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http://www.angelfire.com/pa5/civilwarchaplain/ - April 28

The Civil War was the most significant historical event affecting nineteenth century America, very much as the Revolution was in the eighteenth century. And just as the Revolution saw the involvement of the chaplain, so did the Civil War; but on a scale that dwarfed that of 1776. The size of the Civil War was of such a magnitude, and the destruction so great, that the conflict has been justly called the first modern war.

For almost four years huge volunteer armies of citizen-soldiers grappled with each other in a series of campaigns and battles over a vast geographical area. Governors, regimental or post officers, and the Federal authorities appointed an estimated 3000 chaplains to the Union forces. The names of slightly over 2300 of these chaplains are known to us. The largest number of chaplains serving at any one time in the listed 1079 on active duty. There were 930 regimental chaplains, 117 hospital chaplains, and 32 post chaplains. Sixty-six chaplains died in the service of their country during this conflict, including Chaplain U.P. Gardner of the 13th Kansas Infantry who, after identifying himself as a chaplain, was shot down by a member of Quantrell's guerrilla raiders on 22 November 1864, in the Cherokee country. The raider was a 17-year-old by the name of Jesse James. On the Confederate side existing army records are also incomplete as to the number of chaplains, but somewhere between 600 and 1000 served in that capacity. We know the names of 25 Confederate chaplains who died in the war. Civil War chaplains fell into three general categories: regimental, post, and hospital. The 30 post chaplain positions mentioned earlier still existed, although with added war duties. The greatest influx of chaplains came with the calling up of troops from the States. According to the old militia laws, each regiment was to have a chaplain. On 22 July 1861, when 500,000 volunteers were called to the colors, there was a clear need for more chaplains. Appointment was vested in the regimental commander on a vote of the field officers and company commanders. A chaplain had to be a regularly ordained minister of a Christian denomination and received the pay and allowances of a captain of cavalry. By the act of 3 August 1861, regimental chaplains were provided for the Regular Army. These were to be "regularly ordained ministers of some Christian denomination and were to be selected and appointed as the President may direct." The qualification section was changed on 17 July 1862, to read: That no person shall be appointed a chaplain in the United States Army who is not a regularly ordained minister of some religious denomination, and who does not present testimonials of his good standing as such minister, with a recommendation of his appointment as an Army chaplain from some authorized ecclesiastical body, or not less than five accredited ministers belonging to said religious denomination. This change was brought about as a result of a request made to President Lincoln by the Board of Delegates of American Israelites to make provisions for Jewish chaplains. The manner of appointing and commissioning chaplains in the volunteer regiments varied widely, and many served without commissions. Most states provided for commissioning by the Governor, using the same form of commission as that given to chaplains. Wisconsin and Rhode Island commissioned some but not others. New Hampshire gave a commission for the chaplain to hold office at the discretion of the colonel of the regiment. Regular Army chaplains were commissioned in accordance with the provisions of the Articles of War. Hospital chaplains received a commission signed by the President and Secretary of War. No specific provision was made regarding commissions to post chaplains, except that the appointment was to be made by the Council of Administration of the post and that the appointment proceedings were to be forwarded immediately to the Adjutant General's office. The great diversity in the status of chaplains made it easy for unofficial chaplains to spring up. These were of three types: clergymen and lay evangelists who simply held services in the camps or even became followers of the Army, clergymen attached to the United States Christian Commission, and Presidential hospital chaplains. Considerable improvement in the organization of the Chaplaincy resulted from an act approved on 9 April 1864. In it the "rank of chaplain, without command, in the regular and volunteer service of the United States" was recognized. Up to that time chaplains had been customarily treated as captains. As a result, the practice of some chaplains wearing a captain's uniform and insignia (often including a sword and pistol) caused controversy. General Order No. 102 (1861), had authorized that the "uniform for chaplains of the Army will be a plain black frock coat, with standing collar, and one row of nine brass buttons; plain black pantaloons, black felt hat or army forage cap, without ornament." This remained the standard approved uniform throughout the conflict.

