Excommunicated from the Union has a Cover

Concept Cover Art for Excommunicated from the Union (2015), by William Kurtz.My book, Excommunicated from the Union (Fall 2015), now has a cover. Here is the concept art created by Fordham University Press.

The artwork on the cover depicts Father William Corby’s famous absolution at the Battle of Gettysburg. Corby was a Notre Dame priest who was the only Catholic chaplain serving in the famous Irish Brigade at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1 to July 3, 1863. On the second day of the battle, just before his men were about to attack Confederates advancing on the Union lines, