Soldiers of the Cross, the Authoritative Text
The Heroism of Catholic Chaplains and Sisters in the American Civil War
536 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Hardcover | 9780268105297 | May 2019
eBook (PDF) | 9780268105310 | May 2019
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268105327 | May 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Unpublished due to Conyngham's untimely death, Soldiers of the Cross remained hidden away in an archive for more than a century.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.
Editor David Power Conyngham (1825–1883) was an Irish journalist, novelist, and an officer in the Union army during the Civil War.
Editor 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.
Editor 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.
"To have David Power Conyngham’s invaluable Soldiers of the Cross available in a well-edited edition with be of great benefit to students and scholars alike. The fine introduction by David J. Endres and William B. Kurtz offers a perceptive assessment of the entire work. Anyone interested in the wartime story of the Catholic Church and the religious life of soldiers will learn a great deal from Conyngham’s book. A valuable addition to the growing literature on religion during the Civil War era." ~George C. Rable, author of God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War
"This edited work of David Power Conyngham’s unpublished manuscript is a tour-de-force—a much needed history of the significant work of Catholic chaplains and sister nurses during the American Civil War. With clarity and historical sophistication, it is a great addition to scholarship on the Civil War, gender and religious history, and the history of American health care and society. The editors bring alive the many stories of well-known and more 'hidden' chaplains and sister nurses from both the North and South who helped change larger societal perceptions of Catholics, all for the positive." ~Barbra Mann Wall, Thomas A. Saunders III Professor of Nursing, University of Virginia
"Conyngham’s text gives journalistic descriptions of battles (Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg) and graphic accounts of the horrors of war." ~First Things
“Edited by Dr. Kruz and Fr. David Endres of the U.S. Catholic Historian, this book promises to be a major contribution to the growing historiography on Catholics and the Civil War.” ~Patheos
"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
"Students of the Civil War, Catholic history, and women’s history, among others, will welcome the publication of David Power Conyngham’s Soldiers of the Cross. Brilliantly edited, this 'authoritative text' speaks to the uses of remembrance, hagiography, and memorialization in creating an 'American' Catholic identity and ascribing a religious meaning to the war." ~Randall M. Miller, co-editor of Religion and the American 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
"It’s telling that the sisters left little in testimony about themselves. What we know comes almost exclusively from the men they helped, and the book’s collection of primary documents shows soldiers offering high praise to the sisters. It’s unusual, considering the prevalent anti-Catholicism of antebellum America. But their service to American men of all faiths was living proof that these Catholics did not only take orders from the pope in Rome." ~The Wall Street Journal
"Conyngham observed many chaplains at work, interviewed them, and recorded their experiences, making his work an important historical artifact. Hopefully, the publication of Soldiers of the Cross can lead to more research on the subject and provide broader understanding of religion during the Civil War." ~The Civil War Monitor
“The fullest record written during the 19th century of the Catholic Church’s involvement in the war, his manuscript documents the service of 14 chaplains and six female religious communities, representing both North and South.” ~South Bend Tribune