First photograph of a religious service in the U.S. Army: Mass in the field for the soldiers of the 69th New York Regiment prior to the first Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. The Civil War saw the Army Chaplaincy develop in primitive form many of the procedures still in place. While in earlier periods the military clergy were preachers, pastors and combatants, the 1861-1865 period saw less emphasis on the "fighting parson" and more on a spiritual ministry. Also, the Civil War for the first time witnessed a large number of Roman Catholic chaplains in the field, the advent of the first Jewish chaplains, and the first Black and Indian chaplains. The war's history is studded with spiritual heroes. Chaplain William Hoge, for example, ran the Union Blockade to bring Bibles from England to Southern soldiers. Chaplain William Corby (whose statue stands on Cemetery Ridge) administered the last rites to the dying under a hail of fire, giving General Absolution to the Irish Brigade minutes before 506 of those soldiers lay dead on the field at Gettysburg. Chaplain Charles McCabe refused to escape during the retreat from Winchester in order to remain with the wounded, and later as a POW maintained morale in Libby Prison. Chaplain Robert Browne, of the 100th Pennsylvania Infantry, is credited in the history of that unit with walking the front in such a cool and courageous manner that he inspired the men to stand and fight. Three chaplains won the nation's highest award in the Civil War — the Congressional Medal of Honor. Chaplain John M. Whitehead of the 15th Indiana Infantry won it for carrying wounded to the rear under very heavy fire at Stone River, Tennessee, in 1862. Chaplain Francis O. Hall gained his at Salem Heights, Virginia, in 1863, while serving as regimental chaplain to the 16th New York Infantry. The third Medal of Honor was won by Chaplain Milton L. Haney of the 55th Illinois Infantry during fierce fighting near Atlanta in 1864. Unlike chaplains Whitehead and Hall, Haney, according to his citation, "voluntarily carried a musket in the ranks of his regiment and rendered heroic service in retaking Federal works which had been captured by the enemy." The spirit of the fighting clergyman in the tradition of Bishops Turpin and Odo was still alive in this war. Some 97 Union clergymen served in a combat role prior to their appointment as chaplains. A number of clergymen moved the other way, serving as line officers. One, the Reverend William A. Pile, who was originally appointed as a chaplain to a Missouri regiment in 1861, ended the war as a brevet major general of infantry. Chaplain Haney (ca. 1900) The Civil War, besides seeing a large number of Roman Catholic priests serving as chaplains, also saw the appointment of the first Jewish and Black chaplains. The first Jewish chaplain to serve was Michael Mitchell Allen, duly elected to that post by the officers of the 65th Regiment, 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry, known as "Cameron's Dragoons." When notice of this was taken, he resigned for "poor health" rather than suffer the humiliation of dismissal. Allen was disqualified from serving as a chaplain for two reasons: he was neither ordained nor a Christian, but a Jewish cantor. The regiment then elected Rabbi Arnold Fischel to test the constitutionality of the law's "Christian" proviso. His application for a commission was denied. Much petitioning and lobbying ensued. The result: on 17 July 1862, the law was changed by the Congress, thereby permitting Jewish clergymen to become military chaplains. The noted Jewish scholar, Bertram W. Korn, writes in American Jewry in the Civil War that to his knowledge this was the first victory for American Jews directly involving the Federal Government. Fischel served as a civilian chaplain during the war, giving "area coverage" to Jewish personnel in the Army of the Potomac.

Chaplain Frankel The first authorized Jewish chaplain in the U.S. Army, Rabbi Jacob Frankel, of Philadelphia's Rodeph Shalom Congregation was commissioned by President Lincoln on 18 September 1862. He served until 1 July 1865. The first rabbi to serve as a regimental chaplain and to see combat as an American Army chaplain was Ferdinand Leopold Sarner. A native of Germany, he was elected chaplain by the officers of a predominantly German regiment, the 54th New York Volunteer Regiment, the "Schwarze Jaeger", serving between 10 April 1863 and 3 October 1864. His discharge was for medical disabilities resulting from a serious wound received at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Civil War also marked for the first time the large-scale use of black troops in the Army on a regular basis, both in combat and support functions. By the end of the war there were 158 black regiments in the Union Army. Although all of the officers and most of the chaplains with these regiments were white, twelve of the regiments had black chaplains. The first black chaplain is considered to be the Reverend Henry McNeal Turner, a pastor from Baltimore, Maryland. In 1863 Turner became the chaplain of the 1st Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops. He served until 1865, and later "became a member of the Georgia legislature, a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a founder of several religious journals, and a college president." Henry Turner First African-American Regular Army Chaplain

Another milestone in this war was the service of Unaguskie, the son of a Cherokee chief and a Christian, who was the chaplain of the Cherokee Battalion raised in North Carolina by the Confederate Army. A second was the election of Mrs. Ella E. Gibson Hobart, a member of the Religio-Philosophical Society of Saint Charles, Illinois, as the chaplain of the 1st Wisconsin Regiment of Heavy Artillery. Chaplain Hobart, whose husband was also a chaplain, served in this position for a number of months in 1864, until Secretary of War Stanton refused to recognize her status because of her sex and the War Department\\'s desire not to establish a precedent. President Lincoln wrote that he had "no objection to her appointment," but felt that the final decision was up to Secretary Stanton.

