Notre Dame and the Civil War. The chaplains: Paul Gillen, James Dillon, William Corby, Peter Cooney, Julian Bourget, Zepherin Lévêque, Joseph Carrier. Corby at Gettysburg. Political difficulty with the draft; Schuyler Colfax. Sisters serve in war hospitals. Growth of the University; new college building; changes Patrick Dillon, second president.
MORE than thirty years after the Civil War, John Ireland, Archbishop of St. Paul, mounted the pulpit in Notre Dame's new and lovely church. The bench on the epistle side was occupied by a venerable priest, clothed in golden vestments, his tremendous white beard and silver locks marking him for the patriarch he was. Father Sorin was celebrating the fiftieth year of his priesthood. And Archbishop Ireland was making the most of it. It was a lengthy discourse. But the old priest on the bench perked up when he heard these words:
It is a lamentable fact that few priests were sent to the front to minister to the soldiers. The fact must ever be regretted. Father Sorin's community was weak in numbers; the absence of even one stopped important work at home. He sent forward seven to serve as chaplains. . . . Father Sorin appealed to the Sisters of the Holy Cross; and they, brave as they were tender of heart, rushed southward to care for the wounded and soothe the pillows of the dying. Few things in the past half century were done to break down more effectually anti-Catholic prejudice than the sending of our generous Sisters to the battle field and the military hospitals. The soldiers venerated the Sisters, and never since have they ceased repeating their praise.
There were other priests, and other Sisters in the war; those of Holy Cross made up the greater part of the roster. None excelled them in daring feat and religious fervor. No other order, nor diocese, made for the purpose sacrifices as did that of Holy Cross.
Father Sorin, you saved the honor of the Church. I speak from a special knowledge of the facts, and I speak from my heart. And could the country's martyrs speak from the silent earth at Gettysburg and a hundred other gory fields, their voices would re-echo with our own in your praise on this glorious anniversary.
The seven priests sent by Notre Dame were Fathers Paul Gillen, James Dillon, William Corby, Peter Cooney, Julian Bourget, Zepherin Lévêque, and Joseph Carrier. Father Sorin, persuaded as he was that the conflict would be of short duration, did not assign all these priests at the very beginning of the conflict. Father Gillen was the first to go. He was at Washington in the late spring of 1861. At the end of August, the same year, Father James Dillon was sent to Washington where, he says, he met Father Gillen, already there for several weeks. Father Peter Cooney, at this same time, was appointed chaplain for the 1st Regiment of Indiana volunteers.
On October 20th, Father Dillon joined the Irish Brigade. Naturally the members of this outfit were mostly Catholics, and Father Dillon had more than he could handle. He wrote to Notre Dame and requested that Father William Corby be assigned to assist him. Father Corby at once resigned his "professorial duties," and repaired to Washington.
At the beginning of the war, the chaplains were not regularly commissioned officers. It was only in August, 1861, that the government, recognizing the profound influence of the chaplains over the soldiers, effected the necessary legislation to award them a commission and a regular salary. The courage and the bravery of the Catholic soldiers were greatly stimulated by the presence of a priest. Having received the sacraments, they went into battle with incredible daring. A Union regiment under Col. Cass was in a very tight fix one day, when he saw a rush of soldiers coming to his aid. He called out to the commander of the newcomers: "Is that the Irish Brigade?" "Yes, Colonel, we are here!" shouted General Meagher. "Thank God, then, we're saved!" Confederate soldiers had reason to remember the fighting spirit of the Irish. "Here comes that damned green flag again," they would shout when the Irish Brigade went for them.
As we mentioned. Father Gillen was the first Holy Cross priest to act as chaplain in the Civil War. In the early summer of 1861, he was in New York on community business. There, they told him of the need of priests to accompany the Catholic soldiers to battle. He immediately got in touch with Father Sorin, whose consent was readily given. In Washington Father Gillen discovered that the Irish Brigade, under General Meagher, had left for the front. In haste, he followed them. He overtook the 22nd Regiment of New York volunteers on the eve of the Battle of Bull Run. Until late that night, he heard confessions. His work was unfinished when the troops were ordered to advance. He gave general absolution to all who had not been able to get to confession. The next day, hundreds of Catholic boys lay dead on that ignominious field, and the Union army beat a hasty retreat to Washington. Father Gillen's horse was in a fine lather when he got back to the Capitol.
Paul Gillen was a native of Ireland, born sometime in the first decade of the nineteenth century. In 1840 he came to America, and for twenty years traveled the country over as an agent for the Boston Pilot. Shortly before the Civil War he became a priest and joined the community at Notre Dame. He was a tall, spare gentleman, with that wiry robustness that defies sickness. From the moment he joined the Army he was with his soldiers every day of the conflict, not quitting his post until the troops were mustered out. In addition to his horse, he contrived some sort of buggy which could be converted, as need arose, into a sleeping compartment or a chapel. With this contraption he drove from one regiment to another, administering the sacraments and giving comfort to the Catholic soldiers. Though he was in his fifties when he joined up, never for one day of the war was he incapacitated. The soldiers were in admiration at his energy. He must have been tough. For he went through all this and did not die until October 20, 1882.
