We hear enough about the Civil War generals, so let us hear about some Civil War priests.
- Fr. Thomas Ouellet marched alongside his men in the 69th New York Infantry, also known as the Fighting Irish Brigade. He marched with them into the Battle of Malvern Hill in July of 1862. He went around to wounded men on the field asking if they were Catholic and needed Last Rites. One man responded, “No, but I would like to die in the Faith of any man who has the courage to come and see me in such a place as this.”
- Bishop William Elder, the leader of the church in Natchez, Mississippi, was a proud southerner who tended to both Union and Confederate soldiers in hospitals. He was imprisoned when he refused orders from the occupying Union general to pray for President Lincoln during Mass, saying the government could not interfere with the Catholic liturgical prayers. When Lincoln heard of the situation he agreed with Elder and ordered the prelate's release. After the war, Elder would become the archbishop of Cincinnati, a town in the North.
- Fr. Peter Whelan of the Diocese of Charleston during the war served as chaplain at Ft. Pulaski. When the fort was captured, Whelen was offered freedom by the union officers. He refused, choosing instead to go to a New York prison with his men. He ministered to the troops in the prison camp, saying Mass and obtaining food and medicine. When Whelen was released he returned to the south only to continue his prison chaplaincy at Andersonville (named "hell on earth"), this time serving the 30,000 Union soldiers. Whelan, called "The Angel of Andersonville," died of tuberculosis contracted from his prison work.