Soldiers of the Cross, the Authoritative Text
The Heroism of Catholic Chaplains and Sisters in the American Civil War
520 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Hardcover | 9780268105297 | April 2019
eBook | 9780268105327 | April 2019
Shortly after the Civil War ended, David Power Conyngham, an Irish Catholic journalist and war veteran, began compiling the stories of Catholic chaplains and nuns who served during the war. His manuscript, Soldiers of the Cross, is the fullest record written during the nineteenth century of the Catholic Church's involvement in the war, as it documents the service of fourteen chaplains and six female religious communities, representing both North and South. Many of Coyngham's chapters contain new insights into the clergy during the war that are unavailable elsewhere, either during his time or ours, making the work invaluable to Catholic and Civil War historians. The introduction contains over a dozen letters written between 1868 and 1870 from high-ranking Confederate and Union officials, such as Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Union Surgeon General William Hammond, and Union General George B. McClellan, who praise the church's services during the war. Chapters on Fathers William Corby and Peter P. Cooney, as well as the Sisters of the Holy Cross, cover subjects relatively well known to Catholic scholars, yet other chapters are based on personal letters and other important primary sources that have not been published prior to this book.
Unpublished due to Conyngham's untimely death, Soldiers of the Cross remained hidden away in an archive for more than a century. Now annotated and edited so as to be readable and useful to scholars and modern readers, this long-awaited publication of Soldiers of the Cross is a fitting presentation of Conyngham's last great work.
David Power Conyngham (1825–1883) was an Irish journalist, novelist, and an officer in the Union army during the Civil War.
David J. Endres is dean of Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West/Athenaeum of Ohio and associate professor of church history and historical theology.
William B. Kurtz is the managing director and digital historian at the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History. He is the author of Excommunicated from the Union: How the Civil War Created a Separate Catholic America.
"The most important contribution of Soldiers of the Cross is that it democratizes access to a very important document on the Civil War experience of Catholic chaplains and sister-nurses. The description of the original manuscript in the introduction and important changes or annotations made by both Conyngham and the present editors provides very good context. The book will appeal to lay readers, especially those who research particular regiments or have ancestors associated with particular units." ~James M. Schmidt, author of Lincoln's Labels: America's Best Known Brands and the Civil War
"Conyngham's work, its subject, its language, and its tone, reveal much about what the editors call 'the state of the church and its uneasy place in American society at the time.' . . . There is much new here, and by comprehensively bringing together information about both priests and nuns, it suggests the direction and provides some of the facts for a full history of Catholics in the Civil War." ~Lawrence Kohl, editor of David Power Conyngham's The Irish Brigade and Its Campaigns