Father James Dillon, under Father Sorin's orders, proceeded to Washington during the summer of 1861. He found the capitol city one vast sea of tents quartering the waiting soldiers. Almost immediately he was assigned to Corcoran's Irish Legion. He was young, full of enthusiasm, a ready talker. His impulsiveness was well illustrated the day when most of the officers in General Meagher's brigade were hors de combat, and Father Dillon discovered himself shouting orders to the soldiers, whom he rallied and led on, until he found himself relieved by a more fitting officer. Only at that moment did he realize the incongruity of a priest pushing the soldiers into battle. His constitution, unlike that of Father Gillen, was delicate, and the rigors of camp life aggravated the lung trouble which had plagued him for a long time. He was forced to resign in August, 1864. His death, in 1868, was credited largely to the privations undergone as a chaplain.
When one mentions Notre Dame's chaplains in the Civil War, the name of Father William Corby springs instinctively to mind. This is not wholly due to the fact that Father Corby's war services are recorded on the campus in bronze, and in the art gallery by Paul Wood's colorful panorama of the scene at Gettysburg. Nor is it due entirely to Father Corby's subsequent prominence as a superior in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Father Corby's eminence as a chaplain came about because he combined rare and persevering courage with remarkable prudence. In the midst of Catholic soldiers, by his speech and actions, he manifested such zeal for their spiritual welfare that they were greatly comforted. His influence was so profound that all the officers of his brigade constantly relied on his assistance.
William Corby was a Detroit boy, the son of a prominent physician. The Corby family was, financially, quite well to do. William was born on October 2, 1833. Twenty years later, in 1853, he and three younger brothers entered the University of Notre Dame. We do not know if at the moment of his arrival, he had any intention of becoming a priest. But we do know that such an intention did appear during the following year. Father Sorin wrote to Dr. Corby in response to an inquiry as to the cost of educating William for the priesthood. Father Sorin's estimate was that it would cost about $170 a year. "Your son does very well and gives all hopes of being one day a very good priest, but it will take some time." He adds that, if Dr. Corby would prefer, the entire education can be guaranteed for one thousand dollars -- spot cash, we presume!
From the very first young Corby seems to have entered most seriously into his studies. We find him in the Novitiate in 1854. He was twenty-one years old at that time, becomingly bland and gentle. There seems to have been nothing frivolous in his nature. One searches the disciplinary records in vain for any mention of him. In 1858 he was professed as a member of the community. The following year he was made Prefect of Discipline, and in 1860 he was ordained to the priesthood. The list of obediences for July, 1861, names him as Director af the Manual Labor school, and in charge of St. Patrick's parish in South Bend, which parish, at that time, was too insignificant to claim a resident pastor.
Late in the year of 1861, Father Corby's offer of himself as a chaplain was accepted by the governor of New York. He was appointed to General Thomas Francis Meagher's famous Irish Brigade. A portion of the Army of the Potomac, the Brigade was encamped at Camp California, just outside of Alexandria, Virginia. During that first winter, in which the Brigade saw no action, Father Corby's work was mostly that of a parish priest, except that there were, as he remarks, no old women to bother him, nor any pew rent to collect. It was not until the morning of March 5, 1862, that the Brigade was ordered to the front.
They marched in the direction of Manassas and Bull Run. When they arrived, they found that the Confederate Army had left the scene. The Brigade was ordered to retrace its steps. Most of the next two months was spent in the unhealthful Chicahominy swamps, where malaria killed more than did bullets. Finally, at dawn on July 1, 1862, began the Battle of Fair Oaks. The soldiers of the Confederacy could be seen advancing in long lines. The Irish Brigade was to have its baptism by fire. Catholics all, the soldiers blessed themselves with great fervor, and uttering a prayer to God in heaven and His Blessed Mother, "they advanced with their well-known war-shout, and closed with fearful ferocity on the foe, and for an hour mowed them down almost by companies." It was a bloody battle. Both sides together lost over twelve thousand men. Nor was either side decisively victorious. Late that night, when both had retired, carrying their dead and wounded, Father Corby found an old envelope and scribbled on the inside of it: "The battle is over, and we are safe." When Father Sorin finally received the badly battered note, he was so thrilled that he read it to the assembled student body.
But the Union Army was still immersed in the swamps. Father Corby had his hands full taking care of the malaria patients. On June 17th, he was dizzy. "What's the matter with me?" he complained to Father James Dillon. "Oh, the sight of seeing so many sick and dying gets you. It's your imagination!" The next day, however, Corby reeled and collapsed on the ground. After they had revived him, Father Dillon ordered him out of camp, and under the care of a young negro they put him on an old barge going up the Potomac to Washington. There the Sisters of Charity cared for him, and after two weeks he was back at his post."
