all are, on such 
occasions there are inevitable sufferings. At times it 
is impossible to furnish even a drink of water to the 
soldier, bravely trying to endure not only the torturing 
pain of his wounds, but also the hunger and thirst 
that can not be assuaged by the best will of the best 
friends. Such are the contingencies of the battle- 
field. During the battle and after it, as fast as our 
men dropped, they were seen first by the priest, at 
the request of the sufferer, and if his wound was 
fatal, the priest heard his confession on the spot, 

* Just after the battle of Fair Oaks, I wished to send word 
home to Notre Dame. I had no paper, but, after much search- 
ing, I found an old envelope, which had no paste or mucilage 
to fasten it. I found a stamp, however, and on the inside of 
the envelope I wrote : "The battle is over, and we are safe.' 
I sealed the letter by pasting the stamp on the laps of the 
envelope. This I addressed to my dear sister, who handed it 
to Very Rev. E. Sorin, then the President of Notre Dame. He 
was BO pleased with the real war-like message that he had it 
read in public to tlie faculty and students of the university. 


and then he was conveyed to a place called a hospital. 
The surgeons, assisted by their hospital stewards, 
worked, not " eight-hour labor," but night and day, 
from fifteen to twenty-four hours, according to cir- 

Here let me say a word on the position of Catholic 
chaplains. All know that Catholics, when about to 
die especially, desire to become reconciled to God, not 
merely by contrition for sins, but also by the use of 
the Sacrament of Penance, which was instituted by 
our Blessed Saviour, who, when He instituted it, gave 
to His apostles and their successors a special power to 
be exercised in its administration. We find in St. 
Matthew (xvi. ), Christ addressing Peter thus: 
" Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound 
in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth 
shall be loosed in heaven." And in St. John (xx.), 
Christ, speaking to all His disciples, says: "Keceive 
ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins ye shall forgive, they 
are forgiven them." Now, the priests were not 
obliged to fight in the ranks; but, by reason of the 
functions of their office, especially regarding confes- 
sion, they were found at hand when one of their men 
desired, or was in need of, immediate attention. While 
Father Dillon and I were riding close up, and the 
battle raging at the time, we met a thin, lank soldier, 
rushing out of the battle in a terribly frightened 
condition. He had no musket, no haversack, no 
" impediments of war " on his person. Father Dillon 
demanded, in rather an official tone: 


" Where are you going, sir?" 


" Are you wounded ? 



"Where is your musket? " 

"Oh," said he, " do not send me back! I am not 
wounded, but I'm fearfully demoralized! " 

And indeed his appearance showed that. As he 
passed rapidly back through the woods and brush, 
he was losing, not only his courage, but also every- 
thing most useful to him, even his hat; and the brush 
lifted his hair, which literally "stood on end." His 
hair was of a yellowish color and very much sun- 
burned, and his face was absolutely colorless. The 
picture he presented would baffle the descriptive 
powers of Charles Dickens. He looked worse than 
" Sir John Falstalf ," when he emerged from the Kiver 
Thames, into which he had been thrown, with the 
soiled clothing, by "Mrs. Ford's " men. We knew it 
was useless to send him back, and we had no time to 
waste. As we passed on, he kept looking back with 
nervous twitches, and he sloped to the rear quite as 
badly demoralized as a half -drowned hen. But, one 
may ask, were you not afraid yourself? Yes, indeed, 
but withal we could not help laughing. If there is 
anything, even in the face of the greatest dangers, 
that will cause a man to laugh, it is to see a coward 
badly scared, so that all his manhood seems to ooze 
from his toes and the tips of his fingers. 


As I passed over to the left wing of our brigade, 
I came up with Gen. Meagher, who was constantly 
passing from one part of the brigade to another. 
Gen. Meagher's staff was known as a "brilliant staff." 
It was composed of gallant young officers, who were 
decked out not only with the regulation gold straps, 
stripes and cords on their coats, trousers, and hats, but 
they had also great Austrian knots of gold on their 
shoulders, besides numerous other ornamentations in 
gold, which glittered in the Virginia sun enough to 
dazzle one. With this crowd I rode along for some 
time. We could hear passing us the whiz and whir 
of occasional bullets; but, presently, the Confederates, 
being attracted by the general and his staff, and 
getting range of us, sent a perfect shower of bullets 
at us. They shot a little too high, and we passed 
unhurt. I confess that I was not sorry when I 
reached the north side of an old log house, and in the 
shade of this I attended to a poor, wounded soldier, 
who had been carried there by two of his companions 
a few moments before. While behind this building, 
a one -story structure, made of round logs, with the 
chinks filled with pine, split in triangular shape, and 
plastered over with Virginia mud, I could hear the 
bullets strike the roof, making a sound similar to 
that made by hailstones falling on a tin roof. The 
shingles of this roof were, by the way, of the old- 
fashioned kind — " hand-made." Large logs were first 
sawed into lengths of about two-and-one-half feet, and 
these were fived into flat forms, varying in thickness 


from one-half to three-fourths of an inch. They 
were rough, but strong; and the stronger, the better 
under the above circumstances. Having heard the 
confession of the poor man, his wounds were dressed 
by our faithful surgeon, Dr. Keynolds; but, in spite of 
all the attention bestowed on him, he died in a few 
hours. The history of this soldier is the history of 
thousands who fell on this bloody field on that day, 
in the memorable battle of Fair Oaks or Seven 

The above allusion to some of the duties and 
positions of Catholic chaplains is made in answer to 
the question put to me a hundred times since the 
war, as to where the chaplains were and what they 
did during battles. I will have occasion to refer to 
this again later on. Many, too, have asked me about 
the hospitals and the care of the wounded. On this 
point I have found that most persons have a very 
err6heous conception of such institutions. As soon 
as a general engagement begins, the wounded are 
carried back from the front so far as it is possible to do 
so. Many poor fellows must lie where they fall for 
several hours, and, in some cases, even for several days. 
This is especially the case when one army drives 
back the other, and in turn is driven back itself, so 
that on the disputed ground between the two forces 
the wounded of both armies may be so situated that 
their comrades can not reach them until a flag of truce 
be sent over. It is not easy to do this, especially at 
night; and sometimes the fighting may begin so early 


on the following morning that there is no chance to 
do so. Want of transportation, also, often keeps 
them in the same position. When the conditions are 
favorable, the wounded are carried back, and the 
surgeons, with others in command, determine upon a 
place of safety, and here is located the hospital. 
Sometimes it may be in the shade of a straw-stack, if 
such a luxury is to be found within a reasonable 
distance. Sometimes they take advantage of a grove, 
where may be found at least shade from a broiling 
sun. Again, it may be in some old barn, and when 
it is possible to get wagons to the front, the hospital 
t^nts are erected. But temporarily, the wounded are 
placed in some improvised shelter, where the sur- 
geons, under orders of higher officers, attend to them. 
There were regimental, brigade, division, corps, 
and surgeon generals. A perfect system prevailed, 
each taking orders from a superior officer until the 
head was reached; or, in other words, orders came 
from the head, and were transmitted all along the 
line. In the hospitals the surgeons commenced at 
once to dress wounds, administer restoratives, in case 
of sinking spells, and, in cases of necessity, amputate 
feet, arms, or legs. When amputation had to be 
made (and this took place after every battle), the 
victim was placed on a table, or on some boards in 
that shape, chloroform was administered, then the 
knife and the saw made "short work" of a man's leg 
or arm. You might see outside the quasi-hosipital, in 
one great pile, legs, arms, hands, and feet, covered 


with the fresh blood of the owners — a scene that 
would sicken most persons to such an extent as to 
make them hope never to see the like again. The 
picture can be compared with nothing but a butcher 
shop, or slaughter-house, where meat is cut and piled 
up. In many cases it was impossible to find a suitable 
place to locate a hospital — which occurred at this 
very battle of Fair Oaks — and the wounded were 
placed in old freight cars and sent to the rear. Dr. 
Ellis, who had charge of the wounded, thus describes 
a scene, which he reports in his book on the subject: 
"The rebels having destroyed the railroad bridge 
across the river, the cars were run down to the river 
side, filled with the wounded after the battle of Fair 
Oaks. It was here, lying around on the track as 
they had been taken out of the freight cars, that I 
found over three hundred wounded, many of them in 
a dying condition, and all of them more or less 
mutilated and still enveloped in their filthy and 
blood-stained clothing as they were found on the 
battle-field. In many instances, maggots were creep- 
ing out of their festering wounds." (Hist. Irish 
Brigade, page 159.) 

These scenes I myself witnessed, not once, but 
many times. Great distress fills one's mind when 
obliged to behold such misery, with no possible 
means to apply an immediate remedy; but such are 
the fates of war. Whenever it was at all within the 
power of the doctors, every attention was given with 
tender devotedness, not only to the wounded Union 


soldiers, but also to such Confederate wounded as 
happened to fall Jnto their hands. A young Con- 
federate, who had been wounded, said to Dr. Laurence 
Eeynolds: "The Irish fight like devils, but they are 
very kind in the hospital." The priests could not 
confine themselves to any one hospital; they had to 
pass from one to another — wherever there was to be 
found a dying man who stood in need of the sacra- 
ments. Those whose wounds were not fatal were sent 
as soon as possible back to the city or town, where 
they received special care till they were entirely 
cured and able to rejoin their regiments, unless they 
secured a "leave of absence" to visit their families 
for a specified time; this might be from thirty to 
sixty days. The entire loss on both sides, Union and 
Confederate, in the two days' battle of Fair Oaks, or 
Seven Pines, was put down at 12,520. 



AFTER the battle of Fair Oaks, the Union troops 
were intrenched in front of Richmond, and 
waited some time for the necessary bridge-building, 
and constantly in the hope of receiving the promised 
re-enforcements. From some tall pines on our front 
we had a view of Richmond. The grounds were low 
and marshy, and malaria soon set in among our 
troops. Not being accustomed to the intense heat 
of the South, the Northern Union men died by 
hundreds. The priests were kept busy attending not 
only the men of the Irish Brigade, but calls came 
from far and near for their services. I often rode over 
twenty miles on a sick call. Every now and then, 
you would hear a brass band playing — strange to say — 
the peaceful Christmas hymn Adeste Fideles in slow 
measures, and by this all knew that there was a 
funeral. The band, playing slowly as the procession 
passed on, marched to each fresh grave, accompanied 
by a squad of soldiers under command of an officer. 
The men carried their guns reversed and loaded 



with blank cartridges, and over the grave of each 
departed comrade the requiem vollies were fired. 

Short and few were the prayers we said. The 
ceremony was short, and all returned to camp till 
another funeral had to be attended. A repetition of 
this occurred several times every day, until the ranks 
of the Northern Union men were decimated. We 
remained in this pestiferous swamp a long time, and 
the longer troops continue in a camp, the greater, 
of necessity, is the accumulation of offal and filth. 
Every effort was made by the officers to keep the 
\ premises clean, but much time was required to get 
rid of horses killed in battle that had swollen to a 
monstrous size under the Southern sun, and filled the 
air with a sickening odor. To bury them was no 
small nor pleasing job; but as many as possible were 
burned — -100, if my memory serves me. Every other 
means to promote cleanliness was taken, but the 
malaria was beyond control. 

June 15, or thereabouts, the Catholic priests present, 
namely. Rev. James Dillon, C. S. C; Rev. Thomas 
Ouellet, S. J. ; Father Martin, of West Philadelphia, 
and the writer, held a meeting to discuss various 
theological questions pertaining to our ministry. We 
were all furnished with faculties by the saintly Arch- 
bishop of Baltimore, Francis Patrick Kenrick, D. D.; 
but being far removed from Baltimore, with no tele- 
graph communication at our disposal (the wires in 
use at the time were all military ones, and were used 
exclusively for war purposes), and having no access to 


the Bishop of Richmond, in whose diocese we were, 
we could not get Episcopal approbation on several 
oases that might require such approbation, and we 
came together to decide upon the best plan to adopt, 
under the circumstances. Among other thmgs, we 
decided to stand by each other in case of sickness, 
and in case of death by sickness, or by a bullet, each 
chaplain agreed to say two Masses for the one who 
fell first. Shortly after this, Eev. Father Martin, who 
was very much older than the rest of us, in fact too 
old for such life, was obliged to resign and return 
home. In the midst of this sickness, continually on 
the increase, called by some "camp fever," but in 
reality malari.j, the surgeon-general ordered each 
soldier to be furnished with a small quantity of whisky 
and quinine, mixed, every morning before going on 
daily duty. The regiments were drawn up in line, by 
companies, and as each man's name was called out by 
the adjutant or sergeant he stepped forward one step, 
took his medicine, and then stepped back mto the 
ranks in perfect order. Some refused the whisky, 
but took the qmnfne. The chaplains neglected to 
take either. June 17 I felt very queerly, and being 
usually very healthy, I complained to my friends, 
particularly to Father Dillon, Quartermaster McCor- 
mick, and to Capt. Moore, of New York. Wishmg 
to keep up my courage, they said my trouble came 
from imagination, and that I was influenced by seemg 
so many sick and dying. I did not give up, but kept 
on my feet, and one day, on or about June 18, x reeled 


and fell to the ground. Good Father Dillon got me 
a leave of absence (as officers we were always subject 
to military laws), and managed to take me to White 
House Landing. Here we found a sutler, and from 
him we procured a pine-apple. I ate a slice of this, 
but could do no more. Father Dillon also obtained 
a bottle of beef tea. I was put on board an army 
steamer, bound for Washington. Father Dillon saw 
that I was placed in a berth (on the ''soft side of a 
plank") on board, with my coat for a pillow. This 
was as near luxury as could be reached. He gave the 
bottle of beef tea to a negro servant to warm — that 
is, the tea, not the bottle — and went on deck, where 
he became engaged in an interesting conversation 
with an officer, a friend of ours, about the late battles 
and future prospects. When he looked at his watch, 
some time after, he found that several hours had 
passed since he left me, and he came down to .see 
how I was. I was where I had been put, still on my 
favorite plank. 

''Did the beef tea do you any good?" he asked. 
I told him that I had seen no beef tea. 
He hunted up the darkey, and asked him: 
"What did you do with that beef tea?" 
"O, Massa, I done put the bottle in the hot water, 
and it went all to pieces! " 

The darkey was scared out of a year's growth, but 
this did me no good. There I lay with absolutely 
no nourishment until I reached Washington next day, 
and was landed in the hospital of the Sisters of 


Charity, where everything was offered me, but I was 
then too weak to take anything except a little medicine. 
This was nobody's fault. Army steamers were vessels 
hired simply for transportation of men in the service, 
and they were not expected to furnish beds or 
provisions. It may seem egotistical for me to write 
so much about a little personal experience; for, after 
all, I was incomparably better off than thousands of 
poor soldiers who had not and could not get even the 
care I received. I write this, as I said in the early 
pages of this narrative, to give a page of " unwritten 
history." Histories dwell principally on the exciting 
scenes of the battle-field, which constitute but a small 
portion of the horrors of war, in my humble opinion. 
Both sides of the picture must be shown. It required 
nearly twenty -four hours to get me to Washington, 
and there, under the care of the good Sisters of 
Charity, who were attending my sick officers and 
men, I lay insensible with a burning fever for three 
days. Persons were placed to watch me day and 
night. Thanks to the good medical treatment and 
excellent care of the '* angels of sick and wounded 
soldiers" — the Sisters — I soon recovered. Being 
removed in good time from the malarial camp, no 
doubt helped, else I might have fallen a victim with 
the thousands of others who perished in the swamps 
of the Chickahominy. This was the only sickness I 
experienced during the entire campaign of three } ears, 
starting from Camp California, near Alexandria, Va., 
in the spring of 1802, and winding up at Petersburg, 
Va. In that time I was not absent one month," 


all told, from my post in the army. Meantime, I 
accompanied my brigade night and day, in heat and 
cold, in sunshine and rain; marching and counter- 
marching in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, 
hundreds if not thousands of miles. Poor Father 
Dillon, who so kindly assisted me in my sickness, 
contracted in that army the disease that carried him 
to an early grave in 1868, and he now sleeps within 
gun-shot of where I write these lines. I recovered 
strength rapidly and returned to my post in time to 
witness the disasters of the " Seven Days' Fight," 
during which McClellan made his masterly retreat — 
than which no greater is recorded in history. 



THE "Seven Days' Fight " commenced June 25, 
1862, and lasted until July 2. McClellan was 
compelled to swing around his right wing twenty 
miles from the "White House Landing" to the James 
River, forming the new base of operations. This 
manoeuvre required masterly skill and was made 
necessary by the failure of McDowell to protect (as 
was intimated in a previous chapter) McClellan's 
right wing with his 40,000 men. Our base of 
supplies was in great danger, and it required a whole 
division to protect the same. In making this move 
in front of the watchful enemy, McClellan was, 
moreover, obliged to protect and control a great herd 
of fat cattle, an immense train of army wagons, 
ambulances, and artillery, stretching in one line fully 
forty miles, and all to pass over one narrow road. 
During the " Seven Days' Fight," the Union soldiers 
moved by night toward the James River and during 
the day fought like tigers. This retreat from the 
front of Richmond was necessarily attended with a 
great deal of hardship; for the fighting by day 



and the marching by night well-nigh exhausted the 
Union soldiers. Day and night the priests accom- 
panied their men, hearing confessions and administer- 
ing the sacraments as far as possible, especially to 
those who were mortally wounded. This gave great 
security to the minds of the Catholic soldiers. 
Everything concerning this move was kept secret at 
first, lest the Confederates, learning of McClellan's 
intention, should pounce upon him before he could 
put in motion his great train. The Confederates did 
learn his plans, and forced him to battle ; but much of 
the work was already accomplished, although m^any 
of us were not and could not be ready. When the 
enemy struck our ranks, we were forced to save what 
we could and let the rest go. Many trunks, tents, 
etc., were simply abandoned. There was time only 
to fight, and no possibility of securing transportation, 
Jk" as all the army wagons must get out of the way and 
move rapidly toward the James River, laden with 
the absolute essentials of war — ammunition and pro- 
visions. Here we abandoned our large chapel tent, the 
canvas of which had cost us over $500. Here I 
lost my trunk, in which I had a small quantity of 
clothing, a few books, and all the sermons I had ever 
written. They were in manuscript form, and I am 
sure no publisher would make his fortune by pub- 
lishing them. 

At the battle of Savage Station, in the course of 
the " Seven Days' Fight," the Union troops were hard 
pressed and thrown into confusion, and at this point 


McClellan ordered up Meagher's Brigade, with that 
of General French, to repulse Jackson, who moved 
on our right in massed columns, determined to wedge 
in between us and the river. Had he accomplished 
this, he would probably have captured a large portion 
of the Army of the Potomac; and he was in a fair 
way to do so, when the green flag was unfurled to 
the breeze. A desperate charge was made, and the 
hitherto victorious Confederates retired before the 
intrepicj. advance of the Irish Brigade, gallantly 
assisted by the brigade of General French. Both 
brigades charged with most extraordinary courage 
and gained a very important point. McClellan, 
speaking of this afterward, said: "This gave an 
opportunity to rally our men behind the brigades of 
French and Meagher, and they again marched up the 
hill ready to repulse another attack." Moore, in his 
" Complete History of the Kebellion," speaking of 
this same battle, says: " The Irish regiments fought 
bravely, charging at times up to the cannon's mouth, 
and once dragging ofP a battery and spiking the 
guns." * (Chapter XXI, Page 213.) At this very 
critical point it may be said, with no great degree 
of boasting, that, owing to the well-known bravery 
of the Irish Brigade and the confidence which 
their reputation inspired in others, the Army of 
the Potomac was saved. Had not the Confed- 
erates received that timely repulse, they would have 

* ITore the Irish Brigade received a new name, and was 
called, in local circles, " The Irish Blockade." 


succeeded in pressing between the Union army and the 
river and passing round in the rear of McClellan. 
Thus they could have prevented his reaching his 
new base of supplies, which was in a place of safety, 
protected by the soldiers on the gunboats, who had 
been instructed as to the part they were expected to 

I can not pass over at this point the well-known 
humorous and somewhat witty reply of Capt. O'Shea, 
of the Tammany regiment, under peculiar circum- 
stances. The captain had received orders with his 
command to repair a broken bridge over the Chicka- 
hominy. One of McClellan's aides rode up, full of 
anxiety, and demanded: 

" Who commands here? " 

The captain, who stuttered considerably at times, 
replied : 

" I-I-d-do." 

'' I want to know, sir, can artillery pass over?" 

''Ye-yes, s-s-sir, if they are f-f-fiying artil-1-lery ! " 
— casting a glance over the broken bridge as he made 
the answer. 

It very much astonished many brave soldiers in the 
Army of the Potomac to know how it was possible that 
the men and officers of the Irish Brigade could be so 
light-hearted under grave and trying circumstances; 
but it is a characteristic of a great people, of sound 
morality and manly achievements, thus in peril and in 
the face of death to give these tokens of cheerful heart 
and vigor of mind. While the Irish Brigade was 



making its desperate charge, an occurrence took place 
worthy of notice here. The first regiment ordered up 
to check Jackson was the Ninth Massachusetts, then 
under command of Col. Cass. t.. This was a well- 
known Irish regiment, and had for its chaplains, first 
Father Scully and later Father Egan. It fought 
against fearful odds, Jackson having about 20,000 
men. Col. Cass was almost in despair, when sud- 
denly he saw the rush of the Irish Brigade to assist, 
and he cried out to Gen. Meagher: 
"Is this the Irish Brigade, general?" 
" Yes, colonel, we are here! " 
'' Thank God," said the colonel, " we are saved! " 
The colonel, so encouraged, made another dash 
with what men he had left; but he soon fell to fight 
no more — fell at the "post of honor." Many of 
our men dropped in death during that battle, on 
the ground occupied later by the Confederates, and 
as night came, fighting ceased. A part of the night 
was spent by the Confederates in burying their dead 
and also ours who fell into their hands; but before 
doing this they "stripped our dead." Southern 
historians apologize for this by saying that the Con- 
federates were in rags and could not secure a supply 
of clothing " for love or money." Many dead bodies 
were removed to make room to build camp fires 
for cooking purposes, and in many cases the dying 
and dead were placed in the same pile. Without 
doubt, many not yet dead were buried alive, as 
we have reason to know from some who revived 


enough to protest, just as they were about to be 
placed in the pit. The usual way is not to dig a 
grave for each man, but a long pit about six and a 
half feet wide and deep enough to hold all the dead 
in the immediate vicinity. The bodies are placed 
side by side and on top of each other in the pit, 
which is then covered over much the same as farmers 
cover potatoes and roots to preserve them from the 
frost of winter; with this exception, however: the 
vegetables really get more tender care. First, they 
are piled up in cone shape, and clean straw is placed 
over them so that the clay covering shall not touch 
them; and the shape given to the top, like the roof 
of a house, sheds all the rain. In the spring the 
vegetables are found as dry as if they had been kept 
in a room heated by steam. Circumstances prevent 
such tenderness from being extended to the fallen 
hero, for the time being at least. Immediately after a 
battle, the commanding generals take active measures 
for the contingencies of the following morning. 
Consequently, mounted aides and orderlies are sent 
flying in every direction with orders and instructions 
to the subordinate officers. In rain or cold, light or 
darkness, that might vie with that of his Satanic 
Majesty's kingdom, these devoted men dash off, and 
in the discharge of their duties often, unwillingly, 
trample on the dead and dying, who may be lying 
where they fell, on top of each other, the grey and the 
blue together. But what is worse, even the army 
wagons, and especially the ambulances, have often, in 


their hurry and rush, passed their heavy wheels over 
the dead bodies, and not infrequently over the bodies 
of men still tenaciously clinging to life in their 
prostrate and helpless condition. This is not an 
overdrawn picture, but one witnessed by hundreds of 
us during many battles. 

As we retired, in our well-ordered retreat, toward 
our new position on the James River, we were 
obliged to abandon all our wounded who were not 
able to walk or to get transportation. All the ambu- 
lances were very soon full. Wounded men crawled on 
to army wagons; others hobbled along, their wounds 
still undressed, and from loss of blood becoming all 
the while weaker and fainter. Many held on till their 
last breath, to avoid capture and to be with their com- 
panions. From the wounded in the ambulances, from 
those clinging on to the rear ends of the army wagons, 
and from those limping along on foot, blood was 
dropping along the road, and thus the blood of heroes 
marked our way as the march continued to a position 
more suitable for a systematic and obstinate contest. 
On July 1, 1862, the Union soldiers reached their 
vantage ground on Malvern Hill, where a determined 
stand was taken by them. This battle was one of 
great carnage, and desperately fought by both armies. 
The Irish Brigade did its sliar^ during the day and 
expected that its day's task was done, when, at seven 
o'clock in the evening, it was found that Couch and 
Porter were hard pressed. Dr. James Moore, in his 
history (Chap. XXI, p. 216) , thus describes the assist- 
ance rendered by Meagher's and Sickles' brigades: 


"The brigades of Meagher and Sickles were sent 
to relieve the brave but exhausted troops of Couch, 
who had expended all their ammunition. These 
re-enforcements at this critical moment advanced 
upon the enemy, who recoiled. The tide of battle 
was rolled back." The battle ended with great losses 
on both sides, but the Confederates were completely- 
routed. They gave up the conflict entirely and fell 
back, followed by the Union troops, and becoming, in 
their flight for safety, very much demoralized. Some 
think that McClellan should have followed the Con- 
federates and captured Kichmond, but there are 
conflicting opinions on the subject. The Army of 
the Potomac crowned the seventh day with a grand 
triumph — but our poor dead! We, the chaplains, 
had not the sad consolation of helping most of them 
to die well, neither had we an opportunity of seeing 
them consigned to their gory graves. Our heroic 
brigade left 700 of its bravest officers and men on 
the bloody fields behind; nearly every one of them 
Catholics, and we may almost say none without 
having shortly before received the sacraments. Let us 
hope that they met a favorable trial before the dread 
Judgment Seat; that their hardships, thirst, hunger, 
and the blood flowing from their painful, mortal 
wounds, cried for pardon for past sins, and found a 
favorable echo in the Sacred Wounds of a benign 
Saviour, who had shed the last drop of His blood for 
the salvation of their precious souls. We leave them, 
as a tear drops to their memory, to meet, we hope, in 
the Kingdom of Peace. 



THE "Seven Days' Fight" was over, and we were 
able to get a much-desired rest of mind and body, 
situated as we were, in a beautiful camp at Harrison's 
Landing on the banks of the James Eiver. The Army 
of the Potomac reached this point July 2, 1862. 
Having left behind us the miserable swamps of the 
Chickahominy, where so much sickness prevailed, and 
where, as we have seen, many graves were made, we 
enjoyed beyond expression the new, clean camp, 
fresh water, sufficiently abundant for all purposes, and 
other conveniences, so much needed after fighting 
seven days and marching seven nights consecutively. 
The camp lay for miles and miles along the beautiful 
James Eiver. Industry took possession of every 
soldier and officer, and each vied with his neighbor 
in beautifying his canvas house and immediate 
surroundings. By this time army life had grown 
upon us, and we felt more at home in it as we became 
more experienced in making ourselves comparatively 
comfortable. Our men were detailed by turns to build 
and construct lines of defense— trenches, breastworks, 



abatis, etc. Others were employed in making streets, 
policing the camp, and much time was given to 
dress parades, regimental and company drills. In 
this way time did not hang heavily on the soldiers 
so as to make them dull, uneasy, and discontented. 
After the day's work, the camp-fires were greatly 
enjoyed, and around them were many scenes of 
interest. At these fires were recounted tales of the 
bravery of companions who fell in the late terrific 
contests; the touching sight of James trying to 
save his wpunded brother from the grasp of the 
enemy was described, or when Thomas fell, it was 
told how tenderly he spoke of his mother. It was 
a notable fact that most of the brave, good soldiers, 
expiring from the effects of gaping wounds, almost 
invariably mentioned most affectionately the one 
dearest to their hearts at that moment of sore dis- 
tress, namely, the loved mother; while all devout 
Catholics called on the Queen of all mothers, Mary, 
Mother of Jesus, to assist them, by her most powerful 
intercession, to die well. This has been my experience 
and that of hundreds of others. 

I remember, among innumerable escapes from 
death almost miraculous, a few which we frequently 
talked over by these camp-fires at Harrison's Landing. 
One was this: A young man, leaving Brooklyn, N. Y., 
received from his good mother a prayer-book. It 
was not bulky, but just the shape and size which 
could be easily carried in the vest pocket. The 
mother, full of solicitude for the life of her son's 


soul, even more than for that of his body, made him 
promise to say a few prayers every day out of this 
dear little book. It is not known that he did so 
every day, but it is known that he carried it in an 
inside pocket near his heart. In the battle of Malvern 
Hill a bullet struck the book in the center, passed 
through a portion of it, then glanced off without 
injuring the man in the least. This book was 
treasured ever after as a precious relic. Another 
soldier, from Philadelphia, wore the five scapulars 
given him by his kind sister. A bullet struck the 
scapulars on his breast and would have pierced his 
body had not the five thicknesses of the scapulars 
diverted its course. Hundreds of such instances 
could be told, and were told, over and over, at the 

Good brass bands in the camp lent a most agree- 
able service. While the soldiers enjoyed their camp- 
fire chats,, the bands were playing at various points 
.and gave a romantic charm to the situation. Picture 
to yourself thousands of white tents among beautiful 
green trees, with the fires glimmering here and 
there for miles over an extended plain, furnishing 
light and comfort to over a hundred thousand armed 
men, while darkness gently spreads its mantle over 
all. As the hours creep into the night, the camp- 
fires show to more advantage, especially when you 
can imagine how the scene is animated by varied 
conversations — some droll and witty, some grave 
and touching, many concerning the great, sublime 


future. In this you have a faint picture of our camp 
at night. 

Here we spent about one month very profitably 
employed. Our new base of supplies was excellent, 
and we received a quantity of fresh food; we even got 
bread — real bread — in place of ''hard-tack." Besides 
this, the soldiers were dressed in new suits, and 
everything was very clean. This was a good prepara- 
tion for the hardship and privations that were to 
follow, as we shall see later on in this narrative. 

Discipline in the army is very strict, especially in 
active campaigns. Soldiers were punished in various 
ways, according to the nature of the fault. Officers, 
too, came under the rule. For mean, unmanly acts — 
flagrant acts of immorality, and the like — hanging was 
generally the punishment. Military crimes, such as 
deserting the army when in front of the enemy, and 
especially passing over to the enemy, were punished 
by shooting; for murder, also, men were shot. Officers 
who openly disobeyed legitimate orders were tried by 
court-martial, and if the charge was proved against 
them, they were cashiered. Crimes of less gravity, in 
the eyes of military men, such as going out of camp 
without a pass, failure to perform certain tasks which 
had been assigned, giving insulting answers to officers, 
not keeping clean, not keeping guns and other mili- 
tary articles in perfect order, drunkenness, etc., were 
punished by imprisonment in the "guard-house," 
and in various other ways, as seemed best to those 
in command. These punishments were determined 
according to the frequencv of the offence, and were 


increased in severity when the individual concerned 
showed a very incorrigible disposition. Sometimes 
"drumming out of the army" was resorted to. My 
attention was attracted one day to a scene, to me, 
altogether novel. I saw at some distance our corps, 
of perhaps fifteen or twenty thousand, manoeuvring; 
and, mounting my horse, started to see what was up. 
The troops were forming into a hollow square, two 
deep. Presently I saw two men, preceded by fifes 
and drums, playing the -Rogue's March," and behind 
them two soldiers with fixed bayonets pointed at 
their backs. These men, who were private soldiers, 
had one-half of their heads shaved close, and were 
obliged to pass bareheaded within two feet of all 
the soldiers in the ranks facing the hollow square. 
Havnig passed entirely around the inside line of the 
troops, they were expelled from the army in dis- 
■ grace for all time. This is what is termed "drum- 
ming men out of the army." Their crime was, to 
have been found dead-beats, or worthless as soldiers. 
"Dead-beat," is the worst term that can be applied 
to a soldier. It is a generic term, implying every- 
thing worthless and mean. Besides this, they had 
been found guilty of theft. In all probability, they 
had enlisted for that very i^urpose, at least so it was 
alleged at the time, by those who knew them. I give 
this instance now, and make reference to disciplinary 
matters, because as I proceed with this narrative I 
will have occasion to give an account, in the order of 
occurrence, of some of these army customs and laws 
put into actual practice. 



WE will now turn to the chaplains and see how 
they passed their time; but, first, let me say 
a word on the " Military Mass." Information on 
this subject has been frequently asked of me. It was 
not often we could celebrate Holy Mass with suitable 
or inspiring ceremonies. A first-class " Military 
Mass" is one celebrated in the ordinary solemn form, 
according to the rubrics; but the surroundings cause 
it to be styled by many a "Military Mass." First, it. 
is in camp. Imagine the entire camp, the " church 
tent," and the great avenue leading to this tent lined 
on either side with green trees — put down for the 
occasion — all decorated with fresh branches, flags 
and other military emblems — a preparation like that 
made for a triumphal entry into a city. The con- 
gregation is composed exclusively of officers and 
soldiers, "rank and file," each one armed as for dress 
parade. The officers carry dress swords suspended 
from their belts, and wear the full insignia of their 
office. The cavalry men carry their heavy sabres in 
the same way, and on their boots the well-known 



formidable spurs that rattle and click at every motion 
of the foot. The infantry soldier, dressed in his 
tidy uniform, carries his shining musket surmounted 
by its sharp, glittering bayonet, that strikes terror 
into the heart of the enemy when a desperate charge 
is made by the intrepid men of arms. A military 
signal, either by drum or bugle, is given at the 
proper time, and orders are passed along the line to 
''Fall in!" Once in ranks, all the regiments march 
under orders of their respective officers to the 
"church tent." As a result of careful drilling by 
very intelligent officers, the movements are perfectly 
regular and precise, and form a very pleasing sight. 
The officers are justly proud of their men, while the 
men are equally proud of their gentlemanly officers. 
On they move, keeping step and time to the music, till 
they reach the " church tent." Here the priests, vested 
in rich silk vestments embroidered with gold and 
artistic needle-work, begin Holy Mass, in presence of 
the several thousand men and officers on whose bright, 
neat uniforms the gold ornaments sparkle in the sun- 
light, while dress swords, many of them diamond 
hilted, make a pleasing contrast to burnished sabre 
and polished steel bayonet. 

Here we have no organ on the " tented plain," nor 
the shadow of a lady to supply the parts of alto, con- 
tralto, mezzo-soprano, or soprano. All is stern man- 
hood wrought up to its highest tension of honor and 
duty ; duty to fellowmen, duty to -country, duty to 
family and kindred; but, above all, duty to the great 


God seated on the rock of ages directing the destinies 
of all nations. The music consists of the stirring, 
martial strains of the infantry and marine bands. 
During the more solemn parts of the Mass the 
soldiers "present arms" — an act of the highest 
respect— while outside, at the time of the Consecra- 
tion (if we are not in the presence of the enemy), 
cannons boom in various directions; going forth like 
thunder in the heavens, to represent, as it were, the 
voice of God, or at least to speak of the presence of 
Him who rules from above, amid the crash of nations. 
Thus we see how God is served, even in camp. We 
behold the highest honors paid to Him by the solemn 
offering of the Holy Sacrifice, infinitely holier than 
that offered in the Temple of Solomon, amid the 
splendor of glittering gold and the flashing light 
of precious stones. No military equipage is too 
fine, no military honors too great, no music too sweet 
or too sublime, no respect too profound, in honor of 
the great God in the transcendent Mystery of His 
love and mercy— a Mystery offered on Mount Calvary, 
when Nature herself spoke in greatest reverence and 
covered her face in darkness, to hide it from the too 
great majesty of the Divine Being. The p«rth 
quaked in holy fear, rocks were rent in testimony of 
the Creator completing the sacrifice for the redemption 
' of the world. Nature gave what men refused — testi- 
mony of Him who lifted rocks and mountains to 
embrace the clouds of heaven, and who spread out the 
mighty waters of the deep. This is more than I 


intended to say on this point, but it is so in harmony 
with the subject that has occupied the place of the 
"Old Law," ever since its establishment, 1829 years 
before our ministry in the army, I could scarcely say 
less. When we chaplains could have a "Military Mass" 
we were glad; but, as a rule, even on Sundays, the 
Mass was less brilliant, in point of ceremonies, than 
the one mentioned above. During the week we said 
Holy Mass early in the morning, and through the 
day said our office, attended sick calls, instructed 
converts, and heard confessions, especially in the 
evenings. Thus the time of comparative tranquillity, 
for the space of about a month, was spent in prepara- 
tion for the contingencies of the future, for days 
ahead full of fatigue, hardships, and dangers to soul 
and body. 



/^UK long rest of a little over a month was at an 
^^ end. It was well-timed, considering the work 
before us. On August 16 and 17, 1862, the entire 
Army of the Potomac was in motion. All wg knew 
at the time was that orders had come to march, and 
we marched. Just where we were going, how long wo 
should be on the road, we could not know. McClellan, 
general-in-chief, and perhaps a few major-generals, 
knew, but no others. This was necessary, else the' 
Confederates might discover all about our movements, 
and thwart our designs. It turned out that we were 
ordered to help Pope, who boasted he knew no retreat. 
Bad for him ! A good retreat, when necessity requires, 
is incomparably better than an injudicious advance, 
and at times requires more skill — so say experienced 
military men. We passed down the peninsula, com- 
mencing our march on August 16, at eight in the 
morning. We marched about eighteen miles that 
day, and having crossed the Chickahominy River, 
bivouacked for ihe night. This river widens out very 



much toward its mouth. So, the ponton -bridge, on 
which all the infantry, artillery, etc., crossed, was over 
one thousand feet long, supported by 100 ponton-* 
boats. A ponton, or pontoon, is used expressly for this 
purpose. The name is derived from the Latin, pons — 
a bridge. Pontons are made as light as possible, low 
and flat like a mud raft, and are not infrequently a 
simple frame with canvas bottom. These pontons are 
placed in lines parallel to the bank of the river, about 
ten feet apart, and then planked. This is quickly done 
by the pioneer corps. Leaving camp at Harrison's 
Landing, as I have said, we knew nothing of our 
destination, and I made no provision for the march, 
which proved to be one of seven days. We passed 
down the peninsula by Williamsburg and Yorktown 
to Newport News, where we took shipping for the 
Potomac once more The first day I got on pretty 
well. Col. Baker, my compagiion de voyage, had a 
small box of sardines, and I had a loaf of bread. We 
ate the bread freely, but, having an eye to economy, 
we were careful to take very small portions of the 
sardines each meal. The colonel said to me: "This 
reminds me of a story. A poor scholar, as such were 
called in Europe, very anxious to get an education, 
boarded here and there with poor but charitable 
people of the neighborhood. At one of these places 
the milk supply was short, and the good woman of 
the house said to the poor scholar: 'Now, Willie, 
you must take a big bite and a small sup.' " A good 
laugh followed, as we were then putting this very 


principle into practice. As far as possible, we looked 
on the bright side of all our privations, and, in fact, 
this is the best way after all. When a man can keep 
in good spirits, hardships do not prey on him. How- 
ever, in spite of this philosophy, before we reached 
our journey's end, both of us, and many others in our 
condition, felt pretty hlue. The first day the colonel 
and I made our breakfast, dinner, and supper — six 
meals — on one loaf of bread and a small box of 
sardines, leaving nothing for the following day. Next 
morning, after sleeping on the ground, we arose to 
continue our march. We started without even a cup 
of coffee. Eiding on horse-back, in the fresh air, 
gives one a fine appetite; but in our case it was the 
worse for us. When noon came, we were almost 
fainting with hunger. The men got their coffee and 
"hard-tack" dinner, and Col. Baker and I slept a 
little under the shade of a tree. After an hour's rest, 
we marched on until we encamped for the night — 
still very hungry and no food. The road for the most 
part was through a "second growth" of pine, which 
literally made a wall on either side. The ground 
was dry, and the passage of the artillery, cavalry, and 
infantry worked the road-bed into dust fully three 
inches deep. 

The soil of that country is clay, which makes 
a very fine dust that penetrates everything. The 
colonel and I rode along at the head of our regiment, 
having other regiments before and behind us. The 
dust was stirred up both by the feet of the soldiers 


and those of the horses, and became so dense that 
it resembled, in a certain sense, a very heavy fog. 
Seated on my horse, I could not distinguish one man 
from another six feet ahead of me. Our hair, beards, 
and clothes were literally full of dust. In fact, we 
were all dust, and for anything we could see, were 
going back to the "dust from which we came." 
Add to this situation of hunger and dust, the terrible 
heat of the Southern sun in the middle of August, 
pouring down on our dusty heads as we passed along 
this road, walled in, as I have said, by the young 
pines growing as thick as "the hair on a dog's 
back," leaving no chance for a breeze to reach us. 
Thus suffocating from heat and dust, faint from 
hunger and thirst, we moved on, becoming more and 
more indifferent to past, present, and future. Next 
morning, the third day, we continued our journey, 
still fasting. When we had been on the way about 
two hours, a drummer-boy, belonging to our brigade, 
named Brinkworth, a real character, came galloping 
up to where the colonel and I were moving along. I 
gave him a few dollars and told him to try to 
purchase some food for us. As he was fearless in 
dashing here and there through the country, I knew 
he would have an opportunity for doing so. The 
morning passed on, and about ten o'clock inspiration 
moved a soldier, who noticed we had nothing to eat, 
to bring a small piece of raw pork and a "hard-tack" 
to each of us. As we have seen elsewhere, the men 
carried rations, but they were on foot, and delicacy 


would not allow us to ask any of these poor men to 
give us a part of their hard-earned stores, since we 
were on horseback and they were walking, loaded 
down with rations, musket, ammunition, etc. Even the 
raw pork and "hard-tack," which we accepted, tasted 
sweet, and we were very thankful for the kindness. 
We had lost so many meals, this bite only gave us 
appetite for more. As we moved on, we discussed the 
ups and downs of life. In the evening we encamped 
for the night early, to give time for the heavy wagons 
to get out of our way. We found a nice, grassy spot 
near the road, and, as the sun was descending, the 
shade of a large wild cherry tree presented a lovely 
place to rest; and, like Jonas under his miraculous 
ivy, we did so. A strange confidence took possession 
of my mind, and I said to Col. Baker: 
" We shall soon get relief." 

"Oh, no!" said he, "that reckless Brinkworth went 
too far, and is captured by the Confederates." 
"Well," said I, "we will soon see." 
I felt certain that the boy would return. The 
colonel had no confidence in the seemingly idle 
proposition. He took off his coat, and placed it on 
the grass for a pillow, saying as he did so: "I will 
sleep off the hunger." I said nothing more. In about 
twenty minutes our brave Brinkworth came galloping 
on his old horse, as he did in the morning, and the 
poor animal was loaded with purchases made by the 
adventurous youth. He had two chickens, a. sack of 
biscuits, and a sack of apples. No time was lost in 


getting these things ready, and a first-class repast — 
a real picnic — was very soon laid out on the green 
grass. We ate all we wished, and carefully took up 
the fragments for future needs — as the apostles were 
instructed to do by our Saviour, after the multiplica- 
tion of the loaves and fishes. That night some fat 
cattle and some commissary stores reached the camp. 
Good supplies of fresh meat and other provisions 
were furnished to the soldiers, while the officers 
purchased what they stood in need of. Col. Baker 
and I did not fail to profit by the experience of the 
past few days. We laid in a good supply of neces- 
saries for the remainder of the journey to Newport 
News. After we arrived there, it took considerable 
time to get ships ready and to load them with the 
freight belonging to our brigade. This gave us time 
to refresh ourselves after the long, dusty march. On 
the road we could have no Mass, no public services of 
any kind. I managed to say my office daily during 
the three years spent in active campaigns, excepting 
a few days when it was absolutely impossible. I said 
it on horseback during short intervals, when meals 
were being prepared, and even at night, after sick 
calls and other duties had been attended to. We had 
no lamps, no gas, no electric lights; but I always had 
a few candles with me, and by using a bayonet for 
a candle-stick, thrusting the point into the ground, 
managed pretty well. 



T?]^ passant, I must tell an anecdote of Capt. 
^ John J. Gasson, or " Jack Gasson," as he 
was familiarly called by his companion officers. 
He was the first aide-de-camp of Gen. Meagher. 
Gen. Meagher was not with us at the time, and 
I suppose " Jack," being his first aide, thought 
it eminently proper that he should do something 
desperate to show his courage and to save the nation. 
We read in the history of Home that " an earth- 
quake opened a great gulf in the forum, and the 
augurs declared that it would never close till the 
most precious things in Rome were thrown into it. 
Marcus Curtius arrayed himself in complete armor, 
mounted his horse, and leaped into the chasm, declar- 
ing that nothing was truly more precious than 
patriotism and military virtue." " The gulf," say 
the historians, " closed immediately upon him, and 
he was seen no more." While we were encamped on 
the banks of the York River, " Jack," in presence of 
the entire camp, mounted his horse, and, putting spurs 



to the animal, dashed down the bank, which was 
almost perpendicular and nearly one hundred feet in 
height. Horse and rider tumbled over each other 
till the bottom was reached, and, strange to say, 
neither was killed. He must certainly have had it in 
his mind that no Roman could out-do " Jack Gasson," 
a wild Irishman. He was perfectly fearless. " What 
man can dare, I dare," was his motto. No wonder 
the Confederates would cry out when they beheld 

the green flag: " Here comes that d green flag 

again." They knew the undaunted courage of the 
race, and had tested the same more than once. Withal, 
these very men were religious, and like children in 

We had some leisure time before starting on the 
transports for our destination, and I .announced that 
several days had passed without Mass. At once the 
good men went to work building an altar. That 
evening many went to confession. I celebrated Mass 
next morning at a very early hour, and those who 
were ready received Holy Communion. We then 
took shipping at Newport News for Aquia Creek, 
under orders to report to Gen. Burnside at Falmouth, 
on the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg. 
After landing at Aquia Creek, we went by rail to 
Falmouth, where we remained only a short time. At 
this time. Pope, with a large army, was conducting a 
campaign which resulted in disaster to the Federal 
troops. Great confusion existed, and we were ordered 
back to Alexandria, our old camping ground which 


we left in 1862. We had scarcely time to have food 
prepared, when orders came to march to Arlington 
Heights, opposite Washington, thence on to support 
Gen. Pope, camping at Tenallytown. Major-Gen. 
McClellan was now, by necessity, put in command, 
not only of his own troops from the Peninsula, but 
also of all those left after the battles fought under 
Gen. Pope. Lee determined to carry the war into 
Maryland, and made plans to capture Harper's Ferry. 
This strong position was most disgracefully sur- 
rendered by Col. Miles, who commanded there, giving 
up 47 cannons, 7,500 small arms, 40,000 rounds of 
ammunition, 50 rounds of canister-shot, six days' 
rations for 12,000 men, and 11,583 men and officers, 
on September 15, 1862. We had made forced 
marches through Maryland from Tenallytown, and, 
on our way, passed through Frederic, Md. Father 
Ouellet, S. J., and myself stopped at the Jesuits' 
residence in that city, where we got, what the boys 
called, " a square meal," then passed on hurriedly, 
with many kind wishes and hearty prayers from our 
hospitable hosts. Most of us knew nothing of the 
disaster about to take place at Harper's Ferry. Our 
brave Gen. McClellan overtook the Confederates at 
South Mountain, on September 14, 1862, and badly 
worsted them. It became our turn to lead the army 
next day. We were in advance of all, and, as we 
dashed along, following the retreating Confederate 
forces, we saw, on every side, men and horses, 
dead and dying. I dismounted occasionally, and 


when I found men still living, did what I could for 
them. If Catholics, I heard their confessions, and 
if Protestants, baptized them, as individual cases 
required. Following up a routed and retreating 
army is very exciting. The men seemed to be wild 
in their pursuit of the Confederates. Finally we 
came up to Antietam. This stream empties, not 
very far from where we were, into the Potomac 
Eiver. Here Lee took a stand. On September 

16, 1862, no great fighting was done, except a 
fearful cannon duel. Next morning, September 

17, the battle opened. The Confederates outnum- 
bered McClellan's force, and, besides, they had 

>^ the choice of position. Our brigade received orders 
to go in " double quick," that is, on a full run. 
I gave rein to my horse and let him go at full 
gallop till I reached the front of the brigade, and, 
passing along the line, told the men to make an Act 
of Contrition. As they were coming toward me, 
" double quick," I had time only to wheel my horse 
for an instant toward them and gave my poor men a 
hasty absolution, and rode on with Gen. Meagher 
into the battle. In twenty or thirty minutes after 
this absolution, 506 of these very men lay on the field, 
either dead or seriously wounded. Gen. Meagher's 
horse, a beautiful bright bay, was shot under him, 
and also the horse of the notorious Jack Gasson. I 
shall never forget how wicked the whiz of the enemy's 
bullets seemed as we advanced into that battle. As 
soon as my men began to fall, I dismounted and 


began to hear their confessions on the spot. It was 
then I felt the danger even more than when dashing 
into battle. Every instant bullets whizzed past my 
head, any one of which, if it had struck me, would 
have been sufficient to leave me dead on the spot, 
with many of my brave soldiers, as the bullets came 
from the Confederates at very close range. All the 
wounded of our brigade, numbering hundreds, were 
carried to a large straw-stack, which had to answer 
for a hospital. Here they had dry straw at least; but 
during the day, as all could not get into the shadow 
of the stack, the hot sun made it very uncomfortable 
for them. Here I saw one poor man with a bullet 
in his forehead, and his brains protruding from the 
hole made by the ball. Strange to say, he lived three 
days, but was speechless and deaf, and had lost his 
senses entirely. I attended another, a well-built man, 
in the full vigor of manhood, and about thirty years 
of age. A ball had passed directly through his body. 
He lived but two days, and died in great agony. 

