Author: Will

Who Were the Fenians?: An Evaluation of Toronto Jail Records

The Fenian Brotherhood, organized in the United States in the late 1850s, was the American wing of a transatlantic Irish nationalist movement bent on the violent overthrow of British rule in Ireland. Led by John O’Mahony, the Civil War years saw the group grow in numbers, both in terms of members, equipment, and financial strength. While not exactly endorsing their… Read more →

Nuns of the Battlefield: A Tribute

March is Women’s History Month and a fitting time to recall the important contributions of Catholic nuns and sisters during the U.S. Civil War. Often neglected in studies of women or gender during the war, these courageous Catholic women cared for thousands of sick and wounded Confederate and Federal soldiers in every theater of the war. About 700 women religious… Read more →

“Great Injustice Has Been Done Me”: Rosecrans, Greeley, and the Battle of Chickamauga

Though a conservative Catholic Democrat before 1861, General William S. Rosecrans courted the support of radical Republicans during the American Civil War. His friendship with fellow Ohioans such as Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, Senator Benjamin Wade, and Congressman James A. Garfield was forged by their mutual desire to save the Union and destroy slavery. Rosecrans’s victory at… Read more →

Rosecrans in His Own Words (Part 2)

Having published the first half of General William S. Rosecrans’s personal report last month, I am now glad to be able to present the second part. This section follows Rosecrans from the spring of 1863 through the Tullahoma campaign, the capture of Chattanooga, his defeat at Chickamauga, and his ten-month long command of the Department of Missouri. It finishes with… Read more →

Rosecrans in His Own Words (Part 1)

Despite his family’s pleadings, William S. Rosecrans never wrote his memoirs. Although he did pen several small articles about a few of his battles, Rosecrans preferred to focus on regaining his honor and fortune in western mining and railroad ventures to taking the time to tell his side of the story. That turned out to be a bad decision on… Read more →

Reflections on Founders Online: Early Access

Digital Studies / Le champ numérique, a Canadian digital humanities journal, just published my article on Founders Online: Early Access. Written back in 2015, I recount my experiences as one of Early Access’s project managers and also make recommendations for others hoping to launch their own large-scale, multi-project, or crowd-sourced projects. Here is the article abstract: Founders Online, a digital… Read more →

A Holy Grail: The Story of Father Cooney and his Civil War Chalice

Descendants of the sister of Robert Gould Shaw, colonel of the famous 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment, recently rediscovered his long lost sword. The family then donated the weapon to the Massachusetts Historical Society, whose president dubbed it “the holy grail of Civil War swords.”[1] When it comes to important Civil War artifacts, however, some “holy grails” are more literal… Read more →

David P. Conyngham: Regular U.S. Army Officer?

While researching for my introduction to an edited edition of David P. Conyngham’s Soldiers of the Cross, I found evidence that “Major Conyngham” briefly considered a career in the regular U.S. Army following the Civil War. Transcribed and annotated below, the letter was sent to the adjutant general of the army, Lorenzo Thomas, along with endorsements from Union generals Joseph… Read more →

Soldiers of the Cross: David Conyngham’s Unpublished Tribute to Catholic Priests and Nuns in the Civil War

David Powers Conyngham (1825-1883) was an Irish Catholic immigrant, journalist, writer, and Civil War soldier who served in both the Irish Brigade and in Sherman’s army during the Atlanta Campaign and March to the Sea. Shortly after the war ended, he wrote important works about the brigade and Sherman’s campaigns before turning his attention to religious and Irish history. He… Read more →