It was September before the Irish Brigade was again involved in serious warfare. McClellan's army was in hot pursuit of the Confederates. But when Lee had retreated as far as Antietam, he suddenly turned and proposed to make a vigorous stand. On the morning of September 17th orders were hastily issued. The Irish Brigade was to be the first in the fray. At that moment, when the "double-quick" was shouted, Father Corby was at the rear of the Brigade.
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 on the 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 General Meagher into the battle. . . . In twenty or thirty minutes after this absolution, 506 of these very men lay on the field, either dead or wounded. . . .
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. Every instant bullets whizzed past my head . . . the bullets came from the Confederates at very close range.
Thereafter, Father Corby was close to his Catholic soldiers through the fearful carnage of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spottsylvania. For his conduct at Gettysburg Father Corby attained his greatest renown. It was not because, on that occasion, he gave general absolution to his soldiers. That act was common enough in any battle. But the peculiar circumstances were such as to make the scene particularly dramatic. When Robert E. Lee carried the war north to Pennsylvania, the Army of the Potomac took after him. These two great opposing forces faced each other on July 1, 1863. The Irish Brigade, however, was thirteen miles from the scene. That afternoon they received orders to march as quickly as possible toward Gettysburg.
The following morning the Irish Brigade was posted on Cemetery Ridge. In the valley below them was the little town. Just behind the village, and only a mile away, the Confederates on Seminary ridge could be clearly discerned. All that day was spent in the disposition of the troops of either side. About four o'clock in the afternoon the Confederates attacked. Throughout the valley re-echoed the crash of exploding shell, the nasty whining of bullets; the air was grey with smoke and punctuated, here and there, with the orange flash of powder. The Union officers, trying to make out the course of battle through their glasses, were dismayed to see their own Third Corps driven back by the Confederates. They knew that in a few moments the Irish Brigade must go to their assistance.
At this juncture Father Corby approached Colonel Patrick Kelly, now in charge, saying to him: "For two or three weeks, we have been marching constantly. My men have not had a chance to get to confession. I must give them one last bit of spiritual comfort. Let me stand up on this rock, where they may all see me. Let me speak to them!" It was so ordered. Above the terrible din of battle Father Corby told the men that since it was impossible at the moment to hear the confessions of the Catholic boys, they could be restored to the state of grace by prayerfully receiving the general absolution that he was about to impart. Let them, in their hearts, make a fervent act of contrition and a resolution to embrace the first opportunity of confession. As he finished these few words, and placed the purple stole over his shoulders, every man, Catholic and non-Catholic, fell to his knees. The chaplain's hand was raised in absolution. Immediately thereafter the officers shouted, "Order Arms!" The troops wheeled and rushed down into the valley to repulse the Confederates. For a moment Corby stood motionless on the rock. He was gazing on the back of many a soldier running to battle in his grave clothes.
After Father Corby, mention should be made of Peter Paul Cooney. He was a peppery man, this P. P. Cooney, as he signed himself. His almost angular correctness, his cantankerous insistence on order and discipline, his inclination to lecture everyone, are traits very forgivable in the light of the truly magnanimous spirit he manifested as a chaplain. Father Cooney was a native of County Roscommon, Ireland. He was born in 1822. When he was five years old the Cooney family emigrated to the United States, and settled down on a farm near Monroe, Michigan. Peter Cooney was almost thirty years old when he came to Notre Dame as a student. We may be sure that he partook of none of the levity or rough play on the grounds. He remained at Notre Dame until 1854. After his graduation he taught for some time in a country school, then decided he wanted to be a priest. After some years in St. Charles' Seminary, and later, at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore. he applied for admission into the Congregation of Holy Cross. Father Sorin, always on the lookout for steady and grave subjects, gladly accepted him. He was ordained June 29, 1859.
On December 11, 1861, Father Cooney was appointed chaplain to the First Regiment of Indiana Volunteers, stationed at Camp Morton near Indianapolis. Unlike the chaplains in the east, Father Cooney failed to get into any battles for some time. His soldiers were appointed to oust the Confederates from Kentucky and Tennessee. Pursuing them, the Union forces always found the Confederates just one step ahead. Father Cooney got as far as Alabama, and the army was recalled to Kentucky. The rebels had returned into the western part of the state.
Father Cooney must have cut quite a figure in his military outfit. When he joined the army, there was no distinctive uniform prescribed for chaplains. The one Father Cooney contrived for himself was arresting.
I have not changed the form of my coat, etc., but I have to wear ornaments on them which give me quite a military appearance. There are gold cords down the side of my pants and on my shoulders, there are black velvet pieces about four inches long and two inches wide surrounded with gold lace in the shape C-N. The cross in the center is embroiderd with gold thread. The C-N, the first and last letter of the word "chaplain," are embroidered with gold also . . . around my hat I wear a gold band with gold tassels. . . . I wear my Roman collar as before. . . . Around my waist I wear a blue silk sash with tassels. . . . The whole makes a very appropriate uniform for a priest. The Bishop of Louisville was very well pleased with it. . .