McClellan defeated the Confederates, who sustained 
a terrible loss, and then marched on and took posses- 
sion of Harper's Ferry. I remained behind several 
days with the wounded. The next day after the 
battle I had a small hut erected near the straw-stack, 
celebrated Mass, and gave Holy Communion to all 
who were prepared. In doing so, I was obliged to 
carry it to them, as they lay here and there on the 
straw, unable to move — stepping over some, and 
walking around others. Those ready to receive were 



pointed out by a good soldier, or each made a sign 
for himself. Those who died were buried on the field, 
and the wounded were removed to the city, where 
they could be more easily cared for. A glance over 
this battle-field — that will ever occupy a prominent 
page in the history of our nation — shows that the 
battle was a terrible one in more than one sense. 
First, 500 pieces of artillery were engaged, and, 
counting both sides, about one hundred and seventy 
thousand men. Had the Confederates been success- 
ful — as they would have been if opposed by a less 
skilful general than McClellan — it is hard to say 
what would have been the result. The field presented 
a sickening sight the day after the battle — on 
September 18, 1862. Meagher's brigade did its 
duty as a military body, and received the highest 
commendation from Gen. McClellan — and from many 
historians since. Gen. McClellan, in a long report of 
its charge and other action during the battle, says, 
among many other words of praise: "The Irish 
Brigade sustained its well-earned reputation." 

Having passed several days in doing all that I 
could for the wounded men, finding my services iio 
longer required, I moved on to join my command at 
Harper's Ferry. Father Dillon was not with me at 
this battle — he had been sick, and was absent on a 
sick leave,— but joined us at Harper's Ferry. A new 
regiment, the gallant One Hundred and Sixteenth 
Pennsylvania (to our great joy) was added to our 
brigade. With this regiment came a chaplain fresh 


for active service, and in excellent spirits. He was 
all new. He had a new horse, new trappings, new 
ideas. He was anxious to try his horse, to accustom 
himself to horseback riding, so that on future 
marches he would be at home in the saddle. Conse- 
quently, he proposed to take a ride to Chambersburg, 
about twenty -two miles from where we were encamped 
Fathers Costello, D. D. (pastor of Harper's Ferry), 
Dillon, Ouellet, S. J., and the writer, started early in 
the morning, as we must return the same day. The 
new chaplain dashed off in front of us, and was very 
brave. We were veterans, already inured to the 
business, and knew how to save ourselves. We 
returned at seven the same evening, having made 
forty -four miles. Next morning, our new chaplain 
was very sore, and he seemed to be convinced that 
his saddle was made of iron, with the hard side up, 
and that his horse did not run easy. A conviction also 
grew on him that riding forty -four miles in one day, 
to try a new horse, a new saddle, and a new rider, 
did not accord with the ideas he had formed from 
reading about "prancing steeds, richly caparisoned 
war horses." He kept his bed for three weeks, while 
the horse rested and grew fat, and he arose an older 
and wiser, if not a sounder man. Dr. Costello had 
some experience in riding; but he, too, although he 
did not acknowledge it, was pretty sore after the ride. 
Fathers Ouellet, Dillon, and the writer, were as fresh 
the morning after, as when we started; in fact, we 
could have repeated, without the least inconvenience, 
the same journey that day, with fresh horses. 



OUR camp was a charming one, located on Bolivar 
Heights, the grounds very clean and kept in 
perfect order. The country around us was delightful 
in the variety of its scenery. Harper's Ferry is 
justly celebrated for its romantic beauty. It is 
situated at the confluence of the Shenandoah and 
Potomac, the Potomac being the boundary between 
Maryland and Virginia. Here both streams cut 
their way through the Blue Ridge, or, rather, the 
mountain of rock seems to have split in two and 
receded, and now stands off in dignified silence to let 
the roaring waters pass. The outline of the mount- 
ains is very bold; huge rocks, hundreds of feet in 
height, hanging with a most threatening aspect over 
the roads at the edge of the water. The junction of 
the Shenandoah and the Potomac divides the Blue 
Ridge in such a way that the mountain is fashioned 
into very fantastic shapes, forming lofty peaks and 
craggy walls of rock that rival the mountains of 
Switzerland in rugged grandeur. Here the bugler 


delighted us by sounding clear notes which rever- 
berated through the gulches of the mountains for 
miles and brought back echoes the most perfect we 
had ever heard. It was simply charming. While 
we listened, late in the calm evening, seated around 
our camp fires, a pathetic feeling crept over us, each 
dwelling on his own thoughts, which, for the time, 
were all the company he desired. First came flash- 
ing through our minds the poor dead companions we 
had left behind in their cold graves at Antietam. 
Then, as the scene of the late terrible conflict faded 
from our minds, while still under the fascinating 
charm of the clear bugle notes, we found ourselves 
wandering back, year by year, to our very childhood, 
playing once more with our dear sisters and brothers 
under the shadow of the paternal roof. All the 
vicissitudes of life passed in review before our minds, 
and occasionally, as the bugle tones died softly in the 
distant hollows of the mountains, we naturally dwelt 
on the unknown but sublime scenes of the future. 
Finally, conversation inspired by such feelings had 
more than an ordinary interest. Only late into the 
night, by an unspoken, common consent, we retired, 
with hearts full of emotion, and brains somewhat 
tired from too much thinking, as we " turned in," 
each on his favorite plank, to dream of " home and 
mother." Some had no mother on earth to dream 
about; but, piercing the clouds and vaults of heaven, 
could contemplate the most glowing of all scenes, 
since there, for all, was " home and mother." Very 


vividly do these reflections and dreams recur to me. 
They left a deep impression on my mind. Harper's 
Ferry is between fifty and sixty miles above Wash- 
ington on the Potomac, and before the war the place 
had a population of two or three thousand. It was 
also the seat of an important arsenal and armory. 
John Brown made himself famous by the capture of 
these works, with a view to liberating the slaves of 
the South, and was hanged December 2, 1861. As 
we were in easy communication with Washington, 
many persons came to visit relatives in the army. 
Among our visitors were distinguished ladies, the 
wives of our ofiicers. There I had the pleasure of 
meeting the wife of Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, 
a lady of marked character and possessed of more 
than an ordinary degree of refinement and excellent 
social virtues. She was a devout convert to the 
Catholic Church, and was highly respected by the 
army officers, many of whom had known her and 
her family in New York long before the war. Here, 
also, for the first time, I met the venerable Dr. 
Brownson. Finally, the President, Abraham Lincoln, 
came and reviewed the entire army. The camp was 
like a city, where nearly everyone knew his neighbor, 
and each must be introduced to visiting friends and 
partake of the good things brought in abundance. 
At Gen. Meagher's headquarters a sumptuous banquet 
was given, at which many famous officers, w^ith their 
wives, were present. Among them was the gallant 
Gen. Hancock. Our esteemed Division Commander, 


Gen. Richardson, of Michigan, was not there. We 
had left him in a country house near Antietam, where 
he had received his mortal wound. Dr. Costello, 
Fathers Dillon, Onellet, McKey, and the writer were 
present, and on this occasion we made up in part for 
the privations of the past. The following Sunday, 
Dr. Costello, pastor of Harper's Ferry, invited as 
many as his church could accommodate, and we 
assisted at Mass. After Mass the same party, as on 
the previous Thursday at Gen. Meagher's banquet, 
partook of a bountiful dinner with the pastor. So 
the time passed, very pleasantly and agreeably, and 
the much -needed rest served to recruit the strength 
expended in the long marches of the campaign we 
had passed through, not to speak of the racking 
excitement of the battles with their bloody scenes 
of death. 

It may be noted here that we left the Peninsula 
on August 17, 1862, and were constantly in 
motion till we reached Harper's Ferry, September 
23. Counting marches and countermarches, we 
had passed over six hundred miles when we 
arrived at our camp on Bolivar Heights, after the 
battle of Antietam. The reader may see from this 
how badly the jaded troops were in need of rest. In 
the early part of October, 1862, our brigade was 
ordered out on a reconnaissance. We started early in 
the morning, passed around the foot of the mountain, 
and marched through a beautiful valley. The weather 
was then cool enough to be pleasant. The valley was 


rolling, and every now and then we reached elevated 
ground, enabling us to overlook a landscape, than 
which I never saw finer. The fields were fresh and 
green, and the persimmon trees were loaded with their 
tempting fruit. The pine trees were in groups, and 
as we looked from the hill-tops we could see these 
grouped trees exactly resembling islands in a vast 
body of water. On we went until four in the evening, 
when we halted near a place called Charleston, and 
waited for further orders. There, on the slope of a 
beautiful hill dotted with trees, the men took dinner. 
The evening before our departure from camp my 
orderly put into my saddle-bags a chicken which 
he had bought and cooked for me. But nothing else 
did he put in — not even salt, or bread. Hiding all 
day, in the bracing air, had given me an excellent 
appetite. I let my horse eat grass, and having found 
the chicken, from which nothing had been cut except 
one "hind leg," I proceeded to make the most of the 
situation. I ate the chicken, and when I reached 
camp at eleven that night I got some bread. The 
axiom, fames est optimum condimentum — "hunger 
is the best sauce," was put to a practical test. I 
greatly relished the chicken, although I had nothing 
to eat with it. We spent a few weeks profitably at 
Harper's Ferry. Keconnaissances, followed by skir- 
mishes, were kept up in various directions. These, 
it seems, were designed, and were necessary to find 
out the movements, strength, and ultimate designs of 
the Confederates, More than four weeks passed in 


this way. About this time Father James Dillon was 
transferred to the command under Gen. Corcoran, and 
located for some time at Suffolk, Va. Father McKey 
remained with us until we reached the Eappahannock, 
when he resigned — being forced to do so by sickness. 
The hardships of the march from Harper's Ferry 
completely prostrated him. This left only two priests, 
where there had been four for a short time. The 
remaining two were Father Ouellet, S. J., and the 



/^NE day, shortly before noon, one of my men 
^^ came to my tent, and said to me: "Father, 
there is to be an execution this afternoon." 

"How do you know?" I asked. 

"I was over to see a friend in the next brigade, 
and met an orderly coming from headquarters, who 
told me all about it," he replied. 

It is a strange fact that men in the ranks 
frequently had more news than any of us. Those 
carrying orders, called orderlies, might, perhaps, be 
afraid to communicate news to officers, while they 
would tell, in confidence, companion soldiers what 
they knew, or what they had heard this or that 
general say. 

I asked the soldier: "Where is the man who is to 
be executed?" 

" He is under guard, at division headquarters." 

The soldier who told me was God's angel. I felt 
from that moment a great desire to see the con- 
demned man. It was raining; but, no matter, I 
started. I was soon wet through, and my feet were 


very wet; but, not stopping to think of this, I went 
directly to the general, asked about the man — who 
he was, and what he was. 

''Indeed," said the general, "all I know about 
him is that he deserted to the enemy, was tried by 
court-martial, and he is sentenced to be shot." 

But he courteously volunteered to send one of his 
staff officers with me, who would secure the interview 
I desired with the poor man. After a short time, I 
was presented to the condemned soldier, whom I 
found to be a young man of German descent — born 
in this country. I asked him if any minister attended 

"Yes," said he, "but he is gone to dinner." 

I decided to do nothing final in the absence of the 
minister, since he was attending by official request. 
In the meantime, I questioned the young man (who 
was not more than nineteen) about religious matters, 
and found him very ignorant on those points. In 
fact, he had never given much attention to religion, 
and even his parents — as I afterward learned — were 
equally careless. But, as he was about to die, matters 
looked serious to him — though he did not seem to 
realize fully the situation. I asked him if he had 
ever been baptized, and he answered no. His parents 
had told him that he might choose for himself, when 
he saw fit. He had never joined any particular 
Church; but his parents were, as near as he could tell, 
members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. When 
I found him so ignorant of Christian teaching, I 


took a wide range, and asked him if he believed in 

"Oh, yes," he said. 

"Do you believe in Christ, and that He died to 
redeem the world?" 


"Do you believe in the Holy Trinity?" — and a 
number of similar general questions. 

I feared that by not understanding my questions, 
if put too deep, he would say that he did not believe 
some vital point. Finally, I said to him: "If you 
knew that Christ wished you to be a Christian, and 
to be baptized a Catholic, would you comply with His 

"Yes," said he, "I have not much time to live 
now, and want to do all I can to please God." 

At this time the minister came along, and as one 
of the guards saw him at a distance, he said: "Boots 
is coming!" 

I asked the guard whom he intended to designate 

by that name 

He said: "It's the minister that 'tends this man." 

"Well," said I, "do you not consider it a mark of 
disrespect to call your minister by such a name?" 

"Oh, no; they all do it." 

I had never met the minister before, and when he 
came in, I told him who I was, and why I came; 
namely, to see if anything I could do would be 
acceptable in the case. He did not say much, but 
talked a little about faith. Then, turning to the 


young man, whose name was Adam, he said: "Adam, 
do you believe you will be saved?" 

"Y-e-s," said Adam, falteringly. 

"I sincerely hope you will; I do most sincerely 
hope you will," said the minister. 

This was the lesson he taught the young man, 
and the only one; namely, to believe. During his 
remarks, I was revolving in my mind what was best 
to be done. I ventured to state that I had learned 
from the young man that he had not been baptized. 
The minister was a very tall gentleman, had very 
long legs, and wore correspondingly long boots. 
This circumstance made the boots look conspicuous, 
because, though the gentleman was tall, he had 
a short body. Hence the irreverent called him 
"Boots." He had a squeaky voice, and in reply to my 
allusion to baptism, said, in his peculiar hard tone: 
"Well, there is not much time now;" and again, 
turning to Adam, asked: "Adam, do you believe 
you will be saved?" 

"Y-e-a-s," said Adam. 

" I hope it will be so; I do, I do," said the minister. 

"Now," said I, "as w^e have but little time, I think 
we should act promptly about this question. Not 
only do Catholics believe baptism necessary, but 
most other Christians do likewise." 

"Well," said he, in a still higher key than before, 
" I do not know what your Church teaches, but our 
Church teaches that all that is necessary is to be 
baptized in the Holy Ghost. I will go and see the 


general, and learn what time the execution is to take 

While he was gone, I determined what to say to 
him on his return. In a few minutes he entered, 
announcing that the hour was fixed for one o'clock 
p. m., sharp. 

"Then," I said, "we have but half an hour, as it 
is half -past twelve o'clock now — and I made this 
proposition: " If baptism will do the young man no 
good, in your estimation, it will certainly do him no 
harm; therefore, if you have no objection, I will 
baptize him." 

He could not refuse. Having no time to risk, I 
sent for some water immediately, and baptized the 
young man. I said to him : " Now, you are a Chris- 
tian ; offer your life to God in union with the suffer- 
ings of Christ on the cross," and a few other 
exhortations. For the first time I noticed a genuine 
softening in his disposition, as the light of faith, 
secured to him by the sacrament, seemed to show in 
his countenance. He had only a few moments to 
live, and when the squad of armed men came to escort 
him to death, he went out as coolly as if he were going 
to dinner. Eight or ten thousand troops were drawn 
up in a hollow square, with one end of the square 
vacant. The condemned man was placed at that end. 
A squad of twelve men, with muskets loaded by one 
of the sergeants, came forward. According to rule, 
the sergeant puts no ball in one of the guns, and no 
one of the soldiers knows whether his gun has a ball 


in it or not. The twelve soldiers, under the command 
of an officer, stood in front of the condemned man. 
The sentence was read and the provost-marshal drew 
a cap over the man's eyes. Then the officer gave the 
stern commands: "Get ready, aim, fire!" Eleven 
bullets struck the young man; still he was not dead. 
The provost-marshal was obliged to use his own 
revolver, to put him out of pain. Scenes like this 
jarred my nerves much more than a battle. And 
now, when more than a quarter of a century has 
passed since this took place, it causes a shuddering 
sensation to think of it; still more to write all the 
circumstances of such a dreadful spectacle. 



IT may be understood that, for the sake of order 
and interest, I follow, in my narrative, our line 
of march in an unbroken and consecutive manner. 
I also give the exact dates for each principal occur- 
rence. In the last chapter, however, I anticipated a 
little by referring to the march from Harper's Ferry 
to the Kappahannock Eiver. Let us now go back 
and start from Harper's Ferry. On November 1, 
we had our last solemn service there, and on Novem- 
ber 2, 1862, general orders came, and all the troops 
were put in motion. We passed out of the camp at 
Harper's Ferry, took the east side of the Blue Ridge, 
and marched toward Warrenton. The weather was 
exceedingly fine, and the valley through which we 
passed was a veritable prairie. Nothing of impor- 
tance occurred on our way during the first few days. 
The two great generals, McClollan and Lee, seemed 
to be watching each other's movements, and learning 
each other's designs by sending out skirmishing 
expeditions. On November 2, a sharp fight took 
place at Snicker's Gap. The same occurred at 



Ashby's Gap on the 3d. Thoroughfare Gap was 
occupied on the 3d by Gen. Sigel. It is well known 
that military men attach great importance to such 
positions — passes or gaps through mountains. On 
November 5, while at Warrenton, Va., an order 
came from Washington relieving Gen. McClellan and 
placing in his stead Gen. Burnside. This created 
great excitement and the deepest possible regret on 
the part of officers and men. Many of the officers 
resigned on the spot. The generals waited on 
McClellan and expressed their esteem for him in the 
most flattering terms. Finally, he obeyed, like a true 
soldier, and passed the command over to Burnside, 
saying simply as he did so: " Well, Burnside, I turn 
the command over to you." He passed through the 
troops who were in lines on either side of the road, 
and as he went by, the wildest excitement prevailed. 
Salutes were fired and he was heartily cheered. When 
he boarded the train which was to take him to 
Washington, the soldiers uncoupled the car, rolled it 
back, and seemed determined not to let him go. Ho 
spoke to them and restored order by telling them that 
they must always obey lawful authority. Poor 
Burnside deserves credit for accepting the command 
under compulsion, declaring and confessing his 
inability to replace McClellan. 

When we started from Harper's Ferry, as usual, we 
knew nothing about our destination. At Warrenton, 
Burnside, doubtless by advice from Washington, 
changed the plans made by McClellan. We were 


marched on and on till we found ourselves back on 
the north bank of the Rappahannock, where we 
stopped for a short time before going to Maryland, 
prior to the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. 
And, late in November, we were back again. The 
Irish Brigade was ordered over the river by Gen. 
Sumner to explore the situation, and, finding a bat- 
tery in position, captured two of the guns and drew 
them away by hand in short order. Gen. Hancock 
said: "Gen. Meagher, I never saw anything so 

Before going farther, I would say a word on our 
position. We camped at Falmouth, on the north 
bank of the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburg. 
The ground here is elevated. Looking across the 
river, we saw the city, and immediately behind the 
city the hills rising in terraces, in the form of a semi- 
circle, as if made by nature for a most impregnable 
position. It was now getting late in the season, and 
we set about fixing our habitation for the winter — 
thinking, of course, that we were there to stay. We 
settled down in earnest; built log huts, roofed them 
with tents, and built chimneys of sticks and mud— for 
there was plenty of mud. Streets, walks, and other 
conveniences were constructed. Father Ouellet, S. J., 
and I appointed regular times for Mass, sermons, 
and other religious duties. In the meantime, the 
Confederates massed on the hills behind the city, on 
the south of the Rappahannock, built breastworks, 
and got all their heavy artillery in the best possible 


positions. To complete their work they had over 
three weeks. On December 10, the gallant Seventh 
Michigan — under a withering fire from the opposite 
side — constructed a ponton-bridge, gaining thereby 
the admiration of the entire army. This one daring 
deed was enough to give national glory to the troops 
of Michigan. One of my men, hearing the rumor, 
came to me, and said: "Father, they are going to 
lead us over in front of those guns which we have 
seen them placing, unhindered, for the past three 

I answered him: "Do not trouble yourself; your 
generals know better than that." 

But, to our great surprise, the poor soldier was 
right. On December 12, we were ordered to move; 
marched to the banks of the river, and the men rested 
on their arms all that night, ready to move at a 
moment's notice in the morning. During the day it 
snowed, and the ground was covered. I got on a 
small brush-heap, made by one of the men, to keep 
myself out of the mud and soft, wet snow. There, 
in the open air — in company with my poor men — I 
spent the night. They did not know what a fearful 
fate awaited them next day. On the morning of 
December 13, we crossed the ponton-bridges. Cheers 
were heard as we were going on, and some said: " It 
may be our last cry." We were formed into line of 
battle, and ordered up in front, with absolutely no 
protection for our ranks. As we advanced, our men 
simply melted away before the grape and canister, 


and the tens of thousands of muskets, well protected 
behind the carefully constructed breastworks. Gen. 
Meagher advised every soldier of the brigade to put 
a sprig of box-wood in his cap, so that he could 
be identified as a member of the brigade should he 
Lall. These men were found dead near the cannon's 
mouth, on Mary's Heights. A correspondent of the 
London Times, observing the battle from the hill- 
top, said: " Never, at Fontenoy, Albuera, or Waterloo, 
was a more undaunted courage displayed by the sons 
of Erin than during those six frantic dashes which 
they directed against the almost impregnable position 
of the foe." 

But the place into which Meagher's brigade was 
sent was simply a slaughter-pen. I have heard many 
blame Meagher for taking his brigade into this pen; 
but such persons do not know what they criticise. 
Gen. Meagher and his brigade simply obeyed the 
orders of superior officers, and wont in at the time and 
place assigned them. Had Gen. Meagher disobeyed 
such legitimate orders, he would have been liable to 
be cashiered, and thus have disgraced himself and his 
race for all future time. Needless to say, our brigade 
was cut to pieces. Many were seriously wounded, 
and recovered later on, but for the time we had only 
the remnant of a brigade. I saw one of the officers, 
Lieut. O'Brien, of the Eighty-eighth, shot in the 
neck, the ball coming out near the jugular vein. 
When he tried to eat a piece of ginger-bread it partly 
came out through the hole made by the ball. Strange 


to say, he recovered. This fact is recorded for the 
benefit of medical science. Just as the remnant of 
our brigade came out of action, Capt. Sullivan and 
I were talking in a street of Fredericksburg, and 
congratulating each other that a few escaped even 
without a wound. He left me to pass across the 
street, and as he reached the center — ten feet from 
where we had been talking — a cannon ball came 
down the street and struck him about four inches 
above the knee, and cut away his leg. I heard his 
confession at once, as I knew he could not live. He 
was carried to the rear, and all that could be done 
by the faithful surgeons was done; but he died that 
night. This was the experience of hundreds. 



THE^ battle of Fredericksburg took place, as we 
have seen, on Saturday, December 13. That 
night Gen. Burnside withdrew and recrossed the 
Rappahannock. This left most of our wounded on 
the bloody battlefield where they fell, and where 
they lay all night with undressed wounds and no 
food or drink. Col. St. Clair Mulholland, since 
brevetted Major-General, was one of the number. 
Next day, Sunday, both armies were engaged in 
collecting the wounded and burying the dead. After 
returning from the battlefield we found a temporary 
shelter on the north side of the river, where we spent 
some time in caring for such of the wounded as had 
been saved from the battlefield; then we tried to rest 
a few hours. When I said Mass in the morning, I 
had a very small congregation compared with former 
ones. After Mass the day was given to visiting the 
wounded, who were transferred as soon as possible 
to the rear, where the Sanitary Commission did good, 
noble, charitable work, attending to the wants of the 
suffering, feeding them luxuriously and binding up 



their wounds. All of us were sad, very sad. After 
a few days we were settled down in the same quarters 
which we had occupied before going into the battle 
of Fredericksburg. Now, for certain, we thought we 
were in winter quarters to stay. To our surprise, w^e 
were soon called to enter another campaign. The 
mud was so deep that the impossibility of moving an 
army at that season was soon demonstrated. After 
the heavy rains, cannons went down so deep, it was 
said, that "the spots were marked where they had 
disappeared, so that they could be dug out in dry 
weather." Other tales, illustrating the situation, were 
told. One of them I remember: "A man was going 
along on the edge of a forest, when, looking out 
into tjie so-called road where troops had passed, he 
saw a hat in a great mud-hole. He reached out for 
it, and discovered a head under it. ' Why, what are 
you doing there ? ' he cried out. The man in the 
mud answered: 'I am looking for my horse; he is 
somewhere below.'" 

We spent the winter in that very camp. Gen. 
Meagher went to New York to recruit the brigade. 
While he was there a solemn Requiem Mass was 
celebrated for those of the brigade who fell during 
the campaign of 1862, and especially for those 
slaughtered at Fredericksburg. The Mass was cele- 
brated in St. Patrick's Cathedral, and Rev. Father 
Ouellet, S. J., who had resigned the service, was the 
celebrant. During the winter, the regular routine 
work of camp life occupied the soldiers. Mass was 


celebrated daily, confessions heard, and the sick 
administered to. One day an orderly came for me to 
go about six miles, to attend an officer of a Michigan 
regiment. His name was Lieut. John O'Callighan. 
Frequently I was called in this way to distant parts 
of the army, where there were no Catholic chaplains, 
and my life, in this respect, much resembled that of a 
priest in charge of a parish. Later on, after a rain, 
frost covered the ground with ice. Gen. Meagher, 
having returned from New York, spent some of his 
time riding around among the soldiers' camps, accom- 
panied by his staff. While returning one day from 
one of these rides, our brave Capt. "Jack" Gasson 
thought it proper to do something to break the 
monotony. So, dashing off in his usual style, his 
horse slipped, fell, and threw ''Jack" violently on 
the hard, frozen ground — where he lay senseless. 
Gen. Meagher sent for me, and I hastened to see 
"Jack," as the officer who came for me assured me 
that "Jack" was finished at last. When I reached 
him, "Jack" had so far recovered as to give evident 
signs that he was not going to die just then. He 
had received no vital injury, but his collar-bone was 
broken, and he had several painful wounds. My 
great surprise was to find him lamenting, not his 
wounds nor the danger of life, but that he had fallen 
on level ground. If it had been going over a stone 
wall or down a precipice fifty or a hundred feet, 
there would have been some glory in it; but to be 
broken up, and perhaps killed, on level ground was 


ignominy he could not endure. How would such an 
unworthy action sound in history ? What would his 
New York and European friends say ? He thought 
they would drop his name from the roll of chivalric 
knighthood forever! 

Here we close the year 1862. During this year, 
the Army of the Potomac had passed through all the 
well-known battles of the Peninsula — South Mount- 
ain and Antietam, in Maryland, not to mention 
many, many skirmishes — winding up with the mem- 
orable battle of Fredericksburg. To do this, the 
army had moved over not less than fourteen hundred 
miles, and the poor men had to carry with them a load 
equal to at least fifty-seven pounds. History records 
deeds accomplished during 1862 which were features 
of warfare unknown in this or past generations. 


ST. Patrick's day at camp falmouth. 

/^UR winter quarters at Falmouth resembled a 
^^ large town. Visitors, friends, and relatives of 
the officers and soldiers, came from New York, New 
Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, and elsewhere. A con- 
stant coming and going was kept up. Happily, we 
were also so situated that we could get all the neces- 
saries of life. Those of our number who had been 
wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg returned 
as soon as they were able. They came not willingly, 
but in one sense, readily -and cheerfully. They wished 
to see and chat with their old comrades over the late 
battle scenes, to find out how many were killed, how 
many were wounded, and how many still stood in the 
ranks of the brigade. Occasionally, a squad came and 
brought much news from home and messages from 
relatives to those in camp. They thoroughly can- 
vassed the past history of the war, and future pros- 
pects. In a word, our camp-fires were places of great 
interest for three months. Besides the wounded, now 
perfectly recovered, many fresh recruits came into 
our ranks, and swelled our number considerably. It 


was very amusing to watch this raw material listen — 
with open-mouthed astonishment — to the war stories 
told by their veteran companions, who, strange to 
say, were not always satisfied with telling the naked 
truth, which was certainly harrowing and startling 
enough, but did not scruple to heighten the coloring 
to satiate the morbid desire of their new companions, 
who wished to learn all about real war-life. 

Several days previous to St. Patrick's Day prepa- 
rations were made for its worthy celebration; for 
St. Patrick's Day, with the Irish race, is one of 
enthusiastic devotion. For on this day is honored 
the "Apostle of Ireland," who brought the light of 
the Gospel to the whole nation, and turned a pagan 
country into one thoroughly Christian. The words of 
the prophet may be applied here most appropriately : 
"The people that walked in darkness have seen 
great light ; to them that dwell in the region of the 
shadow of death, light is risen." No nation on the 
face of the earth has shown greater appreciation 
of such a great blessing. Consequently, St. Patrick 
is honored as the instrument in the hands of God 
in conferring this inestimable favor. He is honored 
as a saint, and gratitude to him is unbounded, since 
his mission was so blessed that it lifted the entire 
nation to the highest standard of Christian virtue, 
so as to deserve for it in justice the title of " The 
Island of Saints." Looked on as a Christian nation, 
it is no wonder that St. Patrick's Day became a kind 
of national holiday, and a day of general rejoicing. 


It is not easy for strangers to understand why we 
show such great love and veneratioh for St. Patrick, 
without taking into consideration the above circum- 
stances. Hence, although not an ecclesiastical holi- 
day, on which no servile work may be done, still the 
day is commemorated by the Irish race wherever its 
sons and daughters are to be found. Gen. Meagher, 
surrounded by a very intelligent body of officers and 
men, "brave and true," made elaborate plans for the 
celebration of this day, March, 1863. They recog- 
nized it first, and above all, as a day of devotion and 
thanksgiving to God for the gift of faith and means 
of salvation. The primary object in the programme 
was a "Military Mass" — of which I have given an idea 
in chapter XIV. Gen. Meagher had a consultation 
with me as to what I would require, and gave me a 
large detail of men, under a commissioned officer, 
to construct a rustic church. • The church we built 
in the following manner: Posts, about fifteen feet 
long, were cut in the pine forest, and planted in the 
ground two feet apart. Along the tops of these were 
fastened beams, on which the rafters rested. This 
was the skeleton. Then the upright poles, two feet 
apart, were interwoven, basket-like, with green pine 
branches, and in the same way the roof was formed. 
Such a roof would of course not keep out rain; but, 
fortunately, none fell that day. It kept out the 
sunbeams effectually, however, and the inside was 
very cool and pleasant. For seats, crotchets were 
planted in the ground, and standing up about eighteen 


inches. Large poles were laid in the crotchets, 
and on these sat the officers and men — much the 
same as men sometimes perch on a rail fence. For 
the general officers and distinguished guests there 
were placed, in front, all the camp stools that could 
be found in that portion of the army. An altar was 
also constructed and tastefully decorated with ever- 
greens. When the whole was finished it presented 
a really delightful picture, and was in fine contrast 
with the surrounding white tents, the green and 
white making a pleasing effect. A beautiful vest- 
ment of water-colored silk, richly embroidered with 
gold, was presented to me by the officers and men of 
the brigade and was worn for the first time on this 
occasion. It is worthy of remark that this vestment, 
first used over a quarter of a century ago, is kept 
on exhibition • by Prof. James F. Edwards, in the 
" Bishop's Memorial Hall," at Notre Dame Univer- 
sity. At eight o'clock, after breakfast, the most 
distinguished guests arrived, and the brigade having 
formed ranks under orders, men and officers marched 
to the rustic church. The day previous I had secured 
other priests to assist me, and at my request, good 
Father O'Hagan, S. J., of the Excelsior Brigade, 
preached, and I celebrated the solemn service of the 
day. Gen. Meagher, who was well instructed in his 
religion, directed the military bands when and how 
to play during the Mass. Gen. Hooker, commander- 
in-chief, and many other distinguished officers were 
present. After Mass, Gen. Meagher, accompanied 


by his staff, brought Mrs. Col. Van Schaick and 
other ladies to visit our rustic church, which was 
quite a curiosity, and also to inspect the beautiful 
vestment which looked so grand in camp. The con- 
trast with its surroundings seemed to make it ten 
times finer than it would have appeared elsewhere. 
I mention Mrs. Van Schaick in a special way, because 
she was the wife of a nobleman from Europe, who 
entered the army simply for the experience to be 
gained in practical warfare. She was a practical 
Catholic, a brave woman, and could ride almost as 
well as her gallant husband. Thus the day's cele- 
bration was devoutly opened, as it should be; and 
perhaps few congregations on that day assisted at 
divine service with greater piety, many saying to 
themselves, "It may be" — as it really was for many 
— " the last St. Patrick's Day we shall live to see." 

After the morning's religious devotions came the 
sports. A general invitation had been sent to all 
the officers of the Army of the Potomac, and all 
that could come did so. Ma j. -Gen. Hooker, then 
commander-in-chief of the army, was present with 
his staff. It was estimated at the time that fully 
twenty thousand participated in, or at least witnessed, 
the sports of the day. The novel and daring nature 
of the celebration " took" with all the soldiers. It 
was, indeed, so brilliant and creditable that I heard 
distinguished soldiers claim that their grandmothers 
or grandfathers were Irish. Ever after the fame of 
Bull Eun, no soldier was ashamed to be an Irishman 


in the Army of the Potomac, and, especially on this 
occasion, when everything connected with the cele- 
bration was so soldierly — we might say chivalrous. 
Well-described, the scene would outshine the grandest 
pageants related of the most gallant knights of 
Ivanhoe. Many festive celebrations had I seen before, 
but this surpassed my wildest fancy. The very excit- 
ing race most graphically .depicted in " Ben Hur" 
between the hero, Ben Hur, and his rival, Messala, 
would seem tame in comparison. On those plains in 
Virginia, you might find, not one, but hundreds of 
the character of Ben Hur, educated, handsome, 
fashioned after the noblest type of manhood, spirited 
and brave as any knight that ever stood in armor. 
They were equally ready to dash into the smoke of 
battle and up to the cannon's mouth, or ride a steeple- 
chase, such as was noticed in chapter VIII. of this 
narrative. This feat is full of hazard and perils of the 
most startling nature. A great stand, built for the 
occasion, was occupied by the judges of the various 
feats. Of course the major-generals were there too. 
Many soldiers and line officers were under and 
around the stage, and when . Gen. Meagher rode 
round, as director of the whole movement, he cried 
out, as he neared the stage, which possibly might 
not have been too strong:: 

"Stand from under! If that stage gives way, you 
will be crushed by four tons of major-generals." 

Those who were to enter the steeple-chase assem- 
bled in the uniforms prescribed, and no one rode 


except commissioned officers. Over the vast plain 
could be seen the thousands who assembled to witness 
the day's doings, riding backward and forward, dash- 
ing over fences, fallen trees, streams, and ditches. 
When you met them, you could see fire flash from 
their eyes, exhibiting the wild impatience of the 
ancient Greeks waiting for the gates to open on the 
Olympian games. Conspicuous among the riders, I 
noticed Col. Van Schaick and his accomplished wife. 
Other ladies, also, rode with their husbands, with 
grace and creditable skill; but, as Col. Van Schaick 
came into view in full gallop, his horse springing over 
every obstacle, Mrs. Van Schaick, well-mounted, came 
at the side of her husband with a clever fearlessness 
which proved that, though not competing, she deserved 
a prize among the first. While admiring the hus- 
band and wife, one could easily discern that both 
had had much experience in that kind of exercise. 
Finally, the sports commenced, and they far sur- 
passed the expectations of the multitude. This kind 
of pastime became very popular in the army ever 
after. Under the extensive bower, constructed of 
pine branches, at headquarters, lunch was served at 
one o'clock. Ham sandwiches, lemonade and other 
delicacies were prepared there, and probably not less 
than fifteen hundred partook of the generous hos- 
pitality of Gen. Meagher and the Irish Brigade. 
Our famous Capt. Jack Gasson was in his glory all 
that day. What an appropriate hero he would have 
made for a novel on knight-errantry ! Although he 


was spoken of in a familiar way as " Capt. Jack," he 
was a high-toned gentleman and a gallant soldier. 
He was courteous enough to attend a king. The 
participants in the various sports of the day covered 
themselves with glory and drew the admiration of 
the entire Army of the Potomac. 




IT will be remembered by many that in the spring 
of 18G3 the papers were filled with reports of 
"the suffering poor in Ireland. We had passed the 
winter in comparative comiort — we had all the sub- 
stantial food we wanted, no very hard marching, and 
no fighting. We saw the papers very regularly, 
even if we had to pay a high price for them. Every 
day we were expecting orders to march ; to open a 
new campaign, which, of course, meant a new series 
of hardships, privations, and battles. Before starting, 
we resolved to do some act of charity, that the Lord 
might remember us in our own days of distress. A 
collection was proposed for the poor in Ireland. As 
soon as it was announced, one Sunday at divine 
service, the officers and men showed their love for 
their brethren " down in the land of bondage," and 
the following article, copied from the New York 
Freeman's Joxirnal, of May, 1863, shows the result. 
Many of those who contributed have passed to their 
reward; but our Lord remembers their act of charity 


even to this day. The names of all, as far as possible, 
were given and are once more presented in print as a 
reminiscence of the war. Perhaps some of the sons 
and daughters of these brave men may rejoice to 
read the names of their fathers in connection with 
this act of charity. 


MAY 25, 1863. 

To His Grace the Most Rev. Archbishop of New York: 

Your Grace: — I take the liberty of inclosing to you the sum 
of $1,240.50, being a contribution of a portion of the officers 
and men of two regiments of this brigade and the Ninety- fourth 
N. Y. v., to the fund now being raised for the relief of the 
suffering poor in Ireland. 

In thus intruding on your kindness, and requesting you to be 
the medium of transmitting to the proper authorities this 
handsome contribution from the gallant men of the brigade, I 
need scarcely remind Your Grace that the amount would have 
been far greater had not our ranks been so terribly thinned by 
death, wounds, and sickness consequent on the arduous cam- 
paign of the past fourteen months. Still, with that noble 
charity and love of country, which has, and I hope ever will, 
characterize the Irish emigrant in America, the remaining few 
of the Irish Brigade have spontaneously, and without any con- 
cert of action, come forward to contribute their mite to the 
general subscription, and that, too, when I have reason to 
know that over $35,000 were, after last pay day, sent to their 
wives and children in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and other 
parts of the country. 

When I reflect on the hardships and dangers of a soldier's 
life, the temptations to extravagance which beset his path, and 
the hardening effect of constant exposure to the perils of the 


field of battle, I can not help congratulating myself (as their 
chaplain) and their countrymen at home and abroad on the 
spirit of generosity and true piety which is exhibited among 
the men of this brigade. 

I may mention, in conclusion, that the Sixty-ninth Regiment 
of the brigade are following the good example of the other regi- 
ments, and in a very short time I expect to have the pleasure of 
intruding again on Your Grace's kindness, by forwarding that 
regiment's contribution also. Had the subscription been set 
on foot at the proper time, I have no doubt that this regiment 
would have contributed an amount commensurate with its 
well-recognized gallantry. I also understand that one com- 
pany of the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts Regiment of Volun- 
teers has forwarded its contribution to Boston. 

Annexed is the list of contributors, the publication of which, 
I have no hesitation in saying, will afford pleasure to the Irish 
people at home and abroad. 

I am, Your Grace's very obedient servant, 

Wm. Corby, C. S. C, chaplain with brigade. 



Lieut.-Col. R. C. Bently, Quartermaster James J. McCormick, 
$10 each. 

Company B. — Capt. Gleason, Lieut. Carroll, $10 each; Sergts. 

P. Sheridan, W. Hally, Privato P. Kenny, $5 each; Terry, 

$3; Sergts. John Hayes, Owen Tumalty, J. Bergan, $2 each; 
Sergts. P. Hickman, E. Gallagher, M. Daily, T. Kelly, J. Dacy, 
$1 each. 

Company C. — P. Duncan, $5 ; J. Martin, J. Grantield, 
M. Kelly, M. McGraw, J. O'Connor, B. Tausey, A. Linn, 
W. Iladigan, $1 each; P. McCharm, $2. 

Company D. — Sergts. T. Duffy, J. McMichael, Privates 
J. Casey, J. O'Meara, J. Caldwell, P. Darley, J. Rattigan, $1 each. 

Company £;.— Capt. W. Quirk, $20 ; Sergts. W. Cullen, 
McQuade, O'Connell, Meagher, Privates Thomas Hughes, 
Jas. Reynolds, Timothy O'Neil, Christopher Madden, Edward 


O'Brien, Michael Hanlon, |5 each; Sergts. Shehan, Thos. 
Hannon, $3 each; Corporal Looner, Privates John Harris, Wm. 
Hayes, Wm. Watson, Chas. Dodd, Henry C. Church, Thomas 
Ryan, $2 each. 

Company J.— Capt. Thomas Touhy, Lieut. J. J. Hurley, $10 
each; Lieut. John J. Sellers, Sergt. Thos. Joyce, Corporals 
Thos. Kelly, Pat McGeehan, John O'Brien, $5 each; Sergts. 
Jas. Dwyer, Patrick McCarthy, Hugh Meehan, Jas. Ganey, $1 
each; Michael Moore, $3; Dennis Sullivan, John Smart, $2 

Company Z.-Capt. John Dwyer, $10 ; Lieut. Matthew Hart, 
$12; John Cochlan, $5; Jos. J. Elliott, John Murray, $3 each; 
Michael Sheehan, Thos. Rutledge, Daniel Lynch, $2 each; Jas. 

Elliott, $1. 1. TVT T^ 

Sutler's Department— James Coleman, $25; Joseph McDon- 
ough, Albert Root, Michael Roddy, $10 each; Bernard Carreher, 
Richard Roach, $5 each; James Smith, $2. 

Recapitulation.-Field Officers, $20; Company B, $50; Com- 
pany C, $15; Company D, $7; Company E, $80; Company I, $56; 
Company K, $10; Sutler's Department, $67; A Friend, $10. 
Total, $355.00. 


Col. Patrick Kelly, Surgeon Richard Powell, A Friend, $20 

Company ^.— Capt. Gallagher, Sutler D. Renshaw, Wm. J. 
O'Connor, John Sparks, James Kane, Wm. O'Connor, $10 each; 
Wm. Foley, J. Cleary, M. Daly, J. Martin, Elias Boyer (Com- 
pany F, One Hundred and Forty-eighth Pennsylvania), James 
Cooney (Company F, One Hundred and Twenty-fourth N.Y.V.), 
$5 each; J. Shandly, L. Friery, J.McNally, A. Clark,$3 each; 
P. Dean, J. Farrel, J. Kennedy, J. McBridge, M. McDonald, 
F Lenehan, Joseph O'Harra, P. Quinlan, Jas. O'Connor (Com- 
pany H, Ninth N. Y. S. M.), $2 each; T. Crystal, J. Ledwich, 
P. Meehan, H. Smith, T. Reilly, $1 each. 

Company B.— Michael Reynolds, $10; Geo. Geoghan, John 
Webster, Patrick O'Neil, John Keegan, Richard Tinnen, Martin 
Concannon, $5 each; Patrick Sexton, Thomas Reilly, Patrick 
Croghan, John Carver, H. Polster, John Fitzgibbon, $2 each; 
Austin Everson, Geo. Funk, John McDonnell, $1 each. 


Company C— Capt. Dennis F. Burke, 820; Sergts. Bene- 
dict J. Driscoll, John Desmond, Private Charles Joyce, $5 each; 
Sergts. James Fox, Richard E. Harrison, Corporal Mark 
Ternan, Privates Jas. Toban, Michael Larkin, Bernard McNally, 
Daniel Leary, James White, John Wallace, A Friend, $1 each; 
John Brady, 50 cents; John Cade, Thos. Tuomy, $3 each; 
Michael Linehan, $4; Wm. J. Walsh, 82. 

Company D.— Ross McDonald, Edward Johnson, Thos. 
Sheridan, D. Alton, 82 each; John MoGowan, Patrick Tracy, 
Patrick O'Brien, Henry Blake, Hugh Burns, Daniel Lenighan, 
Lawrence McAuliffe,81 each; Dennis Kelly, 83. 

Company ^.— Capt. Thos. McN. O'Brien, $20; Sergt. George 
Ford, Private Thos. Lynch, 85 each; Sergt. John Morton, 
Private Michael Hyde, 82 each; Sergt. Herr, Corporal Jas. 
Greene, Privates Alexander McKenna, Michael Hayden, John 
Noonan, Wm. Flanigan, Bernard Woods, Matthew Enghsh, 
James Smitz, $1 each; Sergt. Jos. Hyland, 83. 

Company i^.- -Sergts. Jas. Carr, Patrick Hagan, Privates 
Jas. Flaherty, Wm. Henry, Cornelius O'Brien, Jas. Rolland, $2 
each; Sergt. Patrick McNamara, Privates Pierce Butler, 
Michael Geary, Timothy McGlynn, 83 each; Sergt. Jas. Shea, $2; 
Privates Jos. Dwyer, John Ahearn, John McFaddon, $1 each. 

Company G. — Capt. Michael Egan, $10 ; Sergt. Thos. 
Smith, |5; Sergts. Lawrence Buckly, Jas. Birmingham, Cor- 
porals Wm. Coyle, John Gallaghan, John Walsh, 82 each; Sergts. 
Thomas Roach, Wm. O'Neil, Thos. Cahill, Francis Kirnan, 
Hugh McCormick, Joseph Lardener, John Monahan, Martin 
Fallon, |1 each; John Kilcoyne, $3. 

Company iJ.— Capt. Maurice W. Wall, Assistant Acting 
Adjutant-General, 820; Hospital Steward Richard Dowdall, 
810 ; Sergts. John Meighan, Robert W. Gordon, 85 each ; Sergts. 
Jas. Sweeny, Wm. Burke, $3 each; Corporal Geo. Hamilton, 
Patrick Connolly, Patrick Drew, John Small, 82 each ; Jas. 
Nevin, Jas. McCarthy, Patrick McKenna, John O'Donnoll, 
John Groves, John McConnell, Hugh Leahy, Joseph Daily, $1 

Company I. —LAQui. Patrick Ryder, 820; Sergts. M. Mc- 
Grane, D. Leonard, T. McDonald, Corporal T. Berry, Privates 
J. Curyan, Wm. Rodgers, Patrick Smith, Sutler's Clerks 


William Hastings, Chas. Salmon, John Cusick, John Canton, 
An eas Walker, $5 each; Sergt. T. Murray, $10; J. O'Connor, 
J. Marion, $3 each ; P. Condon, N. Carroll, M. Hogan, M. Hoey, 
J. Keifer, John Kane, M. Lynn, J. McGowan, D. O'Keefe, 
P. Ryan, M. Sullivan, Joseph Scott, Samuel Mitchel, fl each; 
Wm. Keating, Thos, Radford, M. Graham, John Ferry, $2 each ; 
Jas. Roe, $13. 

Company iT.— Lieut. Thos. O'Brien, $20 ; Lieut. John Madi- 
gan, John Shea, $10 each; Sergts. Southwell, Patrick Healy, 
Corporals Timothy Doheny, Owen Hughes, $5 each ; Sergts. 
Hugh Curry, Corporals John Dalton, Cornelius Ahearn, Privates 
Jas, Dillon, Joseph Devereux, John Foley, Wm. J. Brown, Jas. 
Maher, Wm. Maher, Patrick Shehan, Garrett Roach, Patrick 
Murray, Alex. McCain, Peter Kellegher, J» hn Hardyman, $2 
each; Edward Burke, Owen Reilly, Patrick Murphy, Wm. F. 
Tighe, Jeremiah Crowley, Owen Philbon, Michael Carroll, John 
Farmer, Patrick Eagan, Thos. Trainor, $1 each; Company C, 
Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, per Capt. Hatton, in command 
of company, $31. 

Recapitulation. — Yioiii Officers, $60; Company A, $128; 
Company B, $55; Company C, $57.50; Company D, $18; Company 
E, $46; Company F, $17 ; Company G, $37; Company H, $62; 
Company I, $130; Company K, $100 ; Twenty-eighth Massa- 
chusetts, Company C, $31. Total, $771.50. 