Ella Gibson Hobart Female Civil War chaplain Chaplains' duties in the Civil War encompassed many areas. Most important were the worship services they conducted in tents, outdoors or around campfires. Services often were ecumenical with Catholic and Protestant chaplains sharing duties. The themes of their sermons were either patriotism to the cause, or admonitions against "evil" behavior (i.e. swearing, gambling, drunkenness and so forth). Additional duties included evening prayer meetings, prayers at dress parades and officiating at weddings, baptisms, funerals and burials. Chaplains performed pastoral functions by counseling, providing guidance and comforting the sick and wounded. They formed temperance societies and opened informal schools to teach illiterate soldiers to read and write. Among other chores assigned to chaplains were those of postmaster, writer of letters for wounded and dying soldiers, writer of letters telling of a soldier's death, banker, ambulance driver, defense counselors and Army recruiters. With the end of the conflict in April 1865, the great military machine that was the Union Army was quickly dismantled, and its mass of volunteer citizen-soldiers, including chaplains, returned to their old lives.

he American Civil War (also known as the “War Between the States”) was the most significant historical event to affect nineteenth century America, virtually as much as the Revolution affected the eighteenth century. And just as the Revolution saw the involvement of the chaplain, so did the Civil War; but on a scale that dwarfed that of 1776. The size of the Civil War was of such a magnitude, and the destruction so great, that the conflict has been justly called the first modern war.

Union Chaplains

For almost four years huge volunteer armies of citizen-soldiers grappled with each other in a series of campaigns and battles over a vast geographical area. Governors, regimental or post officers, and the Federal authorities appointed an estimated 3000 chaplains to the Union forces. The names of slightly over 2300 of these chaplains are known to us. The largest number of chaplains serving at any one time in the listed 1079 on active duty. There were 930 regimental chaplains, 117 hospital chaplains, and 32 post chaplains. Sixty-six chaplains died in the service of their country during this conflict, including Chaplain U.P. Gardner of the 13th Kansas Infantry who, after identifying himself as a chaplain, was shot down by a member of Quantrell's guerrilla raiders on 22 November 1864, in the Cherokee country. The raider was a 17-year-old by the name of Jesse James. On the Confederate side existing army records are also incomplete as to the number of chaplains, but somewhere between 600 and 1000 served in that capacity. We know the names of 25 Confederate chaplains who died in the war.

Civil War chaplains fell into three general categories: regimental, post, and hospital. The 30 post chaplain positions mentioned earlier still existed, although with added war duties. The greatest influx of chaplains came with the calling up of troops from the States. According to the old militia laws, each regiment was to have a chaplain. On 22 July 1861, when 500,000 volunteers were called to the colors, there was a clear need for more chaplains. Appointment was vested in the regimental commander on a vote of the field officers and company commanders. A chaplain had to be a regularly ordained minister of a Christian denomination and received the pay and allowances of a captain of cavalry.

Offices of the US Christian Commission

By the act of 3 August 1861, regimental chaplains were provided for the Regular Army. These were to be "regularly ordained ministers of some Christian denomination and were to be selected and appointed as the President may direct." The qualification section was changed on 17 July 1862, to read:

Chaplain in uniform on the Battle Field

That no person shall be appointed a chaplain in the United States Army who is not a regularly ordained minister of some religious denomination, and who does not present testimonials of his good standing as such minister, with a recommendation of his appointment as an Army chaplain from some authorized ecclesiastical body, or not less than five accredited ministers belonging to said religious denomination.

This change was brought about as a result of a request made to President Lincoln by the Board of Delegates of American Israelites to make provisions for Jewish chaplains. The manner of appointing and commissioning chaplains in the volunteer regiments varied widely, and many served without commissions. Most states provided for commissioning by the Governor, using the same form of commission as that given to chaplains. Wisconsin and Rhode Island commissioned some but not others. New Hampshire gave a commission for the chaplain to hold office at the discretion of the colonel of the regiment.