Seated on his "fine charger," a horse which "carries his head so high that the other day when I was riding him, he struck me with the back of his head in the nose," Father Cooney must have been quite a sight.
As the New Year of 1863 opened, the opposing forces met in the battle of Stone River, Tennessee. It was Father Cooney's first experience in a major conflict. He did himself proud. Colonel Mullen, in his official report, wrote: "To Father Cooney, our chaplain, too much praise cannot be given. Indifferent as to himself, he was deeply solicitous for the temporal and spiritual welfare of us all. On the field, he was cool and indifferent to danger, and in the name of the regiment, I thank him for his kindness and laborious attention to the dead and the dying."
Every morning before the battle would commence (for there were five days of fighting), I would come out before the regiment drawn up in line of battle, and after offering a prayer and making an act of contrition, all repeating with me, give absolution to them while kneeling.
The General saw us the first morning, and he was so edified with our example that he sent an order to the Protestant chaplains to do the same. Poor fellows, what could they do?
As far as Father Cooney's regiment was concerned, there was not much serious fighting between January and July. Sometimes it was encamped for months at a time in one place. The chaplain occupied the lull by building a rustic chapel of evergreen boughs. At the end was his tent, with his altar and ornaments. He organized a choir. And every day he said Mass. On Sundays and festivals he had a High Mass. He writes with justifiable pride concerning the devotion of the men, and, particularly, that of General Rosecrans, the commander.
"Old Rose" is the joy of the army. . . . His staff . . . is all non-Catholic. Yet they attend Mass with him every Sunday at A.M. He never broke his fast on Sunday until after Mass, as he is, when possible, a weekly communicant.
As the campaign wore on during the next year, Father Cooney was always at the front with his soldiers. He was beginning to feel the rigors of war. He was downright weary. And as he saw the long struggle coming to an end, he wanted to get out of the army. When the men of his regiment learned of his intentions, they petitioned Father Sorin to order Father Cooney to stay with them.
When this same Father (Cooney), worn out by fatigue and almost a wreck, some weeks afterwards . . . announced to his regiment that his superior recalled him, and it was evident that his state of weakness did not permit him any longer to continue a ministry which was too burdensome for him, those veterans, as he himself relates, who during nearly four years had fearlessly met all the imaginable dangers of war, began to weep like children. On that very day a petition was drawn up and signed by all the officers of the regiment, and by the General of the division who, with his own hand, declared the recall of Father Cooney "would be a calamity" . . . the Superior of Notre Dame could not resist. Father Cooney could nowhere else be more highly esteemed, more loved, in a better position to do good.
The Rev. Julian Prosper Bourget, a very simple and devout priest, had lately come to Notre Dame from the Mother House in France. The Sisters of the Holy Cross were in charge of an immense military hospital on the Ohio River, at Mound City, Illinois. They petitioned Father Sorin for a priest to care for the numerous wounded and dying soldiers. Father Bourget responded to Father Sorin's suggestion that he would be useful. In the spring of 1862 he went to Mound City, but his stay was not long. He contracted the prevalent malaria while caring for the soldiers, and himself died at the hospital on June 12, 1862.
Another priest, of Canadian origin, Father Zepherin Joseph Lévêque, was also appointed for chaplain service to the Union forces. Very zealous, but sickly, he served only for a short period. He died in a great state of exhaustion in Jersey City, N. J., on Feb. 13, 1862.
Finally, we must mention Father Joseph Celestine Carrier. He was a native of southern France, born in 1833. Bishop Cretin of St. Paul met the young man in France, and induced him to come to the United States, and there, embrace the ecclesiastical state. Young Carrier, 21 years of age, traveled to St. Paul in 1855. Five years later he determined to join the Congregation of Holy Cross. He came to Notre Dame in 1860, and was ordained a short time afterward. His brilliant studies marked him for a scientific career, and Father Sorin was grooming him for the faculty at Notre Dame.
But in the unfortunate conditions caused by the war, Father Carrier's scientific studies were interrupted. In the spring of 1863, Father Sorin received a distressing letter from the wife of General Sherman. She was very much perturbed over the fact that her two brothers, officers in the Union Army, had no chaplain in their midst; they had had no opportunity to make their Easter duty. Would Father Sorin send them a priest? With his professorial ranks already depleted, the Superior of Notre Dame could ill afford another sacrifice. Yet he made it. Father Carrier was sent south to Vicksburg, before which city lay the army of Grant and Sherman.
Mrs. Sherman wrote to her brother, Hugh Ewing, to receive Father Carrier with every courtesy. The admonition was unnecessary. All the Catholic officers and soldiers made him very welcome. He was a priest of unusual distinction and energy. He won all to him. And while he stayed in their midst, his relations with both Sherman and Grant turned out to be most useful to the Congregation of Holy Cross.