TIME is passing rapidly now, and as the warm 
weather, green grass, and budding trees show 
that spring is at our doors, we look forward to another 
campaign and a general engagement. Both armies 
have spent the winter in recruiting, and the great 
generals on both sides have matured their plans to 
crush each other and to " end the war in a few 

April 27, 1863, found us all in motion. General 
orders showed that our time of peace and tranquillity 
was over. Now you see us leave the old "camping 
ground," our log huts, our rustic city and our rustic 
church. Behind us the remnants of what was a camp. 
Empty quarters of officers and men, and rude chimneys 
standing out like ghosts — not even a dog or a cat left 
behind to show that human beings lived a whole 
winter on the left bank of the Rappahannock Eiver. 
Our brigade formed a part of the army which was 
sent up the river. We left camp at noon, marched 
until midnight, then rested in the woods the remainder 
of the night. Next morning, at daybreak, the march 



was resumed and we reached the United States Ford 
on the night of the second day's march. Ponton- 
bridges were ready and we crossed by the light of 
the moon. Some of our wags cautioned their com- 
panions, late recruits, to walk in the center of the 
bridge, alleging that the Eappahannock at this point, 
near the junction of the Eapidan, was full of alli- 
gators of enormous size — so large, indeed, that one of 
them required two or three men for a breakfast ! It 
was amusing to observe the innocent men watch the 
running stream, expecting every moment to see a 
monster rise to the surface and dart for his prey on 
the bridge. But, apart from fancied dangers from 
these monsters, there were real perils enough ahead 
of us. Some people regard soldiers as reckless, hard- 
ened men, but there is a bright side to this question. 
The Christian soldier does not fail to recognize a 
Providence always above him, and in time of expected 
peril evinces the real, genuine piety — that which 
he learned at his mother's knee and which he 
imbibed with his mother's milk. On this occasion, as 
on many others in my experience, these soldiers asked 
themselves: "What will to-morrow bring about?" 
As a rule, a soldier does not wish to parade his piety, 
and often, through human respect, he prefers to be 
considered as possessing a sort of bravado; but under 
all this, men of faith, in times of serious peril, think 
of the great future and pray for help and protection. 
In the army desperate cases occasionally occur, 
which are very embarrassing, and at times the most 


severe measures are taken on the spur of the moment, 
by the officers responsible for discipline. On one 
occasion I saw an excited crowd of soldiers around 
an officer, the major of the regiment. One of the 
soldiers had mutinied, and was fast gaining strength 
among his companions. The major could do nothing 
with him, and the scene was growing more and more 
exciting. How it would terminate was hard to foresee, 
and the authority of a superior officer was in very 
serious jeopardy. As the excitement grew, the circle 
grew also, and it was difficult to reach the major or 
the soldier in mutiny. Finally, news of the affair 
reached the colonel, who had been in the regular 
army before the war. He mounted his horse, put 
spurs to him, and rushed through and over the crowd 
with a drawn sabre in his hand, and, when he reached 
the soldier, cut him down. In an instant the soldier 
lay bleeding and senseless on the ground. A shudder 
passed through his companions, who immediately 
slunk away. The colonel rode off, satisfied that for a 
time at least he had put a stop to disobedience. This 
action is hard to contemplate, and many would cry 
out that it was inhuman. Military men, however, 
adduce strong reasons for such severe measures, 
especially when in an active campaign and in front 
of a national enemy. Such scenes as this are not 
frequent, because the majority of men go into army 
life determined to obey and to do their duty. It is 
not surprising, however, where there are so many 
thousands, that some among them, having very 


quick tempers, fly ofip and defy authority. Among 
officers and veterans it is an axiom to obey first, and 
if there be a supposed injustice, to speak of it after- 
ward; not, however, before showing absolute obedi- 
ence to the order given, be it right or wrong. On 
another occasion I saw a man receive from his captain 
a ball in the eye. The man had defied his captain's 
authority, and the captain drew a revolver and put a 
ball in his head. Fortunately, it did not kill him. 
The ball glanced outward and did not strike a vital 
point. Here I may note what remarkably erratic 
courses bullets take in certain cases. I remember 
seeing a colonel, the colonel of the Sixty-first New 
York Infantry, I think it was, shot in the stomach, 
and the ball was cut out near the spine. He was 
attended by a surgeon , a m ost excellent one. Dr. 
Frank Reynolds, of my regiment. The colonel said 
to Dr. Reynolds: 

*' How about this case?" 

" Well, I say it is certainly serious," said the doctor. 

*' I know that," said the colonel, " but how long 
may I live?" 

The doctor replied: " Usually men do not live more 
than three days." 

To this there are many extraordinary exceptions. 
When Gen. Shields was a United States officer in the 
Mexican War, a ball passed through his body, and a 
Mexican surgeon passed a fine silk handkerchief 
through the opening, following the course of the 
bullet, and by so doing removed the clotted blood, 


and the general recovered and was able to figlit in 
the Union ranks in '62-'65. But, to return to our 
story, about six weeks later my brave Dr. Reynolds 
was in Washington, and the doctor, who was quite a 
wag, met there the same colonel on the street and in 
good health. 

" Are you the colonel of the Sixty -first, and not 
dead?" asked the doctor. 

"Yes," replied the colonel, "I am the same and 
not dead, as you see. I never felt better in my life." 

" Well," said the doctor, "you ought to have died 
to save the honor of my profession." 

The ball had struck one of the brass buttons on 
the colonel's coat, and glancing, passed through the 
skin, went just under it round the body, and was cut 
out, as I have said, near the spine. To all appear- 
ances it seemed that the ball had passed straight 
through the body, and in that case death was most 
certain to follow in a few days at farthest. This 
colonel, no doubt, had kind, saintly friends at home, 
who never forgot to pray for him. His case was one 
of the many thousands of narrow escapes which bore 
the marks of divine protection — to all appearances 
miraculous. Oh, how precious are the prayers of 
loving, devoted hearts under such circumstances ! How 
inspiring the thought of God's providence in sending 
a guardian angel to spread his holy wings over us in 
hours of dread peril — perils, too, at times which we 
ourselves do not perceive or realize. 

On Saturday, May 2, 1863, we were located at 


Scott's Mill, guarding a ford across the river at that 
point, only a few miles from Chancellorsville. This 
was regarded as a most important point, and " to be 
held, cost what it would." In this position we could 
hear the booming of cannon and bursting of shells, 
and, as we were now becoming veterans, we knew 
what might be expected next day. Very early next 
morning, Sunday, I prepared to celebrate Mass on the 
slope of a hill facing the brigade. In this locality, 
even in May the grass was quite green, the trees had 
a new spring dress, and the little birds, not knowing 
what the cannon and commotion portended, sang 
away as if to celebrate a festival. A rustic altar, 
constructed the night previous with a few boards 
which we had found in the vicinity of the mill, stood 
under a spreading beech tree, and looked very pict- 
uresque. As I have said. Mass was commenced 
very early. Shortly afterward, the battle com- 
menced, too; but I continued and finished. " God 
bless and protect my men!" was all the sermon 
preached that morning. I had scarcely finished Mass 
when we were ordered to advance. My faithful 
hostler had my horses ready, and as soon as I could 
pack the vestments — a task which I could perform in 
about seven minutes — I started with my command to 
celebrate a bloody Sunday. Our men were in good 
spirits, however, and after our short morning service 
each felt that all that could be done under the circum- 
stances had been done, and, quite resigned to fate, 
we marched into a battle that turned out to be one 
of considerable magnitude. 



A T sunrise, Sunday morning, May 3, 1863, the 
-^-^ battle opened with terrific cannonading. Simul- 
taneously commenced the bursting of shells and 
the harsh, crashing sound of musketry, reminding 
one of a dreadful storm, the coming of mighty, 
angry winds, driving the dark and threatening clouds, 
sweeping everything material in their path, the roll- 
ing reverberations of great thunder-bolts that seem 
to give fitting expression to the thoughts of an 
offended God. The Eleventh Corps was outflanked, 
and, being taken by surprise, fell back in great con- 
fusion. I saw the entire command — composed of 
infantry, cavalry, and artillery — coming pell-mell 
toward our location, from the right wing, where they 
broke. Our brigade was ordered to form line and 
stop the fugitives at the point of the bayonet. A panic 
has a strange effect on men, precisely as when it enters 
a herd of cattle, when, as I have often seen, they will 
run through fire to escape real or imaginary danger. 
The men were formed into line once more, and the 
cannon caissons, loaded with haversacks, were wheeled 



into position; but in the disorder many were killed 
and wounded. Our brigade passed other troops, and 
marched under orders to a front position and was 
lustily cheered. This was invariably the case, and 
was the best proof of the popularity and respect in 
which it was held by fellow-soldiers in the Army of 
the Potomac. Every now and then you could see 
our men drop one by one to the ground, wounded or 
killed. At this point the Fifth Maine Battery, which 
had been doing effective work — liandled as it was by 
expert and brave men — was left without men to 
continue the firing, nearly every one being killed or 
wounded, and would soon have fallen into the hands 
of the Confederates and been turned against us, had 
not the brigade rushed in, under a galling fire, and, 
with the loss of many excellent and gallant men, 
drawn the battery by hand from the position amid 
the renewed cheers of other brigades that witnessed 
the intrepid deed. The wounded were, many of them, 
placed in the Chancellorsville mansion. Here I went 
with my surgeons. This large building also fur- 
nished quarters for Gen. Hooker, commander-in-chief. 
The Confederates got exact range of the building, and 
in a short time the location became "very hot." As 
Gen. Hooker stood on the porch, a cannon-ball struck 
the pillar against which he was leaning at the time, 
and the violent concussion so stunned him that he fell 
to the floor. I saw another ball strike one of the 
large brick chimneys and send the bricks flying 
through the air with terrific force. Still another 


came and struck a poor soldier who was quenching 
his thirst at the well near the building. We were 
unwilling to leave the wounded, and while we were 
in a dilemma as to what was best to do, another ball 
came and struck the fore-leg of a beautiful bay horse 
belonging to an officer on Gen. Hooker's staff. It 
smashed the entire leg from the breast to the hoof. 
The poor horse jerked back, broke the halter-strap, 
fell on his back, then recovered himself, arose and 
hobbled away on three legs, dangling the hoof of the 
fourth leg, which was held suspended by a strip of 
skin. This strip of skin, about two inches wide, and 
the hoof were all that remained of the fore-leg. Blood 
flowed profusely and streaked the ground wherever 
he passed. He was soon shot and put out of pain. 
I hardly remember a sight that touched my heart so 
keenly during the entire battle. The innocent animal 
had no part in the fight, but he was a silent victim. 

During this battle the gallant "Stonewall" Jackson, 
so looted in the Confederate army, while disposing 
his troops on the plank road that passes in front of 
the Chancellors ville mansion, was shot by his own 
men. They did not know that their general was 
outside the lines, and they fired briskly at what they 
supposed was a body of Union troops. He was not 
killed outright, but expired shortly afterward, on 
May 10, 1863. He received his wounds less than 
half a mile from the Union lines west of Chancel- 
lorsville. I mention the incident, because the news 
of his being fatally wounded caused considerable 


commotion in Union circles at the time, and also 
because it forms quite an important event in the his- 
tory of this battle. My good orderly ventured up after 
awhile, seeing that the Confederates had the exact 
range of the spot, and said: "Father, you will stay 
here till you are killed and your horses too!" I 
told him to take the horses to the rear. He did, and 
did not stop until he had crossed the Rappahannock 
River and was seven miles from the front. He got 
out of range ! Of course, it was the great regard he 
had for the safety of the horses that induced him to 
go so far. After a time the surgeons moved to the 
left into a forest ; but many of the wounded were left, 
of necessity, in the Chancellorsville mansion, and, 
horrible to say, were burned, the place having caught 
fire. Shortly after, it fell in between the two lines of 
the contending forces. 

While in the woods the surgeons had a man on a 
rude table that had been constructed from planks 
found at Chancellorsville, and while they were get- 
ting ready to amputate a limb, a cannon-ball swept 
the man off the table, smashing him to pieces, and 
left the terrified surgeons on either side of the table 
almost paralyzed with consternation. It seemed as 
if a mysterious edict of God followed some men, 
while others passed through the entire war without 
receiving even a dangerous wound. To illustrate 
this, let me mention a few cases that came under my 
notice. It often occurred to me that God wished to 

punish us for past sins of pride and disregard of His 


benefits, and that a certain number had to die. I 
know of a captain who was wounded, and by a strange 
accident, in falling down the side of a small hill, fell 
on the point of his own sword, the hilt of which stuck 
firmly in the ground, and the blade passed through 
his body. I saw some soldiers on the march chase a 
rabbit, and a beautiful drummer boy, only fifteen 
years of age, ran in front of one of the soldiers, who 
was about to Bhoot at the rabbit, and the shot passed 
through the boy, who dropped dead. A soldier of 
our brigade was out one night on picket duty. While 
"fooling" with his musket in play, one of his com- 
panions asked him if he had any fear of picket duty 
where sharpshooters pick ofi:' their victims. "No," 
said he, " I have been through too many battles to feel 
fear on picket duty." He had scarcely finished the 
sentence when his gun accidentally went off and the 
ball passed through his head. He never spoke again. 
Another of our brigade, a teamster, undertook to pass 
over a small mountain stream which an athlete could 
jump over, and it was not deeper than, perhaps, three 
or four feet. He was riding one of his mules. The 
mule stumbled and fell on his rider, who was drowned 
then and there. The mule had become tangled in 
some way in the harness and could not get up. A 
young man whose time had expired was honorably 
mustered out of the service after three years of hard 
fighting and all the piavations and hardships of cam- 
paign life. His heart was full of joy at the prospect 
of receiving once more the embraces of loving parents 


and kind sisters. Just before starting he desired 
to see a loved companion, and he ventured once more 
to the front. Just as he reached the breastworks a 
sharpshooter put a ball through his head. He never 
spoke another word. I could tell so many cases of 
this kind where death came when least expected, and 
often entirely off the battlefield; but I must now 
return to my narrative. 

The battle went against us. Everything was done 
for the wounded, both temporally and spiritually, that 
circumstances would allow. Night covered the scene 
with a very dark mantle. Thousands that day had 
gone to meet their God — some well prepared, others, 
perhaps, in sin; but let us hope that their terrible 
sufferings and their blood piously offered to God in 
union with the sufferings of our Saviour secured their 
pardon. Many of the wounded, besides those in 
the Chancellorsville mansion, were burned as they 
lay helpless in the burning forest that night. At 
length I was nearly exhausted with fatigue and 
hunger. On one of the horses which I had ordered 
to be taken to the rear by my faithful orderly — who 
wished to preserve the lives of the horses at any 
hazard — was the small and only supply of provisions 
of which I was master. I borrowed Col. Kelly's 
horse and rode for miles, but I could find no trace of 
horse or man. Finally I crossed the river, and after 
going a few miles farther in the rain that was now 
pouring down, and sinking deep at times into the 
mud-lioles made by the passage of artillery, I found 
my heroic orderly and the horses quite safe. 


Here I procured something to eat and then spent 
the night in the woods in company with several 
officers, the horses, and my brave orderly. I had no 
fear while he was with me, for I knew that he had a 
knack of saving life. Many of our wounded men 
were left in the hands of the Confederates and the 
balance were sent to the rear, where they were well 
cared for. Those who were strong enough to bear 
transportation were sent to Washington, and many of 
them were nursed by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, 
who had been sent from Notre Dame, Indiana, for that 
purpose. The good Sisters of Charity, who resided in 
Washington, had also more than they could do, but 
day after day all these devoted Sisters worked for the 
wounded, letting everything else go for the time. 
God bless these good nurses ! Many lives were saved 
by their skilful care. 



MAY 5, 1863, found us recrossing the Rappahan- 
nock River and wending our way back to the 
old camp at Falmouth on the left bank of the stream. 
Thus, for the third time, we found ourselves located 
there, and there we remained during the remainder 
of the month. While on our way to our old camp 
we went zigzag through the country. One evening 
we halted, and in some way the soldiers secured for 
me the "fly" of a tent. This is just like the roof of 
an ordinary house with no gable ends. It rested on 
a pole some four feet from the ridge of the roof. 
Some of our men who had been rambling about 
the country after we had bivouacked, found a good 
Catholic family, poor but honest and devout. From 
this family they received kindness not looked for, 
and they became interested in them, especially when 
they saw a young child, about two years old, in 
danger of death. Immediately it occurred to the 
men to bring me to baptize the child. The family 
had not seen a priest in two years. When my men 
came and told me the circumstances I started at once 



on foot, guided by my zealous friends. After a long 
and very rough walk we reached the cabin. The good 
people were rejoiced to have the chaplain of the Irish 
Brigade visit them and perform a ceremony which 
they ardently desired at that critical moment. We 
conversed with the good people, who told us of many 
trials and hardships passed through during the war, 
which had turned Virginia, more than any other 
State, into one great battlefield of blood, devastation, 
and misery. They were on the verge of starvation. 
As a rule, all the men able to carry guns were in the 
army, and only the old and the weak, women and 
children were found at home. These were helpless 
victims, without temporal or spiritual consolation. 
Each of us gave them a few dollars, and the sum total 
surely kept them from want for a part of the spring 
and summer. I admired the poor soldier who earned 
his $13 per month by long marches, exposures to 
perils and death, on and off the battlefield, who was 
so generous when there was need for real charity. 
While at the house, suddenly we noticed the coming 
of a great storm, and we started for camp on " double- 
quick." It became very dark in an incredibly 
short time, and the rain came down in torrents. 
The harder it rained, the harder we ran. The 
ground over which we had to pass was exceedingly 
rough. It was an old field, left uncultivated, since fts 
last crop, two or three years previous, had been partly 
taken from it by the brawny colored sons of toil. 
The result was many tumbles for us. I could not 


help laughing at the awkward plunges some of my 
companions made, but, finally, my own turn came. 
My toe struck a small, sharp elevation of ground, 
resembling, in shape and size, a pineapple, and down 
I came on the edge of an old fence-rail, barking my 
knee and shin badly and tearing my trousers from 
the knee down. At last, drenched and looking as 
sorry as wet hens, we reached our camp. I went 
directly to the improvised "tent fly" to find my 
blanket fixed for a kind of bed, folded in such a way 
as to catch all the rain pouring from the roof, just 
as if placed for a trough to carry the w^ater from the 
eaves. This was done by my skilful (?) attendant — 
in all kindness, it is true, but with no forethought 

Under such conditions of army life we consoled 
ourselves by saying that even this condition of things 
was better a thousand times than the fate which had 
befallen many of our companions on the battlefield 
a few days previous, and those poor fellows, helpless 
from serious wounds, who were caught in Chancellors- 
ville in the burning buildings and in the burning 
forest. I pushed a bayonet into the ground near the 
center of, my humble roof, where the rain was not 
falling, lighted a candle and placed it in that portion 
of the bayonet that fits on the musket. Then, half 
reclining on one arm near the feeble light, read my 
office for the day. Having finished my prayers as 
best I could, and consoling myself with the thought 
of having secured, by Baptism, the salvation of a 


tender soul, redeemed by the precious Blood of our 
Lord, and of being instrumental in bringing at last 
some consolation to a destitute family, I slept in my 
wet clothes and wet blanket for a few hours until 
the bugle called us for more marching. On cam- 
paigns like this we had not with us many changes of 
clothing, and the first thing I had to do in the morn- 
ing was to mend my trousers. I managed to carry 
with me a needle and thread, and at the mending I 
went. The stitches were about three to an inch, and, 
for me, I thought that was not bad. We went on 
very well the next day, and arrived, as I have men- 
tioned, at Camp Falmouth. This was the shortest 
campaign we made. We accomplished little — sent 
a few souls to heaven, exceedingly rejoiced, it may 
be, to be out of this wicked world — and our only 
consolation was that, as far as human weakness goes, 
we had all tried to do our duty to our fellow-man 
in his time of need, either of soul or body. Now 
we were in camp, and we were very blue. During 
the previous December our troops were simply 
slaughtered at the battle of Fredericksburg — that 
field was plainly visible from Camp Falmouth — 
and now, in the spring, we had been in another battle 
scarcely less disastrous. No help for it now; it was 
useless to sigh over the past, though many orphans 
might weep and mothers and wives bewail at home. 
The great nation groans at the loss of her brave 
sons in a fratricidal, cruel war. Nevertheless, we 
must settle down to business once more. We must 


hold regular services, for the holy Sacraments bring 
consolation to pious, repenting souls, when all 
earthly comfort fails to do so. President Abraham 
Lincoln visited our camp on May 7, and had a long 
conference with Gen. Hooker and other generals. 
They held, in fact, a regular council of war, and in 
short order new plans for future campaigns were 
matured. The next chapter will open an account of 
a new departure, both for the Union and the Confed- 
erate armies. 



A FEW weeks in camp passed rapidly. We were 
■^-^ reconstructed, and early in June, 1863, the 
Army of the Potomac was once more in motion. Lee 
had his army headed north, bound to carry the 
conflict out of Virginia into Pennsylvania. The 
range of mountains passing through Virginia, running 
northeast, divides West Virginia from Virginia proper. 
This "Blue Ridge" range figured prominently in our 
campaigns. Along this range and beyond, on the 
west side, the Confederate troops passed, while our 
army kept on the east side and crowded th*e Confed- 
erates as much as possible away from Washington. 
In almost parallel lines, both armies moved on. Just 
when and where a general engagement might occur, 
was not known. At intervals the cavalry of either 
side encountered each other, and desperate struggles 
were the result. The infantry and the flying artillery 
were also brought into action occasionally, but no 
general engagement occurred during the month of 
June. Our march from the banks of the historic 
Rappahannock, this time, turned out to be one of the 


longest which we had yet undertaken. Counting the 
zigzag route our Second Corps had taken to Gettys- 
burg, Pennsylvania, it was between two and three 
hundred miles in length. But we were all glad to 
get away from the destructive scenes of our two late 
campaigns. The poor soldiers, who had to carry 
about sixty pounds daily under the burning sun of a 
more southern climate than they were accustomed to, 
found the continued marching of from sixteen to 
eighteen miles per day very severe. Many of them 
dropped dead from sunstroke. Every day brought 
us farther and farther from the Eappahannock, south 
of which lay, in their last sleep, between twenty-five 
and thirty thousand of our dear companions. Sad 
reflections were made by our officers and men, many 
of whom left behind in silent graves relatives who 
were to be seen no more in this life, while all had to 
mourn cherished comrades who had fought side by 
side with them on many a bloody plain. The march, 
however, was a relief, as we entered on new scenes, 
although the general line of direction did not differ 
greatly from former marches, and since this was the 
third time that we had marched through Virginia, we 
had become familiar with the general features of the 

Nothing very unusual occurred during the march 
until we reached a beautiful plain at the foot of a 
very high hill, or a "young mountain," as the 
soldiers called it. The top of this hill was covered 
with splendid rocks, interspersed with trees and 


shrubs. As it was Saturday night, I determined to 
celebrate Mass next morning on the top of this little 
mountain. The idea was eagerly and enthusiastically 
received by my men, and they gave all the help 
necessary. Before leaving the place we erected a 
cross on the spot where the Mass had been celebrated. 
This was over a quarter of a century ago, and possibly 
that cross stands there still. During the entire march 
Mass was celebrated as often as circumstances would 
permit ; but perhaps this was one of the most romantic 
ever celebrated in Virginia, even in the early missions 
among the Indians. Like high Olympus or Mount 
Horeb, here there was natural sublimity and grandeur 
in the holy Sacrifice on the mountain top. 

As I come now in the line of march to Frederick, 
Maryland, a scene occurs to me which took place 
there. I am not entirely certain of the exact spot, 
but I am sure that it was near Frederick. A spy from 
the Confederate army was caught. He had in his 
possession a complete account of our troops, our 
trains, and our route. He was tried and he confessed; 
moreover, he said that if he had not been caught, in 
twenty-four hours from that time he would have 
had possession of all our army train. He was sus- 
pended from a tree and left there, and while the 
army passed I saw him hanging by the neck. It was 
rumored at the time that some one had suggested 
to send him to Washington and let the authorities deal 
with him there. If the rumor is true. Gen. Hancock 
swore : " No ! If you send him to Washington they will 


promote him." There was really so much kindness 
shown in Washington, even to culprits, that the 
generals in the field decided that strict severity was 
necessary somewhere, to keep up discipline. Passing 
through Maryland it was really admirable to see how 
careful our men were of private property. No fields, 
gardens, or private houses were at all injured. The 
men had been warned that, being in a loyal State, 
they had no right to molest or destroy private 
property. This told on the conscience of each man. 
Besides this, Gen. Hancock had issued a severe 
general order to our corps, adding a serious penalty 
should anyone be found in works of depredation. 
One evening he rode through the camp to see if his 
orders were in full force. At a distance he saw a 
sheep running, and it seemed that some men were 
chasing the animal, thinking, notwithstanding the 
order, that a little nmtton for a change would be a 
feast. The general put spurs to his horse, and when 
he reached the spot he swore at the supposed culprits : 
"Blank, blank, you blank, blank, scoundrels! Did 
you not hear my orders ? Send out the man that killed 
that sheep! I saw the animal drop! Do not try to 
evade, or I will have the whole company punished." 
No move was made, and the general was very much 
displeased. He renewed the threat of punishment 
in still more vigorous language, and while he was 
in the midst of his speech the sheep jumped out of 
the brush and ran off. The general, as he wheeled 
his horse round to return to his quarters, said: ''I 


take it all back. I am glad you have not transgressed 
my orders." The fact is, the sheep, no doubt, was 
chased but not killed. The animal was about 
exhausted at the time and dropped in the brush, but 
when it had rested for a time it was all right. To be 
truly candid, however, I am of opinion that that sheep 
did not die a natural death! Gen. Hancock was a 
great and a brave soldier, much respected by our 
corps, which he commanded. He was a polished 
gentleman and had a keen sense of propriety. 
Addicted merely through force of habit to the use of 
profane language, when excited, he would invariably 
stop short when he discovered the presence of a 
clergyman. This occasion was no exception, which 
showed his sense of propriety, as it is particularly 
impolite to speak in the presence of any professional 
man in a way that is offensive or distasteful to that 
profession. In other words, the general showed a 
respect for religion in respecting its ministers. The 
following anecdote illustrates the force of habit in 
swearing; but in this case the reflection on the 
bishop is heavy: "An English Episcopalian bishop 
said to a lord in Parliament: 'Do not curse so; it is 
wicked.' 'Well,' said the lord, 'I curse considerably 
and you pray considerably, but neither of us mean 
anything, you know.'" 



ON June 28, 1863, we halted at Frederick city, 
fifty to sixty miles from Baltimore. Frederick 
is quite an old town of about 9,000 inhabitants. The 
people might be called " old-fashioned." Quiet, 
easy-going, kind-hearted, and great lovers of old 
friends and old customs. This is the reputation they 
have. Here is located a State institution or college, 
founded in 1797. Here also is located a flourishing 
novitiate of the Jesuit society. Not far off, to the 
north, in the same county, is the venerable Mount St. 
Mary's College, the alma mater of many Catholic 
bishops and priests. In going to Gettysburg we left 
Mount St. Mary's to the right, passing in our line of 
march about a mile or two from the grounds. In the 
vicinity of Frederick we found the country very 
beautiful. The fields were like gardens in the highest 
state of cultivation. The fences were neat and well 
built. The buildings were not grand, but they had 
about them an air of comfort, and they looked like 
real homes. I never entered a house during our long 
march of between two and three hundred miles from 



Fredericksburg, Virginia, to Gettysburg, Pennsyl- 
vania. Early on the morning of June 29 our corps 
started from Frederick toward Gettysburg, and we 
did not halt for the night until about eleven p. m., 
having made the longest march made by infantry of 
any department during the war. This achievement 
is what is claimed. Our men carried, as I have said 
elsewhere, about sixty pounds, including musket, 
cartridges, provisions, shelter-tent, and blanket. We 
marched thirty-four miles. Considering the load that 
the men had to carry, it was a marvellous feat, and it 
was what CsGsar would call a " forced march." Being 
more or less veterans at this time, we knew what it 
meant. We knew that there was desperate work 
ahead and that our services would be soon required. 
We halted in a ploughed field. A gentle rain was 
falling, but no matter, w^e must rest. Beside a tree, 
that seemed to me in the dark to be an apple tree, I 
couched, under no tent, no canopy, except the canopy 
of heaven. I folded my blanket about me and was 
soon fast asleep. When one is very hungry and very 
sleepy, it is hard to decide which of the two, food or 
sleep, nature craves most. I would put sleep first. 
This has been my experience. I must note here that 
when we left our old camp Falmouth, opposite Fred- 
ericksburg, we were under Gen. Hooker. While on 
the march, on June 28, he was superseded by Maj.- 
Gen. Meade. During the long march on the follow- 
ing day, I heard the men make many curious remarks 
about the skill of various generals. Besides this, they 


* talked on numerous subjects, from philosophy to 
"hard-tack" and pork! Late in the evening some of 
them became exceedingly tired and declared that they 
could not, and would not, go any farther. " Oh, come 
on! " others cried; "Little Mac is surely in command." 
Where they got this idea I could not tell, but it was, 
in fact, a general rumor, which I heard repeated again 
and again, that he was in command and that he was 
following up with an incredibly large force. Later 
on we heard that this report was purposely started to 
give more confidence to the rank and file. Be that 
as it may, the rumor seemed to have a good effect on 
the men. It was surprising to see them holding out 
to the very last. No stragglers were found on the 
road behind — a very unusual thing on a long march. 
In the army during the war it was not uncommon to 
see men drop from weakness, like jaded horses, give 
out and fall helpless to the ground. Besides the 
cases of utter exhaustion, men would sometimes "give 
up," when very much fatigued, lag behind and seek 
rides in the ambulances, or perhaps stop by the road- 
side and sleep till the morning, and then leisurely 
follow the advance. These were called "stragglers," 
and if the battle was over when they arrived, they 
could sit by the camp fires and tell more about it 
than those who were in the fight. Late in the even- 
ing the marching of a tired army is a sight. As a 
rule, not a voice is heard. Fatigue and drowsiness, 
added to a rather weak and faint feeling, indispose 
men to converse, and by silenj;,5rij5ias^nt eae% one 

S^^N^ '' ,:^i^ 


discontinues conversation. The click of a large spur, 
the occasional rattle of a sword, and other mechan- 
ical movements are the only sounds heard above the 
slow, steady tramp of the line and the heavy tread of 
the few horses that carry mounted officers. Even 
these mounted officers frequently dismount and walk 
to avoid being overpowered by sleep and to save 
themselves from falling from the horses. Many, 
many times I had to do so. How men live through 
all this is a mystery. But a kind Providence pressed 
many of us onward and preserved us, and for this, 
I am not ashamed to say here, few of us are truly 
grateful, few of us render the thanks which God has 
a right to expect. One of the ten lepers came to 
thank Jesus. "Were not ten made clean? and 
where are the nine ? " Only one was found thankful! 
Here He complains of our want of gratitude. 



OUR march is not yet at an end! July 1, 1863, 
one o'clock, p. m., found us at Tanytown, Pa., 
where our corps was massed and where Gen. Meade 
established his headquarters. Suddenly a courier 
came up at break-neck speed, his horse panting and 
covered with foam. He announced that fighting was 
going on at Gettysburg. The Confederates, with a 
very superior force, encountered our cavalry and the 
First and Eleventh Infantry Corps, and the Union 
troops were driven back. in confusion. Gen. Meade 
dispatched Gen. Hancock, the commander of our 
corps, to the scene of strife with orders to take full 
charge of the field — cavalry, infantry, and artillery. 
Accompanied by his excellent staff, Hancock dashed 
off and was soon on the ground restoring order, 
examining the grounds, and forming plans for a gen- 
eral engagement next day. Gen. Meade sanctioned 
Hancock's plans, and ordered his adjutant-general. 
Gen. Seth Williams, to send all the troops to the 
front. This was on the afternoon of July 1, and at 
once we resumed our march. We had about thirteen 


miles to go. Next morning, July 2, a memorable 
day, Hancock posted us on Cemetery Kidge. Oppo- 
site and about a mile from us, on Seminary Ridge, 
we could see distinctly the lines of the Confeder- 
ates. Much of the day passed in the disposition of 
troops on either side. The two great contending 
forces watched each other keenly with beating hearts 
and anxious expectation of what result might follow 
the pending struggle. Generals are in a ''brown 
study," staff officers and orderlies are dashing along 
the lines from left to right and from right to left, 
carrying orders. On the flanks the cavalry and light 
artillery are on a sharp look-out, and all are astir. 
One can hardly imagine the stupendous task it is to 
dispose a large army of tens of thousands of men and 
hundreds of cannon to advantage. Each cannon has 
usually six horses, and the caissons containing the 
ammunition, balls, and shells are drawn in the same 
manner. Consider what a line and a body all this 
makes; and how much time and study is required to 
bring all into position, and to make such a combination 
as will give reasonable hope of success. In doing this 
we spent most of July 2, until about four o'clock, p. m. 
And now, the two great armies are confronting each 
other. Lee Kad eighty to a hundred thousand men 
and over two hundred cannon. Meade had even 
more men, and over three hundred cannon, but he 
could not use them all at once on account of the 
broken nature of the country. Gettysburg, the 
county seat of Adams County, is a small town of 


about 8,000 inhabitants and is located in a basin or 
valley. We can scarcely imagine the trepidation of 
these poor people — men, women, and children — in their 
defenseless, quiet homes, surrounded by such armies 
as were there from the first to the fourth of July, 
1863. Many fervent prayers were said and holy 
vows pronounced, no doubt, especially on the nights 
of the first and second. The proportions of the 
pending crash seemed so great, as the armies eyed 
each other, that even veterans who had often '*smelled 
powder" quailed at the thought of the final coniQict. 
At about four o'clock the Confederates commenced 
firing, and one hundred and twenty cannon from 
their side belched forth from their fiery throats mis- 
siles of death into our lines. The Third Corps were 
pressed back, and at this critical moment I proposed 
to give a general absolution to our men, as they had 
had absolutely no chance to practise their religious 
duties during the past two or three weeks, being 
constantly on the march. Here I will quote the 
account of Maj.-Gen. St. Clair Mulholland, then a 
colonel in the Irish Brigade,- a Christian gentleman 
and as brave a soldier as any in the Army of the 
Potomac, to which his wounds and his army record 
will testify: 

''Now (as the Third Corps is being pressed back), 
help is called for, and Hancock tells Caldwell to have 
his men ready. 'Fall in!' and the men run to their 
places. 'Take arms!' and the four brigades of 
Zook, Cross, Brook, and Kelly are ready for the 


fray. There are yet a few minutes to spare before 
starting, and the time is occupied by one of the most 
impressive religious ceremonies I have ever witnessed. 
The Irish Brigade, which had been commanded for- 
merly by Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, and whose 
green flag had been unfurled in every battle in which 
the Army of the Potomac had been engaged from the 
first Bull Kun to A^pom^ttox, and was now com- 
manded by Col. Patrick Kelly of the Eighty-eighth 
New York, formed a part of this division. The 
brigade stood in column of regiments, closed in mass. 
As a large majority of its members were Catholics, 
the Chaplain of the brigade. Rev. William Corby, 
proposed to give a general absolution to all the men 
before going into the fight. While this is customary 
in the armies of Catholic countries in Europe, it was 
perhaps the first time it was ever witnessed on this 
continent, unless, indeed, the grim old warrior, PoneC 
de Leon, as he tramped through the Everglades of 
Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth, or De 
Soto, on his march to the Mississippi, indulged this 
act of devotion. Father Corby stood on a large rock 
in front of the brigade. Addressing the men, he 
explained what he was about to do, saying that each 
one could receive the benefit of the absolution by 
making a sincere Act of Contrition and firmly resolv- 
ing to embrace the first opportunity of confessing 
his sins, urging them to do their duty, and remind- 
ing them of the high and sacred nature of their trust 
as soldiers and the noble object for which they 
fought. . . , . The brigade was standing at 


'Order arm?!' As he closed his address, every man, 
Catholic and non-Catholic, fell on his knees with his 
head bowed down. Then, stretching his right hand 
toward the brigade. Father Corby pronounced the 
words of the absolution : 

'Dominus noster Jesus Ghristus vos absolvat, et ego, 

auctoritate ipsius, vos ahsolvo ah omni vinculo, exoom- 

muniGationis interdicti, in quantum possum et vos 

X indigetis d^mde ego ahsolvo vos, a pecatis vestris, in 

nomini Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.'* 

"The scene was more than impressive; it was awe- 
inspiring. Near by stood a brilliant throng of 
officers who had gathered to witness this very unusual 
occurrence, and while there was profound silence in 
the ranks of the Second Corps, yet over to the left, out 
by the peach orchaid and Little Round Top, where 
Weed and Vincent and Hazlitt were dying, the roar 
of, the battle rose and swelled and re-echoed through 
the woods, making music more sublime than ever 
sounded through cathedral aisle. The act seemed to 
be in harmony with the surroundings. I do not think 
there was a man in the brigade who did not offer up 
a heart-felt prayer. For some, it was their last; they 
knelt there in their grave clothes. In less than half 
an hour many of them were numbered with the dead 
of July 2. Who can doubt that their prayers were 
good? What was wanting in the eloquence of the 
priest to move them to repentance was supplied in 
the incidents of the fight. That heart would be 
incorrigible, indeed, that the scream of a Whitworth 


bolt, added to Father Corby's touching appeal, would 
not move to contrition." 

In performing this ceremony I faced the army. 
My eye covered thousands of officers and men. I 
noticed that all, Catholic and non- Catholic, officers 
and private soldiers showed a profound respect, wish- 
ing at this fatal crisis to receive every benefit of 
divine grace that could be imparted through the 
instrumentality of the Church ministry. Even Maj.- 
Gen. Hancock removed his hat, and, as far as compat- 
ible with the situation, bowed in reverential devotion. 
That general absolution was intended for all — ^V^ 
quantum poss^im — not only for our brigade, but for 
all. North or South, who were susceptible of it and 
who were about to appear before their Judge. Let 
us hope that many thousands of souls, purified by 
hardships, fasting, prayer, and blood, met a favorable 
sentence on the ever memorable battlefield of Gettys- 
burg. The battle lasted three days and was the 
greatest of the war. A comparison between the 
battles of Gettysburg and Waterloo has frequently 
been made by various writers; the greater of the two 
is, very likely, that at Gettysburg. 

During a visit to the Gettysburg battlefield, about 
a year ago, in 1889, Maj.-Gen. Mulholland told me 
that a soldier of his regiment knelt near him while 
the general absolution was being given and prayed 
with more fervor than the Greneral had ever before 
witnessed. Twenty minutes later that poor soldier 
was a corpse! 


The Irish Brigade had very many advantages over 
other organizations, as it was at no time during the 
war without a chaplain; but I was the only one at 
the battle of Gettysburg. Often in camp and some- 
times on the march we held very impressive religious 
services, but the one at Gettysburg was more public, 
and was witnessed by many who had not, perhaps, 
seen the others. The surroundings there, too, made 
a vast difference, for really the situation reminded 
one of the day of judgment, when shall be seen 
"men withering away for fear and expectation of 
what shall come upon the whole world," so great were 
the whirlwinds of war then in motion. 

About a week after the battle, while on the march, 
a captain, a non-Catholic, rode up to me, and after an 
introduction by a friend, said: " Chaplain, I would 
like to know more about your religion. I was present 
on that awful day, July 2, when you ' made a prayer,' 
and while I have often witnessed ministers make 
prayers I never witnessed one so powerful as the one 
you made that day in front of Hancock's corps just 
as the ball opened with one hundred and twenty guns 
blazing at us." Just then I found use for my hand- 
kerchief to hide a smile which stole to my coun- 
tenance caused by the, to me, peculiar phfs^^logy 
in which the good captain expressed his mind. I 
could not but admire his candid, outspoken manner, 
though, and I gave him an invitation to call on me 
in camp, when I would take pleasure in giving him 
all the information in my power. One good result 


of the Civil War was the removing of a great amount 
of prejudice. When men stand in common danger, 
a fraternal feeling springs up between them and 
generates a Christian, charitable sentiment that often 
leads to most excellent results. 




THROUGHOUT this narrative I have followed 
my subject chronologically. Here, by way of 
parenthesis, I feel impelled to write a chapter on the 
celebration of the twenty -fifth anniversary of the 
Battle of Gettysburg, which celebration took place 
in July, 1888. It will not be out of place here in 
connection with the account of the battle itself. 
Plans on an extensive scale had been prepared for a 
national celebration of this anniversary. The sur- 
viving veterans of the Irish Brigade sent me a pressing 
invitation to attend with them ; considering, as they 
expressed it, that "such a meeting would be incom- 
plete without the chaplain who had been their com- 
panion in prosperity and adversity since the very first 
campaign made by the brigade." I accepted, and am 
glad I did so. I witnessed there one of the grandest 
and most interesting sights of my life. The emotions 
that filled my breast when I met the surviving officers 
and men once more on the field that drank in the 
blood of so many of our dead companions may be 
more easily imagined than described. I shall never 



forget that meeting. It was estimated that fully 
fifty thousand were present — embracing North and 
South, East and West. Some came from California 
to be present, others from far distant Alaska, and 
thousands from the Gulf States swelled the waves of 
moving, surging humanity. Officers and men, women 
and children, came from every quarter. The old 
soldiers, from North and South, wished to visit once 
more, before their death, the spot of such thrilling 
interest ; the spot that formed the greatest and fullest 
chapter of war history; the spot that received the 
blood of many times ten thousand heroes; the spot 
that still gives war incidents which thrill the blood of 
a generation then unborn, and which will continue to 
do so for many generations in the future. There is 
now a growing interest circling around Gettysburg 
battlefield, more than any other, in the school-boy of 
to-day that is really marvellous. Not only did the 
old soldier wish to revisit, in peace, this historic spot 
where he had fought, and possibly bled and left a 
limb, but he also desired his wife, taken to his bosom 
perhaps since the war, his sons and daughters, many 
of whom were also born since the war, to see the place 
which not only the nation but nations, had talked about 
so much. Yea, he desired even his friends and rela- 
tives to enjoy with him the reminiscences of July 1, 
2, and 3, 1863. The meeting did not consist of an 
idle gathering. There were programmes for each day 
and each part of the day. The dedication of monu- 
ments was a prominent feature. Brass bands led the 


way to some particular locality where a monument 
had been erected by a military brigade or division to 
commemorate the identical place where such organ- 
ization fought twenty -five years before. Here great 
numbers clustered around a stage or platform, from 
which some distinguished general or selected orator 
addressed the multitude. Besides, the old field was 
covered with tents, numbering probably ten thousand. 
Many, after every tent and every house in the town 
was filled, slept on the ground. No matter, camp life 
again! I learned that from twelve to twenty trains 
on one railway alone, bringing thousands more, were 
blocked on the route, so great was the flood of human- 
ity constantly pouring into Gettysburg for this cele- 
bration. The sight was in great contrast with the 
scene enacted there twenty -five years previous. Then 
it was war, now peace; then we heard the roar of 
cannon and the groans of the dying; now we hear 
the rich stentorian voice of the enthusiastic, patriotic 
orator, the inspiring strains of martial music and the 
merry laugh of youth and beauty, whose hearts long 
to distinguish their lives by great heroic deeds worthy 
a nation now so exalted among all the nations of the 
earth — a free nation handed down to us by our illus- 
trious forefathers to be kept intact and united till the 
end of time; a nation born of the patriotic, liberty- 
loving heroes over a century ago and now cemented 
in the blood of their children's children, never again 
to be disrupted by political strife or ungovernable 
passion. Much time was agreeably spent in looking 
over the battle grounds, which are very extensive. 


The government purchased the locality and mapped 
out the whole area fought over during the battle. 
Twenty-five years' skill and industry have wrought a 
great change in the place. At the time of the battle 
it was: '' Wheatfield,"' "Peach Orchard," "Seminary 
Eidge," " Cemetery Hill," "Bloody Angle," "Devil's 
Den," etc. Now it is: "Battle Avenue," "Gulp's 
Hill Avenue," "Hancock Avenue," " Keynold's 
Avenue," "Sickles' Avenue," " Howard Avenue," 
"Cemetery Gate," etc. I must note here that the 
national cemetery at Gettysburg is a credit to our 
country. There are soldiers buried there, unclaimed 
by relatives, to the number of nearly four thousand. 
In various other national cemeteries in the United 
States (many of which I have visited — notably the 
one in Louisiana, near New Orleans, where there are 
twelve thousand graves) there are buried three 
hundred and twenty-five thousand one hundred and 
forty-three patriots. All these cemeteries are kept in 
an artistic style that rivals our handsomest city parks. 
This is done at the expense of the general govern- 
ment, and each cemetery receives daily the personal 
supervision of the officer in charge and such care 
that the most fastidious can find no fault, while it 
delights every man of good sense to see such respect 
shown our fallen heroes. My remarks are much longer 
than I had intended, but the deep interest I feel in 
the subject must be my apology to any reader who 
may find them uninteresting. p^I will now devote 
another short chapter to the actual doings of the 
Irish Brigade at Gettysburg in July, 1888. 



FOLLOWING our plan in all former celebrations, 
we opened our celebration of July 2 (the 
exact anniversary day of our deadly struggle there as 
a brigade) with a " Military Mass." Father Ouellet* 
was with us again on this occasion and sang the Mass. 
The choir came from New York, while the members 
of the local choir did their best to make everything 
pass off creditably. Among the singers present from 
New York, I remember Mrs. Florence Eice Knox, 
who possesses a rich, smooth, and powerful voice, 
full of pathos; Miss Ritta E. Bronson, whose voice 
was very sweet and pleasing, and Prof. Edward 
O'Mahony, who held his own pretty well, considering 
the charms of the voices around him: Mrs. Knox, 
Miss Bronson, and the splendid chorus too numerous 
to mention, even if I could remember their names. 
I must not forget to mention the organist, one of no 

* The Rev. Thomas Ouellet, S. J., was chaplain with me in 
the brigade from November, 1861 , till April, 1862, when he 
resigned. He re-enlisted February 15, 1864, and contmued 
until the end of the war in 1865. Between these dates he acted 
as hospital chaplain at Newbern, North Carolina. 


ordinary ability, Miss Grace Haverty, daughter of 
our former quartermaster. Here I wish to mention 
also the great service rendered us by the pastor of 
Gettysburg, who, by the way, became pastor the year 
after the battle, continued twenty-four years in the 
same position, and is still there. His name is the 
Kev. Joseph A. Ball. While not yet ordained priest, 
and being in vacation, he walked eighty miles to the 
battlefield when it was covered with the fresh horrors 
of war. He had but two dollars on which to make 
this trip. While repairing the steeple of his church 
twenty-four years after the battle, his carpenter found 
a bullet in the timber which had been fired from the 
South. I am now in possession of said bullet. I 
was urged to address the multitude at the Anniver- 
sary Mass service. Imagine one who ought to be a 
"grim old warrior" standing before his "companions 
in arms" addressing them after a separation that 
dated to March 20, 1865, nearly a quarter of a 
century! At first I got on reasonably well, until, 
looking over those assembled, the surviving members 
of our illustrious and numerous band as it appeared 
at Alexandria, Va., in the fall of '61, I happened to 
make this statement, " Here is what is left of us; 
where are the others? " when I filled up very unex- 
pectedly and could not speak for several minutes. I 
had struck a very tender chord. The celebrant, 
although eleven years older than I, wept like a child, 
and the brave old warriors before me who had stood 
the shock of many battles also wept. We were on the 


spot where many of the "others" had fallen; heroes 
whom we had helped to carry out of our ranks. The 
place, the circumstances, the remembrances, the old 
friendships renewed, contributed to emotions that 
perhaps may not be well understood except by the 

I was credibly informed that among the dozens of 
orators — most of whom were generals — who spoke 
at the various dedications of monuments, many were 
so choked with emotion as to be obliged for a time 
to stop speaking. This is a new proof of what we 
often notice in history — that the bravest of generals 
have tender hearts. It may seem paradoxical; never- 
theless, it is true. Well, the grand " Military Mass " 
being over, an hour or so was passed in talking over 
old times. Then we proceeded to the dedication of 
the monument erected to the memory of the Irish 
Brigade, a beautiful structure, the shaft terminating 
in the form of a Latin cross. This was solemnly 
blessed and the particulars of the following pro- 
gramme were strictly carried out. 





of the survivors of the 

In dedicating and presenting to the Gettysburg Battlefield 
Association, on behalf of the State of New York, 


To the Memory of the Members of the New York Commands 

of the Brigade, who fought on many well-stricken 

fields for the preservation of the 

Union and in the 


1. The President, Capt. Toal, introduces Gen. Nugent as 

presiding officer. 

