Fighting the Good Fight: The Father Peter Whelan Story

Sunday, January 9, AD 2011

“Fr. Whelan, a Catholic priest from Savannah came in and spoke words of cheer to the condemned and prayed for the forgiveness of their crimes. This lone priest was the only minister of the Gospel that ever came into the prison to speak a kind word or set aright our misguided souls. He made regular visits to the prison, consoled the dying and anointed the dead of his faith. Too much praise cannot be accorded this reverend gentleman for trying to turn sinners to Christ; but in the Last Day, Heaven will cry out for vengeance on ministers of other denominations for their indifference toward their kindred confined in prison.”

Charles Fosdick, Company K, 5th Iowa Volunteers

Hattip to commenter Jim Schmidt.  Faithful readers of this blog will recall my post Priest of Andersonville in which I related the story of Father Peter Whelan, a Roman Catholic priest and Confederate Army chaplain who, on his own initiative, ministered to the tens of thousands of Union prisoners of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in 1864. 

Such selfless love in the midst of the bloodiest war in American history deserves to be remembered, and I salute Deep Water Productions for producing a film on Father Whelan.  Here is their website.  I have  advised my bride of 28 years that it would make a suitable birthday present for me come February.

6 Responses to Fighting the Good Fight: The Father Peter Whelan Story

  • Father Corby, later President of the University of Notre Dame, was a Chaplain with the Irish Brigade during the Civil War. His “Memoirs of Chaplain Life” is a good read.

  • I hate to engage in shameless self-promotion, but if anyone is interested in learning more about the role of Catholic chaplains in the Civil War – (including and esp. Fr. Corby) – I respectfully recommend my new book: “Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory” (The History Press, 2010) which describes the role of seven brave priests that Notre Dame sent to the Union army, more than sixty Holy Cross sisters as nurses, and a greater number still of students as soldiers, one of whom earned the Medal of Honor for bravery at Chickamauga, and several of whom never returned home.

    God Bless and Keep up the Great Work!

    Jim Schmidt

  • I heartily recommend Jim’s book. I have been reading it, and it is destined to be a classic. I have read hundreds of books on the Civil War over the years and I found much that was new to me in Jim’s tome. I will be reviewing it in the next week or so.

  • Donald – Thanks so much for the kind words.

  • Father Whelan was a saint whether or not the Vatican ever canonizes him. He truly fulfilled Jesus’ expectations that Jesus announced in Matthew 25:35, “I was hungry, naked, in prison, sick and in the gravest need and you addressed all my needs with your whole being.”
    He sits with God now.