The question of the draft had seriously affected the community at Notre Dame. The Brothers were subject to the draft. Father Sorin, considering what great services his priests had rendered voluntarily to the Union Army, was naturally inclined to think that his Brothers should be exempted from service. Accordingly, he wrote to Father Carrier in the following terms: Prepare a statement, stressing the good work done by the priests of Notre Dame, indicating also how necessary was the presence of the Brothers at the University, see both Sherman and Grant and get them to sign a petition asking for the exemption of the Brothers.
Both Grant and Sherman readily acceded to Father Carrier's request. Father Carrier brought the document to Notre Dame and was immediately dispatched to Washington. There he had an interview with Secretary of War Stanton, and with Abraham Lincoln. The request for exemption was granted forthwith.
At this juncture the community at Notre Dame nearly upset the apple-cart. Father Sorin, keenly alive to the dangers of mixing in politics, had, for years, inculcated the same point of view among his religious. He had seen, in France, the tide of fortune turn often against religious communities and religion in general. In the United States, as long as politics kept out of religion, he was determined to keep religion out of politics. Let the religious avoid all political discussion. They should not even go to the polls! For years the community had never voted in the elections.
In the elections of 1864, however, the religious at Notre Dame were put on the spot. By the grace of the Republican party, the University had its post-office and more recently had obtained the exemption of the Brothers from military service. Schuyler Colfax of South Bend was running for a seat in Congress on the Republican ticket. The votes of Notre Dame were, probably, unimportant. But anyhow, Colfax brought pressure to bear on Father Sorin. He indicated that the religious at Notre Dame might well show some gratitude toward the administration by voting the Republican ticket. Schuyler Colfax was not thinking of himself, of course! He had just come out to give Father Sorin a little advice as to how he might best hold the privileges he had obtained! Father Sorin understood.
A council meeting was called. The matter was deliberated for an hour or two. It was decided that those members of the community who could vote should be advised to go to the polls and vote right. The thing must be kept as quiet as possible, however; there was to be no written bulletin or public announcement. Instead, Brother Francis Xavier was deputed to circulate among the brethren and inform them of the council's decision. Though Father Sorin says, in a later account, that the Brother either forgot or neglected this most important matter, it is very possible that Brother Francis Xavier did what he was told to do. But, as most of the Brothers and other religious at Notre Dame were Irish, and since the Irish of that day were fanatically loyal to the Democrats, they went to the polls and registered their political independence of Father Sorin.
Colfax was furious. The following month the Brothers' exemption from the draft was suppressed. Father Carrier returned to Washington. He had a most difficult time explaining what had happened at Notre Dame. Mrs. Sherman, too, interested herself in the matter, and wrote both to Lincoln and Stanton, seeking once again to obtain an exemption for the Brothers. By a rare bit of good luck, her appealing letters were received in the capitol on the very morning that her husband telegraphed the President announcing the fall of Savannah. The Shermans were people to be listened to! The Brothers were once more exempted from the draft. And anyhow, Schuyler Colfax had been reelected.
The Civil War years at Notre Dame bring to mind the sacrifices made by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. In fact, although their position was, ordinarily, removed from the battle line, it was no less dangerous. To them fell the lot of nursing, not only the wounded, but those sick of deadly and contagious diseases. When one surveys the hazards run by these heroic women, caring for the victims of small-pox, typhoid, malaria, and yellow-fever, only the hand of God can account for the fact that very few fell victims to their charity.
When, one night in October, 1861, a courier galloped onto the University grounds, carrying an urgent appeal from the governor of Indiana for Sisters who could nurse the wounded soldiers, the response of the Sisters was immediate and generous. Altogether, over eighty Sisters from St. Mary's gave their services to the Union. In Memphis they had three hospitals; in Cairo, one; in Mound City, one. They served also in Franklin, Missouri, in Paducah, Louisville, and near Washington, D. C.
Very few of these women had had any instruction in nursing. But where knowledge was lacking, they more than made up for it in devotedness and good will. The persistence with which they tried to give good care was well illustrated in the case of Sister M. de Sales. One young soldier was in the last stages of malarial fever, and the doctors said there was no hope for him. In fact, they recommended sending the young man home to die in order that someone else might have his bed. The Sister felt the boy had a fighting chance; felt, too, that a journey would find him dead on the way. She persuaded the doctors to permit the soldier to remain, and by her redoubled efforts and solicitude she soon had the boy well.
Twenty-six years later the Holy Cross Sisters were opening a hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The Bishop and the Governor were on hand for the laying of the cornerstone. After the ceremonies, at which Governor Campbell delivered an address, he went to shake hands with the Superior. She was Sister M. de Sales. And the Governor was the young soldier whose life she had saved by her Christian solicitude. It was the first time they met since the war. The Governor was grateful for this unexpected opportunity to shower his praise and thanks on a Sister of the Holy Cross.