2. Gen. Nugent introduces Chaplains. 

3. Religious Services and Address by Rev. W. Corby. 

4. Address by Chairman. 

5. Letters from Distinguished Absentees. 

6. Song by Florence Rice Knox and Miss Ritta E. Bronson. 

7. Chairman introduces Orator of the Day. 

8. Gen. Burke delivers Oration. 

9. Poem by William Collins. 

10. Benediction by Brigade Chaplains of the Cross, De Pro- 

fundis and Miserere chanted for the dead by the choir 

11. Presentation to Gettysburg Monument Association, by 

Col. James D. Brady. 

12. Response by the Gettysburg Monument Association. 

13. Song by Prof. Edward O'Mabony— " How Sleep the Brave 

Who Sink to Rest." 

14. Poem by William Geoghegan. 

15. " Star-Spangled Banner." 

16. Benediction. 


Master of Ceremonies.— President of the I. B. V. A., Capt. 
John T. Toal, Sixty-ninth N. Y. 

' ^SpeciaZ Aids.— Vice-President, Dennis SulUvan, Sixty-third 
N. Y.; Capt. John R. Nugent, Sixty-ninth N. Y.;Dr. Wilham 
O'Meagher, Sixty-ninth N. Y. ; Capt. W. L. D. O'Grady, Eighty- 
eighth N. Y. 

Chairman and Senior Officer.— Bng.-Gen. Robert Nugent, 
U. S. A. 

Chaplains— Yei J Rev. Wilham Corby, C S. C; Rev. Thomas 
Ouellet, S. J. 

Orators.— Brig. -Gen. Denis F. Burke, U. S. V.; Col. James 

D. Brady, Sixty-third N. Y. 

Choir and Glee Club.—MTs. Florence Rice Knox, Miss Ritta 

E. Bronson, Prof. Edward O'Mahony, with chorus. 
Poefs.— Wilham CoUins, Wilham Geoghegan. 
Sculptor. — Hon. Maurice J. Power, 
^warfermas^er.— Lieut.-Col. James Quinlan, Eighty-eighth 

N. Y. 

Commissary.— Wd]. P. M. Haverty, Eighty-eighth N. Y. 

Officer of the Day.— Caipt. Chas. M. Grainger, Eighty-eighth 
N. Y. 

Officer of the Ouard.—LiievLt. David Burke, Sixty-ninth 
N. Y. 

Special Aids.— John Londregan, Sixty-ninth N". Y.; Lieut. 
John Dillon, Sixty-third N. Y.; Alexander Mcllhargy, Sixty- 
ninth N. Y.; Michael Corcoran, Eighty-eighth N. Y.; Wilham 
Moran, Sixty-third N. Y.; Patrick Lucy, Sixty-third N. Y.; 
John Smith, Sixty-ninth N. Y. 

Color Guard.— WiWmm Parrington, Sixty-ninth N: Y.; 
Joseph Devereux, Eighty-eighth N. Y.; Con. Ahearn, Eighty- 
eighth N. Y.; James Dwyer, Sixty- third N. Y.; Wilham F. 
Maher, Fourteenth Battery. 

Reception Committee.— Jjient. -Col. James Smith, Sixty- 
ninth N. Y.; Maj. Dwyer, Sixty- third N. Y.; Lieut.-Col. J. D. 
MulhaU, Sixty-ninth N. Y.; Alexander Jeffreys, Fifteenth Bat- 
tery; Lieut. E. M. Knox, Fifteenth Battery; Walter Bogan, 
Fourteenth Battery; Capt. P. J. Healy, Eighty-eighth N. Y.; 
Peter F. Rafferty, Sixty-ninth N. Y.; Lieut. John Murphy, 
Sixty-ninth N. Y.; Lieut. John O'Connell, Sixty-ninth N. Y. 



Whose Monument was Unveiled on the Battlefield of Gettys- 
burg, July 2, 1888. 


Peace spreads her wings of snowy white 

O'er Gettysburg to-day ; 
No sound is heard of coming fight, 

No marshaling for the fray ; 
War's grim battalions dream no more 

At morn the foe to greet ; 
The long, long, fitful strife is o'er, 

And we as comrades meet. 


We meet in love, and, hand in hand, 

Above our brothers' graves, 
We pledge true fealty to the land 

O'er which our banner waves; 
But while its folds in glory swell 

And proudly flaunt the air 
We think of those who fought and fell 

To keep it floating there! 


Of those who in their manhood died 

To blot out Slavery's stain, 
And rear aloft in all its pride 

Fair Freedom's flag again! 
'Tis ours to raise this cross on high 

Above the Irish dead, 
Who showed mankind the way to die. 

When Truth and Freedom led. 



They came from a land where Freedom was only known by 

Where Slavery's spell, like a breath of Hell, had banned and 
barred her name; 

Where the brave man moaned in fetters, and the patriot wept 
in thrall, 

And red with the blood of martyrs the despot ruled o'er all ! 

But when on Freedom's soil they stood and saw her banner 

And heard the foeman's mustering shout re-echo on our shore. 

They leaped, as leaps the lightning's flash athwart the storm- 
tossed sky, 

For that old flag with bosoms bare, to triumph or to die ! 

This soil is the grave of heroes — it is not common mold ! 
Each foot is dyed and sanctified with the blood of the brave 

and bold; 
And an incense rises from their graves to light us on to fame. 
And mingles in each patriot soul and sets his heart aflame, 
And nerves the veriest slave that e'er shrank from a tyrant 

To leap to life with armed hand, and give him blow for blow — 
To strike the despot to the death though bulwarked round in 

And right, with fierce and desperate strength, the wrongs that 

brave men feel! 


Here, on the field of Gettysburg, where treason's banner flew: 

Where rushed in wrath the Southern gray to smite the North- 
ern blue; 

Where'er that blue, by valor nerved, in serried ranks was 

There flashed between it and the foe the daring Irish Green ! 


And never yet, on any land, rushed forth to Freedom's aid 
A braver or more dauntless band than Ireland's brave Brigade. 
Pause on their graves! 'Tis holy dust ye tread upon to-day — 
The dust of Freedom s martyred dead, whose souls have passed 


No more the ringing bugle blast 

Shall fright the trembUng air; 
No more the squadrons hurrying fast 
To meet the charge — perchance their last — 

Amid the battle's glare; 
Their pride, their strength— all, all are past. 

In peace they slumber there, 
And comrades true beside them lie, 

Who oft, on field and flood, 
Fought in the strife for Liberty 

And sealed their faith in blood; 
But never yet beat hearts as proud 

As those which Ireland gave. 
Night's sable mantle was their shroud. 

The battlefield their grave! 

But though from earth have passed away 

Their spirits bold and true. 
And tombed in cold and senseless clay 
The hearts that bounded warm and gay 
III war's wild wassail— every fray 

Where men could dare and do — 
Their deeds will shine in Freedom's ray, 

While tyrants stand appalled; 
Their name and fame shall last for aye, 
And brighter burn from day to day 
Till the sun sinks into eternity, 

And the Judgment Roll is called! 



Respectfully Dedicated to the Surviving Veterans of that 
Famous Corps. 


O comrades, step with reverent tread 

Toward this historic mound ; 
The soil that soaks the brave man's blood 

Is always holy ground. 
Here five and twenty years ago 

An Irish phalanx stood, 
And here they swelled the battle tide 

With generous Celtic blood. 

Thro' many a fierce, ensanguined fight 

Two banners o'er them flew — 
The emblems of the land they left 

And the land they came unto ; 
No stain e'er fell on either's folds— 

No foeman e'er could say 
He'd plucked a tassel from those staffs 

Or snatched a shred away. 


Though rent and splintered, flags and staffs - 

With foemen face to face — 
Above the vanguard's fire-swept line 

Those flags maintained their place. 
And out of Stonewall Jackson's lips 

The wrathful sentence drew: 
" There goes that damned green flag again 

Beside the Yankee blue I " 



On Fair Oaks field, on Marye's heights, 

Thro' Fredericksburg's dread days. 
Well, well, the Southland's veterans knew 

Those blended banners' blaze. 
Where'er the fight was desperate 

And spears struck fire from spears, 
Those flags flashed out above the lines 

Of the Irish Brigadiers. 

The war drum's throb and bugle sound 

Ye loved to hear is o'er— 
The damp, cold earth is heaped above 

Your hearts forevermore; 
But memory of your gallant deeds 

Enlivens, stirs, and thrills. 
Like echoes of a clarion call 

Around Killarney's hills.* 


" Tenting on the Old Camp Ground " was then rendered. 
The recollections of five and twenty years ago and the pathos 
of the voices, especially that of Mrs. Rice Knox, left few dry 
eyes "on the Old Camp Ground." An excellent reed organ 
brought all the way from New York, was skilfully presided 
over by Miss Grace Haverty. It stood near the rock from 
which general absolution had been given to the army, July 2i 
1863. In an almost similar way, three days were spent in dedi- 
cating numberless monuments that dot the entire battlefield 
of July 1, 2, and 3, 1863. 

* The echoes of a bugle or horn blast reverberate among the Kil- 
larney hills long after the original sound producing them has died 
entirely away. 



WE now return to take up the thread of our 
narrative, which we dropped at the end of 
the battle of Gettysburg to tell the story of the 
celebration of the twenty -fifth anniversary of that 

Gettysburg battle once over, the army followed up 
Lee, and as he retreated toward the Rappahannock 
River we also moved in the same direction. July 1 
found the Army of the Potomac fighting at Gettys- 
burg, after a zigzag march of between two and three 
hundred miles from the banks of the Rappahannock 
to the battlefield. Now, after the battle (having 
spent some time in burying the dead), we began to 
march again and were obliged to retrace our steps to 
the place from which we had started in June. I will 
not ask the reader to follow this counter march, but 
will simply relate a few incidents which occurred on 
the way. During our return we had occasional spats 
with the Confederates. One morning, after march- 
ing all night, we received orders at break of day to 
halt and prepare some coffee. Just as the small fires 



began to send their tiny columns of smoke toward 
the sky the sun peeped out, as it were, to see what 
was going on. Acting-Brigadier Kelly, commander of 
our brigade, and myself had just halted under a large 
wild cherry tree, when, to our consternation, a cannon 
ball crashed through its branches over our heads ! 
This ball was followed by another and another. We 
had no notice whatever of the Confederates being so 
near us, and it was a complete surprise. Had not our 
men been veterans, and brave ones too, we might have 
L-- witnessed a genuine panic. One of our officers 
remarked that it was an insult to call so early, "even 
before breakfast." It did seem very impolite, but no 
time was lost. Our men grasped their arms. Pettit 
wheeled his battery into position, with his usual skill, 
"got the drop on them," and soon put a stop to the 
intrusion. In this conflict I lost my horse, but, fortu- 
nately, I had another at my disposal. The loss 
caused me very great inconvenience, however, as I 
lost also a small altar stone and some other necessary 
articles which I always carried with me for the Holy 
Mass. Needless to say, we also lost our coffee. The 
Confederates withdrew, but only to seek a better 
chance to annoy us later in the day. We started to 
gain "vantage ground," and they did the same. 
There was considerable timber and brush in that 
locality, and the ground was so uneven that we could 
not see the enemy nor could he see us. As we came 
to a clear spot along a railway that passed our moving 
column, I noticed almost in front, but somewhat to 


the left of us, a line of soldiers at the edge of a wood. 
I remarked to one of our officers: "Why are those 
troops out there? I supposed we were in the lead!" 
"Oh," said he, "there are no troops there — can not 
be." " Well," said* I, " there ^r^, and if you will 
mount my horse you can see them." I dismounted, 
and the lieutenant, who was on foot, stepped into the 
stirrup and at a glance saw the troops, who, by this 
time, were a little closer; and he saw, too, that they 
were Confederates who were trying to outflank us 
and gain the "vantage ground" first. We dispatched 
word immediately by an orderly to the commander, 
who ordered a "halt! front face! march!" Then "halt! 
ground arms!" The commander took advantage of 
the bed of the railway. It passed through an elevation, 
making a cut that was perhaps two or three feet deep. 
In this cut — an excellent breastwork — the Union 
troops rested on their arms and waited for the Confed- 
erates to come up. Had I not seen the Confederates, 
mounted as I was on a horse fully sixteen hands high, 
we might have been cut to pieces. Each army, or 
portion of an army, watched the other and manoeuvred 
for quite awhile. As we could do nothing, two doctors 

\ and myself proposed to retire and get some coffee, and 

to find a place for the wounded in case there should 

i^ be a battle, as by this time it was getting late in the 
afternoon. We selected a place which we thought 
would be suitable, with ambulances and hospital men 
ready and awaiting results. The young man who 
attended me had been very much demoralized by the 


experience of the morning surprise, and he had lost 
our coffee and provisions. We made a fire, however, 
and procured a few ears of corn from the supply 
brought for the horses, cooking it in the fire, which 
half burned and half roasted it. This we were eat- 
ing as best we could, when a scout suddenly rushed 
in and told us that we were cut off from our troops 
^ by the Confederate cavalry. It was getting dark 
and we hurried away. The doctors mounted and I 
did the same. They were gallant young surgeons. 
One rode on either side of me and several men were 
mounted and followed after us. To an excited 
lieutenant who had charge of the ambulance I looked 
very much like a general. Riding up in front of 
our calvalcade and tipping his hat to me, he said: 
"General, where shall I direct the ambulances?" 
I did not undeceive him but replied, in a tone of 
authority: " Have them driven to Fairfax!" I knew 
that so far the command was correct, and the 
lieutenant did as I told him. We marched the night 
through, having had nothing to eat all day except the 
parched corn. At four o'clock next morning, having 
passed over a small river, the Occoquon, I think, and 
finding ourselves safely out of the trap, we halted, 
tied our horses to some small trees, and, though it was 
raining gently, slept on the ground until seven. 
Then started again, and, coming to a small log cabin, 
entered and asked for something to eat. The poor 
people seemed to be alarmed and said they had nothing. 
" Oh," we said, "we do not wish to deprive you, and 


we are willing to pay." Then they took courage 
and gave us some fat pork, corn bread, and a kind of 
coffee, made, I think, out of burned peas. But it 
was warm. There were three of us, the two doctors 
and myself. We gave our hosts five dollars, and they 
were delighted, and so were we. Hunger made that 
breakfast the most delicious we had in six months. 
We continued our journey, and when we reached 
Fairfax, again near to our troops, we saw a tent where 
a sutler was selling cakes and canned meats. One of 
my companions went in to make our purchases while 
I stayed outside with the other. After marching all 
night and sleeping in the rain, I had quite lost the 
appearance of a general, for which I had been mis- 
taken on the evening previous. While standing out- 
side the sutler's tent, covered with mud, horse-hair, 
and oak-leaves, my hair and beard, unkempt and 
uncombed for three days, flying in the wind, a man on 
horseback dashecl^up to the same tent, dismounted with 
considerable nonchalance, and with scarcely a glance 
at me, peremptorily ordered me to hold his horse. 
Suiting the action to his words, he extended his bridle- 
rein toward me. It was customary in those days to 
hand a boy or an idle loafer ten or twenty -five cents 
for holding an officer's horse for a short time. The 
occurrence was somewhat stunning. ^ '' How hath my 
greatness fallen in one night ! " I soliloquized. '* Last 
night I was taken for a general; this morning I am 
taken for a loafer waiting to earn ten or twenty-five 
cents." The man who had commanded me to hold 


his horse was not an officer, as far as I could ascer- 
tain. He looked like one who was earnest in his duty. 
Just as he was extending the bridle-rein to me, the 
doctor, who had been making the purchases in the 
tent, came out, and, lifting his right hand to his hat 
very politely, by way of salute, said: " General 
(keeping up the joke), I have a good supply for 
to-day." The stranger who owned the horse looked 
sharply at me, with terror in his face, and quickly 
darted out of sight. He seemed confounded at the 
thought of having asked a general to hold his horse. 
A few days' marching brought us within five miles 
of Warrenton, where we encamped. Here we had a 
chance to wash, comb our hair and beards, and feel 
like white men once more. I could not say Mass the 
whole week, as I had not the means. On Saturday, 
however, it happened that information came to me that 
there was a Catholic Church in Warrenton. I started 
at once, and found a small church. There were not 
many Catholics at any time in the town, and I 
learned that the church had been erected by the 
Semmes' family, aided by one ^ or two other rich 
families. Mrs. Semmes was at 'this time a widow. 
I found her to be a very dignified, intelligent 
lady. She had a large family of brilliant daugh- 
ters. Many of the daughters and female relatives 
had married officers in the army and navy; but, 
if I mistake not, most of the male portion were 
engaged in the war in the Confederate cause. Mrs. 
Semmes herself had strong secession proclivities. She 


had charge of the church, and gave me a small altar 
stone and also baked some altar breads for me, and, 
although she thought I was on the " wrong side," as 
she expressed it, we parted good friends, united in 
holy Faith which no war can disrupt, and against 
which even " the gates of hell can not prevail." I 
have ever since cherished an esteem for the family, 
and have had the pleasure of meeting several mem- 
bers, notably Mrs. Fitzgerald, a most accomplished 
lady and one of the best harpists I have ever heard. 
Also, Mrs. Dr. Clarke, an equally refined and accom- 
plished lady, well known, especially, in the best Cath- 
olic society in New York City. Next day, Sunday, 
to my great joy and to the joy of all our men, I cele- 
brated Holy Mass on the " Tented Plain," coram 
" Multibus in armisy Thus we sanctified another 
spot in Virginia on our march, as we had done hun- 
dreds of times before, and which we continued to do 
until we reached the end on the banks of the Appo- 
mattox River near Petersburg. The children of Israel 
were conducted by a pillar of fire in the night and a 
cloud in the day ; so, in our darkest hours and during 
our longest marches, the Holy Sacrifice made us feel 
that we had God with us to guide and assist us to 
live well, and, if need were, to die well. 



FOR obvious reasons real names can not be given 
in the following account. In July, 1863, there 
were in our camp two officers, both captains, whose 
tents were next each other, separated by only a few 
feet. The canvas walls did not obstruct the sound of 
the voice. In one of the tents was Capt. Peter (let 
us call him) and in the other Capt. Paul. One day 
Capt. Peter heard the conversation going on in Capt. 
Paul's tent. It was about himself and of a dispstrag- 
ing nature. Capt. Peter felt his blood boil, but he 
went out of his tent so that he might not hear any 
more of the talk. After awhile he returned to his 
tent, sat down all alone, and began to read. Again 
he heard the conversation about himself, and growing 
still worse, in proportion, probably, as more wine had 
been taken. Capt. Peter could stand it no longer. 
He got up to remonstrate, and, with no serious inten- 
tion, just as he was passing out of his tent took up a 
revolver that lay on a stand near the door, and walked 
over to the front of his neighbor's tent. He turned 
back a portion of the canvas that formed the closing, 
and demanded, in a stern voice: 


" Captain, do you mean what you have been saying 
about me? " 

"Yes," came the defiant reply, '' and more." 
Having the revolver in his hand, he shot Capt. 
Paul. That moment his regret was so great he 
wished the arm that did the shooting had dropped 
from his body in time to save the life of his fellow- 
officer. But his regret was too late. He was court- 
martialed and sentenced to be shot. He did not 
belong to my command, but he sent for me and told 
me the entire circumstances as given above. Then 
he said to me: " Father, do what you can for me. I 
have but a short time to live — only a few days." I put 
him on retreat and spent all the time I could with 
him ; and oh, how fervently the poor man prayed! 
He ate almost nothing, wept bitterly over the sins of 
his past life, asked God thousands of times, day and 
night, to pardon him and all his enemies; begged for 
mercy, also, for the poor soul he had sent prematurely 
to eternity; and, finally, he made a confession with 
heartfelt sorrow. I kept before his mind the infinite 
mercy of God, the sufferings of Christ on the cross, 
and other reflections of a similar nature. I spent 
most of the night previous to the day set for his exe- 
cution in his tent, and was seriously affected by his 
groans and lamentations over past transgressions. 
Next morning I brought him Holy Communion. He 
received most devoutly, and, after making a pious 
thanksgiving, told me that he had prayed all night — 

had not slept one hour. Finally the time came, and 


a squad of men, with fixed bayonets, were at hand to 
lead him out. Just then an officer came dashing for- 
ward and cried: " Halt! A dispatch received! Par- 
don granted!" The prisoner was in the act of 
moving out in sad silence to meet his death when this 
announcement fell on his ears. The reaction was 
too much for him — he dropped into a seat and 
fainted. He had nerved himself to meet death, 
and, very unexpectedly, he was free. This narrative, 
although touching by the nature of the subject, is 
still far short of the reality. One must witness such 
scenes to realize them to the full extent. It occurred to 
me at the time, and frequently since, that his earnest 
preparation for death would form an excellent model 
for all of us. It was one full of faith and self -con- 
viction, accompanied with deep humility and true 
contrition. In August I received from his accom- 
"plished wife the following letter, which I copy ver- 
bdtim, written in answer to the one I had written to 
her breaking the news of her husband's fate, and 
offering all the consolation I could under the circum- 
stances : 

u X , Ky., Aug. , 1863. 

" The Rev. William Corby: 

" I have received yours of July 30, and feel deeply indebted 
and truly grateful to you for the kindness you manifested 
toward my husband in the hour of his great trial. The conso- 
lations of religion are always sweet— always soothing to the 
soul of the believer; but when called upon to sever earthly ties, 
to bid farewell to earthly scenes, when our days and hours are 
numbered, oh! how precious then is the assurance of a Lover's 
undying love; His promise of pardon and life everlasting to all 


who believe in Him How welcome, then, is the Minister of 
God, to point the way to that glorious rest prepared for the 
children of God in heaven! Be assured, then, of my heartfelt 
thanks for your kindness. My earnest prayer is that you may 
long continue in your labor of love; that, like St. Paul, you will 
have fought a good light, and there will be, therefore, laid up 
for you a ' Crown of Life.' 

" Very respectfully, 

"Jane ." 

Other priests in the army had, possibly, incom- 
parably more chances than I to bring consolation to 
the afflicted, to minister to the needy the rites of the 
church, and to extend a helping, hand, not only to the 
sick, wounded, and dying soldiers, but also to send 
authentic accounts to the anxious and weeping rela- 
tives at home, which must have been to them a balm 
to aid in healing and curing their bleeding hearts. 
Amid the long marches, during derivations of food 
and shelter, those chaplains felt their mission was 
not absolutely and entirely a fruitless one. In my 
limited experience I can say that the answers to hun- 
dreds of letters, written at the request of distressed, 
sick, wounded, and dying soldiers, were teeming with 
sentiments of sincere gratitude. But who can tell 
what a boon it was for the poor departing soul to have 
a chance, far from all churches, far from home; yea! 
perhaps in the depths of a dismal, mountainous land, 
covered with wild forests, to receive the sacraments 
of Holy Church ! The good soldiers were not unmind- 
ful of such advantages, and, consequently, would 
sacrifice all comfort and make almost any sacrifice to 
accommodate the priest whom the Church, in her 


maternal care for souls, placed over them to minister 
to their spiritual wants, 
f^ We continued our routine of marching and counter- 
marching until we finally entered a campaign called 
*' Mine Kun." But from this Gen. Meade was 
obliged to fall back about November, 12, 1863. 
Some cavalry and artillery fighting followed up 
our corps, the 2d. We met some loss and some 
of us had " very close calls." However, we captured 
a battery of six guns and seven hundred and fifty 
prisoners. Another move was made in December 
across the Eapidan, iDut no general engagement took 
place. This closed the year 1863, and our troops 
went into winter quarters on the north banks of the 
Eapidan Eiver, which empties into the Kappahan- 
nock about fifteen or twenty miles up the river from 
Fredericksburg, Va. 



THE time for which most of the men of the Army 
of the Potomac had enlisted had now nearly- 
expired. A general move was made to induce the 
veterans to re-enlist "for the war." The members 
of the Irish Brigade were among the very first to do 
so. In December, 1863, the Government gave us 
free transportation to New York for ourselves, horses, 
and servants. We reached New York City January 
2, 1864, and lived in the city a portion of that win- 
ter. A grand banquet was tendered us in Irving 
Hall, where Gen. Meagher made one of his typical, 
eloquent speeches. He was followed by many others. 
The hall was a commodious one and highly decorated. 
American shields were placed around on the walls, 
and the names of all the battles in which the brigade 
had taken part, from that of Yorktown to that of 
Gettysburg, were written on them. The old flags, 
full of bullet holes, were suspended amid the new 
ones lately presented by friends in New York. So 
the hall presented an appearance well suited to the 
occasion. The galleries were full of ladies, many 


and most of them, were related, so to speak, to the 
brigade. It was noticed that most of them were 
dressed in black. We naturally asked ourselves the 
questions: Was there a mother there who had not 
lost a son? Was there a daughter there who had 
not lost a loving father? Was there a sister there 
who had not lost a noble, promising brother? And 
for what ? In what cause ? In the cause of Union 
and Liberty ! A boon the sons of Erin could appre- 
ciate, since, under the hand of tyranny and oppres- 
sion, .many of their forefathers had died of starvation 
and want. Even at that very time cries of suffering 
came across the billows of the Atlantic, telling how 
precious was the liberty they were enjoying in the land 
of their adoption and under whose flag they had 
marched and fought; and, even if many had died, bet- 
ter die in a good cause than starve to death under the 
iron heel of despotism; and these sentiments were 
often expressed during our sojourn in New York. The 
men visited their homes, and found themselves once 
more in the embrace of their loving families. 

The number of our men, however, was not large. 
Battles and sickness had served to thin our ranks; 
nevertheless, those who were at home were real 
heroes and were idolized as such by the people. 
Their friends " trotted them out," to use a homely 
phrase, as one would show off curiosities in a museum. 
The veterans, too, were full of war stories without 
drawing on their imagination to manufacture them. 
Simple oral narrations of what occurred in the camp, 



on the march, in the battle, with a description of 
the life they led, their sleeping places, their food, 
the kind of water they had to drink and use in mak- 
ing their coffee, were all more impressive than any 
written page, from the very fact that such accounts 
were known to be real. The soldiers did almost noth- 
ing but talk, and the people and friends looked on in 
silent admiration. Thus passed the time, while on 
Sundays they had the pleasure of once again going 
to their parish churches to be refreshed by the sweet 
music of the choirs and organs and the eloquence of 
their beloved pastors, whom, thank God, they lived to 
see once more. 

The officers, however, were, on the other hand, 
very busy. One of the objects of our visit " on 
furlough " to New York was to recruit the decimated 
ranks of our brigade, and by an extraordinary 
effort wonders were accomplished. Lest, perhaps, 
too much luxury in city life might unfit us for the 
hardships of war, we received timely notice to 
return to camp. During January and February, 
especially, much had been done to fill up the brigade, 
and, as we made ready to return to camp, we found 
many new companions anxious to learn of us — who 
were now regarded as authorities, having been so 
long in the field and having passed through so many 
battles — all about the life of a soldier in " active serv- 
ice." Our situation was enviable, and we felt our 
dignity too. . Many of our officers remained behind 
to complete the work of recruiting, and as fast as 


they could they sent on large numbers of recruits, 
so that the spring of 1864 found us back in camp 
Brandy Station, on the north bank of the Rapi- 
dan, from which we started for New York, with our 
ranks so thoroughly replenished that we were nearly 
as numerous as in the beginning, September, 1863. 
Here we spent the spring-time, with nothing to do 
except to keep up the routine work of camp life 
in winter quarters. I was very much pleased to 
learn that my old companion, the Rev. Thomas 
Ouellet, S. J., who resigned on April 25, 1862, 
had re-enlisted as chaplain, with commission dated 
February 15, 1864. Father Ouellet was a good 
little man and a very genial companion. The men 
and ofl&cers were delighted to see him back. He was 
very popular when with us before, and during his 
absence of nearly two years we had learned to appre- 
ciate his value, and his reception was really a cordial 
one. We '' put our heads together," as the saying 
goes, to plan out the spiritual work for the coming 
campaign, which we knew must take place as soon as 
the weather and the roads would permit. In the 
interval, we spent our time in giving every opportu- 
nity to our men to practise their religious duties, and 
took care to draw in the raw recruits by giving them 
to understand that once the campaign opened, as we 
knew by experience, there might be a general engage- 
ment at any time, and when least expected. Pru- 
dence, therefore, suggested that preparation for the 
worst should be made in advance. I met one good 


man who was rather slow in following this advice. 
He was familiarly known as "Jack." In fact, I 
never found out his family name. He thought there 
was time enough, and remarked to me, in a vein of 
good humor: 

"Father, will you not be with us on the march? " 

" Certainly," I replied. 

" Then," said he, " I will get a touch just before 
the battle." 

"Oh, you will? May be," said I, "you may get 
killed before the regular 'fighting ' begins." 

"And do you tell me so? How is that?" said he. 

" Do you not know that a sharpshooter from behind 
a tree, or even from the top of a tree nearly a mile 
away from you, can send a ball that is sufficient to 
send you into eternity ? Besides, a cannon-ball or 
shell, sent from a big gun that is several miles off, 
may, and often does, send a dozen or more to their 
last home." 

" O holy Moses! Father, are you in earnest, or 
are you only joking with me ? How can they see so 

" I am in earnest. The sharpshooters have tele- 
scopes that run along the barrels of their guns. 
Ask any of the veterans." 

"Well, Father, I will take your advice and be 
around to see you this evening after the 'taps.' I 
have been wild enough in my early days, and it is 
time now to turn over a new leaf." He kept his 
word, arid was ever after faithful to his religious 


obligation. There was considerable life in the Army 
of the Potomac during the spring months of March 
and April, 1864. Many of the officers had visits 
from their wives. Friends and relatives came to the 
camp, and many festivities of a harmless nature served 
to keep up the good spirits of the troops until a 
general move would be commenced. There was a 
large hall built for army purposes of common lumber 
in our camp. This was at the disposal of the Com- 
manding General, Coldwell, and on Friday he kindly 
sent word to me that I might have the use of it for 
services for the Irish Brigade on the following Sun- 
day, which happened to be the first Sunday of March, 
1864. I gladly accepted the offer, and went to work 
to prepare my little sermon for the occasion with 
more than ordinary care, knowing that many of mixed 
creeds would be present. In this I was not disap- 
pointed. Gen. Coldwell, though not a Catholic, as 
far as I know, and all his staff, composed of brilliant 
young officers, attended in a body. What other 
officers and men attended not belonging to our brigade, 
I could not tell. At all events, the great hall was 
more than crowded. The officers were seated in front, 
and back to the door and away out on the grounds 
the men of the brigade, and others, in devotional 
reverence, clustered to hear Mass and to listen to an 
instruction, such as it was. This " Military Mass " was 
celebrated by my friend, Father Ouellet, S. J., and 
seemed to be a service c^ract^rized by special fervor 
and piety. The brigade felt very much complimented 


at the spontaneous and kind offer of our good Gen. 
Coldwell, whom we always regarded with great 
respect for his excellent soldierly and gentlemanly 
qualities. Besides, the honor conferred by the pres- 
ence of these officers was highly appreciated. Many 
of the non- Catholics who attended pronounced the 
service the most inspiring and religious in form, 
which they had witnessed since entering the army. 



IN camp the officers have time to attend to many 
duties which have been necessarily postponed 
on account of marching, fighting, or reconnaissances 
incompatible with such duties. So, when in camp, all 
cases for military offences were tried, and old decisions 
disposed of. Early in April, 1864, the case of a 
soldier named Thomas R. Dawson, not of my brigade 
but of the Nineteenth Massachusetts Regiment, then 
in the Second Corps, came up. He had been court- 
martialed and condemned to die — to "hang by the 
neck until dead." He sent for me, and before I began 
to do anything for him he told me his story, in a 
simple, candid way, that left no doubt in my mind as 
to the truth of what he said. Still, the sentence had 
been passed and he must die. The facts as given to me 
were as follows : He with two other soldiers wandered 
from camp, and, coming to a house, they found there 
wine or liquor of some sort, and, needless to say, 
they indulged freely. He said he became so stupid 
he knew not what followed. Some men and officers on 
duty, passing that way, arrested him on a charge of 



rape made by an old woman of about sixty. The other 
two got away and escaped arrest ; but he was so " full" 
that, unable to move, he became an easy victim. 
His being under the influence of liquor was not, in 
the eyes of the law, a sufiicient excuse, for many 
reasons; especially because he was out of camp, and, 
besides, he had no business to be intoxicated. Still, 
taking human nature as it is, and in consideration of 
the other excellent qualities of Dawson, the officers 
of the regiment did not wish to see him die. They 
manifested the greatest sympathy for him. However, 
I beeran to instruct him and to aid him all I could 
in making a good general confession of his whole 
life. He entered on his religious exercises with 
exceeding great fervor. Meanwhile his friends were 
not idle. The officers of his regiment drew up a 
petition to the President, Abraham Lincoln, and 
came to me and asked me if I would be so kind 
as to go to Washington and present it. I urged 
them to form a committee among themselves for that 
purpose; but they insisted on my going. After I 
had consented, they mtide a new copy of the follow- 
ing petition: 

Cole's Hill, Culpeper Co., Va., 
April 17, 1864. 

Hon. Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States: 

Your Excellency: — We, the undersigned, humbly petition 
that Private Thomas R. Dawson, Company H, Nineteenth 


Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, now in charge of the provost- 
guard, Second Division, Second Army Corps, under sentence 
of death, may be pardoned and returned to duty in his regi- 
ment. Previous to the commission of the violent act for which 
he has been condemned, he was an excellent soldier, intelligent 
and obedient. Since his trial, he has been on one occasion, 
while sick, an inmate of the Regimental Hospital without a 
guard, and had every opportunity to effect his escape had he 
desired to do so. His course at that time is very creditable to 
him. He served during the Crimean War in the ranks of the 
British Army and obtained the Victoria Medal and Cross 
of Honor, bestowed only upon the bravest and most daring 
soldiers of that splendid force. As in duty bound, we will ever 
pray. Your obedient, humble servants : 

Edward Rice, Major Commanding, Nineteenth Mass. Vols. 
Elesha a. Hiaaks, Captain, " " " 

John I. B. Adams, 1st Lieut., " " " 

Thomas F. Winthrop, 1st Lieut, and Reg. Q. M., " " 

I. P. Pratt, Assist. Surgeon, " " " 

John B. Thompson, 1st Lieut, " " " 

John C. Ferris, 1st Lieut., " " " 

Charles Sidney Palmer, 1st Lieut., " " " 

Ephrem Abbott Hall, Jr., 1st Lieut., " " " 

I certify to the above; all the officers present with the 

William M. Curtis, 
First Lieut, and Adjutant of the 19th Mass. Vols. 
This will be presented by W. Corby, Chaplain, Irish Brigade, 

Second Army Corps. 

I made no deky ; got a pass to Washington, and 
boarded the train at 9 a. m. ; but, although the dis- 
tance was not perhaps sixty miles, I did not reach 
Washington until about twelve that night. The 
army train was composed of box cars and flat cars, 
freights, and these were crowded with sick soldiers 


and wounded men, who were too weak to be sent 
sooner since the last battles and raids. The poor sick 
and wounded suffered terribly on this tedious trip, 
necessarily prolonged on account of the frequent 
stops we were obliged to make in order to let other 
trains, bringing provisions to the front, have the 
right of way. I counted my own hunger and fatigue 
as nothing in comparison, although I had had nothing 
to eat from the time I left until I reached Washing- 
ton, at midnight. The length of time on the way 
gave me a better opportunity to think over my plans 
and speeches, so as to insure a show of success in my 
important mission to the President. 

Next day I brushed up, and, being comparatively 
young, I felt like a fresh, blushing lieutenant as I 
neared the " White House." I met the guard, sent 
up my card, and received an immediate response to 
enter. I did so, and made known the object of my 
visit in a few clear terms. The good President was 
inclined to be positive; said it was a "hard case," 
promised to take the matter into consideration, 
and, across the back of the petition, which was 
folded in the long form usual with military papers, 
wrote: "See for the 25th of April." This was 
intended for a note to remind him of the time set for 
the execution. Feeling that my case was about gone 
I put in a few more pleadings. The President then 
asked what had I to say in extenuation of the crime. 
I answered that I could not say anything on that 
score, since the man had been tried by court-martial 


and had been found guilty; but I added that good 
reasons had been set forth in the petition for mercy 
and pardon. I showed that an actual injustice had 
been done, according to military standards, in keep- 
ing the man so long — some months — under sentence ; 
the suspense he had undergone must be considered 
as unnecessary cruelty. Still the President was not 
inclined to grant the pardon, and said that sus- 
pense was more or less inevitable, on account of the 
movements of the army. But, finally, I touched a 
tender chord. All who knew President Lincoln knew 
that he was a very tender-hearted man. I said, 
almost in despair of my case: "Well, Mr. President, 
since I have seen from the start that it was out of the 
question to plead the innocence of this man, or to say 
anything in mitigation of his crime, I have confined 
myself to pleading for his pardon; but, since Your 
Excellency sees fit not to grant it, I must leave his 
life in your hands." This was too much! His ten- 
der heart recoiled when he realized that a man's life 
depended upon his mercy. As I started across the 
" green room " to take my departure he turned in 
his chair, and, throwing one of his long legs over the 
other, said: "Chaplain, see here! I will pardon 
him if Gen. Meade will, and I will put that on 
the petition." Then, under the note " See for the 
25th of April," he wrote: 




I felt proud of my success, and thought often of 
the importance of the document which I carried back 
to the " front " and delivered to the officers who had 
drawn up the petition. It showed that my mission 
was not an entire failure. Still, I felt that Gen. 
Meade would not take it on himself to put in writing 
his assent to the man's pardon. I wanted the offi- 
cers to go to Meade in a body, but they were shy of 
such duty, and bagged me to do so. I did, but with 
little hope of succesk I called on Gen. Meade, then 
commander-in-chief or the Army of the Potomac, and, 
producing the documeii/t with the name of the Presi- 
dent, I told the general the' whole story in a few words. 
He looked at the paper a few moments, and then said: 

" Father, I know that your mission is one of char- 
ity; but sometimes charity to a few means cruelty to 
many. If our discipline had been severe, or cruel, 
if you will, in the beginning, we would not have so 
many causes for execution now. Besides, the Presi- 
dent has the final acts of that court-martial in his 
possession, and he should have given the final and 
positive decision. I will not act." 

"Then the man must die," said I. 

" You may see the President again." 

"There is not enough time left. The execution is 
set for the 25th, the day after to-morrow." 

" Well," said he, "you may telegraph; I will give 
you the use of the military wires." 

"No," said I, "the case seems to me to be now 
between you and the President. I have done all I 


The fact of the matter is, at that time the generals 
in the field, or some of them at least, thought that 
the kind-hearted President was too good in pardoning 
so many, and some blame was attached to him on 
this account. Now, the general-in-chief could not 
see his way clear to do what had been found fault 
with in the President. I returned with a heavy 
heart and told the officers of the failure. They still 
urged me to telegraph, and I went and consulted our 
good friend. Gen. Hancock, commander of our corps. 
He advised me to telegraph. . "You can do so from 
my headquarters," he said, and he wrote an order to 
the operator for me. I telegraphed, but I was told 
afterward that, in all probability, the message never 
reached the President. The secretary of war, very 
likely, put the dispatch in the fire, for I never 
received an answer. All this time our poor sufferer 
was between hope and despair. He made, however, 
a good preparation for death. God gave him the 
special grace of what seemed " perfect contrition"; 
for, like Mary Magdalen washing the feet of Christ 
with her tears, he also bedewed the ground with 
tears of sorrow and sincere repentance. Shortly 
before the hour of execution the officer of the pro- 
vost-guard sent to me for permission, or, rather, asked 
if I would allow the condemned soldier some whisky 
to brace him up. I promptly replied: "No! his 
faith will brace him up. I want my penitent to die 
sober; to die with a clear mind and with a heart pre- 
fixed by true contrition and the holy sacraments." 


The troops were drawn up and massed in front of the 
scaffold. I accompanied my penitent, encouraging 
him to make a generous sacrifice of his life for Him 
who did not hesitate to die for our redemption. He 
felt confident that he had done all he could; had 
confessed contritely, received Holy Communion 
devoutly, and trusted the rest to God's mercy. He 
walked with a firm step. He had permission to 
speak, and he said: "You may break my neck, but 
you can not break the seal of manhood." He seemed 
to be roused to say more, but, fearing he might 
become excited, I suggested that he ought to stop 
there, and he did. The black cap was adjusted over 
his eyes, the rope placed about his neck, the signal 
was given, and he dropped into eternity, April 25, 
1864. By his death, encountered with Christian sen- 
timents and united with the merits of Christ, he 
wiped out the sins of his past life. Had he been 
pardoned he might not in the end have died in as 
excellent dispositions. 



THE spring campaign opened May 4, 1864. Gen. 
Meade still continued commander-in-chief of the 
Army of the Potomac. Grant, who was confirmed 
by the United States Senate as lieutenant-general 
and commander-in-chief of all the troops, on the 
2d of March, 18G4, made his headquarters with us 
in the Army of the Potomac and had much to say 
about our movements. He ordered Meade to advance 
across the Eapidaii on the above date. The "ball" 
opened on the 5th, and until about the 20th of June 
we were almost continually under fire, not being out 
of range during the whole of that time. Counting 
reserves, the Army of the Potomac had 160,000 men. 
The Irish Brigade, having recruited, as stated else- 
where, during the winter, went on this campaign in 
strong force. We abandoned our winter quarters 
and started out on one of the most severe campaigns 
of the war, fighting and marching almost con- 
tinually. Our brigade, with the rest of the army, 
started across the Rapidan early in the day, and after 
marching, halting, and marching again, we stopped 



in the night on an open plain. All we knew was 
that we were to stay there jpro tern. Good Father 
Ouellet and myself stretched out on one army blanket 
and put another over us. I placed my soft military 
hat over my face to keep out the damp night air. 
Our heads, as we discovered in the morning, were 
only about ten feet from a country road and on this 
some troops passed before reveille floated on the 
morning breeze. 

Some soldier, while passing, saw my hat and 
evidently made up his mind that it was a better one 
than his own. Of course, he did not know who I 
was or what I was, and cared less. If it had been 
Gen. Grant, the circumstance would not disturb 
his equilibrium or annoy his conscience more or 
less on that account. So, softly lifting my hat from 
my face, he replaced it with his own. Soldiers sleep 
soundly after marching fifteen or twenty hours. It 
was so in my case, and I did not feel or perceive the 
loss of my hat until reveille, when we arose. Father 
Ouellet and I noticed at once the strange hat, and it 
did not require much study to understand the situation. 
My hat was new, and consequently clean; the hat 
which I found in its place must have been in use two 
or three years. It was originally a soft hat, but at 
this period of its existence it had become quite hard, 
with grease and dirt soaked and ground into every 
fiber, and it looked as though it had been covered 
with black wax more or less polished. The lining 
had been torn out a year or two previous, and the bell 


of the hat had assumed the form of a cone or pine- 
apple! Just entering on a desperate campaign as 
we were, I could not go back nearly a hundred miles 
to get a new hat, and to find the stolen hat would 
have been as finding a crow-bar in mid-ocean. There 
was no alternative; I must wear that very dirty, 
greasy, and unseemly hat or go bareheaded. The 
thought of it spoiled my morning meditation. In 
due time I mounted my horse and started on the 
march. As I rode out among the ofiicers and men, 
even my own troops did not know me. Many of 
them thought some "dead beat" had stolen my horse, 
since the horse was well known in the Second Corps. 
Here and there I was recognized and had to enter 
into an explanation of the hat business. This was 
great fun for many, but not for me. However, we had 
not very far to go till we came in contact with the 
Confederates, May 5. This was the beginning of the 
famous " Battle of the Wilderness," the first under 
Grant in the Army of the Potomac. It was a terrible 
battle, in which many of our poor men fell, and was 
continued all the next day .with increased fury. On 
the 7th, Lee fell back to Spottsylvania Court House, 
and on the 8th, Sunday, Father Ouellet and I man- 
aged to say Mass while both armies were making 
preparations to renew the bloody strife. The soldiers 
who had been seriously wounded waited with anxiety 
for the Holy Communion, which was given them 
early, their confessions having been heard the pre- 
vious evening. On the 9th, there was considerable 


skirmishing. Having attended all our wounded as 
best we could, and being on the point of starting 
under orders to cross the Potomac River, I made one 
more round, and up to the left I found Daniel Lynch, 
a private soldier of a most obliging disposition, and 
for a long time detailed to assist in the quarter- 
master's department. Poor Lynch was a good- 
natured fellow, had many friends and no enemies; 
but in the discharge of his duties he made many 
blunders for want of system and education, and on 
this account he was returned to the ranks again to 
carry a musket. He was a brave, dutiful soldier, 
and when I found him he knew me perfectly. His 
mind was clear, but he had in his body eight bullets. 
I prepared him for death, and, dropping a parting tear, 
was obliged to leave him to his fate in the Wilder- 
ness of Virginia. Out of his goodness and kindness 
of heart he had rendered me many services in '62-3. 
I remember on one occasion we secured some beans, 
which, with a limited quantity of pork, would be for 
us a genuine feast, as at that time we had no provisions. 
Instructed to cook them, he started to a farm-house 
to get water, but could find no pail to get water from 
the deep well, so he tied the black pot to a pole and 
let the pot down into the well. The beans were in 
the pot. The string broke and pot, beans, and all 
were lost. After waiting for a long time for some- 
thing to eat the captain in charge sent for "Dan," as 
he was familiarly called, and as he came up he showed 
signs of trepidation. 


The captain roared at him: "Dan, where are 
those beans?" 

The reply came slowly, for Dan had an impediment 
in his speech: '*The p-p-p-p-ot's in the w-well." 
"But the beans! Where are the beans?" 
"T-the b-b-beans w-w-was in t-the po-p-pot!" 
Then, poor Dan fled before the anger of a hungry, 
infuriated captain, and the prayers that followed the 
poor fellow on that occasion were not holy. Dan, 
however, did not mind these little exhibitions. He 
became used to them, and was just as cheerful an 
hour afterward, just as willing to do a kind service, 
as if nothing had occurred to disturb the peaceful 
mind of a modern "Tribe" camped on the banks of 
the "River Po." 



