Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Civil War Diary of Father James Sheeran, Confederate Chaplain and Redemptorist

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Civil War Diary of Father James Sheeran, Confederate Chaplain and Redemptorist

Article excerpt

AMERICAN The Civil War Diary ofFather James Sheeran, Confederate Chaplain and Redemptorist. Edited by Patrick Hayes. (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. 2017. Pp. xii, 596. $29.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-813-228822.)

This Civil War diary of a Confederate chaplain in the Army of Northern Virginia, Father James Sheeran, C.Ss.R., is an important and invaluable primary source. Father Sheeran penned this 1656-page handwritten account of his travels, trials, and travails while serving as a Catholic chaplain from 1862 to 1865. He witnessed numerous battles, including Second Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and the bloody encounters of the Wilderness campaign in 1864. An observer, albeit from a safe distance, however he witnessed the brutality of battle and the horrific suffering of the wounded.

He was born in County Longford, Ireland; two sources list the year of birth as 1819 but they cannot agree on the day. Sometime in the 1830s, he migrated to New York City, where he married his wife Margaret. The couple moved to central Pennsylvania and from there to Monroe, Michigan, by the early 1840s. After undergoing a religious conversion, Sheeran had all three children baptized in the fall of 1845. His youngest child, Sylvester, died the next year, and his wife passed away soon thereafter. Once his remaining daughter and son were old enough to be placed in religious communities, Sheeran entered the Redemptorist novitiate on October 15, 1855 and was ordained a priest on September 18, 1858. About that time, his son John died at fifteen, and his daughter Isabella, now a nun, passed away in February, 1861. After assignment to a seminary in Cumberland, Maryland, he was sent to St. Alphonsus parish in New Orleans in 1860. In August, 1861, he left New Orleans to join the 14th Louisiana Infantry, the famed "Lee's Tigers" in northern Virginia, receiving his official appointment on October 2. This diary picks up on August 1, 1862.

As Professor Randall M. Miller of St. …

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