Without doubt, many of the soldiers who were brought to the hospitals laid eyes, for the first time, on women garbed in the habit of a religious. Some were simply curious, others hostile. But there is not a single instance recorded by the Sisters (who wrote voluminously of their experiences) where that hostility persisted. When it came time to die, hundreds of non-Catholic soldiers whispered that they, too, wished to die as Catholics. After the grace of God, nothing but the evident goodness of the Sisters could account for such a change. So salutary was their influence that, from a mere natural point of view, General Sherman demanded that Sisters be placed in charge of all military hospitals.
In their concern for the sick, the Sisters made no distinction between the Blue and the Grey. Generally speaking, the soldiers themselves, whether from the North or the South, got along agreeably in the hospitals. There were rare instances, however, where extreme bitterness called for the utmost bravery on the part of the Sisters.
There was, for example, the case of Sister Josephine. On the same day, in the hospital at Mound City, Colonel Fry, of the Confederacy, and Captain Kelty, of the Union Army, were both hospitalized. Captain Kelty, beloved of his men, had been, according to their understanding, cruelly and unnecessarily wounded by the Confederate, Colonel Fry. Fry, himself, was in no happy state. Stretched out on a cot, with both arms broken and tied to the ceiling to hold them in an immobile position, and with one leg broken and trussed to the side of the cot, he was most uncomfortable.
Outside his window the companions of Captain Kelty had erected a scaffold from which they could peer into the room occupied by Colonel Fry. As the window was open, they talked to the Colonel. They told him, in no uncertain terms, that if Captain Kelty should die, they would shoot the Colonel like a dog. This went on hour after hour. And as Captain Kelty grew weaker, their threats increased. The Sisters were told to get out of the room. "Get out of the way, Sisters, and let him die like a dog!" The nuns were obliged for the time being to leave the room.
But they had a weapon more powerful than rifles. Sister Angela, who was in charge, together with Sister Josephine, went to the commanding officer and told him that if he did not stop such proceedings, all the Sisters would leave immediately. The officer declared himself incapable of governing the outraged soldiers. "Then, give me the key to that room!" said Sister Josephine. With the utmost reluctance, the officer gave her the key. As Sister Josephine entered the room, the poor Colonel, thinking his last moment had come, glared at the opening door as though he were a wild animal at bay. And when, from outside, the soldiers saw Sister Josephine by the bed of the rebel Colonel, they hooted and screamed that they would shoot if Captain Kelty died.
From the viewpoint of drama, the story has perhaps the wrong kind of ending. Captain Kelty got well. It turned out that Fry had nothing to do with Kelty's accident. The soldiers were very much abashed when they learned the truth. But that has nothing to do with the heroism displayed by Sister Josephine when, fluttering about the bed of the disabled Colonel, she risked death at the hands of the menacing Union soldiers.
By contrast to the battlefield, the University was unusually tranquil. It might have been expected that the troubled conditions would have worked havoc on the enrollment at Notre Dame. The contrary proved to be the case. Just before the war, Father Sorin remarks that there were "213 boarders this year" (1860). As the war went on, the student body increased. Father Lemonnier writes: "As to ourselves, God protects and blesses us singularly. We have so many students that we don't know where to put them. Most likely, we will have to put a notice in the papers that we are full up. Already (September 12, 1863) 220 students have arrived and are lodged in a building meant for only 200. In spite of that, we have managed to contrive a new dormitory by connecting a number of smaller rooms. It will hold about 25."
In 1862, Father Sorin had made an announcement to the students that when the enrollment had reached the 200 mark, he would throw a big dinner for the entire student body. In 1863 the enrollment surpassed that number -- there were 236 students. The President kept his promise. Sometime in November, 1863, when the Bishop of Fort Wayne was on the grounds, a big banquet was held in the evening. Afterwards, there was a display of fire-works, and the whole college was delightfully illuminated.
Father Lemonnier notes that wings must be built on the college the following spring. In November, 1864, he writes to his father:
I tell you, I am swamped with work from 4:30 in the morning until 9 or 10:00 o'clock at night. We have about four hundred students at Notre Dame, and every day some new pupils arrive. At the present time, we ask, for each student, $320.00 in paper money, or $160.00 in gold. . . . We haven't a vacant bed on the premises. Our workmen (almost exclusively Brothers) have a hard time filling our demands. All around the place, you will find them working with all possible speed.
In the summer of 1865, Father Sorin who had been both President of the University and Provincial of the Congregation of Holy Cross, was relieved of the Presidency. Father Patrick Dillon was named to succeed him. Father Sorin continued as Provincial. He was, therefore, Father Dillon's superior. And because, for so long a time, he had personally administered every detail of the University, he found it difficult to leave decisions to Father Dillon's good judgment. The position of the new president was none too happy.
