Thursday, March 29, 2012

Absolution under fire: Father Corby blesses the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863

Rev. William Corby was born October 2, 1833 in Detroit, Michigan, to Daniel Corby, an Irish native and his wife Elizabeth, a Canadian. He was an American priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross and a Union Army chaplain attached to the Irish Brigade. The Irish Brigade perhaps best knows Corby for his giving general absolution on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Fr. Corby also served twice as President of the University of Norte Dame. The school's Corby Hall is named for him, and a statue of him similar to that at Gettysburg stands outside this building on the Notre Dame campus.

Widely remembered among military chaplains and celebrated by Irish-American fraternal organizations, his statue with right hand raised in the gesture of blessing was the first statue of a non-general erected on the Gettysburg Battlefield. He died December 28, 1897.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Civil War Oddities #33

Mrs. Bridget Divers, (“Irish Biddy”) wife of a private of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, won fame in the war by standing picket duty day and night, riding on raids against the Rebels, and taking the places of officers in emergencies. She once rode twelve miles to reclaim the body of a captain, and brought it into camp on horseback, having been passed by the Confederate because of her sex.

Biddy served as a nurse and surgeon, and was familiar to thousands of troops, a stout, leathery-faced little woman with bleached hair and a cherry disposition. In at least one instance, in the battle of Fair Oaks / Seven Pines, she rallied a retreating Federal regiment and took it back into action.