Memoirs of Chaplain Life: Three Years with the Irish Brigade in the Army of the Potomac

Memoirs of Chaplain Life: Three Years with the Irish Brigade in the Army of the Potomac

Memoirs of Chaplain Life: Three Years with the Irish Brigade in the Army of the Potomac

Memoirs of Chaplain Life: Three Years with the Irish Brigade in the Army of the Potomac

Synopsis

In the summer of 1863 the Irish Brigade was no longer the impressive force it had once been. Nearly two years of war had worn its thousands down to a small band of seasoned veterans. Because of their fighting reputation they had always been where the action was hottest: at Fair Oaks, Gaines Mill, and Savage Station on the Peninsula; in the Bloody Lane at Antietam; before the Stone Wall at Fredericksburg. Now, late in the afternoon of July 2nd, they were once again poised to launch themselves against the Confederates, this time in a wheatfield just south of the small crossroads town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The men stood at order arms, nervously awaiting Colonel Patrick Kelly’s order to advance.

Suddenly, Father William Corby, their chaplain, turned to the colonel and asked for permission to address the men. Receiving it, he hurriedly reached into his pocket and pulled out a purple stole which he placed around his neck. Then he climbed up on a large boulder so the troops might see him. As he gazed out over the dense columns his first concern was for the souls of these men, men who at that moment stood so close to eternity. There was no time for private confession, so he told the brigade that he would pronounce a general absolution of sins for those who were sincerely contrite and who would resolve to make a confession at their first opportunity. But as he reminded the soldiers of their duty to God, he did not forget their duty to country. He also reminded them of the noble cause for which they fought and declared that the Church would turn its back on those who deserted their flag.

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