Of Father Patrick Dillon, we must say that he was an extremely clever young man. He was a strong character, his face and bearing handsome in a forceful way. Among the group of priests at Notre Dame in the early 1860's, he was eminent for his administrative powers, particularly in the material upbuilding of the University. In the construction of the large academy building at St. Mary's, he had demonstrated his power to get things done efficiently and quickly. Accordingly, when the expansion of the University made necessary the construction of a new college building, all agreed that Father Dillon was the man to handle the job. The council made him President and told him to proceed.
Plans for a new building had been considered as early as 1864, when the council decided to petition the Mother House for permission to build. We know that by December, 1864, the Mother House had approved designs for part of a new college building, and the site chosen for the new construction was approximately where Sorin Hall stands today. In a subsequent meeting, the council favored the idea of building where the Administration Building is today located. This, location they said, would be the safest, cheapest, and most convenient. It would make it possible to utilize a major part of the old building.
Early in January, 1865, workers were busy gathering sand, lumber, bricks, and stone, so that all might be in readiness when school was dismissed in June. The building was to cost $35,500. It was to be 160 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 90 feet high. "It will be huge," writes Father Lemonnier in one of his letters, "but they like to build like that in the United States. They like big rooms, long, large, and high." An architect from Chicago, a Mr. Thomas, drew the plans. Of course most of the brick-masons, the carpenters, stone-cutters, plasterers, and teamsters were Brothers of Holy Cross. It would have been impossible to erect such a building without the economy made possible by the labor of the Brothers. They worked like beavers, and when school was out in June, they doubled their efforts. At this work they did not speak much. Their minds were occupied with the thing that was happening before their very eyes. Six stories high, and a beautiful dome! It made them gasp.
A very accurate, but somewhat ornate, description of the new building is contained in "A Guide to the University of Notre Dame" published in 1865. It contains no photographs, but Father Lemonnier's facile hand drew some interesting pictures. The new structure was very box-like. It had none of the sweep and spread that characterizes the present Main Building. One mounted by stone steps to the porch that ran the entire length of the central portion of the edifice. The main entrance led to a corridor, seventeen feet wide, which ran to the back of the building and joined another corridor, at right angles, which led, on the east, to the large study hall of the Seniors, and on the west, to that of the Juniors. Below the study hall were the dining rooms for each division, and the kitchens. Even in those early days, the refectories were decorated by frescoes from the brush of Jacob Ackerman. They are not to be confused with the paintings that later adorned Brownson and Carroll refectories, although the artist was the same, frescoes to which the students, with pencil, added beards to bustled ladies.
While in the refectories, advises the "Guide," the visitor should not fail to notice the "Tableaux d'Honneur." Twenty names, inscribed in gold, indicate the best mannered of Notre Dame's students; but such inscription did not necessarily imply, as we know from other accounts, an extensive knowledge of table etiquette.
Classes were taught on the third floor. There were thirteen large class rooms at the back of the building. In the front there were five rooms for the professors. The Guide mentions that confusion from changing classes is avoided by the fact that students must march in silent ranks while going to and from the class rooms. As a matter of fact, it is only in the last generation that such a practice was abandoned.
On the fourth and fifth floors were the dormitories, where each bed was neatly curtained off. On the fifth floor there was, also, a small chapel, where students liked to stop frequently for a short prayer. Then, there was the dome. Although the dome was not erected until the following year, the "Guide" of 1865 tells us what it is going to look like. A little balcony ran around the edge of the dome. The door leading to it was kept locked most of the time, but now and then some student got through and enjoyed the panorama. We know Tim O'Sullivan made it one 17th of March, about day-break, and before anyone could stop him, trumpeted "St. Patrick's Day in the Morning!" Father Sorin was very much chagrined.
Tim O'Sullivan was not the only boy to show his Irish enthusiasm. A bit of green silk ribbon preserved in the University archives recalls another incident that now seems amusing. Father Sorin, in the interest of Americanism, once forbade any special celebration of St. Patrick's Day. In particular he announced that there should be no "wearing of the green." Two young novices, Dave O'Leary and John Quinn, were so aroused by this "unjust" order that they went to the chapel, extracted the green ribbon from the missal, cut it in two, pinned it on their surplices, and marched into the sanctuary. For this act of disobedience they were promptly expelled. Father Sorin, reflecting on his hasty action, sent some one running to the Novitiate, telling the boys they might remain. O'Leary did stay on. But Quinn said: "By gum! I've been fired! And I'll not stay!" Years later, Quinn returned, a fine priest and a noble Monsignor, to deliver the baccalaureate sermon, in what was interpreted as a vindication of the "Irish Rebellion."
