Priest of Andersonville

Thursday, February 27, AD 2014


I normally take great pride in being an American, but there are passages in our history which all Americans should be ashamed of.  During our Civil War in many prison camps, both North and South, POWs were treated wretchedly with inadequate shelter, clothing and food.  The worst by far was Andersonville. The vast tragedy at Andersonville came about for a number of reasons.

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February 27, 1864: First Union Prisoners Arrive at Andersonville

Thursday, February 27, AD 2014

An Andersonville Survivor

One hundred and fifty years ago Union prisoners began arriving at the Andersonville prison camp.  A blot on American honor is the callous way in which many prisoners of war were treated during our Civil War, north and south.  (For a Union prison camp that had a death rate of 25%, google Elmira prison camp, or as the Confederates imprisoned there referred to it, Helmira.)   45,000 Union soldiers would be held at Andersonville and 13,000 of them would die through starvation, bad water, no sanitation and disease.   Accounts of what went on inside Andersonville beggar description.  Jesus wept, sums up the reaction of any decent soul to this abomination.  See the accompanying post for today for the grim details, and for a shining example of humanity by a man motivated by God’s love to love his enemies.

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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.

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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.

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