/^N the lOth of May the battle began. The fire 
^^ of musketry and cannon opened all along the 
line, and smoke rolled up into great clouds. The 
fierceness of the conflict showed a fury born of 
desperation on both sides. Wild dashes were made 
by our men and lines were captured, to be in turn lost 
and captured again. The battle proved, finally, to 
be the most sanguinary of the entire campaign. Our 
men fell in every direction, and this gave abundant 
occupation for the priests who were there. Father 
Ouellet and myself had all (and more than) we could 
do in attending to those who were mortally wounded, 
while we must be in readiness, at a moment's notice, 
to administer the last rites of the Church to the new 
victims of the engagement. That evening, as we 
moved up with the advancing troops, the battle at a 
late hour finally ceased, and we reconnoitered to see 
where we could locate for the night. Near a spot 
where many of our wounded were being collected, 
we found a small island, a stream of clear water hav- 
ing divided and passed on either side. The little 



stream passing round us was not more than four feet 
wide and about three feet deep. The island was 
perhaps fifty feet long and thirty feet wide. It was 
covered with beautiful evergreens, mostly pines, that 
furnished excellent shade in the heat of the day, 
should we happen to stay there a few days to enjoy 
it. The ground was clean and covered with the 
'' pine-needles" that fell from the trees and lay quite 
dry on the ground. These pine-needles we used to 
call " Virginia feathers." We flattered ourselves that 
we had found a veritable paradise on a small scale, 
where we could spend at least a part of the night in 
sweet repose. Congratulating ourselves on our find, 
we determined to hold this little fort as long as we 
could, as our headquarters, while ministering to the 
wounded, of whom there were by this time a large 
number. All this being determined. Father Ouellet, 
who carried a lantern, and I started out to see what 
new cases might need our ministerial services. We 
spent a good portion of the night on this service, and, 
returning exhausted by fatigue, lay down to rest and 
slept very soundly. In the morning we were both 
literally covered with wood- ticks. These vermin 
infested that spot and turned our paradise into a land 
"cursed to bring forth evil things." These wood- 
ticks are of a livid color, a species of "Acarus." 
They bury their heads and shoulders, so to speak, 
in the skin, and as they feed on your blood their heads 
swell inside the skin and their bodies swell outside. 
The body assumes the size and shape of a large 


pea, and, to remove them, you must break the body 
and leave the head bedded in your flesh. Father 
Ouellet and I had to go through this morning 
exercise by way of making our toilet. During the 
day we suffered terribly. The heads of those pests 
were still in deep and caused a burning sensation 
that was anything but comfortable. That night 
we secured a quantity of salt and washed , in water 
impregnated with the salt. This helped us some, 
but for many days we endured great pain. When 
perspiring, the raw wounds filled with the perspiration 
and smarted so as to throw us into a fever, and we 
passed whole nights in sleepless agony. It may 
seem strange to introduce this theme in the midst of 
such fierce conflicts, but this is precisely my reason 
for doing so. Hundreds, thousands, I may say, have 
written up those conflicts and painted them in the 
bloodiest colors. Whereas few, if any, have entered 
at length into the details of other trials and suffer- 
ings incurred by the poor soldier while serving his 
country. What I relate is personal experience; but I 
hope, by the relation of such, to give my readers — if 
I should have any — a notion of war life not entirely 
made up of the "blood and thunder" of the battle- 
field. This will also help to depict what hundreds of 
thousands endured during the war. At the end of 
this tenth day Gen. Grant formulated his famous dis- 
patch to Secretary Stanton. After passing his opin- 
ion on the result of the six days' fighting, he said: " I 
propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all 


summer." On the 11th we had no fighting of any 
account, and had more time, consequently, to look 
after the wounded and dying soldiers. On the 12th, 
our Second Corps, of which the Irish Brigade formed 
a part from the beginning, made a charge and cap- 
tured three thousand men and forty guns. As we 
started early that morning to accomplish the strate- 
gic movement, we passed over some ground contested 
by the pickets and skirmishers on the day previous, 
and, in the woods, on the slope of a hill and even 
along the roadside, we passed many dead soldiers not 
yet buried. I found one Confederate who was mor- 
tally wounded, but who still had fuU consciousness. 
He had not been baptized, and after some instruction, 
at his request, I baptized him and hastened on to 
attend, if necessary, any others that might need 
help. The battle of this day continued till late and 
ended a fearful struggle of eight days, during which 
time the Union army lost, in killed and wounded 
and missing, 29,850 men— a large army in itself; 
while the Confederates lost, perhaps, even more. 
Heavy rains set in, and no serious or important move 
occurred till about the 17th of May. That morning 
our troops were ordered to advance, and more carnage 
' was looked for. Very early that morning the colonel 
of the Twenty -eighth Massachusetts, a regiment 
which formed a part of our brigade, called on me and 
told me that \\<dfelt that he should get his " discharge" 
that day. He was a very brave officer, and up to 
this time had no serious misgivings, although he had 


not missed a battle of any note from the beginning. 
But this morning, having made his confession, he 
gave me a slip of paper, on which he had marked 
down what he wanted me to do — namely, to turn 
over to the quartermaster a horse he had purchased 
in Washington a short time before, and on this horse 
was afterward discovered the brand '' U. S." — showing 
that it Y^as the property of the Government. He had 
been deceived, but still did not wish to keep what he 
found out the man in Washington could not in 
honesty sell. Other items were to be attended to, 
and then he handed ,me the following letter, which 
has, by a mere accident, remained in my possession 
ever since. It was addressed to his wife, and ran as 
follows : 

" May 17, 1864. 
" My Dear Ellen:— I am well. No fighting yesterday; but 
we expect eome to-day. Put your trust and confidence in God. 
Ask His blessing. Kiss my poor little children for me. You 
must not give up in despair— all will yet be well. My regiment 
has suffered much in officers and men. I am in p^ood health 
and spirits. I am content. I fear nothing, thank Heaven, but 
my sins. Do not let your spirits sink; we will meet again. I 
will write you soon again; but we are going to move just now. 
Good-by, good-by; and that a kind and just God may look to 
you and your children is my fervent prayer. 

" Richard." 

The letter was written with a lead-pencil, and the 
address of his wife was legibly written on the back 
of the folded paper, but not put into an envelope. 
He requested me to send it to his wife in case he got 
killed, as he expected. One can see from the tone of 


the letter that he had a strong presentiment then and 
there of his death ; for, although trying to console 
and keep up the spirits of his beloved wife, he 
could not conceal his sentiments; as, for instance, 
where he says: " Kiss my poor little children for me"; 
and, again, when he says: "We will meet again," he 
had evidently in his mind the world to come. Sure 
enough, he received his death-wound very soon after; 
but in the mercy of God he was not killed outright. 
He lived, I was told, to be transported to Washington, 
where his loving, faithful, and weeping wife and chil- 
dren met him and embraced him before he departed for 
the unknown future. I can not tell just why, but among 
all the other terrible and touching scenes of this 
campaign up to the date of the above letter, not one 
made such a deep impression on me. Even now, 
after about a quarter of a century, while penning 
these lines, tears of sympathy fill my eyes. Of 
course, I never sent the letter to his wife; because, 
first, I was not to do so unless he got killed; and, 
secondly, under the circumstances, he reached Wash- 
ington before the letter could possibly get there 
except tak«n by hand on the cars. Although we did 
not lose many on the 17th, on the next day we lost 
in killed and wounded one thousand two hundred, 
and on the 19th about fourteen hundred. 

It would be tedious for the reader to follow the 
march in all its ramifications during this campaign, 
so I will simply summarize, in as brief space as 
possible, up to the 20th of June. As we have seen, 


this campaign opened on May 4, when we crossed 
the Eapidan and headed for Richmond. From that 
time on, we marched, fought great battles and small 
ones, and engaged in many fierce skirmishes in 
which considerable loss took place. We encountered 
untold hardships from heat, dust, hunger, and thirst. 
Many of our horses died from thirst or were over- 
come by the heat. Men, too, dropped in the road 
and expired. This was kept up from the 4th of May 
till the 20th of June. In the interval, we crossed 
the old rivers made so familiar to us during our cam- 
paign under McClellan, in '62; namely, the Potomac, 
North Anna, Pamunky, Chickahominy, James, and 
others, and landed in front of Petersburg, Virginia. 
In this campaign, out of 160,000 we lost 100,000 men 
in less than two months ! This will give the reader 
some idea of the hardships of those who survived, 
following the hardships of war step by step in this 
campaign. In all that time, although not fight- 
ing every day, we were only at very short intervals 
out of bullet-range of the Confederate rifles, and the 
poor men — covered with perspiration, dust, and vermin 
— could not even wash, part of the time; for want of 
water; besides, marching, fighting, digging rifle-pits, 
etc., kept them engaged so constantly as to prevent 
them. Father Ouellet and myself followed also the 
fortunes of war, and with our dauntless brigade 
marched by day and by night just as our troops had 
to do. Piety was put to a severe test in this cam- 
paign; still, when a halt was sufficiently long, we 


said Mass, and encouraged our men by exhortations 
as best we could. When one of them was found 
dying from sickness or mortal wounds, the priest was 
of substantial service; and from the carnage and 
hardships of this dreadful campaign one may easily 
see that the opportunities to assist dying soldiers 
were not wanting every day in the week. '' Fighting 
it out on this line" was expensive in men and money. 
But it satisfied the cry: ''On to Richmond!" 





N front of Petersburg there were some very scientific 
• works of defense built by the Confederates, under 
the skilful direction of generals in the Confederate 
service. They were so constructed that when troops 
captured an outer line another line would command 
the flank of the capturing party, and the troops in 
possession of the second line could get in an enfilad- 
ing fire. This is a most destructive fire, and for 
persons not familiar with military terms, I would say, 
it is simply shooting, not across the line, but length- 
loise — just as a hunter desires to shoot birds perched 
on a rail along the line of a fence. ^^.^ 

This reminds me of a story told by a hunter, given 
to exaggeration, and will illustrate my point. He 
stated that on one occasion his shot gave out, but he 
had plenty of powder; and seeing a long line of wild 
/|)igeons perched on a board fence, he put in his ram- 
rod on top of a heavy charge of gunpowder and 
fired, and strung on the ram-rod ninety-nine of the 
birds! His friends asked him why he did not say a 
hundred? *' Do you think," said he, " I would tell a 

lie for one bird? No, sir!" 


After these works fell into the possession of the 
Union troops, Father Ouellet and I went to inspect 
them in some of our free time. Having done so, we 
ventured out still farther in front of our troops, and 
as we rode along we came to the top of the high hill 
^or bank from which we could look down into the 
valley of the Appomattox Eiver, on the banks of 
which Petersburg is built. We were " taking in" 
the scenery, and trying to discover, if possible, the 
position of the Confederate army. Finally, beyond 
the plain and far off on the side of an elevation of 
ground we noticed something very indistinctly stirring 
up a dust. The dust seemed to be about the size of 
smoke made by the discharge of a cannon. We 
watched the dust made there and the progress it was 
making, but had no fears or apprehensions whatever. 
We had neglected to take our field-glasses with us, 
not thinking we would have any use for them, so our 
observations were not very satisfactory to us, and at 
such a great distance we could see only very indis- 
tinctlyc But, evidently, officers in the vicinity of the 
dust had not forgotten their field-glasses; for, in less 
time than it takes to write it, after we observed the 
first sign of dust, they discharged a cannon which 
sent a ball at us with a screeching whiz that was 
really wicked in the extreme. Father Ouellet was 
seated on his white horse and I on a large chestnut 
horse. The Confederates had our range, and it was 
probably the white horse that first drew their atten- 
tion; thinking, likely, that we were officers inspecting 


their works, to which they wished to put a stop at all 
events. Father Ouellet wheeled his horse round 
without delay, and while doing so, and instantly after 
the first, came a second shell and struck the bank 
just in front of us, nearly on an exact line. Father 
Ouellet, while putting spurs to his horse, was making 
quick tracks, but I had a semi-view of his face, 
turned partly toward me, as he cried out: *'Did you 
see that?" The expression of consternation on his 
face made me laugh outright ; for, although I felt 
that the danger was serious, he, as a Frenchman, 
was quicker than I and took in the situation more 
perfectly the first instant. The first ball passed over 
our heads and the second one was a little too low, but 
if they had had the exact range the first time, our- 
selves and our horses would have been blown into 
fragments! We retreated, however, in good order, 
and there was no casualty! In this place our lines 
were advanced by degrees till we were close to the 
Confederate lines; so much so that balls fired by 
sharpshooters frequently passed through our ranks, 
and on one occasion, when Father Ouellet's tent and 
mine were side by side, a ball passed through his 
tent near where he was saying his office. It became 
so hot for us, after a while, that many of the troops. 
Father Ouellet and myself included, built bomb-proof 
huts by excavating in the hillside and covering the 
top with logs split in two, flat side down. This was 
a precaution taken not only as a security against stray 
rifle bullets, but also against cannon-balls or shells. 


Our front line was so close to the Confederate breast- 
works that it was not possible to fire cannon with any 
effect in a direct line, so mortars were used. These 
sent their shells at a high angle of about forty-five 
degrees or more, and, having reached the highest 
point, dropped into the Confederate lines. The Con- 
federates, in tarn, sent some of these "messengers of 
death" into our lines in the same way. Hence the 
necessity of bomb-proof huts. We often spent a 
part of the night watching the bombs passing up and 
then descending. The course of the bomb or shell 
could be easily followed by the eye at night, as the 
burning fuse attached to it was distinctly visible. 
The second day that I was located in this place, while 
standing near my tent talking to an officer, one of 
those dangerous things passed over our heads and 
killed a horse tied to a post a few yards away. This 
locality was not only uncomfortable to our troops on 
account of the proximity of the Confederate guns, 
but also on account of the burning sand and lack of 
shade, excepting what we had in our little huts, 
underground and only fit for wood-chucks. How- 
ever, there we remained, like "patience on a rock 
monument," or, imitating the example of Micawber, 
"waiting for something to turn up." 



ON July 12, 1864, I received the following com- 
munication from Gen. Meade: 

"Headquarters Army op the Potomac, 
" July 12, 1864. 
"JRev. TF. Corby, Irish Brigade, Second Corps: 

" Rev'd Sir: — There are two men to be executed on the 15th 
inst., one of whom, especially, is very anxious to secure the 
services of a priest. If you will be pleased to attend him, the 
provost-marshal at headquarters will be instructed to furnish 
you all facilities necessary to discharge the functions of your 
sacred office. By order of " Maj.-Gen. Meade, 

" S. S. Williams, " Com'd'g Army of Potomac. 

" Acting Adj't-General." 

I ordered my horse at once, and, accompanied by 
the aide-de-camp and orderly who were sent with the 
message, I was conducted to headquarters. The 
acting provost-marshal was informed of my arrival, 
and instructed to see that I received all the necessary 
information and means to prepare the condemned. 
On being introduced to the provost-marshal, the 
name seeming strangely familiar, " Eichard F. 
O'Beirne," I asked him if he were not from Detroit, 
Mich. He said, " yes," and looked inquiringly at me. 


I told him that I was also from the same place, and a 
son of Daniel Corby. "0! Father Corby, how are 
you?" he cried, grasping my hand. "I have heard 
your name frequently mentioned here in the army, 
but I had no idea that you were from Detroit and a 
son of Daniel Corby, whom I know so well! " This 
officer, then acting provost-marshal, had not met me 
nor I him since we were small boys, about fifteen 
years of age. He was a very exemplary youth, 
served in the cathedral in Detroit as censer-bearer 
for many years, and stood in great favor with the 
Right Reverend Bishop and the clergy in the city. 
After we had talked over old times a few minutes, the 
question of attending the poor condemned soldier 
came up. Provost O'Beirne gave me a tent and had 
my horse cared for, and I went immediately to the 
place where my future penitent was under guard. I 
found a man who was quite young, possibly about 
twenty, of an excellent frame, healthy and strong. 
He had a good mind and was somewhat educated. 
He was not a low, depraved person by any means, 
but in time of temptation he had fallen. The crime 
was much, if not entirely, the fault of his accomplice 
rather than his own. I spent a few days with him 
and instructed him as best I could. On the evening 
of the 14th I said to my friend, the provost-marshal, 
that I wished to say Mass the next morning, so as to 
communicate my penitent on the morning of his 
execution, and asked the marshal if he could still 
serve Mass. "It has been a long time since I 


performed that duty," he replied; "but with the aid of 
my prayer-book, no doubt I can." Everything was 
made ready, and next morning I said Mass, com- 
municated my penitent under guard, and having 
taken some coffee which my friend had ordered for 
me, I spent the balance of the time with the doomed 
prisoner till about nine o'clock, when a general move- 
ment took place. Troops began to march, and there 
was a silence that made one feel the presence of 
death. Scarcely a word was spoken, and all one 
could hear was subdued orders given by an officer 
here and there : " Fall in !" " Eight face !" " For- 
ward!" "March!" and a few other necessary direc- 
tions. Excepting the steady tramp of the soldiers 
and an occasional rattle of a saber, scarcely a sound 
disturbed the solemn tranquillity that reigned on that 
morning of the 15th of July, 1864. The troops 
finally closed "en masse" in front of a large scaffold. 
There were, perhaps, ten thousand men present. A 
strong guard conducted the prisoner to the scaffold, 
and I rode beside him till we reached the spot. Then 
we dismounted and the brother of one of the victims 
held my horse while I attended the two men and 
escorted them up to the scaffold. Without very much 
ceremony the ropes were adjusted about their necks, 
and, while both continued to pray for God's mercy, a 
silent signal was given and both dropped dangling at 
the end of the ropes — dead! As I have observed 
before, these scenes were harder on the nervous 
system than the scenes witnessed in the midst of a 


battle, where there is rattle, dash, and excitement to 
nerve one up for the occasion. And the poor brother 
who witnessed the scene! What anguish! What a 
wail of grief filled his young heart! But, oh! what 
lamentations filled the bosom of his heart-broken 
mother when she beheld the corpse of her loved son, 
sent to her as the first news of his fate! Let her 
own words in the following letter, which she sent me 
long after the event, tell what she felt. I give it 
verhatirriy omitting names: 

" Westpield, Dec . 22, 1864. 

"Dear Father in Jesus Christ:— I am the unfortunate 
mother of X, who was executed at the headquarters of the 
Army of the Potomac, near City Point, Virginia, July 15. 
As I have learned from his own writings that you were the 
priest God sent to prepare him for death, may that God bless 
and protect you and give you a share in His heavenly kingdom 
when you require it, is the prayer of my heart. 

" Dear Father, I wish to inform you that my son's remains 
came to my view two hours previous to the tidings of his death; 
thus unexpectedly did I see my child's remains come to me. 
The very day I received these tidings I was preparing to see 
my boy after three long years of weary servitude; but welcome 
be the will of God in every shape and way it may appear. 

" Dear Father, my boy requested me not to forget to have 
frequent Masses celebrated for the good of his soul, and thus 
far I have had three solemn high Masses and two low Masses 
said. May the Almighty God give him the benefit of them. I 
would like to comply with all my dear child's dying requests ; 
but in one respect I can not; that is, not to grieve for the death 
he had to undergo. Now he is over five months buried. I must 
acknowledge to you that my tears and grief are as fresh as 
when I first heard of it, and will be until the day of my death- 
I have begged of God to give me grace to forgive those who 
have deprived me of him, in our blessed Saviour's name, who 


forgave the Jews that crucified Him, and, thank God, I have 
obtained it; for I have never said any worse of them than to beg 
God that my floods of tears might not injure them in either soul 
or body; and I beg of God that He will give me grace to bear 
the hard shock of my child's death with resignation to His 
holy will; and that the holy Virgin Mary may intercede for 
him, and may his soul rest in peace. 

" Dear Father, I hope you will let me know if my dear child 
died reconciled with leaving this world and going to meet his 
God. I am always under the impression that the grief of heart 
caused me troubled him more than anything else in this world 
except his own soul. I also have to inform you that his move- 
ments in going toward that place of execution, and the 
spectacle of his bereft and heart-broken brother looking at him 
for twenty or thirty minutes, as I have been informed by him, 
stand continually before my eyes. I offer all my trials and 
sufferings, with the death of my son, in union with the death 
and sufferings of my dear Jesus and His blessed mother, in 
satisfaction for X's sins and mine. • 

" Dear Father, I have deferred this writing long, but I have 
done it as soon as I felt able. I hope you will answer this and 
send some words of consolation to my grieved heart. I must 
conclude by humbly asking your blessing, and believe me to 
remain, Your obedient servant, 

" JMrs — — — 

"Westfield,N. Y." 

I give this letter in full because in it there are full 
expressions of a mother's grief, and, also, a profes- 
sion of faith and solid piety that is truly edifying. 
Persons of such faith do not commit suicide! They 
patiently suffer their slow martyrdom till it pleases 
God to send consolation or draw them to His own 
kingdom with the expression: "Well done, good 
and faithful servant." 


Not since the war have I met my friend, O'Beirne; 
but a few days ago I clipped from a daily newspaper 
the following item regarding him : 



" New York, Feb. 24, '91.— Richard F. O'Beirne, colonel of 
the Twenty-first Infantry, United States Army, died at a New 
York hotel, of Bright's disease. Until November last he was 
in command of Fort Sheridan, near Chicago. * * * He 
was appointed to the full rank of colonel three weeks ago. His 
father was private secretary to Gen. Cass, of Detroit, during the 
latter's incumbency as Secretary of State, besides being a 
prominent judge at one time in the same city, Detroit, Michi- 
gan. So, one by one, the war companions pass off and leave 
behind them many sorrows in this deceitful world. 'Sic 
transit gloria mundi . '" 



IN July, while we were under fire at Petersburg, 
Col. Robert Nugent, of the Sixty-ninth, and 
Lieut. -Col. James E. McGee were doing excellent work 
in New York. They turned their whole energy to 
recruiting and filling up the depleted ranks of the 
Irish Brigade, fearfully reduced during the cam- 
paigns of '62, '63, '64. They swelled with fresh 
recruits our numbers beyond all expectation, and we 
felt proud once more of our standing as a brigade. 
Under the patronage of Gen. Burnside, principally. 
Col. Pleasants, of the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania 
Volunteer Infantry, excavated, with great skill and 
labor, a tunnel five hundred and ten feet long, stop- 
ping directly under the Confederate fort, in which 
were many cannon and a strong force of infantry. 
Then he branched to the right and left in the form 
of a T, to the right thirty feet and to the left twenty- 
seven. Here, under the feet of the Confederate 
garrison and batteries, he placed eight thousand 
pounds of powder. The object was to blow up the 
fort and thus to enable troops to penetrate the 



Confederate lines. A part of our Second Corps, 
commanded by Gen. Hancock, marched under orders, 
July 26, across the Appomattox and James rivers, to 
Deep Bottom, toward Richmond. We marched all 
night. With no delay, a desperate attack was made 
by Hancock on the Confederate lines, capturing four 
guns and two hundred prisoners. This manoeuvre 
was intended to deceive the Confederates so far that 
they would send troops to protect Richmond, and thus 
weaken the force opposite the mine. In the evening, 
on July 29, we were ordered back, and again marched 
all night under cover of darkness and halted about 
daylight in the vicinity of the mine on July 30, the 
time set for the explosion, ready to help in case of 
necessity. Soon the fuse was ignited, and we wit- 
nessed from some distance the destructive work of 
death. A great mass of earth was lifted, with a 
sudden electric force, carrying heavenward with it 
batteries, men, timber — in a word, the contents of 
the fort — until, reaching a certain height, it spread 
out like a cloud and then all came crashing down in 
a horrid confusion, burying alive many poor fellows 
who had been asleep when the mine was fired. The 
cavity made by this explosion was thirty feet deep, 
sixty feet wide, and one hundred and seventy feet 
long. Through this breach in the Confederate works 
the Union troops pushed, but by some misunder- 
standing confusion set in and prevented the success- 
ful accomplishment of the well-devised plan on the 
part of Col. Pleasants, who accomplished his work 


admirably well, notwithstanding the difficulties he 
labored under; obliged, as he was, to calculate* the 
exact distance in the face of the Confederate guns, 
and, as he himself complained, furnished with an 
old-fashioned the(5(iolite to make the proper triangula- 
tions. Union loss, four thousand; Confederate, four- 
teen hundred— sad for all. Everyone turned in to 
help care for the wounded, and every help for soul and 
body was rendered, as far as our means enabled us to 
do so. The next day, July 31, a letter reached me 
in the evening, from City Point, about eleven miles 
from where we were encamped. The letter had been 
written by a sick soldier who was in a hospital tent. 
I mounted my horse and started at once. Just at 
dusk I came to a mountain stream which had sud- 
denly become, by recent rains, so wild a torrent that it 
had swept away the bridge; and as I rode up to the 
stream, some troops encamped on the banks warned 
me not to attempt to cross it as it was very dangerous. 
I said I must cross to minister to a sick soldier. I 
had a very strong and intelligent horse, a good swim- 
mer and sure-footed. "Well," said the men, " pass 
over here to the left, so as to avoid any of the sunken 
timbers of the bridge lately swept away." I directed 
my horse as instructed and, fortunately, passed over 
in safety. "The Kubicon was passed." After ful- 
filling my mission, I started to return and came to 
this same stream about midnight. I wished to pass 
over in the same way I had come. My horse had 
remarkable instinct, and whenever I passed in certain 


directions, he desired, on returning, not to deviate a 
foot from the same line. So when we plunged into 
the stream, I talked to him, calling him by name, 
*' Prince," and told him to be careful. He persisted 
in going a little to the right, and I said to him: 
"Prince! you are wrong for once," and I pulled him 
to the left. Presently he began to stumble over 
some sunken beams. Ah! then I let him have his 
own way. He kept to the right and after we reached 
the bank I could see by the light of a timely camp 
fire, that he had brought me out at the very spot 
where we had entered the stream the previous 
evening, under the instructions of the soldiers. 

Mounted soldiers become very fond of their horses, 
because these faithful servants are their daily com- 
panions, and very often they spend dreary nights in 
each other's company, while marching; moreover, 
they partake of similar privations and perils. The 
horse soon learns to know his master, and forms a 
particular affection and respect for him. In 1864, 
when we were encamped at ''Brandy Station," a 
major, of the Fifth Michigan, I think, was the owner 
of a beautiful bay horse and he lost him, or, most 
likely, some one took a fancy to him and borrowed 
him and forgot or neglected to bring him back. The 
major was inconsolable, and searched everywhere 
for his pet horse. Finally he came to a corral about 
six miles from his own camp. In this corral there 
were many horses used for military purposes. The 
major passed along the lines of horses, feeding, when 


suddenly he saw his own horse in the line, and was in 
turn recognized by the horse, who turned his head 
toward his master and whinnied affectionately, a clear 
sign of recognition. '-'- Res clamat Domino T The 
major's heart was touched, and, drawing his sword, he 
said in feeling and determined tones : " I would like 
to see a man dare prevent my taking this horse;" and, 
loosing him, took him back to camp in triumph, 
no one presuming to utter a word in opposition. 
It is hard to say which rejoiced most, the horse, 
in his way, or the master. Such incidents go to fill 
up the soldier's life in active campaigning. 

But, to return to our sick in army-tented-hospitals. 
It is a lamentable fact that many died in those tents 
unknown and without the consolations of their relig- 
ion. They were more or less careless when well, and 
becoming sick they either did not know where or 
how to get a priest; and even if they did, it may be, 
they became in a short time so ill as to be uncon- 
scious of the danger in which they were, and having 
no Catholic " chum" to attend to the matter, passed 
off quietly and were put in the ground. If an 
infantry soldier, the customary volleys are fired over 
his grave ; if a cavalry soldier, the trumpeter sounded 
the thrilling notes of "taps" and "lights out." 
These notes are followed, in slow succession, by several 
more, and as the sounds drift over the distant hills 
and down the valleys, the sad tale told by " lights 
out " was — the soul is gone. This is the last bugle call 
for him on earth till the great day when the angel 


messenger from heaven will sound the dread trumpet 
for the general resurrection of the dead. In war or 
in peace, one sees the epitome of man's existence in 
these few words : "He lived; he died." Hence men 
exposed to the dangers everywhere found in soldier 
life should be always ready to die. And the words 
of the royal Prophet should be constantly on their 
lips: '* Lord, enlighten my eyes that I may not sleep 
in death, lest my enemies say they have prevailed 
against me." The same reflection and practice is 
good for all men. 









OUR camp near Petersburg, already referred to, 
was a very unpleasant one. Wlien we first 
arrived in this camp we found ourselves on burning 
sands — no shade and no water. In July and August, 
under the rays of a Southern sun, the alligator 
flourishes; but the white man from the North finds 
the situation almost intolerable. I shall never forget 
how water was first secured for a refreshing (?) 
drink of coffee in that locality. Our men went into 
a deep, dry ravine between two sand hills, and in the 
very bottom they found a spot that showed signs of 
— mud. Here they loosened the baked clay with 
their bayonets, and by the aid of an old saber made a 
small hole, perhaps a foot and a half deep. In this 
hole the water showed itself, but the mud in it made it 
nearly as thick as " vegetable soup." They rested for 



a while till the soup — the water — had settled some- 
what, and then dipped out the material. It was not 
inviting, but it resembled water. When men are 
parched with thirst, moisture of any kind seems 
refreshing. Well, they put this water in small 
cans, boiled it, and furnished us — coffee ! Life grew 
very tiresome there, as we had simply to stay and 
watch. We were perhaps twelve miles or so from 
City Point, on the James River, and that locality 
was our base of supplies of provisions and news- 
papers. An enterprising boy would go to the landing 
on the irrepressible army mule, stay at the landing 
all night in a dry-goods box or under a wagon, and as 
soon as the steamer came with the papers he put in 
front of him his quantum of several hundreds and 
came galloping out to the camp, crying out at the 
top of his voice : '^ New York Herald!'^ He charged 
us twenty-five cents apiece for the papers, but even 
at that price we were delighted to get the news, and 
he sold his papers like hot cakes. In the early part 
of August, 1864, the monotony of our life was broken 
by a terrific explosion of an ordnance boat on the 
James River at City Point, where army supplies were 
stored in great quantities, and near which a number 
of troops were stationed. The explosion caused a 
damage of several million dollars ; killed and wounded 
a large number of men, and put the balance into a 
perfect panic. The troops, not knowing exactly the 
cause of the unearthly report made by the explosion, 
that, earthquake-like, shook the ground around them 


for miles and sent forth bursting shells and other 
missiles of death with dreadful force, thought that 
forty dozen Confederate ironclads had suddenly come 
down the James from Richmond and let fly at them. 
As I was going to City Point about this time, I was 
appalled by the devastating effect. I saw fish, even 
a half mile from the river, that had been scooped 
up out of the water and cast forth with various sorts 
of rubbish by the terrible explosion. On the 13th 
of August we were again ordered to Deep Bottom, 
where the Irish Brigade took, without delay, the front 
line of the Confederate works. Just before going 
into the battle I rode my horse down into the James 
River to water him, letting him go down into the 
water alongside the ponton-bridge that crossed the 
river at this place. The bridge was a few feet above 
the spot where he was drinking. Just then a two- 
hundred pound ball was discharged from a parrot 
gun from a large war-ship which was anchored out 
in the river. The sudden and frightful report seemed 
to come up from the water. In an instant my horse 
made a bound like that of an antelope and landed on 
the top of the ponton-bridge, three or four feet above 
the drinking place; then, wheeling around, made for 
land. He went about a hundred yards before I could 
get him under control. I wanted to rein him back 
to finish his drink; but no — I really believe if he 
had been dying of thirst, no power could have 
induced him to drink again in that river, at least in 
that vicinity. After finishing the strategic intention 


of this expedition, our corps was ordered back south 
of the James to help the Fifth, now hard pressed on 
the left. At this season, the hottest part of August, 
we found our long march to the Weldon railroad a 
very hard one; besides, many of our men, marching 
in this great heat, under their usual load of about 
sixty pounds, dropped dead from sunstroke. Some, 
being overheated, were placed in the shade of an old 
fence or dusty tree; where they received the last 
sacraments, and were left to live or die. The priest 
could not stay with them, because another might fall 
at any minute and be entirely neglected. Finally we 
reached our destination, where, fortunately, we found 
a wooded country, and the shade was most desirable 
and refreshing. It was related at the time, that some 
of our Second Corps were sent out on picket duty, 
and after the first line had been deployed some of the 
balance on reserve determined to engage in a quiet 
game of cards in order to pass the time. While at 
the game they were somewhat startled by the whiz 
of a bullet, which passed uncomfortably near them. 
Shortly afterward another and another; but the third 
shot revealed whence the bullets came. They saw 
a Confederate sharpshooter in a tree, full thirty feet 
from the ground. One of the men interested in the 
quiet game stood up, angry at the interruption. He 
was from the West, where in his early days he prided 
himself on being able to cut off the head of a wild 
pigeon with his rifle. As he reached out for his gun, 
he said, coolly, to his companions : "That gray squirrel 


is pretty frisky, and I must stop his fun to stop him 
spoiling ours." He drew a bead on the man in the 
tree and fired. As the Confederate sharpshooter 
came crashing through the branches to the ground, 
the Westerner sat down and asked: "What's trumps ?" 
He seemed as unconcerned as if he had killed a mos- 
quito that had been annoying him. On the 22d of 
August we reached our destination on the extreme 
left, and were then ordered to destroy the Weldon 
railroad. On the 25th, desperate fighting had taken 
place at this point. In killed, wounded, and captured 
the Union loss was two thousand seven hundred and 

These incidents I mention to show, in as simple a 
form as possible, the real life we led in the army. At 
one time undergoing great fatigues, losing many 
men, both by exposure and by battle; at other times 
experiencing events of a sensational and thrilling 
interest ; again seeing and hearing of occurrences eo 
novel as to serve to enliven our ranks and even to amuse 
the troops and lift up their drooping spirits amid all 
their hardships. But behind all this was constantly 
present to our eyes and miud the scene of a great 
stream, a procession, so to speak, of human souls on 
their way to eternity. Many of our brigade passed off 
during this campaign. One, who was not exactly of 
our brigade, but Inspector of our Second Corps and a 
member of Gen. Hancock's staflP, dropped in this very 
battle on the Weldon railroad. The one I allude to 
was Capt. E. P. Brownson, son of the great American 


philosopher, the Christian Plato, Orestes Augustus 
Brownson. I mention his death in particular, because, 
like his venerable father, he was a convert to our 
faith, and his conduct, even in the rough army life, 
gave great edification. When circumstances per- 
mitted, he was a weekly communicant, and always 
entered the battlefield fortified by the sacraments. 
To this end did the priests accompany their men on all 
occasions and on all the marches, ample opportunity 
being thus given the officers and men to go to con- 
fession at least, except in extraordinary cases, when a 
continued march, day and night, rendered it impos- 
sible to perform this duty. For a long time the good 
captain was my penitent; and when he so suddenly 
passed to eternity, a strange sensation filled my soul; 
but I had the consolation to know that he was well 

At this battle we had our hands full looking after 
the wounded. After the smoke and thunder of battle 
had passed over, after all had been attended to, our 
thoughts were turned in another direction by the 
celebration of the third anniversary of the brigade. 



A LTHOUGH in a former chapter I gave some 
-^-^ general notions of a "Military Mass," I will 
here enter more fully into details. On or about 
the 4th day of September, 1864, Gen. Meagher, 
who was on a visit with Gen. Hancock at the time, 
prior to his departure for the department of Gen. 
Sherman, to whom he had been assigned for duty, 
proposed an anniversary celebration for the brigade. 
The brigade was now three years old, having been 
born in September, 1861. As usual, he wished to 
have the anniversary commemorated in a religious 
manner. I mention this to the credit of the general, 
because he was proud of his faith, and considered no 
celebration dignified or worthy the name that did not 
begin by invoking God's blessing in the most solemn 
form possible. He came to me, therefore, and asked 
if I would be so kind as to arrange a Solemn High 
Mass for the occasion. I wasonly too glad to do him 
this favor, for several reasons, but, especially, because 
it encouraged his religious tendency, and gave an 



--fr— ,,^ _<:^^.-;^.— - 



excellent example to the soldiers in the field. Invi- 
tations were sent out to various other commanders to 
join us in the celebrations. These invitations were 
accepted by quite a number of other commands, and 
by the following generals, namely: Hancock, Miles, 
Berney, Gibbons, Mott, De Trobriand, and, of course, 
Meagher himself would be expected. Details of men 
with willing hands were directed in clearing up, 
beautifying the grounds, planting pine and cedar 
trees, and making the entire camp like fairy-grounds. 
A beautiful chapel tent was erected, and a grand 
avenue lined with evergreens led to the front entrance 
of the grounds and to the chapel, which was on a slight 
eminence. Seats were provided for the invited guests 
as far as possible. About nine o'clock the bugles 
were sounded, and the whole brigade, at this signal, 
began to make preparations to receive their guests. 
With military precision every man reported, and in a 
short time one could see the ranks formed in perfect 
order. Muskets shining, shoes polished, and all, in a 
word, fit to be seen on dress parade by the " Queen 
of the Fairies." Precisely at ten o'clock, the hour 
fixed for service, the guests began to arrive. First, 
Maj.-Gen. Hancock, surrounded by his intelligent, 
handsome staff-officers. Then each general above- 
mentioned, with that exactness peculiar to army life 
and excellent discipline (attended in the same way), 
arrived just on time. As they approached, tlie numer- 
ous bands began to play "Hail to the Chief! "in 
special compliment to Maj.-Gen. Hancock, for the 


commander of our corps, besides being so distinguished 
in many ways, was notably so at the battle of Gettys- 
burg, where he showed superior skill. Each general 
in that brilliant group having made his mark and 
record, to form very bright pages of history, received 
special marks of respect on that occasion. The 
generals were seated first, and, as each company, 
battalion, or regiment of invited troops arrived, place 
was allotted them, the members of the brigade "doing 
the honors," in politely seeing to the wants of the 
guests first, thinking of themselves last. The Kev. 
Thomas Ouellet, S. J., Paul E. Gillen, C. S. C, and 
the writer, appeared before a simple altar, dressed in 
modest taste, at the very moment ten o'clock was 
sounded by the bugle. By this time we had become 
experienced in such celebrations, and it is with some 
laudable pride that we refer to them now. Gen. 
Meagher, being well versed in the ceremonies of the 
Mass, acted as Master of Ceremonies, in as far as the 
music and the military duties were concerned. As 
soon as the priests are ready, the As2)erges me is 
announced, and, instead of a grand choir, such as is 
heard in the royal cathedrals of Christendom, the 
bugles, followed by the report of numerous guns, 
announce the beginning. Then, under the direction 
of Gen. Meagher, at the Introibo various military 
bands discourse solemn music until after the Credo^ 
when, again, by a sign from the Master of Ceremonies 
to the Officer of the Day, another discharge, a grand 
salute of guns, testify to Credo in unuin Deum — I 


believe in one God. The bugle follows with its 
well-known notes, "tara-taran-tara," and again the 
bands play. Now their music is soft, low, and sweet, 
suitable to the devotion that immediately disposes 
the faithful for the more sacred portion of the Mass. 
The Sa7ictus! sanctus! sanctus! rouses all to a fixed 
attention and is accompanied by a sudden rattle of 
dozens of kettle-drums, with an occasional thunder- 
ing sound from the bass drums. Shortly after this 
comes that moment of moments in the offering of the 
sublime mysteries. The preparatory is over, and 
now you see men bow down in deep devotion as the 
priest leans over the altar and takes up the Host. 
Here, at a sign from the Master of Ceremonies, the 
bugle notes, " tara-taran-tara," ring out over the 
tented fields, and the same grand evidence of respect 
and faith is given by the sound of cannon and the roll 
of musketry, as the sublime words, full of power and 
purpose — the supreme words of Consecration — are 
pronounced. Soft music is again in order at intervals, 
until the end, which is proclaimed in turn by guns, 
drums, and bugles that prolong a grand /naZ^. The 
writer preached a short but well-prepared sermon at 
the conclusion, to which Maj.-Gen. Hancock and the 
other generals present listened with much attention 
and respect, although many of these generals were 
not Catholics. After all was over, the guests were 
invited to lunch, and, notwithstanding it was Sunday, 
several hours were spent at the tables, where some 
very interesting speeches were made, and good wishes 


expressed for the brigade. Speeches were made by 
Gen. Meagher, who, in genuine oratory, was head and 
shoulders above any general in the army; by Maj.- 
Gen. Hancock, who spoke in the highest terms of the 
bravery and devotedness of the Irish Brigade; by 
Gen. Miles, who gave testimony to the same effect, as 
witnessed by himself at the latest battle, and mention- 
ing the details. Gens. Gibbons, Mott, and Birney 
also spoke, and, finally, Gen. De Trobriand, who said 
that his Irishmen claimed him as one of their own, 
stating that his name was in reality only slightly 
Frenchified from the original ( O'Brien) which caused 
prolonged merriment. This lunch and the speeches 
alluded to served as a final parting with Gen. Meagher, 
who then left the Army of the Potomac, joining the 
army in the Southwest, where he was assigned, to 
duty. This celebration throws additional light on 
the character of the Irish Brigade. When all the 
rest of the army was more or less dormant or bewail- 
ing the situation and longing for "the flesh-pots of 
Egypt," the Irish Brigade was making fun and cheer 
for itself and all the friends it could accommodate. 
Its hospitality was limited only by its purse, and 
sometimes it even borrowed or anticipated the salary 
of the coming "pay-day." 


Taken by Lillibrige, of Chicago, in April, 1863. as the former was on his way to 

the seat of war (Vicksburg, Miss.), as Chaplain of the 6th Missouri Vols.; but 

his field of action extended unofficially over the whole army of Gen. Grant, 

as he was the sole Catholic Chaplain, at that time, in the whole command. 





AFTER the celebration mentioned in the last 
chapter, a few expeditions brought us into the 
fall of 1864. Nothing of great importance is now 
to be recorded relative to our movements in this 
portion of the army. At this time I received an 
order from my ecclesiastical superior to return to 
Notre Dame. The Very Rev. B. Moreau, then 
Superior- General, had ordered an election of a pro- 
vincial superior for this country, to preside over the 
department of the United States and Canada, and to 
this election I was summoned. I remained home for 
several weeks, and as the Chapter or Council for 
the said election was postponed, I returned to the 
army and remained to give the soldiers an opportunity 
of receiving the Sacraments, of making their Easter 
duty, and thus preparing them to enter the spring 
campaign, which put an end to the war. When I 


arrived in Washington I called on Gen. Hardee, who 
kindly furnished me the follo^ng pass: 

" War Department, February 22, 1865. 
" Pass Rev. William Corby, missionary, to Fortress Monroe 
and City Point, Virginia, and return, with free transportation 
on a Government transport. . . . 

" To be used but once. 
" By order of the Secretary of War. 

"Jas. a. Hardee, 
" Colonel and Inspector-General U. S. A." 

A pass of4Ms~tind was a great favor in those days 
and could scarcely be obtained by any except per- 
sons connected with the army. Even within the 
army limits, passes were necessary, and when I 
arrived at the « J' front" I made application for one 
and received Me- Mfowi«^ 


"Office of Provost-Marshal-General. 
" City Point, Va., 25th Feb., 1865. 
" Chaplain Wm. Corby has permission to labor in the Second 
Corps, and to apply to Capt. Schuyler for transfer to Fifth Corps 
whenever he desires it. 

"W. V. R. Patrick, 

" Provost-Marshal-General." 

These passes I still possess, and they are to me 
mementos of days full of history, full of tender feel- 
ing. They bring to mind the faces of many dear 
friends, of many noble souls, and of many distin- 
guished heroes, whose names and fame will never 
fade from my memory. My good long rest gave me 

KEV. P, r. COONEY, C. S. C. 
Chaplain 3r,th Ind. 


fresh vigor, and I spent my time, I trust, profitably. 
Judging from the demonstrations they made, my 
return was a delight to my men. This was not con- 
fined to the Catholics. Non- Catholics, officers, and 
men, gave me a hearty welcome, and, disregarding 
hardships and privations, I felt glad to be back again 
at the post of duty. 

The religious feature in an army is, indeed, no 
small matter. " Conscience doth make cowards of us 
all" is quite applicable in a very forcible manner in 
this connection. Men who are demoralized and men 
whose consciences trouble them make poor soldiers. 
Moral men — men who are free from the lower and 
more degrading passions— make brave, faithful, and 
trustworthy soldiers. Rome stood proudly mistress 
of the world while she held morality sacred — when a 
Lucretia put a stiletto into her own heart, not wishing 
to live after a brutal man, by no fault of hers, had 
violated her; when a Roman officer, Virginius, pierced 
the chaste bosom of his lovely young daughter rather 
than see her lose her virginity ; when the vestal virgin 
was buried alive if found violating her vow of virgin- 
ity ; when, in a word, morality was practised and held 
up for admiration — during these ages the Roman 
soldier had no equal in the world. When these same 
Romans were pampered with the luxuries of every 
clime; when the wealth of nations poured into Rome 
and enabled them to indulge every appetite, every 
passion, then the dauntless Roman became effem- 
inate, in the presence of the enemy a coward, and 


great Eome sank into oblivion. Apart, therefore, 
from the actual good done for religion — and this must 
not be underrated — the soldier is all the better as a 
soldier when assisted by religion. "When he is gently 
induced to practise his duty to God and to keep alive 
in his heart his love of virtue, he is not made a 
coward by his guilty conscience; on the contrary, he 
is willing, if necessary, to lay down his life for justice 
or for his country, and to leave to posterity an 
example worthy of emulation. In view of this, 
Notre Dame sent out seven priests as chaplains, and, 
counting the Rev. Dr. Kilroy, who is also a child of 
Notre Dame, there were eight priests of the Com- 
munity of the Holy Cross rendering spiritual aid to 
the poor soldier in the field and in the hospitals. 
These were the Revs. J. M. Dillon, C. S. C; P. P. 
Cooney, C. S. C; Dr. E. B. Kilroy, C. S. C; J. C. 
Carrier, C. S. C; Paul E. Gillen, C. S. C; Joseph 
Leveque, C. S. C, and the writer, W. Corby, C. S. C. 
Many of the above went to an early grave ; but while 
they were able they braved the dangers of the battle- 
field and the pestilence of the hospitals. I am not 
writing a history of all the Catholic priests and 
sisters who did noble Christian work for distressed 
thousands during the late war. I have neither time 
nor ability to do so. There is one now engaged at 
that task — our Rev. Father Cooney. However, I 
can not omit here the names of a few who spent all 
the time they could, consistently, with other grave 
duties, in the army. 


The Rev. John Ireland, now the illustrious Arch- 
bishop of St. Paul, Minn., gave a bountiful share 
of his time and talent to the good work — the chap- 
laincy. A year of his time and brilliant talent was 
more than six years as compared with that of ordinary 
men. His groat ability was exercised with the 
enthusiasm that has distinguished Msfwhole career. 
His name was and ia aj|fcwer. The^^ev. Lawrence 
S. McMahon, TfSs?^ the distinguished Bishop of Hart- 
ford, Conn., also performed a generous share of 
chaplain labor. It would require an entire volume to 
do justice to either of these worthy prelates, and 
this task I must leave to historians, to men of " facile 
pen." The good achieved by post-chaplains, and 
by priests who, though not chaplains, nevertheless 
exercised their holy ministry among the soldiers, is 
beyond computation. God alone has a complete 
record of their self-sacrificing devotion. For the 
sake of edification, however, let some one put in print 
the good deeds they have done. And here we may 
quote a paragraph concerning 



[Prom the July number of the Century, which contains an 
article on Andersonville, the first of a series of papers on prison 
life during the late war.] 

The writer, Dr. T. H. Mann, says of Father 



Hamilton, a Catholic priest belonging to the diocese 
of Mobile: 

" The only authorized representative of the Chris- 
tian religion who possessed enough of it to visit the 
30,000 men in the prison pen was a Roman Catholic 
priest. Father Hamilton, who came in quite regularly, 
at least every Sabbath, for several weeks. He talked 
kindly to us, displaying much sympathy for our con- 
dition, and administering the last rites of the Church 
to all the dying men who would accept, without regard 
to individual beliefs. He stated that strong efforts 
were being made to bring about an exchange by both 
the North and the South, and that their efforts would 
probably soon be successful. Upon the strength of 
this report we concluded to let our tunnel remain 
quiet for a time, thinking that if exchange failed we 
could have final resource to it. The exchange did 
fail, and a heavy thunder-shower loosened one of the 
timbers of which the stockade was composed, so that 
it settled into the shaft, discovering to the authorities 
our tunnel, and they quietly filled it up. 

"After the war, Father Hamilton was located in 
Mobile, and at times officiated at various churches in 
other cities of the State. He died about four years 
ago, in Louisville, Ky., while on a visit to that city, 
and was buried there." 

Sixty Sisters of the Order of the Holy Cross went 
out under the intelligent Mother Mary Angela as 
superioress. (Mother Angela was a cousin of the Hon. 
James G. Blaine.) These Sisters volunteered their 


services to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers, 
hundreds of whom, moved to sentiments of purest 
piety by the words and example of their angel nurses, 
begged to be baptized in articulo Tnortis — at the point 
of death. The labors and self-sacrifices of the Sisters 
during the war need no praise here. Their praise is 
on the lips of every surviving soldier who experi- 
enced their kind and careful ministration. Many a 
soldier now looks down from on high with com- 
placency on the worthy Sisters who were instrumental 
in saving the soul when life could not be saved. Nor 
was it alone from the Order of the Sisters of the Holy 
Cross that Sister-nurses engaged in the care of the 
sick and wounded soldiers. Many other orders made 
costly sacrifices to save life and to save souls, nota- 
bly the noble Order of the Sisters of Charity. To 
members of this order I am personally indebted. 
When prostrate with camp-fever, insensible for nearly 
three days, my life was intrusted to their care. Like 
guardian angels these daughters of St. Vincent 
watched every symptom of the fever, and by their 
skill and care I was soon able to return to my post 
of duty. I subjoin an enthusiastic eulogy pro- 
nounced by a non- Catholic officer whose enthusiasm 
on this subject is shared by all who came under the 
care of these daughters of Christ: 



[From a speech made by Capt. Crawford, the " Poet Scout."] 
"On all of God's green and beautiful earth there 
are no purer, no nobler, no more kind-hearted and 
self-sacrificing women than those who wear the sombre 
garb of Catholic Sisters. During the war I had 
many opportunities for observing their noble and 
heroic work, not only in the camp and the hospital, 
but in the death -swept field of battle. Right in the 
fiery front of dreadful war, where bullets hissed in 
maddening glee, and shot and shell flew wildly by 
with demoniac shrieks, where dead and mangled 
forms lay with pale, blood- flecked faces, yet wearing 
the scowl of battle, I have seen the black-robed 
Sisters moving over the field, their solicitous faces 
wet with the tears of sympathy, administering to the 
wants of the wounded, and whispering words of com- 
fort into the ears soon to be deafened by the cold, 
implacable hand of death. Now kneeling on the 
blood-bespattered sod to moisten with water the 
bloodless lips on which the icy kiss of the death 
angel had left its pale imprint; now breathing words 
of hope of an immortality beyond the grave into 
the ear of some mangled hero, whose last shots in 
our glorious cause had been fired but a moment 
before; now holding the crucifix to receive the last 
kiss from somebody's darling boy from whose breast 
the life-blood was splashing, and who had offered 
his life as a willing sacrifice on the altar of his 


country; now with tender touch and tear-dimmed 
eyes binding gaping wounds from which most women 
would have shrunk in horror; now scraping together 
a pillow of forest leaves upon which some pain-racked 
head might rest until the spirit took its flight to 
other realms — brave, fearless of danger, trusting 
implicitly in the Master whose overshadowing eye was 
noting their every movement; standing as shielding, 
prayerful angels between the dying soldier and the 
horrors of death. Their only recompense, the sweet, 
soul-soothing consciousness that they were doing 
their duty ; their only hope of reward, that peace and 
eternal happiness which awaited them beyond the 
star-emblazoned battlements above. Ah! my friends, 
it was noble work. 