Everyone congratulated Father Dillon upon the completion of the building. Through his vigor and perseverance, everything was in readiness by September, 1865. Up until this time, there was at Notre Dame no course of studies except what might be called the Arts and Letters. Father Dillon perceived the need of additional opportunities to meet the requirements of the age. First of all, he organized a Commercial Course of two years. The course comprised, in the first year, arithmetic, English, bookkeeping, German, geography, history, and writing, and in the second year, algebra, English, bookkeeping, German, geography, commercial law, and elocution. Lucius G. Tong was what we might call the head of this department. His thoroughness became legendary. For over a period of fifty years, this "course" attracted innumerable students and produced graduates who easily secured jobs. As time went on, it was purged of some of its high-school aspects. With the founding of the School of Commerce, the course, as such, was dropped.
To Father Dillon must be given the credit, also, of laying the foundations for the development of the sciences. The Scientific Course, as it was called, comprised six years of study, the first two of which were really high school work. In the four years of college work there was no Latin or Greek. Mathematics in its higher branches, surveying chemistry, botany, geology, mineralogy, were the subjects emphasized in this course. To be sure, there was a liberal sprinkling of classes in English literature and in philosophy. Classes in biology and physics were later added. It was an unambitious beginning, but it was a beginning.
Finally, Father Dillon was inclined to be a bit more liberal as regards the discipline of the students. On this question particularly, he and Father Sorin did not see eye to eye. There is a tradition at Notre Dame that Father Sorin became swiftly Americanized. In the matter of discipline, however, he moved very slowly. The American boy, he thought, was to be treated as a French youth in as far as possible. Father Dillon was more free and easy. Father Sorin called it laxity. A glance at the regulations governing the students of 1864-65, as found in the college catalogue, is interesting.
All the students of this Institution are required to attend the exercises of public worship with punctuality and decorum. They shall assist at Mass on Sundays and Wednesdays. Catholic students shall go to confesion every month.
A soon as the bell announces the beginning or end of a college exercise, everyone shall repair in silence to the discharge of that duty to which he is called.
The time of recreation excepted, silence must be inviolably observed in all places.
Students must show themselves obedient and respectful towards the Professors and Prefects of the Institution -- never absenting themselves from the place in which they ought to be, without permission from the proper authority.
Students must carefully avoid every expression in the least injurious to Religion, their professors, Prefects, or Fellow-Students.
Students are not permitted to visit private rooms.
The use of tobacco is forbidden.
Intoxicating liquors are absolutely forbidden.
Compensation for all damage to the furniture or other property of the University will be required from the person or persons causing such injury.
No branch of study, once commenced, may be discontinued without permission of the Prefect of Studies.
No one shall leave the University grounds without the permission of the President or Vice-President.
Any breach of pure morals, either in words or actions, must be reported forthwith to the President or Vice-President.
Whether in class or in recreation, when permitted to converse at table, or during their walks, students should endeavor to improve the purity of their language and cultivate urbanity of manners. A few years in college would be profitably employed if nothing else were learned but to converse and behave with the dignity and propriety of gentlemen.
No one shall keep in his possession any money, except what he receives weekly from the Treasurer on Wednesday at 10 o'clock AM.
On the first Wednesday of every month, "Certificates of Good Conduct" and "Improvement in Class" are issued by the Faculty to such students as deserve them. On either side of the President's table, and conspicuous to every visitor, are the "Tables of Honor," presided over by the Vice-President and the Prefect of Discipline. At these are seated twenty-two of the students whose conduct has been most exemplary during the preceding week. They are elected by the unanimous vote of the Professors and prefects.
In winter, on Saturday, at 4 o'clock P.M., the students must wash their feet. In summer, this regulation is rendered unnecessary by the rule which requires the student to bathe in common twice a week in St. Joseph's Lake.
On Sunday and Wednesday mornings, the students must place upon their beds, wrapped up in a bag, their soiled linen of the previous half-week. On Monday mornings, the students of the Senior and Junior departments repair, in ranks and in silence, to their dormitories, whence they take their Sunday clothes and carry them to their trunks. And on Saturday, at half past three o'clock, they go in the same manner to the trunk-room and bring their Sunday clothes to their dormitories. The pupils of the Minim department change as often as they find a change on their beds. The Sisters take charge of their wardrobe. The students will be reviewed on Sunday and Wednesday mornings, with special reference to their personal neatness.
Students who may have failed to give satisfaction in the classroom, or who shall have been guilty of misconduct or breach of rule, will be sent to the detention room during recreations or promenades, and required to prepare their lessons, or perform such tasks as shall be assigned to them.
Those students who read sufficiently well and audibly . . . will read for one day . . . at dinner and supper. At the end of each meal, any student is liable to be called upon to give an account of what he has heard read.
Every month, all the students must write to their parents or guardians, and have their letters corrected by the Secretary of the Faculty previous to their being mailed. All letters sent or received may be opened by the President or Vice-President.
Very soon after the foundation of the University, it became evident that its discipline was intended for the very youthful scholar who could be made to toe the mark. The foregoing regulations could never have been imposed except on a student body whose age and dispositions made it amenable. More than once, Father Sorin intimates that only Divine Providence could have stopped the riotous protest that seemed on the verge of explosion. Still, he was all for the rules!
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