Regular Army chaplains were commissioned in accordance with the provisions of the Articles of War. Hospital chaplains received a commission signed by the President and Secretary of War. No specific provision was made regarding commissions to post chaplains, except that the appointment was to be made by the Council of Administration of the post and that the appointment proceedings were to be forwarded immediately to the Adjutant General's office. The great diversity in the status of chaplains made it easy for unofficial chaplains to spring up. These were of three types: clergymen and lay evangelists who simply held services in the camps or even became followers of the Army, clergymen attached to the United States Christian Commission, and Presidential hospital chaplains.

Considerable improvement in the organization of the Chaplaincy resulted from an act approved on 9 April 1864. In it the "rank of chaplain, without command, in the regular and volunteer service of the United States" was recognized. Up to that time chaplains had been customarily treated as captains. As a result, the practice of some chaplains wearing a captain's uniform and insignia (often including a sword and pistol) caused controversy. General Order No. 102 (1861), had authorized that the "uniform for chaplains of the Army will be a plain black frock coat, with standing collar, and one row of nine brass buttons; plain black pantaloons, black felt hat or army forage cap" This remained the standard approved uniform throughout the conflict.

Sunday Mass with a New York Regiment

The Civil War, besides seeing a large number of Roman Catholic priests serving as chaplains, also saw the appointment of the first Jewish and Black chaplains.

Chaplains' duties in the Civil War encompassed many areas. Most important were the worship services they conducted in tents, outdoors or around campfires. Services often were ecumenical with Catholic and Protestant chaplains sharing duties. The themes of their sermons were either patriotism to the cause, or admonitions against "evil" behavior (i.e. swearing, gambling, drunkenness and so forth). Additional duties included evening prayer meetings, prayers at dress parades and officiating at weddings, baptisms, funerals and burials. Chaplains performed pastoral functions by counseling, providing guidance and comforting the sick and wounded. They formed temperance societies and opened informal schools to teach illiterate soldiers to read and write. Among other chores assigned to chaplains were those of postmaster, writer of letters for wounded and dying soldiers, writer of letters telling of a soldier's death, banker, ambulance driver, defense counselors and Army recruiters.

With the end of the conflict in April 1865, the great military machine that was the Union Army was quickly dismantled, and its mass of volunteer citizen-soldiers, including chaplains, returned to their old lives.


Fr. William Corby

Chaplain at The Battle of Gettysburg


Fr. William Corby during the Civil War

In 1860, at the age of 27, Fr. William Corby, C.S.C. was ordained a Catholic priest . He was a member of a religious Order called the “Congregation of the Holy Cross”. The following year he volunteered as a chaplain with the Irish Brigade and eventually marched through the Civil War years with these Union men who fought at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, and, most notably, Gettysburg.

Shortly after 4:00 p.m. on July 2, 1863, as the battle in Pennsylvania approached its crescendo on Cemetery Ridge, Fr. Corby beseeched the commanding colonel for permission to address the Brigade. He donned his purple stole, mounted a nearby rock, extended his hand, and pronounced brief words of absolution over the soldiers.
Witnesses later reported that every man in sight, Catholic, other faith, and atheist, dropped to his knees in unison as Fr. Corby made the Sign of the Cross. Later in life, he insisted that the rare general absolution was intended for everyone regardless of whether they were clad in blue or gray. Yet by sunset on that epochal day, the blood of nearly 30,000 uniformed men wearing grave clothes of indistinguishable colors mingled on the ground before him, and in the horrible aftermath, one wonders  about his emotions as a “minister of religion” and his unshakable faith in  prayer.
He survived the war and, in 1888 Fr. Corby was invited to be the first speaker at a twenty-fifth anniversary gathering held in Gettysburg. When he poignantly uttered the words, "Here is what is left of us. Where are the others?" former Yankees and Confederates broke down with him and wept together for several minutes. After his death, they proved how much he had meant to them by petitioning to have his statue erected near the spot where he stood with raised hand and blessed them all.

Fr. Corby later in Life (1893)

Today, before this statue, many stop occasionally and say a quiet prayer in front of the priest, who reminds us every day that God's forgiveness is powerful enough to conquer death and reconcile bitter foes. Though Fr. Corby later served two terms as president of the famous “Notre Dame University” in Indianna, he would undoubtedly be pleased that he is most remembered for the sacrament he administered at Gettysburg with a few words and the priestly movement of his hands.

Fr. Corby's story epitomizes how much a young man can do to relieve the world's sufferings through the simple signs of grace which are the Church's sacraments. It is what we have been ordained to do, and there are few things more important to the Church's future than having more priests present among us to manifest God's merciful justice wherever people's souls hang in the balance.

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