"How many a veteran of the war, who wore the 
blue or gray, can yet recall the soothing touch of a 
Sister's hand, as he lay upon the pain-tossed couch 
of a hospital! Can we ever forget their sympa- 
thetic eyes, their low, soft-spoken words of encour- 
agement and cheer when the result of the struggle 
between life and death yet hung in the balance? 
Oh ! how often have I followed the form of that good 
Sister Valencia with my sunken eyes as she moved 
away from my cot to the cot of another sufferer, and 
have breathed from the most sacred depths of my 
faintly -beating heart the fervent prayer, ' God bless 
her! God bless her!' 

"My friends, I am not a Catholic, but I stand 
ready at any and all times to defend those noble 


women, even with my life, for I owe that life to 

The following tribute also, taken from the Phil- 
adelphia Sunday Times, I feel impelled to quote: 


"During the late war, and while Gen. S. was in 
command of the department at New Orleans, the 
Sisters of Charity made frequent applications to him 
for assistance. Especially were they desirous to 
obtain supplies at what was termed 'commissary 
prices' — that is, at a reduction or commutation of 
one -third the amount which the same provisions 
would cost at market rates. The principal demand 
was for ice, flour, beef, and coffee, but mainly ice, a 
luxury which only the Union forces could enjoy at 
anything like a reasonable price. The hospitals were 
full of the sick and wounded, of both the Federal 
and Confederate armies, and the benevolent institu- 
tions of the city were taxed to the utmost in their 
endeavors to aid the poor and the suffering, for 
those were trying times, and war has many victims. 
Foremost among these Christian workers stood the 
various Christian sisterhoods. These noble women 
were busy day and night, never seeming to know 
fatigue, and overcoming every obstacle, that, in so 
many discouraging forms, obstructed the way of doino- 
good — obstacles which would have completely dis- 
heartened less resolute women, or those not trained 
in the school of patience, faith, hope, and charity, 


and where the first grand lesson learned is self- 
denial. Of money there was little; and food, fuel, 
and medicine were scarce and dear; yet they never 
faltered, going on in the face of all difficulties, 
through poverty, war, and unfriendly aspersions, 
never turning aside, never complaining, never despair- 
ing. No one will ever know the sublime courage 
of these lowly Sisters during the dark days of the 
Rebellion. Only in that hour when the Judge of all 
mankind shall summon before Him the living and 
the dead will they receive their true reward, the 
crown everlasting, and the benediction : ' Well done, 
good and faithful servant.' 

"It was just a week previous to the Red River cam- 
paign, when all was hurry and activity throughout 
the Department of the Gulf, that Gen. S., a stern, 
irascible old officer of the regular army, sat at his 
desk in his office on Julia Street, curtly giving orders 
to subordinates, dispatching messengers hither and 
thither to every part of the city where troops were 
stationed, and stiffly receiving such of his command 
as had important business to transact. 

"In the midst of this unusual hurry and prepara- 
tion, the door noiselessly opened, and a humble 
Sister of Charity entered the room. A handsome 
young lieutenant of the staff instantly arose, and 
deferentially handed her a chair, for those sombre 
gray garments were respected, if not understood, 
even though he had no reverence for the religious 
faith which they represented. 


*' Gen. S. looked up from his writing, angered by 
the intrusion of one whose 'fanaticism' he despised, 
and a frown of annoyance and displeasure gathered 
darkly on his brow. 


" The soldier on duty without the door, who had 
admitted the Sister, faced about, saluted, and stood 
mute, awaiting the further command of his chief. 

" ' Did I not give orders that no one was to be 

'"Yes, sir; but—' 

" ' When I say no one, I mean no one,' thundered 
the general. 

"The orderly bowed and returned to his post. He 
was too wise a soldier to enter into explanations with 
so irritable a superior. All this time the patient 
Sister sat calm and still, biding the moment when sh-e 
might speak and meekly state the object of her mis- 
sion. The general gave her the opportunity in the 
briefest manner possible, and sharply enough, too, 
in all conscience. 

'"Well, madam?' 

" She raised a pair of sad, dark eyes to his face, and 
the gaze was so pure, so saintly, so full of silent 
pleading, that the rough old soldier was touched in 
spite of himself. Around her fell the heavy muf- 
fling dress of her order, which, however coarse and 
ungraceful, had something strangely solemn and 
mournful about it. Her hands, small and fair, were 
clasped almost suppliantly, and half hidden in the 


loose sleeves, as if afraid of their own trembling 
beauty; hands that had touched tenderly, lovingly, so 
many death-damp foreheads, that had soothed so 
much pain ; eyes that had met prayerfully so many 
dying glances; lips that had cheered to the mysteri- 
ous land so many parting souls, and she was only a 
Sister of Charity — only one of that innumerable 
band whose good deeds shall live after them. 

" 'We have a household of sick and wounded whom 
we must care for in some way, and I came to ask of 
you the privilege, which I humbly beseech you will 
not deny us, of obtaining ice and beef at commissary 

"The gentle, earnest pleading fell on deaf ears. 

" ' Always something,' snarled the general. ' Last 
week it was flour and ice; to-day it is ice and beef; 
to-morrow it will be coffee and ice, I suppose, and all 
for a lot of rascally rebels, who ought to be shot^ 
instead of being nursed back to life and treason.' 

"'General!' — the Sister was majestic now — 'Eebel 
or Federal, I do not know; Protestant or Catholic, I 
do not ask. They are not soldiers when they come 
to us — they are simply suffering fellow-creatures. 
Rich or poor, of gentle or lowly blood, it is not our 
province to inquire. Ununiformed, unarmed, sick, and 
helpless, we ask not on which side they fought. Our 
work begins after yours is done. Yours the carnage, 
ours the binding up of wounds. Yours the battle, 
ours the duty of caring for the mangled left behind 
on the field. Ice I want for the sick, the wounded, 


the dying. I plead for all, I beg for all, I pray for 
all God's poor suffering creatures, wherever I may 
find them.' 

" ^ Yes, you can beg, I'll admit. What do you do 
with all your beggings? It is always more, more! 
never enough ! ' 

" With this, the general resumed his writing, 
thereby giving the Sister to understand that she was 
dismissed. For a moment her eyes fell, her lips 
trembled — it was a cruel taunt. Then the tremulous 
hands slowly lifted and folded tightly across her 
breast, as if to still some sudden heartache the unkind 
words called up. Very low, and sweet, and earnest 
was her reply. 

" ' What do we do with our beggings? Ah! that is 
a hard question to ask of one whose way of life leads 
ever among the poor, the sorrowing, the unfortunate, 
the most wretched of mankind. Not on me is it 
wasted. I stand here in my earthly all. What do 
we do with it? Ah! some day you may know.' 

"She turned away and left him, sad of face, heavy 
of heart, and her dark eyes misty with unshed tears. 


"The general's request was like a command. He 
could be stern, nay, almost rude, but he knew truth 
and worth when he saw it, and could be just. The 
Sister paused on the threshold, and for a minute 
nothing was heard but the rapid scratching of the 
general's pen. 


'* ' There, madam, is your order on the Commissary 
for ice and beef at army terms, good for three months. 
I do it for the sake of the Union soldiers who are, 
or may be, in your care. Don't come bothering me 
again. Good-morning!' 

" In less than three weeks from that day the slaugh- 
ter of the Red River campaign had been perfected, 
and there neared the city of New Orleans a steamer 
flying the ominous yellow flag, which even the rebel 
sharp-shooters respected and allowed to pass down 
the river unmolested. Another and still another fol- 
lowed closely in her wake, and all the decks were 
covered with the wounded and dying, whose bloody 
bandages and, in many instances, undressed wounds 
gave woeful evidence of the lack of surgeons, as well 
as the completeness of the rout. Among the des- 
perately wounded was Gen. S. He was borne from 
the steamer to the waiting ambulance, writhing in 
anguish from the pain of his bleeding and shell-torn 
limb, and when they asked where he wished to be 
taken, he feebly moaned: 

" 'Anywhere, it matters not. Where I can die in 

"So they took him to the Hotel Dieu, a noble and 
beautiful institution in charge of the Sisters of 
Charity. The limb was amputated, and there he 
was nursed for weeks through the agony of the 
surgical operation, the fever, the wild delirium, and 
for many weary days no one could tell whether life 
or death would be the victor. But who was the 


quiet, faithful nurse, ever at his bedside, ever minis- 
tering to his wants, ever watchful of his smallest 
needs? Why, only 'one of the Sisters.' 

"At last life triumphed, reason returned, and with 
it much of the old, abrupt manner. The general 
awoke to consciousness to see a face not altogether 
unknown bending over him, and to feel a pair of 
small, deft hands skilfully arranging a bandage, wet 
in ice-cold water, around his throbbing temples, 
where the mad pain and aching had for so long a 
time held sway. He was better now, though still, 
very weak; but his mind was clear, and he could 
think calmly and connectedly of all that had taken 
place since the fatal battle— a battle which had so 
nearly cost him his life, and left him at best but a 
maimed and mutilated remnant of his former self. 

"Yet he was thankful it was no worse — that he had 
not been killed outright. In like degree he was 
grateful to those who nursed him so tenderly and 
tirelessly, especially the gray-robed woman, who had 
become almost angelic in his eyes, and it was like 
him to express his gratitude in his own peculiar way, 
without preface or circumlocution. Looking intently 
at the Sister, as if to get her features well fixed in 
his memory, he said: 

" ' Did you get the ice and beef?' 

" The Sister started. The question was so direct and 
unexpected. Surely her patient must be getting 
— really himself ! 

" ' Yes,' she replied, simply, but with a kind glance 


of the soft, sad eyes, that spoke eloquently her 

" ' And your name is — ' 

" 'Sister Francis.' 

" ' "Well, then, Sister Francis, I am glad you got the 
things — glad I gave you the order. I think I know 
now what you do with your beggings — I compre- 
hend something of your work, your charity, your 
religion, and I hope to be the better for the knowl- 
edge. I owe you a debt I can never repay, but you 
will endeavor to believe that I am deeply grateful 
for all your great goodness and ceaseless care.' 

"'Nay, you owe me nothing; but to Him, whose 
cross I bear, and in whose lowly footsteps I try to 
follow, you owe a debt of gratitude unbounded. 
To His infinite mercy I commend you. It matters 
not for the body; it is that divine mystery, the soul, 
I would save. My work here is done. I leave you 
to the care of others. Adieu.' 

** The door softly opened and closed, and he saw 
Sister Francis no more. 

"Two months afterward she received a letter sent 
to the care of the Mother Superior, inclosing a check 
for a thousand dollars. At the same time the gen- 
eral took occasion to remark that he wished he were 
able to make it twice the amount, since he knew by 
experience, 'what they did with their beggings.'" 




IN the summer of 18G1, the Eev. Father Dillon 
was in New York, on business for Notre Dame. 
While there, he became acquainted with several of 
the officers who were then organizing the Sixty -third 
Eegiment of the Irish Brigade, and took a deep 
interest in the officers and men, who were almost 
exclusively Catholics, and were offering their lives 
for the safety of the nation. At the urgent request 
of these officers, he volunteered to go as chaplain, 
provided I would go with him. He wrote to me 
requesting my consent, and, by return mail, I sent 
an affirmative answer. Father Dillon was young, 
but of mature mind, and quite eloquent. He was 
impulsive and ardent, and threw his whole soul into 
any good work he undertook. He helped to organize 
the command, and spared no labor to form his men 
in virtuous habits from the very start. The following 
facts, concerning Father Dillon's first official acts in 
the regiment, have been kindly furnished me by 
Maj. John Dwyer, an officer of the Sixty-third, Irish 


Chaplain GSdN.Y.Vol. 


Brigade, during the war, now editor and proprietor of 
the Sandy Hill Herald, New York. These facts show 
the zealous and active part taken by Father Dillon. 
Whatever concerned the welfare of his men he was 
foremost in promoting, and this disposition he retained 
during the time he was able to stay in the service. 


While the Irish Brigade was entering the bloody 
battle at Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862, the regiment 
being advanced in line, a general (who proved to be 
Fitz John Porter) came dashing from the front, 
accompanied with a numerous staff. 

"What regiment is this?" was his inquiry. 

"This is the Sixty-third, of Gen. Meagher's 
brigade," was the response of Lieut. -Col. Fowler. 

"I am Gen. Porter, in command of this part of 
the field. I order you to remain here until a field 
battery comes up, which I have sent for. Support 
the battery until ordered to the contrary." 

Col. Fowler saluted, and said he would see that the 
order was obeyed. 

Porter and his staff then disappeared in the dark- 
ness toward the front. Col. Fowler gave the order: 

"Battalion! order arms! In place rest!" 

Gen. Meagher and his staff at this time came 
hastily from the front. 

"Who is in command here? What regiment is 
it?" he asked. 


Lieut. -Col. Fowler rode up and said he was in 
command, and that it was the Sixty -third. 

"What are you doing here, while your comrades 
are being slaughtered? Follow me!" 

Fowler said tliat Gen. Porter had directed that 
the regiment remain here until a battery came up, 
which he must support. 

"Do you refuse, sir, to obey the orders of your 
general?" was Meagher's question. 

"I do not refuse, general, but I must obey the prior 
orders of Gen. Porter, who is in command here," was 
the answer. 

The fiery Meagher was wild with rage, while he 
dashed down the front of the regiment and back 
again to the right where Fowler stood. 

"Give me your sword, sir! You are a disgrace to 
the Irish Brigade. I place you under arrest, sir!" 

Then turning to an oflB-cer, one of his own staff, 
who was near: 

" Capt. Gosson, take that man's sword! " which was 

Capt. Joseph O'Neil, the senior officer present, 
then took command. Meagher called on the men to 
follow him. Some were for doing so, and the two 
right companies, (A) First Lieut. Joseph McDonough, 
and (G) Capt. P. J. Condon, gave orders to their 
men, and the two companies followed their general 
to the front. Having reached the top of the hill, 
the companies were halted, when it was decided to 
return to the regiment, that all might act together. 


Having taken their place in the ranks again, the 
command was found to be somewhat demoralized in 
consequence of the loss of Col. Burke and the retire- 
ment of Lieut.-Col. Fowler. (Maj. R. C. Bentley 
was absent.) Add to this the exposed condition of 
the men, who were being constantly hit by fragments 
of shell, round shot, and musketry fire. In the 
confusion O'Neil's voice could not be heard, and 
only a limited number of the companies on the right 
knew that he was in command. At this juncture 
some one shouted: 

"Who is commanding officer, anyhow?" 

"Col. Burke!" some one responded. 

"No, Col. Fowler is!" shouted a soldier from the 

"Men, neither is!" said an officer in Company D. 
"Capt. O'Neil will lead this regiment to-night." 

"This is Father Dillon's regiment!" a rough voice 
from the center called out. 

"Yes, yes! We want Father Dillon! Give us 
Father Dillon!" 

The chaplain was a few paces to the rear, giving 
the consolation of his holy office to a badly wounded 
soldier, who was stricken down a few moments 

This good man promptly responded. He passed 
down the ranks, and told the men he was with them, 
and would remain here. 

"I will take command, if no one else does so. Lie 
down, boys, and wait for orders!" 



The order was promptly obeyed. While they were 
lying down, he went from right to left and informed 
the men that Capt. O'Neil was now in command, 
being the senior officer on the field. 

The battery had by this time put in an appearance, 
coming like a whirlwind from the right, regardless 
of the dead and wounded lying thick on the ground. 

"Attention, battalion!" rang out from O'Neil. 
"Forward! By the right flank! Double quick! 

And the Sixty -third hung on to the rear of the flying 
battery, taking position in front of the guns. Every 
man lay flat on the ground. The cannon continued 
to fire for an hour at least, their aim directed by the 
flash of the enemy's guns. Two attempts were made 
to capture the battery, but their well-directed fire 
sent the desperate Confederates back in confusion, 
aided by a volley from the rifles of the Sixty -third. 

This ended the battle of Malvern Hill, and the 
last of the famous "Seven Days." Before daylight, 
nothing remained on the field held by the Union 
hosts but the dead and badly wounded, and the wreck 
and ruin caused by the struggle of 200,000 men. 

The next day saw the Army of the Potomac 
resting at Harrison Landing, on the banks of the 
James, where it recruited previous to its retirement 
from the Peninsula, to enter on the second Bull 
Eun campaign. 



To prepare for the realities of war, the Sixty-third, 
N. Y. v., was encamped on David's Island, in the 
East River, Long Island Sound, in November, 1861. 
R. C. Enright was colonel of the regiment, and the 
Rev. James M. Dillon, C. S. C, was the chaplain. 

Camps of Union troops were abundant in the 
neighborhood of New York, filling up companies 
and regiments for the inevitable struggle soon to 
come with the rebellious Southern States. Seeing 
the result of camp life on the young men composing 
these skeleton commands, the good chaplain of the 
Sixty-third was determined to guard his boys against 
the prevailing vices, especially that of drunkenness, 
which was the predominant failing, and always char- 
acteristic of camp life. 

A talk of organizing a Temperance Society in the 
regiment was rife for several days, and assumed formal 
shape on Sunday, November 17. The Holy Sacrifice 
was offered, as usual, that morning in the dining 
hall, where probably 700 officers and men were 
present. (The regiment was composed almost entirely 
of Roman Catholics.) 

Chaplain Dillon, at the close of the service, took 
as his text the subject of "Temperance." He went 
on, in his usual eloquent style, depicting the evils of 
intemperance. He said it was the father of all crimes, 
especially among those with Irish blood in their veins. 
"Show me," he said, "an Irish Catholic who is not 


addicted to the vice of drunkenness, and I will find a 
good citizen of the Republic. Give me an abstainer 
from the cup that inebriates, and I will show you an 
obedient, brave soldier willing to die for the flag. 
History is full of incidents where ignominious defeat 
has followed dearly -bought victory, owing to the 
indulgence in strong drink. I have in my mind," he 
went on to say, *'one conspicuous example in the 
hopeless struggle of Ireland, in '98, where the insur- 
gents met disaster after routing the enemy, because 
they gave way to festivity when they should have 
taken advantage of their dearly -bought success. 

"You are going to the war, my comrades. Many 
of you will find a grave in the sunny South. I can 
not say how many, but the number will be large, as 
it will not be a holiday excursion. The South has a 
population of five millions, and vast wealth. So has 
the North. Believe me, the longest purse will carry 
the day. It is my honest "Opinion that the Irish 
Brigade, to which you will be attached, under the 
leadership of the chivalrous Thomas Francis Meagher, 
will be always in the van, in the post of danger, the 
post of honor. It has been ever thus. It is a tribute 
to your Irish valor, and you should be proud of it. 

"Go, then, to the front as temperate men. If you 
do, you will be equal to all emergencies. I will give 
you an opportunity to be temperate soldiers, for I 
propose this very day — ^now and here — to organize a 
temperance society for the war. 

"How many will join it? Let every officer and 
man present do so, and God will bless you!" 


All who would not fall in under the temperance 
banner he requested to fall back. Not one did so. 

The enthusiastic priest said much more, being 
visibly affected, as were his hearers. There was a 
rush for the front, and the aid of several secretaries 
was required to take the names. Father Dillon was 
surprised at the success of his efforts, and when all 
the names had been taken, he recited, slowly, and in 
a distinct voice, the words of the pledge, which all 
were requested to repeat after him. They did so, 
and the voices of those 700 stalwart men sounded 
like surf on the beach, only a few rods distant. 

The speaker announced that in a few days they 
would elect their officers and get in working order 
for the temperance campaign. 

Accordingly, on the following Thursday, Novem- 
ber 21 (a feast of the Blessed Virgin), after Mass, 
the chaplain spoke again on the subject of "Temper- 
ance," after which the following officers were elected 
for the society : President, the Rev. J. M. Dillon; 
Vice-President, Dr. Michael G. Gilligan; Recording 
Secretary and Treasurer, Lieut. Patrick Gormerly; 
Corresponding Secretary, Capt. Michael O'Sullivan. 

The effects of the "Temperance Society" were 
soon apparent in the regiment. Daily and Sunday 
attendance at Mass was sensibly augmented, and 
there was a decided diminution in camp carousals. 
So elated was Father Dillon that he decided to 
have a medal struck to commemorate the event. A 
design was prepared and placed in the hands of an 


engraver in New York City, and several hundred 
were cast. They had an appropriate inscription on 
each side, and in size resembled a silver dollar. Even 
at this day, thirty years after the incident above 
alluded to, "Father Dillon's Temperance Medals" 
are frequently met with in the hands of the remnant 
of the Sixty-third or their descendants. 

It is not to be supposed that all who 'Hook the 
pledge" on that Sunday morning in November, 1861, 
kept it inviolate, but it is equally certain that many 
did. This incident will illustrate: 

McClellan's grand army of over 100,000 fighting 
men invested the Confederate capital the summer 
succeeding (June, 1862). The Irish Brigade was 
among them, including the "Temperance Regiment." 
The camps were right in the swamps of the dreaded 
Chickahominy, a disease-breading and poisonous 
spot. The water was so execrable that commissary 
whiskey was dealt out daily to officers and men, at 
the expense of the government. Even then malaria, 
dysentery, fever and ague, and kindred troubles were 
fearfully prevalent. 

The men who wore the temperance medals received 
their rations with the rest, but they absolutely refused 
to touch the stuff. The writer remembers distinctly 
(he was a "Medal Man") what a scramble there 
was daily for his whiskey ration. And the same was 
true of others. On one occasion Sergt. Quinn, a 
six-footer, thought he had a prior claim to Sergt. 
Dwyer's ration. Private Rutledge — short but gritty 

tempp:eance medal. 


— of Co. K, Albany company, differed from his big 
comrade. It was decided, as the only way to solve 
the problem, that they fight for it. A ring was 
formed of too- willing soldiers, both contestants strip- 
ping to the waist. In about three minutes, the 
little Albany soldier laid out the big fellow, who went 
sprawling his full length on the grass. 

Pri\^ate Kutledge then received his whisky ration, 
having won it in a fair encounter. From that day 
forth, until the army left the sluggish Chickahominy 
far behind, and the whisky rations were stopped. 
Private Kutledge had a mortgage on Sergt. Dwyor's 

The Sixty-third regiment was on David's Island, 
and on the 6th of November, 1861, a delegation of 
Irish-Americans, ladies and gentlemen, came to the 
Island, headed by Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher. 
All were residents of the metropolis. They came in 
a chartered steamer, accompanied by Dods worth's 
famous band. They had with them two beautiful 
silk flags: one the national colors, the other Erin's 
immortal green — the "Sunburst." The ten com- 
panies of the regiment were drawn up on the parade 
ground, when Gen. Meagher, in behalf of the donoi^s, 
presented the flags in a patriotic speech that called 
forth repeated cheers from the soldiers. Col. Enright 
of the Sixty -third responded briefly. 

The chaplain, the Rev. James M. Dillon, being 
called upon, addressed the command. He reminded 
tlie officers and men of the great compliment paid the 


regiment by their New York friends, who, instead of 
waiting for the United States Government to do it, 
generously contributed the beautiful standards, which 
were to be borne in the forefront of battle. To 
defend these flags was their duty — even at the sacri- 
fice of their lives. "They are fit companions in 
freedom's battle." Then he asked, in stentorian 
tones : 

"Officers and men: Are you willing and ready to 
defend these emblems of freedom with your lives?" 

The response came from a thousand throats: 

"We are! We are!" 

"Then go forth to battle, my friends and comrades, 
and never let it be said that the Sixty-third regiment 

— which is to hold the second place of honor in the 
Irish Brigade — permitted their flag to fall into the 
hands of the enemies of the Union and liberty. 

"Let me impress on you the fact that to be faithful, 
brave soldiers, you must be practical Christians. 
There is no braver soldier in this world, in any 
country, under any form of government, than a 
consistent Catholic. The fathers of most of you have 
fought on every battlefield, from Fontenoy to Cha- 
pultepec, and their bayonets were ever in the van. 
Let it be said of you, ere this causeless rebellion is 
suppressed, that the soldiers of the Irish Brigade 
have emulated the heroism of their forefathers. 

"Ours is a country and cause worth fighting for 

— dying for!" 

The glowing words of the chaplain were vociferously 


cheered, again and again, and when he concluded, 
the ceremonies were brought to a close. 

Father Dillon was a young man in the prime of 
manhood at the time — about twenty-eight years old. 
He was mustered into the service October 30, 1861, 
and was discharged for disability (sickness), October 
18, 1862. ^ 

I give the following account of a presentation to 
my dear friend and companion, Father Dillon, with 
the foregoing, as a kind memento of him. Moreover, 
this account will help to show how popular he was, 
and how enthusiastic in everything that pertained to 
his men and the organization to which he belonged : 


On Monday, February 9, 1863, the Rev. Father Dillon, chap- 
lain of Corcoran's Irish Legion, was presented with a splendid 
set of horse equipments, consisting of bridle, saddle, spurs, and 
gauntlets. The spurs are of a very superior style and worth. 
The presentation took place in the Clerk's Office in the City 
Hall, Alderman Wm. Walsh making the presentation speech in 
the presence of the Aldermen and Councilmen and a few select 
friends. Alderman Walsh's address was brief, and in substance 
this: That these offerings were testimonials of their late visit to 
Suffolk, where thej spent such a pleasant time, and a mark of 
their esteem for the Reverend Father who so creditably filled 
the position to which he was assigned, and he hoped whenever 
the Father used these gifts he would be pleased to remember 
the donors. 

In reply Father Dillon said: 

" Mr. President and Gentlemen: — You will believe me 
when I tell you I that can not find words to express niy 


feelings to you on this occasion, for they are feelings of the 
heart, and to these no human language can give utterance* 
'The language of the heart,' it is said, and truly, ' is silence.' 
But this I will say, that when you came to Suffolk to pay 
honor to our Irish nationality in the person of our great 
and worthy Irish chieftain, Gen. Corcoran [applause], it 
became a matter of duty to me to do all I could to honor 
you, the representatives of the great city of New York, and for 
tl^e doing of which I deserve no credit. You, though, have been 
pleased to think otherwise; and I, gentlemen, am glad of it, not, 
indeed, because of the value of these gifts, valuable as they 
may be and are, but because of the feeling that prompted the 
offering. But this presentation is not only a subject of pleasure 
to me, it is one also of honest pride. For, gentlemen, you do 
not know how proud I am to hear my name mentioned in con- 
nection with a man and an organization so eminently calculated 
in the future as in the past to do good service in the great 
struggle in which we are now engaged and to reflect undying 
credit on our nationality. [Applause] Then,gentlemen, I accept 
these gifts, and I thank you; and whenever I use them, whether 
on the tented field, or on the broad prairies of my Western 
home, my only regret will be that I will not have the pleasure 
of the company of the munificent donors." 

The Joint Committee of the Common Council also gave, on 
the evening of February 7, a dinner at the " Maison Doree'' to 
the Rev. James M. Dillon, chaplain of Corcoran's Legion, who 
was assiduous in his att3ntions to the comfort of the committee 
while they were at Suffolk, and who is now in the city on a 
brief business visit connected with the Irish Legion. The 
dinner was of the most elegant description. In addition to the 
Rev. Mr. Dillon and Alderman Walsh— the latter occupying the 
head of the table -there were present several other aldermen 
and other prominent gentlemen. The entertainment passed off 
very agreeably. Addresses were made by several of the gentle- 
men present, the Rev. Mr. Dillon responding for the " Irish 
Legion," Alderman Mitchell for "Gen. Corcoran," Mr. Walsh 
for "The Board of Aldermen," Mr. Healy for " The Board of 
Councilmen," Mr. Manning for " The Press," and Mr. Hardy, 
in a very handsome manner, for "The Ladies." 



'm m^ 



^ \ 


^^B ^^S 



Ex- Chaplain G9th N. Y. S. V. 




THE Rev. Thomas Ouellet, S. J., though not of 
our race, having been born in Lower Canada, 
of French parents, was one of the most zealous 
priests in the army. When the war commenced, 
Father Ouellet was attached to St. John's College, 
at Fordham, and, hearing that a Catholic regiment 
required a chaplain, offered his services to Arch- 
bishop Hughes, the Nestor of the Catholic Church*of 
America, who assigned Father Ouellet to the Irish 

Father Ouellet was the direct antithesis of Father 
Corby in manner, and in dealing with the men 
intrusted to his spiritual charge. Father Corby was 
gentle and conciliating, while the subject of this 
sketch was a perfect martinet in everything that 

* Written for the New York Tablet by General Dennis 
BURK, I. B. 



pertained to his sacred duties; full of energy, and 
possessing, in a high degree, the positiveness of his 
race. We remember forming our first opinion of this 
clergyman at Camp California, Va., in the winter 
of 1862. The brigade was assigned to the division 
^commanded by that brave and accomplished old 
soldier, Gren. E, V Sumner, then lying near Alex- 
andria, Va. The brigade consisted at this time of the 
Sixty-ninth, Sixty-third, and Eighty-eighth, New 
York Volunteers. 

The Sixty-ninth was commanded by Col. Nugent; 
Sixty-third by Col. Burke, and the Eighty-eighth 
by Col. Baker. It was customary on every Sunday 
to hold a joint assemblage of the entire command at 
the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 
One Sunday morning, on our way to Mass, we heard 
an altercation between Father Ouellet and a captain 
of the Sixty-ninth. The captain had been using 
language toward some members of his company that 
offended the sensibilities of the good priest's ear, 
and he was reproving the captain for his words. The 
captain had a very exalted opinion of himself and 
the position he occupied in the army. When reproved 
by the good Father, he said: "Do you know, sir, I 
am a captain of this regiment, and you are only a 
captain of cavalry on detached service ? " (A chaplain 
of the army receives the same pay and allowances, as 
a captain of mounted troops.) Father Ouellet, seeing 
the consequential gentleman he had to deal with, 


ceased his argument with him, and went to the church 
to perform his sacred duties. 'When the time for 
exhortation came Father Ouellet paid his respects to 
the captain in a form that ever afterward made him 
dreaded by the backsliders of our organization. He 
said, in his peculiar French accent: "I have been 
told to-day, by an officer of my regiment, when 
reproving him for profanity in the presence of his 
men, who are to share with him on the battlefield 
the dangers of a soldier's life, that I was only a 
captain of cavalry, and had no business to interfere 
in the discharge of his duties. I never intended to 
interfere in the discipline of the regiment, but I want 
to tell that captain, as well as all here assembled to 
worship God, that I did not enter the army as a 
captain of cavalry, but as a soldier of the Saviour to 
preach the doctrine of our holy Church, and I shall, on 
all occasions, as one of the spiritual directors of this 
command, reprove vice, and preach to you, undefiled, 
the religion of your fathers." 

From that occasion to the end. Father Ouellet 
enjoyed the esteem and confidence of the entire body 
of men composing the organization of which he was 
in part the spiritual guide. No matter at what time, 
or how much it would inconvenience him, he was 
always ready for duty. On the march, in bivouac, or 
in battle, Father Ouellet was distinguished for zeal, 
and indefatigable in the performance of his sacred 
mission. He was an intense lover of the Union and 


believed in the war for the suppression of the rebell- 
ion. He hated cant and duplicity. Honesty of pur- 
pose, combined with a high belief in true Christian 
character, always guided this remarkable man. 

Father Ouellet was in build small of stature and 
lithe of frame, but immense in energy. He loved his 
sacred calling, and never neglected its important 
duties. During Gen. McClellan's famous seven days' 
retreat before Richmond, he was always to the front 
on every occasion ministering to the wounded, and 
always predicting, to those who happened to be faint- 
hearted, the certainty of final success. It was after 
this terrible trial of the Army of the Potomac that 
Father Ouellet made use of two expressions that are 
to-day in the mouth of every soldier who served in 
that army; and we doubt if one out of a hundred 
knows the author. On the first Sunday after the 
retreat to Harrison's Landing, after the permanent 
establishment of the camp, the good priest, in his usual 
energetic manner, had a chapel erected and sum- 
moned the brigade to attend Mass. Father Corby was 
the celebrant, and Father Ouellet was to preach the 
sermon of the day. The men were tired, and, as it 
was about breakfast time, some of them sat down in 
their shelter tents, placing their repast outside, as 
there was but little room inside the modern army tent 
for any purpose but to lie down. The energetic 
priest noticed the action of the backsliders, and, 
suddenly descending from the hill where the church 
was situated, walked along the company streets and 


kicked the vessels containing the coffee over, spilling 
their contents, amid the general howls of the hungry 
soldiers. He then ascended the altar and addressed 
the assembled veterans as follows: "I know all who 
are regardless of your regimental designation. I can 
tell the good and bad of you. The good came here 
this morning to thank God for their deliverance from 
death, and the rest who remained to satisfy their 
appetites were fellows that were coffee-coolers and 
skedaddlers during our retreat." Ever afterward, 
there was little necessity for the chaplain to call the 
attention of the men when circumstances permitted 
the celebration of the Mass. They all attended, 
particularly if Father Ouellet was in camp. 

Father Ouellet was loved by all that remained of 
the Irish Brigade, and respected by every member of 
the Second Army Corps, from the gallant commander, 
W. S. Hancock, to the humblest private in the ranks. 


[From Notes by St. John Dwyer, Sixty-third New York.] 
In December, 1862, Burnside stormed the heights 
of Fredericksburg with 50,000 men — the Right 
Grand Division of the Army of the Potomac. The 
attack was a total failure, as was the attempt of 
Franklin's Left Grand Division, below the city 
proper, to turn the Confederates' right flank. On 
the night of the 15th, the ill-fated but gallant army 


recrossed the Rappahannock, on the ponton-bridges, 
leaving the city filled with the Union wounded, and 
the slopes of Mary's Heights littered with the heroic 

The morning of December 16 found the troops 
occupying their old camps again, minus 12,353 
men than when they were there less than one 
week previous. (Union loss: Killed, 1,180; wounded, 
9,028; missing, 2,145—12,353. Confederate loss: 
Killed, 579; wounded, 3,870; missing, 127—4,576.) 
It was discouraging to the men; and, besides, they 
were compelled to rebuild their huts in many 
instances, having destroyed them when leaving. 
Not an officer or man in the army believed for a 
moment that we should be under the necessity of 
re-occupying our temporary homes. 

Passing an abandoned winter hut on the morning 
of the 16th, the attention of the writer was attracted 
to the efforts of an individual to put his house in 
order once more. The sides were there, but the 
canvas roof was missing, as were its frail rafters. It 
proved to be Father Thomas Ouellet, chaplain of the 
Sixty-ninth New York, of the Irish Brigade. The 
writer reined up a moment to witness the novel sight 
— a priest rebuilding his " homestead" unaided! He 
made sorry work of it, but appeared to be in no way 
disconcerted. Addressing him, the writer said: 

"Good-morning, Father Ouellet." 

"Oh, good-morning. Lieutenant." 

"I fear. Chaplain, you are but an indifferent car- 
penter. The Sixty-ninth men would be only too 


glad to do that work for you. Why don't you ask 
Adjutant Smith for a detail?" 

"Indeed, he furnished me with a detail, but the 
poor fellows are so used up with our experience at 
the Heights, there are hardly enough of them left to 
put up their own huts, and furnish men for guards 
and picket. They would willingly help me, but I 
sent them away." 

"Then let me send you a dozen men of the Sixty- 
third. Several of them are carpenters." 

" Thank you very much, Lieutenant. But, I am 
sorry to say, you are no better off than the Sixty - 
ninth boys. You have not 100 men left in your 
whole regiment. You passed me Wednesday on the 
dock over in Fredericksburg, as you came out of 
the fight." 

The good man was correct. The Sixty-third did 
not muster fifty muskets after the assault. 

As I turned to leave, seeing that he would not 
accept the proffered aid, he remarked: 

"I will get along slowly; all I want is a roof to 
keep out the cold and rain." 

He did "get along" in some way, as toward even- 
ing the tent roof was in place, his sheet-iron stove 
going, and he was apparently as happy as though he 
were in a cozy rectory in a northern city. 

I put my head in at the door and remarked: 

" I see you are all right again. Father. ' Where 
there's a will there's a way!'" 



He laughed and invited me in to enjoy the warmth 
of his " home," which could not compare with that 
of the humblest private. 

Father Ouellet was in the terrible carnage of the 
Seven Days on the Peninsula. Soldiers who wit- 
nessed the scene tell that when bullets came thick 
and fast he was there, and paid no attention to the 
danger, announcing that he was not only a soldier 
of McClellan's army, but that he was also a soldier 
of Christ An incident which occurred at the battle 
of Malvern Hill is related by Major Haverty. The 
soldiers were in a fierce conflict and were fighting 
and firing by the light of Confederate guns and 
bursting shells. Father Ouellet, with his stole on 
and a lantern in his hand, was out at the very front 
of the line of battle. To the wounded he would say: 
*'Are you a Catholic? and do you wish absolution?" 
One man, whom he asked, was badly wounded, but 
replied: "No, but I would like to die in the faith of 
any man who has the courage to come and see me in 
such a place as this." 

Father Ouellet gave the poor man conditional 
baptism, and then went on in his work of mercy, giving 
the wounded absolution, and exhorting them to have 
courage and to put their trust in Christ, who, for 
love of them, was wounded so " there was not a sound 
spot in Him." The love which the "boys" had for 
Father Ouellet could be equalled only by his zeal for 
their salvation. Father Ouellet resigned in 1862, and 
re-enlisted in 1864, as has been stated in a previous 




THE Keverend Paul E. Gillen, one of the Fathers 
of Holy Cross, left Notre Dame in the early part 
of the war of '61-5 to accomplish what good he could 
among the soldiers in the Army of the Potomac. In 
the beginning he accepted no commission and wanted 
none. A commission, in his opinion, would be an 
impediment rather than a help to his work, wishing 
to be free to pass from one portion of the army to 
another. He had a singular faculty for finding the 
Catholic soldiers, and among them he did a remark- 
able amount of good. His way of going through 
the army was thoroughly practical, and by his own 
ingenious plans he had a very successful time of it 
until Gen. Grant spoiled his fun. The mode of 
travel adopted by him was this. Having secured a 
strong horse he purchased also an old-fashioned, flat- 
bottomed rockaway in Washington, D. C. From 
this vehicle he had the front seat removed and from 
the back seat he drove his faithful horse whom he 
called "Sarsfield." In this rockaway were trans- 
ported a few army blankets for sleeping purposes, a 



small amount of provisions, a chapel tent — con- 
structed according to his own architectural plan — 
and a folding altar. In this conveyance he lived. 
He travelled in it by day and slept in it at night. 
By turning the " north-end," as he. called it, to the 
storm, after the fashion of the buffalo in the West, 
he could stand against the chilling winds with great 

Father Paul Gillen, before his ordination and 
before the war, was well known in Virginia for his 
piety and general zeal. Being a man "in whom 
there was no guile," he seemed to have the freedom 
of the State, war or no war. Once, during the war, 
he fell into the hands of the notorious Mosby men; 
but when they learned who he was they let him go, 
taking nothing from him, but sent him on his way 
rejoicing. In 1862, after his chapel tent was finished 
in Philadelphia, he went to get it and take it with 
him to the front. He tied it to the center of a long 
"tent pole," and, moreover, had some clothing, a 
small demijohn of Mass wine, and a quantity of 
prayer-books and other articles, suspended also from 
the pole. All this was quite bulky and pretty heavy. 
He induced a friend (B. E.) to help him carry it to 
the railroad depot. Placing one end of the pole on 
his friend's shoulder and the other on his own, they 
started through Philadelphia at half-past eleven 
o'clock, p.m. All this was done so as not to keep a 
poor expressman out late at night, but principally to 
save expenses. Our good men got on well enough 


until they reached a business street, where some police- 
men, not asleep, regarded the proceeding with suspi- 
cion. *' How is it that these men are carrying so mach 
plunder at midnight?" they asked. Our travelers 
were arrested and taken to the lock-up. I must say 
when the police heard the simple story, examined the 
goods in question, and learned the use to which they 
were to be put, they were much ashamed of the 
arrest; still they felt that they had only done their 
duty. Of course Father Gillen was not only released, 
but helped and directed on the balance of his journey 
to the depot. 

His work in the army consisted in going from 
regiment to regiment, and wherever he found a 
few dozen Catholics, there he "pitched his tent," 
staid a day or two, heard all their confessions, cele- 
brated holy Mass, and communicated those ready to 
receive. Then "striking his tent" he pushed on to 
another regiment. After a time he acquired a perfect 
knowledge of the various organizations which had no 
Catholic chaplain, and he made compacts to attend 
them periodically, as far as practicable. Ma j.- Gen. 
Hancock often met good Father Gillen on the march, 
and, although he perhaps never spoke to him, he still 
conceived a great admiration for the venerable priest 
who showed such zeal and earnest unselfishness 
in his labor of love. Frequently I had occasion to 
see Gen. Hancock on business, as he was my corps 
commander, and he invariably inquired after the 
health and welfare of Father Gillen. But after a 


time, a general order was issued, forbidding any 
"citizen" to come, and remain within army limits, 
and, as he was not commissioned, he came under this 
order. Moreover, the same order excluded all vehicles 
which were not provided for by the army regulations 
— under this came Father Gillen's rockaway. One 
day, at a distance, Grant saw the strange -looking 
land-boat in which Father Gillen was making his 
way, and ordered him arrested and sent out, rockaway 
and all. After this, Father Gillen went to the Cor- 
coran Legion, then at Norfolk, Va., and accepted a 
commission of one of the regiments of that organiza- 
tion. They were only too glad to receive the experi- 
enced war chaplain. In this command he labored 
with marked success, and gave general satisfaction 
until the end of the war. He was beloved and 
respected by Catholics and non-Catholics. He could 
do double the work, and endured twice as much 
hardship as ourselves — much younger men and much 
more pretentious. Father Gillen, C. S. C, lived and 
labored many years after the war, and finally died, 
at an advanced age, on October 20, 1882. He is 
buried within gunshot of where I write these lines, 
under the shadow of the cross, his banner in the 
army of Jesus Christ, carried fearlessly and zealously 
in the desperate struggle against sin and Satan. 

I regret I have not material for a longer history of 
good Father Gillen's labors. I give only what came 
to my personal knowledge ; and, as most of the time 
we were in very different parts of the army, I did not 


learn as much as I could wish. Perhaps, when these 
lines go out in print, some friendly war companion, 
who knew him intimately in his army work, may 
give many more interesting facts concerning him. 
Besides, I am in hopes that what I write in this 
modest book will serve to refresh the memories of 
officers and men, and induce them to give their 
experiences on many points touched apon, as I am 
now jotting down simply my own observations and 
impressions, so indelibly printed on the tablets of my 
memory that I shall not forget them until I forget 
my prayers. 


The following facts were furnished by the Rev. Constantine 
L. Egan, O. P. They are full of interest, and one can not help 
admiring the noble self-sacrificing spirit with which he fulfilled 
his arduous duties. He entered the service as a regular chap- 
lain in September, 1863, and would have entered in the early 
part of the war had he realized the great want in the army of 
Catholic chaplains. W. G. 

Toward the end of August, 1863, a messenger 
came to our convent, in Washington City, from the 
War Department, asking me to call at the department 
the next morning. I called, as requested, and was 
informed by Gen. James A. Hardee, then assistant 
secretary of war, that Gen. Meade had dispatched to 
the secretary of war to send, if possible, a Catholic 
priest down to the army, to minister to two of the 
five soldiers who were to be shot on the Saturday 
following for the crime of desertion. I told him 1 
would willingly comply with the request, so he gave 
me a pass, and the next day I started, taking the train 
at Alexandria, Va. 

Having arrived at Bealton Station, a few miles 
north of the Rappahannock River, I was met by a 


;' / 

rp:v. c. l. egan, u. p., 
Ex-Chaplain 9th Massachusetts Vol. 


chaplain of the One Hundred and Eighteenth Penn- 
sylvania Volunteers, and escorted to the headquarters 
of his regiment. He introduced me to Col. Herring, 
commander of said regiment, who received me very 
kindly, and gave orders to the guards to let me have 
free access to the prisoners. I went to the tent 
where the prisoners were confined, heard their con- 
fessions that evening, and came back to the colonel's 
tent. He kindly tendered me his hospitality ; told me 
I was to sleep in his tent that night, and while I 
remained with his regiment in the performance of 
the sad mission for which I had been called. Thank- 
ing him, I accepted his hospitality. 

Next morning a tent was erected, where I said 
Mass for the condemned men, and administered to 
them Holy Communion, I spending the greater part of 
that day with them in their tent. Next morning I 
celebrated Mass for them, and both men received 
Holy Communion. During the forenoon, prepara- 
tions were going on for their execution. About one 
o'clock, the Fifth Corps, to which the prisoners 
belonged, were drawn up on a slope of a hill, from 
which all could witness the execution. Then a death 
procession, composed of the culprits, a Jewish rabbi. 
Chaplain O'Neil, a Methodist preacher, myself, the 
guard, the shooting party, and the band, playing a 
solemn dirge, passed down the line, and halted in 
front of the graves. 

The religious belief of the prisoners varied; one 
was a Jew, two were Methodists, and two were 


Italian Catholics. We were allowed fifteen minutes 
to pray, and the poor doomed men made good use of 
the short time they had to live in the fervency of 
their prayers to Almighty God. The time having 
expired, the officer in charge of the soldiers detailed 
for the shooting placed a white bandage over the 
eyes of each prisoner, read the death-warrant, and 
gave the order to his company: "Make ready! Aim! 
Fire!" Down fell the five men on their coffins, on 
which they sat, and in less than three minutes they 
were pronounced dead by the surgeon of the regi- 
ment. Their lifeless bodies were placed in coffins 
and lowered to their graves; then the troops marched 
back to their camps, with the bands playing merry 

After performing the funeral service over the 
graves of the two men, Col. Patrick Guiney, of the 
Ninth Massachusetts Volunteers, invited me to his 
regiment. The Ninth Massachusetts enlisted at the 
commencement of the Rebellion, with Father Scully 
as their chaplain; but he, on account of bad health, 
had been compelled to resign. This regiment was 
composed entirely of Irishmen. After Father Scully 
left them, they had no priest; nor, in fact, was there 
any priest in the Fifth Army Corps, nor in any of the 
whole Army of the Potomac, except Father William 
Corby, C. S. C, who was chaplain in Meagher's 
brigade, in the Second Army Corps. Father Corby 
joined the army after the breaking out of the war, 
and remained as chaplain of the Eighty -eighth New 
York, Irish Brigade, until the war terminated. 


Next day being Sunday, I said Mass for the Ninth 
regiment, and announced, after Mass, that I would 
remain with them during the week, thus giving them 
an opportunity to approach the Holy Sacraments; 
during each day of the week I would hear confessions 
in the tent chapel erected for me, and on each morn- 
ing, at seven o'clock, would say Mass. That evening 
Col. Guiney and myself rode to the headquarters of 
Gen. Griffin, commander of the First Division of the 
Fifth Army Corps. The general received us very 
cordially. I said to him that I would remain eight or 
ten days in the army in order to give the Catholic 
soldiers of his division an opportunity of attending 
their religious duties. He said he was glad I could 
do so, adding that it seemed to him very strange 
that his division was left without a Catholic priest, so 
many of the soldiers in his command being Catholics. 
He then issued an order suspending the drill during 
the week, in order, as he said, "to let the Catholic 
soldiers in his division attend their religious duties." 
I thus spent ten days on this mission, hearing 
soldiers' confessions each day, celebrating Mass each 
morning, and administering Communion to all who 
were at confession the previous day, thus giving to 
all an opportunity of approaching the Holy Sacra- 
ments, of which opportunity not only the soldiers of 
the Ninth regiment availed themselves, but numbers 
of the three divisions of the Fifth Corps. My 
mission then being finished, I prepared to leave for 

Previous to my departure. Col. Patrick Guiney 


and the officers and soldiers of his regiment, and 
many others from the Fifth Corps, came to me, and 
entreated me to remain in the army, saying: *'It 
is not just or religious to have so many Catholic 
soldiers, subject as they are every day to the danger 
of death, without the services of a priest;" that 
they were fighting in a just cause, to presei-ve the 
integrity of the United States Government they 
loved so well, which gave them a friendly welcome 
and a home when driven from their own native land 
by the tyranny of a cruel and oppressive government, 
such as England had always been to them. Seeing, 
therefore, the need of my services in the army — the 
good I could do for such brave men — and being 
myself patriotic in the cause — sharing the feelings 
and sentiments of my own countrymen — I told Col. 
Guiney I would become their chaplain; but it was 
necessary for me, first of all, to get permission from 
the Provincial of my Order. On my return to Wash- 
ington, I met our Provincial, and earnestly entreated 
him to give me permission to accept a chaplaincy in 
the army, pointing out to him the great need of a 
priest's services. He willingly granted me this per- 
mission, giving me a letter to that effect, of which 
the following is a copy: 

" St. Dominic's Church, Washington, D. C, 
" September 13, 1863. 
*' From motives of Christian charity to the soldiers of the 
Army of the Potomac, I freely grant permission to the Rev. 
Constantine L. Egan of our Order to accept the chaplaincy of 
the Ninth Massachusetts Regiment. M. A. O'Brien, 

" Vice Provincial of the Province of St Joseph's, " 


I wrote immediately to Col. Guiney to procure my 
commission as chaplain of his regiment. Some time 
after, I was asked by the Secretary of War to go to 
Gen. Newton's corps, which was camped near Cul- 
pepper Court House, Va., to minister to another 
deserter sentenced by court-martial to be shot. I 
started the next morning, and reached Gen. Newton's 
headquarters about ten o'clock that night. The gen- 
eral told me I had better see the prisoner soon, 
as he would certainly be shot the next morning. I 
started at once to where the prisoner was confined, 
heard his confession, and staid the remainder of 
that night at Gen. Robinson's headquarters. Next 
morning I said Mass for the prisoner in the provost- 
marshal's tent, administering to the poor condemned 
man Holy Communion. Afterward, I was invited by 
the provost-marshal to partake of a cup of coffee and 
some hard-tack — such as he had for breakfast him- 
self. After breakfast, the provost-marshal commenced 
loading the twelve rifles for the shooting party, 
one of the rifles being loaded with a blank cartridge 
only — the other eleven were loaded with bullets. 
After a while, an ambulance was in readiness, accom- 
panied by a squad of soldiers to guard the prisoner 
to the place of execution. The prisoner was placed 
in the ambulance, and I took my place by his side. 
During the sad journey, of about two miles, we w^ere 
occupied saying the rosary and litanies, the poor 
prisoner praying with much fervor during the short 
time he had to live. 


Arriving at the place of execution, we saw a 
coffin ready and a grave prepared for the reception 
of the poor soldier's remains, and the whole of the 
First Army Corps drawn up in a position to witness 
the prisoner's death. We got a few minutes to pray, 
and before the white bandage was placed over his 
eyes, the prisoner stood up, and in a steady voice 
said: "I ask pardon of all whom I have offended; 
I forgive every one who has offended or injured me; 
boys, pray for me." 

The officer then read the death-warrant, and placing 
the white bandage over the prisoner's eyes, gave the 
order to the firing party: "Make ready! Aim! Fire!" 
The poor soldier fell on his coffin, and death was 
almost instantaneous. After the burial service was 
performed, I went to the corps' headquarters, where 
I got dinner, and after that was escorted in an 
ambulance to the railroad, and returned some time at 
night to Washington. 

A few days after this, I received a letter from 
Col. Guiney, with my commission as chaplain from 
Gov. Andrews, of Massachusetts. I then made prep- 
arations to join my regiment, procuring a light set 
of \estments and things necessary for divine service, 
and started as soon as I could, joining my regiment 
in the vicinity of Warrenton, Va. During the month 
of October our corps had considerable marching 
from one point to another, and on the 14th we had 
a sharp battle at Bristow Station, repulsing the 
enemy, who left their dead and wounded on the 


field. We captured several hundred pr.isoners and 
seven guns — two of wliicli the Confederates subse- 
quently recovered. During the remainder of October 
not much fighting was done, but on November 7 
a battle was fought at Eappahannock Station and 
Kelly's Ford, in which our troops were victorious, 
capturing four guns and 2,000 stands of arms, 
and about one thousand six hundred officers and men 
were taken prisoners. We remained here in camp 
until November 24. On this morning we broke 
camp, and marched in the direction of the Rapidan 
River, but, on account of the violence of a rainstorm 
that set in, we countermarched and returned to our 
old quarters, where we remained until the 26th. 

When we again marched from our headquarters 
toward the Rapidan, we crossed at Culpepper Ford, 
moving on the Culpepper plank-road. On the even- 
ing of this day, Greg's cavalry, in our advance, had 
a sharp fight, in which many of the troopers fell. The 
wounded were gathered into Newhope church, where 
I spent a good part of the night ministering to the 
wounded and dying. I recollect a kind-hearted sur- 
geon, belonging to the cavalry, who held a lighted 
candle for me as I was reading the prayers of the 
ritual in administering extreme unction to the dying 
men. On the 29th, we advanced to Mine Run and 
formed a line of battle, and bivouacked for the night. 
The enemy were posted on the east side, about one 
mile from the stream called Mine Run, on a center 
ridge nearly one hundred feet above the surface of 


the stream. -Their works could easily be seen by us 
posted on the west ridge of the run. They were 
strongly fortified, their works bristling with abatis, 
infantry parapets, and epaulements for batteries. About 
three o'clock on the evening of the 30th, the order 
was given to charge the enemy's line. At four o'clock 
the soldiers stacked their knapsacks, so that the field 
resembled a meadow covered with stacks in the shape 
of soldiers' knapsacks, overcoats, etc., piled in large 

Seeing the danger of death before us, I asked the 
colonel to form his regiment into a solid square so that 
I could address the men. He did so. I then spoke 
to them of their danger, and entreated them to prepare 
for it by going on their knees and making a sincere 
Act of Contrition for their sins, with the intention of 
going to confession if their lives were spared. As the 
regiment fell on their knees, other Catholic soldiers 
broke from their ranks and joined us, so that in less 
than two minutes I had the largest congregation I 
ever witnessed before, or even since. Having pro- 
nounced the words of General Absolution to be given 
in such emergencies and danger, I spoke a few words 
of encouragement to them, exhorting them to remem- 
ber that they were fighting in a just cause to preserve 
the integrity of the United States Government, which 
had never committed an act of tyranny toward any 
of its citizens; that they were fighting the battle of 
liberty, justice, and even for the rights of humanity 
itself, not only for those under our own government 


but for the poor oppressed of all nations; that the 
tyrannical and oppressive governments of Europe 
were aiding and abetting in every way possible the 
misguided people of the South in their revolt against 
the best of governments; that England, who largely 
fomented the Rebellion by her emissaries in this 
country, hypocritically crying out against the bar- 
barity of slavery, was now aiding, by her cursed, 
ill-gotten gold, the Southern people to maintain in 
perpetual slavery 4,000,000 human beings. All 
this in order to divide us and break up our glorious 
principle of self-government, wrested from her tyran- 
nical hand by the brave heroes of the Revolution, 
who won for us our inheritance of liberty. 

After talking to the soldiers and finishing my 
remarks, they arose from their knees, grasping their 
muskets with a firm clinch, and went back to their 
respective commands, awaiting the hour to expire 
to make the assault. In the meantime, Maj.-Gen. 
Warren, who made a closer reconnoissance of the 
enemy's works than he had made the day before, 
when he urged Gen. Meade to make a general assault 
on the enemy's works, now reported that their works 
were so strong they could not betaken. Accord- 
ingly, Gen. Meade, being a prudent, humane, and 
cautious man, rescinded the order, which saved his 
army; for if the attack had been made, our army 
would have been slaughtered worse than it had been 
the year before at Fredericksburg. A retrograde 
movement was decided upon, however, and the next 



evening at nightfall we retreated, the Fifth Corps in 
the advance, and crossed the Rapidan. In the morn- 
ing, about two hours before daylight, we bivouacked 
on the north bank of the Rapidan, and, after resting a 
few hours, resumed our march, crossing the Eappa- 
hannock on December 3, and camped along the 
Orange & Alexandria railroad for its protection, 
where we remained until the month of March follow- 

Previous to our march to Mine Run, I received a 
petition from the Fourteenth regulars to visit their 
brigade and minister to their spiritual wants; but on 
account of the movements of the army and camp 
rumors that were rife of an immediate move of the 
whole army toward Richmond, I could not comply 
with their request. The following is a copy of the 
petition I received: 

"Camp near Bealton, Va., Nov. 14, 18G3. 
"Reverend AND Dear Sir:— At the requestof several Catholic 
soldiers, with my brother officers, who are Catholics, I have 
ventured to urge your paying the regiment, the Fourteenth 
U. S. Infantry, v\rith which I am connected, a visit. You, no 
doubt, are aware that a majority of the enlisted men composing 
the troops of the regular army are of our, the Catholic, faith, 
and that there is a respectable number of officers included in 
its membership. We are without a chaplain, and have had no 
visitation from one since Father Tissot, S. J., left the field- 
nearly nine months ago. This gentleman, at that time chaplain 
of the Thirty-seventh N. Y. Volunteers, visited our regiment 
and brigade at such hours as he had convenient opportunity, 
and was always welcomed and appreciated with the same 
apparent warmth by the dissenters as by the sons of the 
Church. His missions were undoubtedly productive of good, 


and I shall be exceedingly glad if you can, like him, visit us, 
even if you can not devote as much time as he did. A soldier 
of the company I command, was yesterday, I fear, fatally 
wounded by accident. He has begged pitifully for a priest, and 
we know of no other one than yourself in our corps to ask to 
come and see him. Will you come ? I am with respect, 

" Yours sincerely, ^ 

" Rev. C. L. Egan, I.F.Miller, 

'*Ninth Majs. Vols. Capt Fourteenth U. S. Infantry." 

After settling down in winter-quarters, I decided 
to visit the brigade of regulars, who were mostly 
Catholics, and also other brigades of the Fifth Army 
Corps. A corps is divided into three divisions, each 
division into three brigades, and each brigade into 
five regiments. During the winter I gave missions 
through the whole corps, pitching my little chapel 
tent in each brigade, having a soldier with me from 
my own regiment to take care of my horse, cook our 
rations, and, of course, do our washing in as good 
style as a big, rough Irish soldier could perform an 
art to which he was unaccustomed. 

Finishing my visits and missionary duties in this 
corps, I moved on in the month of February, 1864, 
to Culpepper, where the First Army Corps, com- 
manded by Maj.-Gen. John Newton, was camped. 
Also in that vicinity were several brigades of cavalry 
under the command of Gens. Custer, Merritt, and 
McKenzie. Calling on Gen. Newton, I told him I 
came from my own regiment to perform missionary 
duties for the Catholic soldiers in his command, 
knowing there was no Catholic priest in his corps. 


He said he was very glad, and thanked me for doing 
so, at the same time remarking, that he was very much 
chagrined and displeased with the Catholic bishops 
for their gross neglect of the Catholic soldiers, whom 
they left, subject as they were every day to death, 
without the service of a priest to administer to them 
in their dying moments the Last Sacraments. The 
general ordered for me a tent and a requisition from 
the quartermaster for forage for my horse, telling me 
if I needed anything he would most willingly have my 
wants supplied, in order to help on the good work in 
which I was engaged. 

My tent was pitched where the greater number of 
the troops were camped, each day hearing confes- 
sions, celebrating Mass the following morning, and 
administering Communion to those at Confession the 
day previous. Having finished my mission in the 
First Army Corps, and also in the cavalry brigades, 
where I met a large number of Catholics, especially 
among the New York regiments, I returned in the 
month of March to my regiment, thereby giving them 
an opportunity to prepare and put their souls in 
order for the danger to be met during the summer 
campaign. Gen. Grant, and Sheridan, his chief 
lieutenant, were now destined to take command of 
the Army of the Potomac. According to camp talk, 
there would soon be hard fighting under these gen- 
erals; no more retreating and falling back as there 
had been during the previous year. Gen. Lee would 
not be permitted to follow his old tactics of whipping 


and driving us back, and then sending the prime of 
his army to reinforce other points of the Confederate 
army as he did at Chicamauga, when, driving Meade's 
army to Centerville, Va., in the month of September, 
he sent Longstreet's heavy corps of veterans to aid 
Bragg against Rosecrans at Chicamauga. 

On April 28, 1864, we broke camp, marched 
to the Rappahannock, and bivouacked for the night; 
next morning, crossing the river, we marched to 
Brandy Station and camped there for about four 
days. The Sixth Army Corps were all camped in 
that vicinity. I erected my chapel tent in order to 
give the Catholics of the Sixth Corps, who had no 
priest, an opportunity of approaching the holy 
sacraments, hearing confessions each day and a 
good part of the night, and giving them Communion 
each morning at Mass. On May 3, in the after- 
noon, we received orders to march, the army moving in 
the direction of Culpepper. About sundown our 
corps halted, lighted our camp-fires, cooked our sup- 
per, got our little dog tents, as they were called, in 
readiness, and went to sleep. About midnight we 
were aroused from our slumbers and told to move 
quickly. In about fifteen minutes we were in 
motion, moving to the left in the direction of the 
Rapidan river. At daybreak we reached the river, 
crossing at Germania Ford and advancing about five 
miles, where our column halted on the Lacy farm, 
and bivouacked near the Lacy House the remainder 
of that day and night. 


On the next morning, May 5, our corps was 
ordered to move to Parker's store, five miles distant 
southwest of our camping ground. We had 
advanced about one mile when we were attacked by 
an unlooked-for advance of Confederate infantry 
under Gen. Hill. Getting into position as best 
we could, the battle commenced, striking heavily 
against Gen. Griffin's division, in which division was 
my regiment. In about ten minutes my regi- 
ment lost, in killed and wounded, 150 offi- 
cers and men, among whom were Col. Guiney, 
who received a bullet in the right eye, and Capts. 
Phelan and McNamara, who, in advance of their 
companies, were urging their men to retake the guns 
which the rebels had captured from one of our 
batteries. Capt. Phelan was killed instantly; 
Capt. McNamara was brought off the field alive, 
but died that night. In the rear, a corps field hos- 
pital was established in an old deserted farm-house. 
Here the wounded were gathered. I got as many 
of the wounded officers and men of my regiment into 
the old house as could find room, and the rest were 
put under cover of the tents. After attending to 
their spiritual wants and alleviating their bodily 
suffering as much as I could, my services were 
needed by other Catholics belonging to our corps. 
The ambulances came in droves bringing in the 
wounded all day and far into the night. Surgeons 
were busy at work amputating broken limbs; men 
were employed digging long trenches where we 


buried our dead. All this was fearful to see, and 
it was awful to hear the groans and screams of our 
wounded men, wrestling all night in their agony. 
At daylight next morning. May 6, the shrill rattle 
of musketry was heard in our front and soon extended 
along the line. This was to be the great day of 
test between the two armies, for both had resolved 
to take the offensive. 

It might be called almost a hand-to-hand fight 
the day through, between the two conflicting lines 
of men, who were irregularly formed among the 
dense thickets, and swayed back and forth dur- 
ing the whole day, first at one point and then at 
another. But the most desperate effort of the enemy 
was made just at night-fall, the rebels making a 
furious dash on our extreme right, and driving 
before them two entire brigades. The rebels were 
soon checked and compelled to fall back, but suc- 
ceeded in taking with them about four thousand 
prisoners. If they had succeeded in turning our 
right wing, which was their object, our whole army 
would have been severed from its supplies across the 
Rapidan, and our defeat would have been almost 
inevitable. Thus ended the battle of the Wilderness, 
which was indecisive. 

Both armies rested upon their arms in their 
respective positions on the field. During this day 
our field hospital of the Fifth Army Corps was greatly 
crowded by the numbers of wounded men who were 
brought off the field. I suppose we must have had 


in the neighborhood of at least four thousand men. 
Early next morning some guns opened fire on the 
right of our line, but there was no reply. As Gen. 
Lee had intrenched his whole front and was unwill- 
ing to fight except behind his breastworks, Grant 
resumed his march to Spottsylvania Court House. 
And our corps started, preceded by cavalry. During 
the day we were confronted by Longstreet's Corps 
where we lost heavily, in all about fifteen hundred 
officers and men. The loss in my own regiment in 
this fight, in killed and wounded, was also very 

Next day. May 8, commenced the battle of Spott- 
sylvania, which lasted from the 8th until the 19th 
of May. Our corps field hospital was established in 
the rear, about the center of our whole army line 
of battle, with Hancock on the right, Sedgwick on 
the left, and Warren commanding our corps in the 
center. In the afternoon the battle became furious, 
ambulances bringing in the wounded until a late 
hour that night. The next day, the 9th, opened com- 
paratively quiet ; but in the afternoon there was sharp 
skirmishing at various points of the line. On this 
evening Gen. Sedgwick was killed — a great loss to 
his corps, and severely felt by the army. The morn- 
ing of the 10th, a sharp cannonade commenced, 
preparatory for a general attack to be made along 
the entire line. The battle during the whole day 
was furious, yet indecisive in its results. 


On the 11th, it rained very heavily during the day, 
and all remained quiet until the afternoon, when some 
slight skirmishing took place. On May 12, it was 
fearful; the rain falling heavily, the dark clouds 
lighted now and then by flashes of lightning, and 
the loud peals of thunder were hardly to be dis- 
tinguished from the roaring of the cannons. Ambu- 
lances came from every direction, plowing their way 
as best they could through the undergrowth and 
brush. Surgeons had their long tables, practising 
their art in sawing off the broken limbs of our brave 
soldiers. The fighting on this day was of the most 
obstinate nature until after dark; was renewed again 
about nine o'clock, and continued off and on, with 
more or less vigor, all night. 

On the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th, there was con- 
siderable marching and counter-marching in quest 
of a weak point on the enemy's defenses. On the 
18th, there was heavy fighting, but after that the 
army moved to the left and resumed next night its 
march to Richmond. On the 23d, Griffin's division 
of the Fifth Corps crossed the North Anna River 
at Jerico Ford and entrenched on the bank of the 
river in a kind of works hardly breast high, when 
we were soon attacked by a strong force of infantry, 
who were repulsed. We remained there that night 
until the Second Corps could cross at the Chester- 
field Bridge; but Hancock was confronted by a 
division of Longstreet's Corps on the south bank of 
the river. A vigorous attack was made by Egan and 


Pierce's brigades of Birney's division, who swept 
over the plain on the double-quick and swarmed over 
the parapets, driving out the garrison. The passage 
across the river was then quietly made by Hancock's 
Corps, on the south side of the river. 

Lee had chosen a strong position, having the inside 
track in the march, and crossing the North Anna 
before us. Grant, seeing that Lee's position was 
absolutely invulnerable, withdrew from the enemy's 
front and recrossed the river, taking our line of 
march on the road to Richmond. After about two 
days we reached the Pamunkey without loss, and 
crossed the river to Cold Harbor. But Gen. Lee, as 
usual, had a much shorter road and was already in 
a strong position in our front. Notwithstanding his 
strong position, our generals unwisely determined to 
assault his lines on June 3, an attack being ordered 
along the whole line, and in less than an hour 
10,000 of our brave fellows were either killed or 
wounded — more in proportion even among the killed 
than we had in any of our previous battles. 

Some hours after, Meade gave orders to the differ- 
ent corps commanders to renew the assault, but the 
men unanimously refused to obey his orders — know- 
ing it was murder to themselves to attempt it. A 
few days after, the time of my regiment's three 
years' service expired, so they were relieved from duty, 
and made preparations to return home to Boston. 
The day before we left, Gen. GrifRn sent for me. 
When I reported to him he said: "You ought not 


to leave the Catliolics in my division without the 
services of a priest." I told him I would like to 
remain, but it would be difficult for me to stay in 
the army without being connected with it officially. 
He told me to write out an application to the Presi- 
dent for a commission and that he would endorse it, 
and also get the commander of the Army of the 
Potomac to endorse the application. So I immedi- 
ately wrote out an application, which was sent to 
Washington for action. 



IN the meantime I returned to Boston with my 
regiment; but on account of some delay in the 
mustering out of the regiment, I went home to 
Washington before the formalities were gone through 
with, to make sure accompanying the army again, 
where I knew my services were so much needed by 
the Catholic soldiers. At Washington I met the 
Rev. James Dillon, C. S. C, on his way to City 
Point, Va., to join his regiment in the Second Corps. 
He had accompanied me to the army, but went home 
some time previous to this meeting to Notre Dame 
University, in a bad state of health; being, in fact, 
far gone in consumption; but his great zeal for the 
soldiers of his regiment, who needed his services, 
caused him to return to them again. 

He joined his regiment at their camp, before 
Petersburg, but could not remain; and, returning to 
Notre Dame, he died a short time afterward from the 
dire disease contracted in the army during the first 
two years of the war. He was truly a noble, self- 
sacrificing priest. 



A general field hospital now being established at 
City Point, where all the wounded soldiers of our 
army before Petersburg were being taken care of, I 
remained for some weeks attending to the spiritual 
wants of our Catholic soldiers until I received my 
commission from the war department. I then left 
the hospital and reported to Gen. Griffin, whose 
headquarters was about twenty miles distant, near 
the Weldon railroad. From this time to the ter- 
mination of the Rebellion, I remained attached to 
Gen. Griffin's staff, having full freedom to attend not 
only the Catholics of the Fifth Army Corps, but 
also those of the Ninth Army Corps, who had no 
Catholic chaplain among them from City Point. 
During the months of July and August, a railroad 
was built in the rear of our line up to the Weldon 
railroad, a distance of about twenty -three miles. 
This transit gave me free access to the general field 
hospital at City Point, and to the troops along the 
line, in breastworks and in forts, about one mile 
distant from each other. 

On the 80th of July heavy cannonading was heard 
in the evening all along our line. It was occasioned 
by the explosion of the mine before Petersburg, where 
a breach was made in the rebel lines, dashing into 
the air and killing several hundred poor human 
beings, leaving a great hollow or crater of loose earth 
150 feet long by 60 feet wide and 25 deep. The 
only thing efPected by this was a death-trap for our 
own brave men, who were massed into the gap of the 


crater and slaughtered or made prisoners of by the 
rebels. Our loss, in killed and wounded, in this affair 
was 4,400; while that of the enemy, including 300 
blown up in the fort, was barely one thousand. 

On the 18th of August our corps moved on to take 
the Weldon railroad, only about three miles distant. 
Advancing about a mile, the enemy was met and 
attacked; and, after a spirited fight on both sides, our 
men planted their colors on the railroad and held it, 
which was a great loss to the enemy. Our loss in 
this engagement was about one thousand, including 
200 prisoners, captured in the commencement of 
the fight. Everything remained quiet along the 
line until the 29th of September, when a movement 
was made to our left. Warren moved with two 
divisions of his corps, and two on the Ninth, under 
Gen. Park, with Greg's cavalry in advance, reaching 
the Squirrel Level road, and carrying two or three small 
works at different points. There was sharp fighting 
throughout this and the following day, we holding 
the newly gained ground and intrenching on it. 
Breastworks were immediately made to connect with 
our former position across the Weldon railroad. 
I — On the 27th of October another advance was made 
toward Hatchers' Run, but it failed in effecting its 
object, and ended with our whole army falling back 
to our old intrenchments before Petersburg, and 
thence to Warren's works, covering the Weldon rail- 
road and the Vaughn and Squirrel Level highways. 
During the months of January, February, and March 


there were few movements of the army, which gave 
me an opportunity of giving missions through the 
Fifth and Ninth Corps, holding our lines from near 
Hatchers' Run down to Fort Steadman on the way 
to City Point. 

On March 25, 1865, my missions ended at Fort 
Haskel. On the 24:th I heard confessions for 
about four hours in the fort, and early next morn- 
ing a place was erected for me in which to celebrate 
Mass. I began to say Mass before daylight on the 
25th, and, before finishing Mass, I heard some sharp 
rattling of musketry, followed by loud cannonading. 
I hurried through Mass and the administering of 
Communion to about sixty soldiers, then, getting my 
vestments together and placing them in my saddle 
bags, mounted my horse and rode out of the fort, 
just as the gunners were ordered to mount the para- 
pets. Fort Steadman, the next fort on the right, was 
attacked and taken by assault, the Confederates sur- 
prising the Fourteenth New York Artillery, who were 
in Fort Steadman, in front of which the Ninth Corps 
were camped. The fort was taken and carried at a 
single bound, and its guns turned on our troops. 
Three mortar batteries adjoining it were also taken; 
however, the rebel victory was of short duration, for 
our surrounding artillery, supported by the Ninth 
Corps, were brought to bear upon Fort Steadman, the 
fire of which became so hot that the victors had to 
abandon the fort, and many of them, afraid to recross 
the intervening space to their own lines, surrendered. 


When I returned to camp, meeting Gen. Griffin 
and staff in advance of the division, moving out after 
breaking camp, I fell in with the staff. Advancing 
about seven miles on the left towards Hatchers' Run, 
we were met by Gen. Meade and staff. Making 
short halt, Gen. Meade gave a verbal order, saying: 
" Griffin, you advance with your command and attack 
the enemy where you meet him. If you drive him 
do not go beyond the Boyton plank-road until you 
connect with the Second Corps." 

Immediately our line of battle was formed, with a 
skirmish line in our front, Bartlett's brigade on our 
right, Pearson's on the left, and Chamberlain's 
brigade in the center. Advancing about a mile 
through open fields, our skirmishers were met by the 
enemy, and, with sharp firing on both sides, our skir- 
mishers were driven back to the line of battle. The 
rebel infantry, advancing out of the woods with their 
accustomed rebel yell, came nearer to our line, and 
so impetuous were they, that one man would crowd 
before another, not keeping steady or closed ranks in 
their line of battle. On the other hand, our troops 
advancing slowly, and in a steady, closed line, took 
deliberate aim, our officers shouting to their men: 
*' Steady, close up, aim low." Griffin ordered our 
right and left wing to advance, as the rebels approached, 
seemingly determined to break through our center. 
Gen. Chamberlain, who held the center, advanced 
before the troops, waving his sword and shouting in 
a shrill voice: '' Forward, boys, forward." His horse 


was riddled with bullets and fell under him, he receiv- 
ing four wounds. Still he advanced before his com- 
mand, bleeding profusely from his wounds, but 
crying out and waving his sword to the soldiers with 
the command "Forward!" After a few volleys of 
steady firing from our line, the rebels recoiled and 
broke, falling back and running, with our men in 
pursuit of them. 

Surgeon De Witt, surgeon chief of our division, 
and myself viewed the battle as it was progressing, 
from a little elevated ground, where Gen. Griffin 
stood directing the fight. As soon as the battle was 
over. Surgeon De Witt ordered me to go back to the 
rear and give his commands to the division sur-, 
geons to hurry up and attend the wounded. Riding 
back about a mile I met the doctors and returned 
with them. After attending to the Catholics who 
were in danger of death, I helped the wounded into 
ambulances, which carried them back to the field 
hospital. It rained very heavily during the evening, 
but we succeeded in burying the dead, both our own 
and the Confederate. 

Returning from the field wet and weary, just at 
dark, seeking some place of shelter to bivouac for 
the night, the sentiments expressed by my country- 
man, the Irish poet. Col. O'Hara, under similar 
circumstances, came to mind: 



" The muffled drum's sad roll has beat 
The soldier's last tattoo ! 
No more on life's parade shall meet 

That brave and fallen few. 
On fame's eternal camping-ground 

Their silent tents are spread, 
And glory guards^with solemn round 
The bivouac of the dead! " 

We halted for the night in the old Lewis farm- 
house, deserted by its inhabitants the day before, our 
corps resting in front of the rebel intrenchments and 
covering the White Oak road. The Fifth Corps was 
placed by Gen. Grant under Gen. Sheridan's com- 
mand, and moved in the direction of Five Forks, 
-where Sheridan was and had been fighting, endeavor- 
ing to turn the right wing of Lee's army 

About three o'clock in the afternoon of April 1, 
Sheridan and staff rode over to where Griffin's divis- 
ion was resting a few minutes. After the day's 
march, Sheridan, alighting from his horse, drew out 
his plan of attack, tracing the lines on the dust of 
the road with the point of his sword, also showing 
Griffin the rebel position. The plan of battle was 
to attack the enemy's whole front, Merritt's two 
divisions to make a feint of turning the right flank 
of the enemy, while the Fifth Corps should vigor- 
ously assail his left. Having mounted his horse again, 
Sheridan remarked before starting: "Griffin, your 
right flank will be taken care of by McKenzie, who 
will be pushed over toward the Ford road and 
Hatchers' Run. We'll have them," he said, as he gave 


spurs to his horse, "in an Jiour and a half from 
this." And sure enough we had, capturing the 
rebel works and turning their right flank, which 
caused Lee the next night to leave his whole line of 
works before Petersburg. 

After the battle was over, De Witt, chief surgeon 
of the division, told me to take care of the wounded 
and to gather them over to a farm-house on the battle- 
field, and he would go after the doctors and bring 
them up as soon as he could. I rode along, collecting 
all the straggling soldiers who were on the field, and 
ordering them to take the wounded over to that house 
near by. The inhabitants had already left the house, 
locking the door. Breaking open the door, we got 
all the beds that we could find down on the first 
floor, and placed our dying soldiers on them and 
outside on the porch. The other wounded men were 
placed in rows on the ground inside the picket fence, 
inclosing an area of about half an acre or more 
around the house. 

All the linens and calicoes that could be found 
about the place were torn up in strips to bind the 
wounded limbs of our men and to keep them from 
bleeding to death until the surgeons could give them 
proper treatment. About twelve o'clock at night the 
surgeons and our ambulances arrived. I told my 
orderly to get our horses ready, for we should be 
obliged to go down to headquarters in order to be up 
with our command, as soon as they moved; for I 
knew that Sheridan would have us on the go before 


daylight. Seeing him on the evening of the battle 
riding from one division commander to another, as 
he was directing the whole movemxCnt along the line, 
it gave me an impression of his ceaseless activity of 
body, with his mind intently fixed on the business he 
had to do, and his indomitable will pledged to execute 
it. I, therefore, concluded there was very little rest for 
us until Sheridan had accomplished his work of cap- 
turing Lee's army, and so it happened. The advance 
was sounded next morning before daylight, Sheridan 
ordering our corps to connect with the army in the 
neighborhood of Sutherland Station. 

The next day we had a fatiguing march to Peters- 
burg, south of the Amelia Court Honse, where we 
arrived at sundown and spent the night until about 
eleven o'clock throwing up intrenchments across the 
Burks ville road. Meade's whole army joined us 
toward evening on the 5th. Gen. Lee's army, leaving 
the Amelia Court House, moved that night around 
on our left, striking out for Farmville, in order to 
recross the Appomattox and, if possible, escape his 
pursuers. He crossed the Appomattox on bridges at 
Farmville, marching all night, and leaving us well in 
the rear. But Sheridan, with his usual swiftness, 
headed him off and detained him by harassing his 
front, at one time capturing nearly the whole of 
Swell's corps — Ewell himself and six other generals 
being among the prisoners, of whom 0,000 fell into 
the hands of Sheridan's troopers. 

On the morning of April 8, our Corps, tlu^ Fifth, 


Gen. Griffin commanding, and Gen. Ord command- 
ing the Twenty-fifth Corps, with one division of the 
Twenty-fourth, made a forced march all day and 
night until about four o'clock in the morning, when 
we connected with Sheridan's cavalry, who were right 
in front of Lee's whole army across the railroad, 
liolding three train-loads of provisions — captured 
that night by Sheridan's cavalry — on their way to 
Lee's army. We bivouacked on the road and rested 
for about two hours, when the bugle sounded the 
advance at dawn of day. 

A line of battle was immediately formed. Gen. 
Ord on the left, and Gen. Griffin's corps on the 
right. The line of troops advanced to where Sher- 
idan's troopers were engaged with Lee's advance, 
endeavoring to cut their way through Sheridan's 
cavalry. As soon as our heavy lines of infantry 
came supporting Sheridan's cavalry, his troopers 
moved to the right and left flanks of the infantry 
line. The advancing rebel line of soldiers, seeing 
the heavy force of infantry before them, fell back 
gradually, while our troops steadily advanced after 

As I was riding behind the line, I noticed a wounded 
rebel soldier stretched on the ground. I alighted from 
my horse and went over to him to aid him spiritually 
if he wished, and if not, at least to render him all 
the temporal aid I could in consequence of his great 
suffering. He was in terrible pain, having been 
shot in the abdomen by his own officer. He told 


me that when the cavalry moved from their front, 
and a heavy line of infantry came before them, seeing 
that it was useless to contend further, he fell back. 
His officer at once ordered him to ''About face"; 
and, refusing to do so, the officer drew his revolver 
and shot him, leaving him there on the enemy's 

Examining his wound, I found it was fatal, and 
from his agony and suffering I concluded that the 
poor fellow had not long to live; I told him so and 
entreated him now to fight the last battle for Heaven. 
I asked him if he had ever been baptized, he replied 
in the negative. I told him that baptism was neces- 
sary in order to go to heaven, and he seemed willing 
to be baptized after the instructions I gave him. 
Then, laying hold of a canteen of water, I baptized 
him ''In the name of the Father, and of the ' Son, 
and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." 

After receiving baptism he uttered some very fer- 
vent ejaculatory prayers, saying: "Oh, my God 
forever have mercy on me!" The poor fellow was 
writhing in great pain and agony; I remained with 
him as long as I could and was sorry to leave him 
before he had breathed his last. But by this time 
our troops were out of sight and, not knowing where 
I should find them, I left the poor, dying soldier and 
followed up the command. After riding about a 
mile I overtook the troops and, seeing one of Sheri- 
dan's staff officers riding along the line, giving orders 
to the troops to "Halt!" and "Ground arms!" which 


orders were obeyed, I asked an officer what it all 
meant. He said that Gen. Gordon had come into 
our lines with a flag of truce, asking a little time to 
make the surrender. 

The troops laid down along the line and rested. 
Then they began cooking their rations ; that is, any of 
them that had rations to cook; for, after making 
forced marches since the battle of Five Forks, and 
fighting at intervals, their haversacks were light. 
About two o'clock it was formally announced to the 
troops that Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had 
surrendered. Their haversacks were then replen- 
ished by the commissary department, and, after 
getting a good meal, the soldiers went under their 
little dog tents to rest in peace, having no more fear 
of being attacked by Lee. The troops remained on 
the field that day and night; the next day also was 
spent there, many of the Union officers going over 
and mingling with the rebels, trading horses, and 
the rebel officers coming into our camps, spending 
the day, talking over the different battles, our offi- 
cers treating them to cigars and commissary whisky, 
and the best they had themselves. It was interest- 
ing to hear the brave combatants discussing matters 
in a friendly spirit about in the same manner as 
politicians discuss their political issues. 

In a few days the bulk of our army moved on 
their way to Kichmond. The Fifth Army Corps 
remained to receive the formal surrender of the 
Confederate arms. Maj.-Gen. Bartlett, commanding 


the first division of our corps, was ordered to per- 
form the honorable task, which was done a few days 
after Lee's surrender. The Confederate army moved 
from their camp in the usual routine of march, major 
generals and their staff officers at the head of their 
corps, division generals at the head of their divis- 
ions, brigade generals at the head of their com- 
mands, and colonels at the head of their regiments. 

The Union soldiers formed in line along the side 
of the road with fixed bayonets, Gen. Bartlett and 
staff at the end of the line. As each corps came up 
Gen. Bartlett, in a modest tone of voice, ordered them 
to "Halt, and about face," ''Plant your colors," 
"Stack arms and equipm^ents." This being done, 
the rebel veterans mingled with our veterans, who 
generously shared with them a part of their own 
rations. It was interesting to see them sitting in 
squads together, and to hear them talking over their 
former battles. I overheard a rebel soldier, saying, 
in a loud, emphatic voice: "It was that Irish devil, 
Sheridan, that did the work for you fellows. He 
was the only general you had who struck terror into 
us; but for him, this war would not be over yet: but 
now we are glad it is over, for we have had enough 
of it." 

The next day the country about the little village 
of Appomattox was pretty well cleared, all the rebel 
veterans returning to their homes as best they could, 
picking up all the old horses and mules they could 
find. Our officers and soldiers did not prevent them, 
knowing that the poor fellows needed them to help 


put in a crop, now that it was the spring of the year 
and such work was in progress. 

We remained at Appomattox until about April 18, 
when all our troops made a very slow march toward 
Richmond, sometimes staying for several days in 
camp./yNear Farmville, about fifteen miles from 
Appomattox, we camped a few days. On April 25, 
the adjutant-general of the division handed me a 
letter sent to the headquarters, requesting me to go 
to the Third division. I will transcribe the letter, 
which fully explains itself: 

"Headquarters, Third Division, Fifth Army Corps, 

"April 25, 1865. 
" Father Egan, Chaplain at Headquarters, 

"First Division, Fifth Army Corps. 
"Reverend AND Dear Sir:— We have a prisoner under sen- 
tence of death for desertion; the time appointed for his execu- 
tion is Friday. He desires the attention of a clergyman of your 
denomination, and I know of no other more acceptable than 
yourself, nor would I desire any if there were . He wishes 
much that you would come and see him, if possible, to-morrow. 
In case you can not come, may I hear from you, that I may look 
elsewhere? I have the honor to remain, 

"Yours most respectfully, 

"Alfred C. Roe, 

"Chaplain and A. A. D. C." 

This letter, on the back of its fly-leaf, had the fol- 
lowing indorsement: 

" Headquarters, Third Division, Fifth Army Corps, 

"April 25, 1865. 
" Respectfully Forwarded. 
"Approved. S. H. Crawford, 

" Brevet Major-Goneral, Commanding." 


^ " Headquarters, Fifth Army Corps, 

"April 25, 1865. 
"Respectfully referred to Brig.-Gen. Chamberlain with the 
request that he send Father Egan to attend the prisoner, at 
Third Division Headquarters, now under sentence of death . 
" By command of 

" Brevet Maj.-Gen. Griffin. 
"F. F. Locn, Col. Adjt.-Gen." 

Next day I rode over to Gen. Crawford's head- 
quarters, about seven miles distant, and reported to 
the general. He sent an orderly with me to the 
place where the prisoner was confined, giving ordors 
for me to have free access to the prisoner, and inviting 
me to return at night to his headquarters, where he 
would have a tent prepared for me. Having arrived 
at the guard-house, I introduced myself to the 
prisoner who was in a very sullen mood; for no 
person can realize the feelings of a man condemned 
to die but the poor, condemned man himself. After 
talking to him for a good while, I told him I would 
see him next day again ; that I would make an effort 
to have the execution suspended, but advised him, at 
the same time, to prepare for the worst. 

Returning to headquarters I took my supper and 
went to bed, thinking a good deal, after lying down, 
as to what plea or what means I should use to get the 
poor prisoner pardoned. In the morning Gen. Craw- 
ford sent for me to have breakfast with him in his 
tent. During breakfast I commenced my plea for 
the poor prisoner, adducing arguments well digested 
and thought over during the night. Finally the 


general said to me: "I will give you a letter to Gen. 
Meade, whose headquarters are at Burksville, seven- 
teen miles from here. I will give you my carriage, and 
order an escort of cavalry to guard you on the way, so 
that no bush-whackers may molest you." 

I thanked him very kindly and said I would act 
upon his suggestion. After breakfast the carriage 
was made ready with seventeen troopers, -and Gen. 
Crawford, handing me the letter, we started on our 
journey. On the way I was thinking and arranging 
arguments in my mind, and the plea I would make 
when I should meet the general. After arriving at 
Gen. Meade's headquarters and asking for the adju- 
tant-general, an orderly went to his quarters, telling 
him I wanted to see him on important business. The 
adjutant-general came down to where I was ; I told him 
my business and handed him Gen. Crawford's letter 
to Gen. Meade; the general, after reading Gen. Craw- 
ford's letter, sent an orderly to call me to his quarters. 

The general was sitting on a camp-stool in his tent 
and invited me to sit down on another ; I told him 
my mission of mercy and made as strong pleas and 
remonstrances as I could, the principal point of 
my argument representing the prisoner as a reckless 
half-fool, ^it^/i compos mentis. The general remarked 
that that fellow was no fool, for he broke away from 
the guard three times. " Well, general," I said, " do 
you think that a man of common sense would defy 
the guards, knowing that loaded muskets were in their 
hands, that it was their duty to use them in shooting 


him, and that if they did not do so, severe punishment 
would follow on themselves? " 

Before the general had time to make any more 
objections I appealed to his humanity, knowing before- 
hand his character as a humane and conscientious 
man, and followed up my line of argument as I had 
previously arranged it in my mind during the journey. 
When I finished, the general said: " Well, Father 
Egan, I will suspend his execution for to-morrow, but 
you will have to get the doctors to substantiate your 
claim that the prisoner is non compos rnentisJ'' I 
thanked the general for his merciful act, and, after a 
little more conversation on other subjects, I arose, 
bidding him good-bye, he shaking hands with me 
in a friendly manner, and went where the cavalrymen 
were employed in cooking their dinner and feeding 
their horses, telling them the success of my mission, 
which pleased them very much, and that we must 
start as soon as we could; which we did in a short 
time and arrived at Gen. Crawford's headquarters 
during the night. 

Next morning at dawn of day I went to see the 
prisoner, saying to him : "You will not be shot to-day." 
"Isdatso,Fader?" he said to me very coolly. After a 
little he filled with emotion and began to shed tears, 
the poor fellow realizing that his life was spared. 
"Vel," he said, "Fader, I tank you so very much; 
you have saved mine life. Before you go away I vant 
to go to confession, and I vill bo a good boy from 
dis out." After hearing his confession I bade him 
good-bye, shaking hands with him. 


I then rode over to headquarters, and after break- 
fast went to my own command, seven miles distant. 
From that day forth the army was on the march to 
Eichmond, from thence to Washington, and finally 
reaching Alexandria, camped in that neighborhood. 

Being near my home in Washington, at St. Domi- 
nic's Church, South Washington, it was easy to get a 
leave of absence to return home until I should be 
mustered out of service. On July 15, following, I was 
mustered out, receiving an honorable discharge, with 
an order for $300 extra, according to a law pre- 
viously enacted by Congress, to the effect that all 
officers remaining in the army until the war was over 
would receive — in addition to their pay — the sum of 




THE story of the Irish race is the history of a 
people fearless in danger and peerless in battle. 
In every age in which they have appeared, in every 
land where they have fought, under every flag they 
have defended, they have added to their glory and 
increased their renown. 

"Magnificent Tipperary!" exclaimed Sir Charles 
Napier when, at Meecanee, after four hours' hard 
fighting, he saw 800 Irishmen driving before them 
20,000 Belooches — the bravest soldiers of India. 

" Curse the laws that deprive me of such subjects! " 
cried George II., when he heard of the whipping 
that the Irish Brigade, in the service of France, had 
given his troops at Fontenoy. 

"Men," says Washington, " distinguished for their 

firm adherence to the glorious cause in which we are 




"I thank the Irish Brigade for their superb 
conduct in the field," says Gen. McClellan on the 

Ah, yes, in every age, in every clime, it has been 
the same thing. In India, in Africa, in China, and 
on all the fields of Europe, they have left their 
footprints and the records of their valor. The sham- 
rock and the fleur-de-lis have blended together on 
many of the bloodiest and most glorious fields of 
France. ^ Along the banks of the Guadalquivir the 
<3ry of *'Fag-a-Bealac!" is echoed even to this day, 
and Spain still remembers Ireland's sons and Irish 

Italy recalls Cremons and the regiments of Dillon 
and Burke, sweeping before them the Cuirassiers of 
Prince Eugene. Before their wild hurrah, the strong- 
est defenses of Flanders trembled and fell, and 
Luxembourg entered Namur when the Irish charged 
the works. On every field of the old lands, and in 
every battle in which our own country has taken 
part, the sons of Erin have been present, gathering 
fresh laurels and reflecting new lustre on their race." 

Light-Horse Harry Lee, writing of the Pennsyl- 
vania troops of the Revolution, says: "They were 
known as the line of Pennsylvania, whereas they 
should have been called the line of Ireland. Bold 
and daring, they would always prefer an appeal to the 
bayonet to a tiresom^e march. The general (Wayne) 
and his soldiers were singularly fitted for close and 
stubborn action. Cornwallis, therefore, did not 


miscalculate when he presumed that the presence of 
Wayne and his Irishmen would increase the chance 
of bringing his antagonist, Lafayette, to action." 

Not only Wayne and his brigade were Irish, but 
nearly all the general officers of the Revolution from 
Pennsylvania were Celts. Gens. William Irvine, 
Stephen Moylan, William Butler, Edward Hand, 
William Thompson, John Shee, Walter Stewart, and 
Washington's surgeon-general, John Cochran, every 
one of them hailed from the ever-faithful Isle. 

Indeed, we can speak with conscious pride of the 
Irish soldier in the United States. Barry, the first 
commodore of our infant navy, was Irish. The first 
and last commanders of our army, Anthony Wayne 
and Philip Sheridan — Sheridan, the beloved of 
Grant, "the whirlwind with spurs" (as Hancock 
aptly named him) — were of full Irish blood. In 
every battle of the Revolution Moylan and his Irish 
Dragoons were ever near to Washington. On every 
field of those dark hours Irish blood flowed in copi- 
ous streams. As it was at the birth of our nation, 
so it has continued to our own time. 

In the beginning of the struggle of 1861, the first 
name that became conspicuous as that of a soldier — 
grand, heroic, superbly brave — was Irish Col. Mulli- 
gan, the defender of Lexington; and the very last 
officer killed in that unhappy war was an Irishman, 
noble, gallant, and pure. Gen. Tom. Smythe, of Dela- 
ware, who fell near Appomattox but a few hours 
before Lee's surrender. On every bloody field of that 


awful struggle, the Irisli soldier was in the very 

Who of us does not remember the day after Bull 
Run, when the whole nation was saddened, depressed, 
almost terrified, by the appalling disaster that had 
befallen our cause ? 

When, at Blenheim, the legions of France went 
down before the victorious Marlborough, the nation 
found solace in the splendid valor of Lord Clare and 
his Irishmen, and rejoiced because of his wresting 
two standards from the triumphant foe. So, also, 
after Bull Run, our people could recall with pride 
the heroism of the Sixty -ninth New York Volunteers, 
that noble regiment which, after a long day's fight 
and heavy loss, arnid/all the confusion of total defeat 
and ignominious rolit,' linder the command of the 
brave and modest Corcoran, quietly formed square 
against cavalry, and with the green flag flying, 
marched oft' the field in perfect order. Here, on 
the first great battlefield of the War of Secession, 
amid carnage and disaster, the brigade of which I 
propose to write was born. Around this green fl^ag 
5,000 Celtic soldieis afterward gathered, and it is 
the history of their deeds that I now attempt to tell. 
The story of their feats of arms would not be, of 
itself, a true reflex of the Irish Brigade. The Celt 
prefers to mix a little fun with his fighting, and so I 
will interlard a few anecdotes of the men in this 
narrative, and perhaps shall pause to tell of their 



At Fair Oaks the brigade adjourned an improvised 
horse-race to make a very splendid charge on the 
Confederate lines, and the hurrahs with which they 
rushed over the enemy's works were but the contin- 
uation of the cheers that had welcomed Major Cava- 
naugh as he jumped the last hurdle on the winning 


"Here's to the Thirty -seventh (Irish) New York, 
the tirror of the inimy, and the admiration of the 
faymale sex!" was the toast given by an Irish 
sergeant at a farewell banquet. Truly, I can recall 
many touching incidents of knightly courtesy that 
made the brigade the "admiration of the faymale 


In passing over one of the long corduroy bridges 
that crossed the swamps of the Chickahominy, a 
company of 100 men met, in the center, two Sisters 
of Charity. As only two persons could pass on the 
narrow footway, the ladies were about to turn back; 
but the commander of the company, saluting, quietly 
stepped off the roadway into the knee-deep mud and 
slime, and was promptly followed by everyone of 
his men, who, silent and respectful, struggled to 
regain a foothold in the treacherous swamp, while 
the blushing religieuses passed over dry-shod. 

Again, I recall a noble soul who fell by my side in 
the evening, away out by the Stone Wall, at Fred- 
ericksburg. He was in the act of firing when a ball 
went whistling through his lungs. The musket fell 
from his powerless hands, and while the film of death 


gathered in his brave eyes, I heard him gently 
murmur: "Ah! what will become of Mollie and the 
children now?" With that he passed away. Not a 
thought of himself, his wound, or his approaching 
death, only of wife and the little ones. Did ever 
warrior of old face the grim Reaper more fearlessly ? 

One dark night, when we were marching away from 
Falmouth, the brigade was groping along a by-path, 
the men growling about the roughness of the walking, 
now and then tripping over a log, and plunging 
headlong into the darkness. A man remarked to his 
comrade, who was grumbling and falling more fre- 
quently than the others: "Whist, Jimmy, yez'll be 
on the main road in a minute." "Bedad, Barney," 
replied the unfortunate one, " Oi'll nivir get onto a 
mainer road than this! " 

And this brings me back to the main subject of this 
paper. It was the intention of those who organized 
the Irish Brigade to place Gen. James Shields in 
command; but the Government designed a larger field 
of usefulness for that old veteran. Col. Michael 
Corcoran, who led so well the Sixty-ninth at Bull 
Run, still languished in a Southern prison, and so it 
came about that Thomas Francis Meagher assumed 
command. This son of Waterford had pleaded Ire- 
land's cause with silver tongue when his face w^as as 
yet innocent of the beard of manhood; and by reason 
of his great love of liberty had drawn down upon 
himself, even at that early age, the very humane 
sentence: " To be hanged, drawn, quartered, and his 


remains placed at the disposal of Her Most Gracious 
^ Majesty, Victoria K." The last portion of the sentence 
doubtless saved the boy, for the fresh young queen 
was sorely puzzled to know what to do with the 
"hanged, drawn, and quartered" remains, and so 
escaped the unpleasant duty of handling the mass of 
blood and bones by transporting the young patriot — 
all alive — to Van Dieman's land. Had the learned 
judge but added cremation to the other very dreadful 
things that he proposed for the youth, Victoria 
would have been spared the role of undertaker, and 
the future commander of the Irish Brigade would 
Y^ have gone up in smoke. However, cremation was not 
thought of forty years ago, and Meagher lived to 
escape from penal servitude, become an American 
citizen, and be commissioned a brigadier-general of 
volunteers. His command at first consisted of the 
Sixty-third, Sixty-ninth, and Eighty-eighth regiments 
of New York Volunteers, to which was afterward 
added the Twenty-eighth and Twenty -ninth regi- 
ments of Massachusetts, and the One Hundred and 
Sixteenth regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. 

So, on a balmy Indian summer day of 1861, the 
green flags, with the Harp and Sunburst, and the 
motto, "No Retreat!" were presented to the three 
first regiments in the words of John Savage's song 
of the Sixty-ninth, to 

"Plant that Flag 
On Fort and Crag, 
With the people's voice of thunder. . ." 


And the brigade marched down Broadway through 
a dense mass of humanity, the bands playing the airs 
of Ireland; and amid cheers, sobs, prayers, bene- 
dictions, and wild enthusiasm, sailed away from the 
Battery, and was launched on its honorable career. 

Many a funny story is told of those early days of 
the organization before drill and discipline had a 
chance to make them the perfect soldiers they after- 
ward became. Here is a raw sergeant endeavoring 
to keep the boys in order with: "I say, kape your 
heels together, Tim Mullaney, in the rare rank, and 
don't be a-shtanding wid wan fut in Bull Eun and 
the other in the Sixth ward!" Or another who, on 
the arrival in Washington, wished the platoon to 
execute a movement, which he afterward learned was 
a " Eight wheel," gave the model and clear directions: 
"Now, byes, wid ye're face to the Capitol and ye're 
backs to the daypo, shwing to the right loike a gate !" 

Six months after leaving home, we find the brigade 
on the Peninsula, thoroughly equipped and ready for 
the fray^ They had passed through the early portion 
of the campaign, having been present at Yorktown 
and Williamsburg, and were now breaking the monot- 
ony of camp life by a genuine Irish horse-race, with 
its accompanying side shows. 



Judges: — Gens. Richardson and French. 

Stewards: — Lieut.- Col. Fowler, Capts. McMahon and 
Hogan, Dr. Smith, and Lieut. Haverty. 

Clerk of the Course: — Quartermaster O'Sullivan. 
FIRST race. 

A Steeple-Chase. — Open to all horses the property of and 
ridden by officers of the Irish Brigade. Best of three heats 
over the course. 

Prizes : — A magnificent tiger skin, presented by Gen. 
Meagher — the spoil of his own gun in South America. Second 
horse to save his stakes. 

Thirteen entries came to the scratch at the judge's 
stand, and no thirteen jockies so remarkably gotten 
up or so wonderfully attired had ever appeared on 
a track. Color was necessary to lend the proper 
brilliancy to the sport, and every farm-house was 
ransacked for bits of scarlet, blue, or green. Table- 
cloths and the bright frocks of the ladies soon 
became jackets and caps. Window curtains or red 
blankets were quickly metamorphosed into small- 
clothes; and stunning indeed was the general effect. 
Then, after much cheering, laughing, betting, false 
starts, beautiful jumps, serious tumbles, amusing 
spills, dislocated shoulders, and all the adjuncts of a 
well-conducted race. Major Cavanaugh, on Katy 
Darling, came to the winning post in splendid style, 
and carried off the tiger skin. Then followed mule 
races for the drummer boys ; foot-ball, sack races, and 
fun for everybody. But the screaming farce, " The 
Limerick Boy," which was announced for the after- 
noon, was indefinitely postponed, for the evening 


breeze brought from Seven Pines, where Casey's 
division was suffering sore defeat, the roar of the 
distant battle. A night march placed the brigade 
within musket shot of the victorious enemy. 

The dawn of June 1 was ushered in by an effort to 
push our troops still further on and occupy Pamunky 
& Eichmond railroad, but the reinforcements that 
had come upon the ground during the night had 
blocked the game. Howard and French went at them 
before it was well daylight and gave them a taste of 
what was to follow; -and here it was that the former 
lost his arm under peculiar circumstances. A ball 
had passed through the fleshy part of it, wounding 
him quite severely. He refused to leave the field, 
and while his brother was binding up the limb, he, 
too, was badly hit. Then a second ball struck the 
general on the arm, this time smashing the bone to 
pieces and rendering amputation necessary. 

The moment that the Irish Brigade charged at 
Fair Oaks was one full of anxiety, and extremely 
critical. The enemy had massed a large force in 
front of Richardson's division for a final attempt to 
capture the railroad. Howard and French had given 
them a check that they had not anticipated, and 
Meagher was ordered in to give the coujp de grace. 
Sumner ordered the brigade forward. Baring his 
old gray head and choking with emotion, he said to 
them: " Boys, I stake my position on you. If you 
run away to-day, I will tear these ( pointing to his 
shoulder straps) off and run with you." 


Meagher, knowing that the fight was for possession 
of the railroad, thought the best thing possible 
was to possess it, and promptly issued orders to that 
effect. Nugent quickly advanced under a hot fire, 
and deployed his regiment, the Sixty-ninth, right on 
the track, planting his colors between the rails. 
Capt. McMahon, of Meagher's staff, coolly rode over 
the plain which separated the left of the line from 
the railroad track, and selected the position for the 
Eighty-eighth, where it could take the enemy in 
flank. That regiment, under a destructive fire, swept 
across the open fields, never firitig a shot until the 
colors were planted on the railroad track; then, in a 
broad sheet of lightening, they threw their fire into 
the woods that gave shelter to the Confederates. An 
instant, and the reply came quick and sharp. From 
out the blackberry bushes and small pines that 
tinctured the noble forest came a scorching whirlwind, 
tearing, rending, and destroying. The chivalry of 
Erin had met the chivalry of the South, and the 
exchange of courtesies was earnest and vigorous. 
The Harp and Sunburst had come to stay. An Irish 
"hurrah," a glorious charge, and the woods were 
cleared! Fair Oaks became a victory; and within 
half an hour from the moment the Irish Brigade 
opened fire, the enemy were everywhere in retreat. 

Dr. Ellis says of this battle: "There was the 
Irish Brigade in all the glory of a fair, free fight. 
Other men go into fights sternly or indifferently, but 
the only man who, after all, really loves it, is the green 


immortal Irishman. So there the brave lads, with 
Meagher at their head, laughed, fought, and joked as 
though it were the finest fun in the world. " 

Hoadly says : " Meagher's Brigade, advancing with 
their well-known war-shout, closed with ferocity on 
the foe and mowed them down by companies." 

Fair Oaks fought and won, McClellan and Sumner 
joined in showering thanks and congratulations on 
the command; and that old Spaniard from old Spain, 
Marshall Prim, visited the camp, his brightened eye 
showing the soldier's pleasure at the sight of brave 
men, as he said to them: "Spain has reason to 
appreciate Irish valor. We have been friends from 
ancient times, and have fought side by side on many 
a bloody field." 

One of the amusing incidents of the day was the 
taking prisoner of a big, six-foot Texan, by a very 
small drummer boy, George Funk, of the Eighty- 
eighth. The fourteen-year old vagabond, thinking 
that he could make more noise with a musket than a 
drum, threw away the latter, and went out skirmishing 
on his own account. Seeing a "Eeb. " blazing away 
from behind a tree, he waited until he had discharged 
his piece, then quickly covering him with his musket 
he commanded him to "ground arms," and marched 
him into camp. Meeting Gen. Sumner, he called 
out: " General, I have brought you a present ! " It 
was rather amusing, too, the next day when Gen. 
Meagher went into the field hospital to console his 
orderly (who had been shot in both hips), to hear 


the boy greet him with, "Good morning, general, 
has Dolly got her oats yet?" — alluding to the Gen- 
eral's favorite mare. 

During the charge at Fair Oaks, the bayonet 
and clubbed musket were used quite freely. So 
ferocious was the hand-to-hand struggle, that some 
of the pieces were smashed and twisted so they were 
of no further use. Gen. Sumner was disposed to 
find fault with the men for having left their guns 
behind them. Sergeant Granger promptly invited 
him to walk out to the front and look at the stack of 
broken muskets. Said he: " Thim rebels wint at our 
byes wid bowie knives, and the min wint for thim the 
way they knew best." 


No battlefield of the war approaches so near our 
idea of a storm-swept battlefield as that of Gaines's 
Mill. As the sun went down that hot summer even- 
ing, it sank upon a scene of wild grandeur that the 
tempest and destruction of war alone can present. 
On the north bank of the Chickahominy, 30,- 
000 of our men had held in check, for five long 
hours, the 60,000 Confederates who had been 
hurled against our lines ; but now, when the day drew 
to a close, the line that they had held so long and well 
was rent and broken. On our right Sykes was fall- 
ing back before the divisions of Hill and Ewell. 


On our left, Longstreet, led by Hood's Texans, had 
crushed, and almost annihilated Morell's division. 
Our cavalry, under Gen. Philip St. George Cook, 
had made a gallant but hopeless charge, and were 
falling back, a confused mass of men and horses, 
breaking through our batteries, and carrying with 
them to the rear, the gunners and their frantically 
plunging animals. Our whole force, artillery, cavalry 
and infantry — defeated, routed, demoralized, and in 
atter confusion — was hurrying across the plain to- 
ward the bridges that spanned the stream. The 
successful enemy, elated with victory, were pouring 
out of the dark woods; and with deafening cheers, 
they swept in long lines over the ground they had 
won, regardless of the prostrate forms of the dead 
and wounded, delivering their fire in rapid volleys, 
and rushing upon our flying men. 

As the twilight deepened, the total destruction of 
the whole force seemecf, for a time, almost certain. 
The enemy, knowing the great advantage they had 
gained, pressed with still greater energy upon our 
beaten troops ; but at a moment when all seemed lost, 
a welcome cheer burst upon the ear, at first faint and 
distant, but soon gathering strength and volume, and 
then increasing into a roar that deafened the sound of 
the artillery. Ke-enforcements had come, few in 
number to be sure, but with brave hearts and 
undiminished courage. It was the brigades of French 
and Meagher that Sumner had sent to the rescue. 


Quickly passing over the bridge and forming line 
of battle, Meagher led his brigade to the front. In 
order to gain the crest whence our line had been 
driven, it was necessary to push their way through the 
mass of struggling fugitives; then with wild hurrahs 
they closed with the advancing foe, greeting 
them with cheers, and showers of leaden hail. 
The Confederates, astounded, believing that we 
had been heavily re-enforced, paused, halted, and 
recoiled, while the Irish Brigade stood, panting and 
elated, ready to meet the next onslaught; and as the 
darkness crept over the field the men gave one* long, 
loud cheer to which even the wounded and dying of 
the brigade lent their voices, and the battle was over. 

That very gallant soldier, the Comte de Paris, 
happened to witness this action, and in a letter writ- 
ten to me a few months since, he vividly recalls the 
scene : 

"Villa St. Jean, Cannes, Alpes Maritimes, 
"MarchS, 188G. 

" My Dear General:— I hasten to thank you for your letter 
of the 23d ultimo, and it is with the greatest pleasure that I 
send, through you, a greeting of sympathy to all my old 
comrades of the Irish Brigade, with whom I fought nearly a 
quarter of a century ago, on the banks of the Chickahominy . 

" I have been, during the years of exile, the guest of the 
British people, and I made it a rule never to meddle in 
the political questions which might divide the inhabitants of 
the British Islands ; but I never forget the cordial sympathy 
which, as a Frenchman and a Catholic, I met whenever I 
landed on the soil of Erin . 

" It was therefore with pleasure that I met the Green Flag 
with the Golden Harp, waving at the head of Meagher's 


brigade, in the Army of the Potomac. Strange to say, the 
first time I met the brigade under arms was on the occasion of 
Gen . Prim's visit to our camp . I was in attendance upon the 
Spanish general, and introduced to him Gen. Meagher. I 
always remembered this little fact as illustrating the curious 
way in which Providence seems, at certain times, to put strange 
people together. A month later we were sorely pressed, our 
losses were large. We were collected, all mixed together, on a 
small eminence which commanded Alexandria Bridge. The 
sun, like a piece of red hot iron, was, too slowly for us, sinking 
behind a dark curtain of smoke, when suddenly we heard a 
hearty cheer. It was Richardson, who, at the head of Meagher 
and French's brigades, had come to our rescue on the left 
bank of the Chickahominy. The Irish Brigade (I find it noted 
in my diary) came in shirt sleeves, yelling at the top of their 
voices. The assailants were tired, and when they saw the 
strong line of Meagher's brigade, they delivered a strong volley 
and stopped. The day was saved, as far as could be, by those 
two brigades. 

" This is one of the facts that I remember most distinctly 
after the lapse of years. Believe me, my dear general, 
" Yours truly, 

*' Philip, Comte de Paris." 


At Savage Station, where the Vieux Sabeur Sumner 
stood at bay on Sunday evening, June 29, and threw 
back from our lines, in bloody repulse, every assault 
of Magruder's men, the Irish Brigade did noble 
work. But let others tell the story. Dr. Ellis, who 
witnessed the last charge of our troops, says: "The 
rebels came determinedly across the fields, firing as 
they advanced, until Sumner ordered our troops up at 
double-quick. About four thousand of them went up 


at once, with a roar that might have drowned the 
musketry. The rebels kept their position for a 
moment, and then fell back to the rear of their 
batteries. Meagher's brigade, however, succeeded in 
charging right up to the guns of a Virginia battery, 
two guns of which they hauled otf, spiked, and 
chopped the carriage to pieces." 

And here is a letter from Gen. W. W. Burns, on 
the same subject. 

" Office Depot, Commissary Subsistence, 
" 160 W. Foryette St., Baltimore, Md., Aug. 1, 1883. 

"Col. James QuiNLAN:--It gives me pleasure to write your 
gallant service at Savage's Station, since you were distinguished 
beyond your fellow officers of the Irish Brigade, on that occa- 
sion. Having been sent back to check the enemy, with two of my 
regiments, under the misapprehension that Gen. Heintzleman 
still occupied the works at Seven Pines, I found on arrival, that 
Gen. Heintzleman had withdrawn from the works and crossed 
White Oak Swamps, and the whole Confederate force, on the 
right bank of the Chickahominy, was confronting my position. 

" I notified Gen. Sumner at once of the new conditions, and 
demanded re-enforcements. Among others, Gen. Meagher was 
ordered to my support. The Eighty-eighth New York, with a 
few others, was all of the brigade that reached the field in time. 

" I asked : ' What troops are these? ' 

" The answer was : ' Eighty-eighth New York ! ' 

" ' Who is in command? ' 

Major Quinli 


" I directed Major Quinlan to form his men facing toward 
Richmond, down the WilUamsburg road, where a battery had 
been established, and was sweeping my line from the road as 
fast as formed across it. When Major Quinlan had formed his 
troops, I directed him to march toward the battery ; first in 
quick time, then double quick, and when he reached my line of 
battle, the order : ' Charge ! ' was given ; when, with a cheer, 


the gallant Irishmen rushed upon the battery, and it was 
driven from the road, to molest me no more. 

"Wm. W. Burns, 
"Late Brig.-Gen. Vols., Lieut. -Col. U. S. Army." 


At White Oak Swamp Bridge where Franklin, 
with the division of Smith and Eichardson, held the 
ford so well, defeating every effort of Jackson to 
force the crossing, the brigade supporting the line 
of batteries and exposed daring the long, hot after- 
noon of June 30, suffered quite severely. Calm and 
anflinching, it held the ground where the enemy's 
shells and round shot fell in showers. At five o'clock 
in the evening it was sent on the double-quick to 
Glendale, near the New Market road, where Long- 
street and A. P. Hill were pushing our troops. 

As the brigade went in on a run, Gen. Sumner 
gave the men a cordial greeting. "Boys," said he, 
"you go in to save another day!" The Lincoln 
Cavalry and the whole line of battle gave them a 
lusty cheer as they swept past and rushed into the 
fight which only closed with the darkness. And here 
let me quote a letter of Gen. Wm. B. Franklin: 

" Hartford, Conn., April 14, 1886. 
" My Dear General: — I saw the Irish Brigade in two fights 
— that of Savage Station, and that of the next day at White 
Oak Swamp Bridge. At Savage Station, I saw the brigade led 
into the fight by Gen. Sumner, and no men went in more 
gallantly, or in better order. On the next day the brigade was 


in position on the left of the White Oak Swamp Bridge, close 
to the stream. It was subjected to a very severe artillery fire 
during nearly the whole day, under which it never flinched. Its 
behavior was admirable, and in spite of its nearness to the 
enemy, the brigade headquarters were ornamented, during its 
exposure, with the United States flag and the Green flag, 
waving together as calmly as if all hands were miles away from 
the fight ; and the officers and men were as calm as the flags. 
I always thought its behavior that day was in the highest 
degree suggestive of Irish pluck and endurance. 
" Very truly yours, 

"Wm. B. Franklin." 


The Peninsula campaign was not to close without 
more glory, more blood, more death for the brigade. 
On Malvern Hill, the superb fight it made added to 
its glory whilst depleting its ranks. The day had 
almost gone, and for hours the roar of artillery had 
been deafening. All the infantry attacks on Porter's 
and Couche's lines had been thrown back in a bloody 
repulse; but the enemy was massing troops in Porter's 
front, and the brigade was called for. The men, 
thinking that they would not be wanted, were mak- 
ing coffee and getting ready for a good night's rest. 
" Ah," said Capt. Joseph O'Donohue, "some of us 
who have prepared our supper will never come back 
to eat it." He was one of the first to fall. 

Quickly forming line, the four regiments moved 
to the front. " I wish there were 20,000 men in 


your brigade," said McClellan to Meagher. "I envy 
you the command of that brigade," said Fitz John 
Porter, as the men swept over the hill under a crush- 
ing fire, and threw themselves on the foe. "Here 
comes that damned green flag again!" called out a 
Confederate officer, as under a fierce fire, the Sixty- 
ninth and Eighty-eighth moved on, delivering volley 
upon volley, and strewing the hill with dead and 

With wild cheers and enthusiasm they rushed 
forward, and as the darkness gathered, reached the 
hill on which the enemy stood. A fierce strug- 
gle ensued. No time to load now. Bayonets were 
brought into play, muskets were reversed, and men 
were brained and clubbed to death. The foe made 
a gallant stand, but were gradually forced back, firing 
a parting volley as they retired; and the battle of 
Malvern Hill ended with the rapidly darkening woods 
echoing the hurrahs of Meagher's men. 

With what ardor Gen. Fitz John Porter speaks of 
this eventful day: "On one occasion," writes the 
general, " I sent an urgent request for two brigades, 
and the immediate result was the sending of Meagher 
by Sumner. This was the second time that he had 
sent me Meagher's gallant Irish Brigade and each 
time it rendered valuable service. Advancing, ac- 
companied by my staff, I soon found that our force 
had successfully driven back their assailants. About 
fifty yards in front of us, a large force of the enemy 
suddenly arose and opened with fearful volleys upon 



our advancing line. I turned to the brigade, which 
thus far had kept pace with my horse and found it 
standing ' like a stone vmlU' and returning a fire 
more destructive than it received, and from w^hich the 
enemy fled. The brigade was planted. My presence 
was no longer needed." 

Lieut. John H. Donovan, of the Sixty-ninth, was 
left on the field, shot through the eye, supposed to 
be mortally wounded. Next morning the Confeder- 
ate General Magruder, en passant, remarked: "I 
presume you will not risk the other eye." " I beg 
to differ with you," replied Donovan, " I have still 
one eye left which I am willing to risk for the 
Union." "And if you lose that also?" "Then," 
said the lieutenant, " I shall go it blind! " 

During the second day's fight, two or three women, 
wives of soldiers, accompanied the Brigade, and one 
of them, Mary Gordan, wife of a soldier of Company 
H., Eighty-eighth New York, especially distinguished 
herself in caring for the wounded, tearing into 
strips her very underclothing to bind up the wounds. 
With a rugged nature, but a kind, and noble heart, 
she remained with the men on parts of the field where 
surgeons seldom ventured, and by her prompt action 
she often saved the life-blood that was fast ebbing 
away ; and was the means of saving many a life. Gen. 
Sumner saw her thus occupied at Savage Station, anil 
when our troops reached Harrison's Landing, he had 
her made brigade sutler, and gave her permission to 
pass free to Washington and back, in all government 



Wednesday, the morning of September 17 — the 
men of the Irish Brigade call it the "glorious 17th" 
— broke clear and bright, and Hooker promptly 
reopened the fight which he had left unfinished the 
night before. This renewed attack was witnessed 
and enjoyed by the brigade, which had been lying on 
the east bank of the creek supporting the batteries. 

Capt. Jack Gosson, neat and natty as usual, came 
up to Meagher — who had been sleeping on the 
ground without even a tent-fly to cover him — and 
remarked that the general was "all over dirt," and 
at the same time producing a whisk-broom, he sug- 
gested a brush. "Yaas," drawled the general, " a 
good ideah; we shall all have a brush before long." 
Ten minutes afterward he slowly rode off, followed 
by the brigade. 

Before fording the creuk, Meagher ordered the 
men to take off their shoes and stockings, and, after 
crossing, waited until the last man had put them on 
again; then dry-shod, with the Sixty-ninth in the lead, 
they made a rush for the line of battle to the left of 
the Roulette House. As they went on the double- 
quick over the corn stalks, crash came a volley on 
the right of the line, and the Twenty-ninth got a 
dose. Then the Sixty-third caught it; the Eighty- 
eighth coming up in time to get its share of the first 
course of the heavy repast that was to ensue. This 
was followed By a brief rest in the deep furrows of 


the field with the sharp-shooters busy picking off 
great numbers of our men. Chas. M. Grainger and 
W. L. D. O'Grady, of the Eighty-eighth New York, 
both old British soldiers, volunteered to push out 
and pick off the riflemen of the enemy, which they 
did most effectually; while other volunteers tore 
down the fence that was within 200 yards of the 
enemy's line. 

The command was given: "Attention! Forward! 
Guide! Center! March!" Then began the advance 
over the heavy ground toward the sunken road, the 
men dropping in rapid succession. But on, on, 
until within fifty yards of the road, which was now 
a cloud of smoke and flashing fire. The brigade 
replied in turn with buck and ball, and poured a 
withering fire into the three Confederate brigades of 
Colquitt, Ripley, and McRae; and then a bitter 
stand-up fight, face to face, until the last cartridge 
was fired. The color-bearers of all the regiments 
were shot down in rapid succession. The Sixty- 
third, holding the crown of the hill, suffered most in 
this respect — losing fifteen. When Capt. Cluney, of 
Company F., raised the flag from the ground his leg 
was soon smashed by a ball, and he fell. The gallant 
fellow raised himself on his remaining limb, and 
upholding the colors waved them aloft until another 
ball pierced his head, and he fell never to rise again. 

When the last cartridge was fired, the brigade was 
ordered to give place to Caldwell's, and the lines 
were passed by, the regiments breaking to the rear in 


companies, those of Caldwell to the front, as steady 
as when on drill. Filling their cartridge boxes, the 
men of the brigade were quickly back in the fight, 
and, passing Caldwell's line, they poured a volley into 
the Confederates. Then came a wild cheer, rising 
in a volume of sound that for a moment drowned the 
roar of artillery; a charge, a fierce struggle, and the 
sunken road is cleared! 

"The Irish Brigade," says McClellan, " sustained 
their well-earned reputation, suffering terribly in 
officers and men, and strewing the ground with their 
enemies, as they drove them back." 

Six hundred dead Confederates in the sunken 
road attested the desperation of the fighting at this 
point. Eleven officers killed, and fourteen wounded, 
was the record in the three New York regiments of 
the brigade for the two hours at Antietam. 

During the fight Meagher was badly crushed, and 
Lieut. James Macky of his staff was killed at his 
side. The day after the battle, the officers of the 
brigade called upon Gen. Richardson, who had been 
mortally wounded. In his dying agony, he said to 
them: "I placed your brigade on the ground you 
occupied because it was necessary to hold it, and I 
knew that you would hold it against all odds, and 
once you were there, I had no further anxiety in 
regard to the position." 

When Lieut. Lynch, of the Sixty-third New York, 
fell mortally wounded, he quietly handed his sword, 
watch and ring to a comrade, to be sent to his family, 


facing death with a self-possession and courage that 
marked the true soldier. 

Here again, note the gallantry of John Hartigan, a 
boy of sixteen, of the same regiment, who, advancing 
in front of the line, defiantly waved the colors in the 
face of the enemy. Of such men as these was the 
brigade composed, and it was with good reason, when 
Sumner next met it, that he hailed it as "Bravest of 
the brave!" 


It was a cold, clear day when the brigade filed 
over the bluffs to cross the river and enter the town. 
The crash of 200 guns filled the valley of the Rappa- 
hannock with sound and smoke; while the color- 
bearers shook to the breeze the remnants of the torn 
and shattered standards — 

" That old green flag, that Irish flag; 
It is but now a tattered rag; 
But India's store of precious ore, 
Hath not a gem worth that old flag." 

The Fourteenth Brooklyn gave the brigade a 
cheer, and the band of Hawkin's Zouaves struck up 
"Garry Owen" as it passed. Not so pleasant was 
the reception by the professional embalmers who, 
alive to business, thrust their cards into the hands of 
the men as they went along. The cards were sug- 
gestive of an early trip home, nicely boxed up and 
' delivered to loving friends by quick express, sweet as 


a nut and in perfect preservation, etc., etc. The 
boys, however, did not seem altogether pleased with 
the cold-blooded allusion to their latter end, and one 
of them called out to a particularly zealous under- 
taker : " D'ye moind thim blankets ? Well, only that 
we were in a bit of a hurry we'd be after givin' yez 
the natest koind av a jig in the air. " 

To charge an enemy or enter a battle when one 
knows that there is no chance of success, requires 
courage of a higher order than when the soldier is 
sustained by the enthusiasm born of hope. It is 
recorded that a commander once gave to his subordi- 
nate the order to " go there and die." The reply 
was ''Yes, my General." When our troops, debouch- 
ing from the town, deployed upon the plain in front 
of Mary's Heights, every man in the ranks knew that 
it was not to fight they were ordered; it was to die. 

During the morning of December 13, the Irish 
Brigade stood in line on the main street of the city 
amidst bursting shells and falling walls, listening to 
the roar of the battle, and calmly awaiting their own 
turn. Meagher plucked a sprig of green box- wood 
from a garden near by, and placed it in his cap. A 
happy thought! Bunches of the fragrant shrub 
were quickly gathered and passed along the line 
ranks, and soon every man had the green sprig in 
his Irish cap. Then Meagher, passing along the line, 
addressed each regiment in the most eloquent words 
we ever heard him utter. 
' Shortly after noon the command moved out to the 


fields in the rear of the city, filed across the canal — 
on what was left of the bridge — and formed line of 
battle behind a rise in the ground. 

The noon-day sun glittered and shone bright on 
the frozen ground over which solid shot, in great 
numbers, ricochetted and went plunging through the 

A few moments to get breath, then "Forward!" 
at ''Right shoulder," "Shift arms!" in perfect 
order; and in silence the line passed to the front. 
No cheers or wild hurrahs as of old, as the men 
moved toward the foe — they did not go to fight; 
they went to die. 

Forward, over the crest which had sheltered them 
a moment before, now swept by a blizzard of fire. 
On, over the awful plain that had no spot free 
from the fire, no place of shelter — every man 
knowing the desperation of the undertaking, but no 
one faltering or looking back. Onward, still onward, 
with batteries on every side pouring a rain of shot 
and shell upon the devoted band. 

On, past the line of French's troops ! On, past the 
brick house ! — the line withering, diminishing, melt- 
ing away, but still pressing forward; and the torn 
flags often falling, only to be quickly raised again. 

On, on, past the farthest points reached by any 
other troops; still forward, until within thirty feet of 
the Confederate works. Up to the muzzles of Wal- 
ton's guns the line still presses, but not all those who 
marched from the town a short half hour before, 


Fifty per cent, of the number was already strewn, 
dead and bleeding, on the frozen ground over which 
the brigade had passed. In their front, lines of 
battle and batteries rose in tiers. On each flank, 
more batteries and more lines of battle. No hope. 
No chance to make even a fair show of fighting — 
the men were only there to die. There was nothing 
left for the brigade but to fall back, after pouring a 
few volleys into the foe, and the Irish Brigade, for the 
first time in its history, recoiled. Falling back, the 
dead of the brigade were left within thirty paces of 
the Confederate line. 

The bodies of Major Wm. Horgan and Adjutant 
John E. Young, of the Eighty-eighth New York, lay 
nearest to the stone wall and, by actual measurement, 
within twenty-five paces of the gans of the Wash- 
ington artillery. There are some who would dispute 
the fact of the Irish Brigade advancing farthest on 
that awful day. It is absurd to do so. The proofs 
are too strong to question. The men of this brigade 
advanced and fell nearest to the enemy ; and many of 
them are there to this day. With a spade you can 
find them. 

Lieut. Wm. E. Owens, of the Washington artillery 
(Confederate), asserts that: "In front of Mary's 
Heights, upon the plain over which the Federal 
column passed, they counted 1,498 bodies. A soldier 
of Meagher's Irish Brigade was the nearest body to 
the stone wall, and, by actual measurement, it lay 
within twenty-five paces of the wall." 


" Meagher's Irish Brigade (from " Camps of 
the Confederate States") attacked Mary's Heights 
with a gallantry which was the admiration of all who 
beheld it; but they were literally annihilated by the 
Washington artillery and the Confederates lining 
the sunken road, who themselves hardly suffered any 

Col. Heros Von Borcke, chief of staff to Gen. J. E. 
B. Stewart, tells us that "more than twelve hundred 
bodies were found on the small plain between Mary's 
Heights and Fredericksburg. The greater part of 
these belonged to Meagher's brave Irish Brigade 
which was nearly annihilated during the several 

The correspondent of the London Times witnessed 
the charge. In admiration he offers this splendid 
tribute: " Never at Fontenoy, Albuera, or at Water- 
loo was more undaunted courage displayed by the 
sons of Erin than during the frantic dashes which 
they directed against the almost impregnable posi- 
tion of their foe. After witnessing the gallantry and 
devotion exhibited by these troops,. and viewing the 
hillside, for acres, strewn with their corpses thick as 
autumn leaves, the spectator can remember nothing 
but their desperate courage. That any mortal man 
could have carried the position before which they 
were wantonly sacrificed, defended as it was, seems 
to me, for a moment, idle to believe. But the bodies 
which lie in dense masses within forty yards of the 
muzzles of Col. Walton's guns, are the best evidence 



as to what manner of men they were who pressed on 
to death with the dauntlessness of a race which has 
gained glory on a thousand battlefields, and never 
more richly deserved it than at the foot of Mary's 
Heights, on December 13, 1863." 

As the brigade neared the Confederate line the 
men of Cobb's brigade, the larger part of which 
were Irishmen also, saw the green in the caps of our 
men, and, recognizing the brigade, called out: "Oh 
God! what a pity we have to fire on Meagher's men!" 
During Sunday— the day after the battle — no 
assistance could be given to the wounded, who lay 
in great numbers out on the plain; but after dark 
on Sunday evening many of the men made heroic 
attempts to bring them in, although the enemy was 
vigilant and fired at every object seen moving against 
the sky. Sergt. Sheridan, of Company G, Eighty- 
eighth New York, lay far out on the field with a 
fractured leg, and four of his comrades determined 
to go to his relief. Working themselves out on their 
stomachs, they succeeded in reaching him, but found 
him very low. As he had a compound fracture of 
the leg, it seemed impossible to move him, his agony 
was so great. The men dared not stand up, and were 
at their wit's ends to know what to do, when Sergt. 
Slattery came to the rescue. Said he: "Begob, boys, 
did yez ever see rats trying to get away wid a goose 
egg ? One rat lies down, the others roll the egg on 
top av him ; he holds it in place wid his four paws, 
and then they pull him off by the tail. Now I'll lay 


down on my back, you lift Sheridan on top of me, 
and I'll do my best to keep his leg even." The 
suggestion was adopted. The men would push them- 
selves on a couple of feet, then pull Slattery, with 
his precious load, up to them, and so on until, before 
daylight, they reached the city, and had Sheridan 
attended to and his leg amputated; but too late to 
save the poor fellow. He died from exhaustion. The 
clothes were literally ground off Sergt. Slattery 's 
back, and his cuticle was so sore that he was unable 
to do duty for a week afterward. 


There is a charm and a dreamy balminess in the 
Virginia spring atmosphere. On one of these, the 
sweetest of mornings imaginable, the army withdrew 
from the camp at Falmouth, and moved for the fords 
that cross the Rappahannock, to strike the enemy 
once again. 

The paths of the columns lay through virgin, 
blossoming forests, and the perfumed air of the 
woods seemed laden with hope and promise. Many 
of the wounded of Fredericksburg had returned to 
the ranks. The men had, in a measure, forgotten 
that mournful field. The morale of the army was 
excellent; and the change of commanders had a salu- 
tary effect upon all. A new life had taken possession 
of the Army of the Potomac, that army which, 


though often defeated, was never dismayed, destroyed, 
or conquered. 

On the first and second day of the battle, the 
brigade held the extreme right of our army, at 
Scott's Mills, and did excellent service in checking 
the disaster of the Eleventh corps. On the morning 
of Sund-y, May 3, the brigade was marched to the 
Chancellorsville House to support the Fifth Maine 

During a moment's halt, as the column moved up 
the road, with the shells exploding and falling around 
them, a sergeant, looking back, waved his hand to the 
air and earth, and, in the most ludicrous manner, 
exclaimed: "Good boi, wurreld!" 

As the brigade went into position with the left 
resting near the Chancellorsville House, Lepine's 
battery (5th Maine) dashed up the road, unlimbered, 
took position in the orchard, and opened fire. An 
appalling scene of destruction immediately followed. 
The Confederate batteries were almost within a stone's 
throw of Lepine's, and opened with a concentrated fire 
of more than twenty guns to his six. Never, during 
the war, was a battery knocked to pieces so rapidly 
as the Fifth Maine on this occasion. The enemy's 
shells burst among the men in rapid succession. The 
ground seemed as though torn up by an earthquake; 
and in a few moments every horse was killed, and 
the men went down in squads. The caissons were 
blown up, one after another, until all had disappeared; 
and, in one instance, several of the men were blown 


up with the ammunition, and their torn limbs, pieces 
of debris, and apple-blossoms came down in a shower 

Lepine fell, mortally wounded, and was carried to 
the rear dying. In the midst of the storm, flames 
were seen issuing from the Chancellorsville House. 
It was filled with wounded, and a platoon from the 
Second Delaware volunteered to save them! Eushinir 


into the burning building, they dragged and carried 
all out, and laid them on the ground. Capt. John 
P. Wilson, of Hancock's statf, and Col. Joseph 
Dickenson, of Hooker's staff, assisted in the work, 
and, when the wounded were safe, gallantly offered 
their arms to three ladies who were in the mansion, 
to conduct them to a place of safety. One of them 
refused to come into our lines, and ran toward the 
Confederate position; but she fell, struck by a bullet, 
as she crossed the field. The other two, however, 
got away safely. 

The scene at this time was one of wild desolation. 
The large house in flames, the orchard and plains 
swept by the fire of the Confederate batteries, and 
ail of Lepine 's men, except two, had been shot or 
driven away. Corporal Lebroke and a private stood 
alone among the abandoned guns, endeavoring to fire 
an occasional shot. Suddenly, the enemy's fire ceased, 
and a line of their infantry was seen advancing to 
seize the abandoned guns. Once more the Irish 
Brigade goes to the rescue. The One Hundred and 
Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers happened to be 


on the left of the brigade and nearest to the battery. 
Rushing into the orchard, they faced the advancing 
lines and held them back, while 100 men of the 
regiment dragged the pieces off the field. Then the 
whole force fell back, and Chancellorsville fell into 
the enemy's haads. 

During the fight one of Lepine's guns, a brass 
Napoleon, was struck fair in the muzzle, and the 
brass was turned and twisted as though it were paste- 
board. As the men gathered around one of the 
pieces, tugging at the wheels and trying to pull it 
away, a shell burst right over the gun, knocking 
them in all directions, killing a couple and wounding 
several. The boys who were not injured promptly 
jumped to their feet and went at it again, and suc- 
ceeded in saving the guns. 

As the saved battery was passing the Third corps, 
Gen. Sickles gave the men a cheer which was echoed 
along the entire line. 

One of the saddest incidents of the fight was the 
peculiar death of Major Lynch, a noble gentleman of 
the Sixty -third New York. A bursting shell drove 
his own sword through his body, killing him instantly.- 

This was the last battle in which Gen. Meagher 
commanded the Irish Brigade. He resigned shortly 
after the fight, was re-commissioned again and trans- 
ferred to the West; but the fighting qualities of the 
organization remained, even when the general had 
gone ; it never missed a battle, and was present until 
the end. 


Gen. Meagher's departure was greatly regretted. 
A most brilliant leader he was, who seemed at his 
best in the midst of a combat. He had great faith 
in "buck and ball and the bayonet," and frequently 
urged on the men the use of the latter weapon. 
" Take everything with the bayonet, " was the stand- 
ing command when about to close with the foe ; and 
that well-known and oft-repeated order was the 
occasion of a most amusing incident. One evening 
the brigade commissary had received new supplies; 
and among other things, some barrels of molasses 
beside which a young Irishman was placed on guard 
to prevent the men from getting at it until the 
proper time. Seeing no one around as he walked up 
and down, he thought he would enjoy the sweets of 
life, and succeeded in picking a hole in one of the 
barrels with his bayonet. Then dipping the weapon 
into the molasses, he would draw it out and transfer 
it to his mouth. Meagher happened to catch the boy 
in the act, and reproached him in rather strong 
terms for stealing the molasses over which he was 
placed to guard. The young man was astounded and 
overcome with terror for a moment at seeing the 
general, but quickly recovering himself, he quietly 
pushed the blade into the syrup, pulled it out drip- 
ping with the sweet liquid, took a big lick of it and 
reminded the General: "Sure, don't ye be always 
telling us to take everything wid the bayonet?" 



At Gettysburg the brigade was led by a new com- 
mander, the aimable, noble Patrick Kelly, colonel 
Eighty-eighth New York, who, like Elias of old, was 
destined to ascend to heaven in a chariot of fire. 

The brilliant Meagher was gone, but his mantle 
had fallen on one who was well we-rt^ to wear it. ''^"^^wv^ 

Before advancing upon the enemy, on the after- ^^ 
noon of July 2, a religious ceremony was performed 
that, in the sublime magnificence and grandeur of its 
surroundings, was never equalled on this continent. 
As the men stood ready to move, their chaplain. 
Father William Corby, proposed to give them general 
absolution before going into the fight. Standing 
in front of the brigade, which was drawn up in a 
column of regiments, he made a fervent and passion- 
ate appeal to the men to remember in the hour of 
battle the great Captain of all, Jesus Christ, and to 
have contrition for their sins, that they might be 
prepared to die for the cause for which they fought. 

Every man fell upon his knees, the flags were 
dropped, and Father Corby, looking up to- heaven, 
called down the blessing of the Almighty upon the 
men. Stretching out his right hand (as the lips of 
the soldiers moved in silent prayer) he pronounced 
the words of absolution : 

''Dominus noster Jesus Christus vos dbsolvat^ et 
ego auctoritate ipsius, vos ahsolvo ab omni vinculo 
excommunicationis et interdicti^ in quantum possum 
et vos indigetis, deinde^ ego absolvo vos a peccatis vest- 
ris i7i nomine Patris, et Filii^ et Spiritus /Sanctis 
Amen/ " 


There was Bilence and peace in the ranks; but to 
the left, Little Kound Top was wreathed in flame 
and smoke. The troops of the Third Corps were 
falling back from the peach orchard and Devil's 
Den, under Longstreet's crushing blows. 

Out by the valley of death the hills and dark 
woods were re-echoing the roar and crash of the 
batteries. Amen! Load! Fix bayonets! And on the 
right of the division (Caldwell's) the brigade swept 
toward the fire, and, entering the timber to the left 
of the peach orchard, at the spot now called the 
" Loup," they met the enemy. The lines were very 
close before seeing each other. 

The deployment and advance were made on the 
double-quick, and as the lines rushed forward through 
the trees and bowlders that were scattered over the 
ground, the Confederates were discovered. 

They, too, were advancing; and when within thirty 
yards of each other the lines halted, and a sheet of 
flame burst out. A few short moments of serious 
work. Face to face the men stood pouring in their 
deadly volley of fire, the officers emptying their revolv- 
ers in the melee, then snatching up the muskets of the 
dead and fighting in the ranks with the men. A loud 
shout of "Forward! Charge!" — a dash to the front, 
and in a moment the men of both armies were min- 
gled together. The firing suddenly ceased and an 
officer called out; "The Confederate troops will lay 
down their arms and go to the rear." They quickly 
did so, and the brigade sent as many prisoners to the 


rear as there were men in the ranks. The position 
gained, however, was not tenable. 

The right regiment of the brigade (One Hundred 
and Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers) was also the 
right of the division, and rested close to the peach 
orchard. In a short time after the victory, Caldwell 
withdrew the division, the brigade passing toward 
Little Round Top, and losing heavily in the wheat 
field, where it received *a cross-fire without having a 
chance to reply. Many of the men who fell wounded 
at that point were killed in the evening during the 
charges and counter-charges that passed over the 
whirlpool; and many who were captured, afterward 
died in Southern prisons. 

^ On the afternoon of July 3, and the third day 
after the battle, the brigade occupied a position on 
the main line, and during the great charge of 
Pickett's division and Hill's corps, was in front of 
Wilcox and Perry's brigade, as they moved forward 
on Pickett's right. The losses on this afternoon 
were light; except in the brigade battery, which was 
almost annihilated; and its gallant commander, Capt. 
James Rorty, killed. 

Gettysburg had proved that, although its old com- 
mander was gone, the brigade had lost none of its 
old-time heroism. 



The brigade went into action to the left of the 
Brock road, in the dense woods near the gold mines. 
On that bright May day, ten field officers were 
mounted and in line with the five regiments. Within 
six weeks every saddle was empty. Six of these 
officers. Cols. Kelly, Byrnes, and Dale, and Majors 
Touhy, Lawyer, and Ryder, were sleeping in soldiers' 
graves; and the other four were torn and lacerated 
in the hospitals. 

The brigade was commanded in the early days of 
the Wilderness campaign by the beloved Col. Tom 
Smyth, of Delaware — making a glorious fight on 
May 5 and 6, meeting every charge of Longst reefs 
veterans, and throwing them back in bloody repulse. 

On the afternoon of the 6th, during one of the 
many fierce onslaughts of the enemy, the rails and 
logs, of which we had built our field works, caught 
fire and quickly reached to the timber. Amidst 
clouds of smoke and crackling flames the fight went 
on, the musketry rattled and roared, and many a 
noble soul fell, while the fire still leaping and sweep- 
ing through the trees, burned up both the dead and 
wounded of both armies. Among others who were 
killed at this time were Major Ryder and Capt. Jas. 
B. Turner/A. A. G. Turner was an excellent soldier, 
an accomplished gentleman, and a graceful writer. 
During a lull in the firing, I remember seeing two 
men carrying a dead officer to the rear. I raised the 
handkerchief from the face and looked upon the 


calm and noble features of my good friend Kyder. 
But every day now, brought death to the brigade. 
The tremendous battles that drenched the Wilder- 
ness in blood became an every-day affair. Fight all 
day, move a few miles to the left, and charge again 
next morning, seemed to be the standing rule. May 
the 5th and 6th on the Brock road; the 8th at Todd's 
Tavern; the 10th at Po's River; the 12th and 13th 
at Spottsylvania ; the 18th near the same place; the 
23d at the North Anna; the 29th at the Pamunky 
River ;i the 30th and 31st at Tolopotomy;''}the 2d and 
3d of June at Cold Harbor; and so on to Petersburg. 
Col. Smyth commanded the brigade until May 20, 
when he was assigned to a brigade m the second 
division of the Second Corps, and Col. Byrnes 
assumed command. He fell dead at Cold Harbor, 
and Col. Patrick Kelly succeeded him; and here at 
Cold Harbor, Capt. Frank Lieb made a noble charge 
with the One Hundred and Sixteenth Pennsylvania 
Volunteers, capturing works, colors, and prisoners 
from the enemy. 

At Spottsylvania, where the superb Hancock made 
the great success of the campaign, the flags of the 
brigade were among the first to pierce the lines of 
the enemy: and again more prisoners were sent to 
the rear than there were men in the ranks. 

On the evening of June 16, the brigade swept 
across the plain in front of Petersburg and pushed 
upon the Confederate works; and here Col. Kelly, 
the last of the field officers who had started with it 


in the spring campaign, fell, pierced through the 
head. The carnage up to this time had been terrible. 
Not only were the field officers gone, but nearly all 
the line officers had been killed or wounded, and 
more than one thousand of the men had fallen. 

And now the long, ten months' work in the 
trenches in front of Petersburg began, to be inter- 
rupted at intervals when battles wer5 to be fought at 
other points — twice to Deep Bottom, where, on the 
2d of August, the brigade, with a rush like a 
cyclone, sprang on the Confederate line and captured 
the works without firing a shot. 

At Reams' Station, August 25, the brigade added 
another laurel to its crown of glory, receiving the 
thanks and congratulations of Gen. Miles and others. 
In this fight the loss was heavy, and among 
the dead were Capts. Nowlen and Taggart, One 
Hundred and Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, 
each of whom was shot through the heart. Nowlen 
was in command of the regiment when struck, and 
turned quickly to look up and down for his own 
company. Waving his hand to the men he had led 
so well, he called out, "Good-bye, boys," and fell 

Shortly after the Eeams' Station fight, the Ons 
Hundred and Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers 
was transferred to the Fourth brigade, and the 
Seventh New York heavy artillery assigned to the 
Irish Brigade, Col. Nugent assuming command. 
.Then, with replenished ranks, the brigade fought in 


the trenches at Petersburg until the end of the siege, 
every day gathering fresh honors and achieving new 

/ Then on to Hatchers' Kun — to Five Forks, Amelia 
Court House, High Bridge, Farmville, Sailor Creek 
and Appomattox, where the brigade closed its noble 
and honorable career, only when the last shot of the 
war was fired, and the last enemy of the Republic had 
laid down his arms 

Of the men who, at different times, had led the 
command, three were killed in battle — Smyth, Kelly, 
and Byrnes ; and Meagher — the brilliant citizen and 
gallant soldier — found a grave in the turbulent 
waters of the upper Missouri. 

Few of those brave souls who, under the Green Flag 
of their own native land, fought so well to defend the 
Stars and Stripes of the land of their adoption, are 
now with us. Those who lived through the storm of 
the battles are rapidly passing to the other side, to 
join the heroes who fell in the fight. The few sur- 
vivors assembled at Gettysburg a year or two ago, there 
to erect and dedicate to their memory, monuments in 
granite and bronze, and stand once more on the spot 
that had been crimsoned by their blood; and like 
Melchisedech, on Bilboa's field, to pray for their com- 
rades slain, that the God of Moses and Joshua, He 
who loves the brave and good, may grant sweet rest 
to the souls of those who died in defense of their 
adopted country 

CORBY, William. 

Memoirs of chaplain life.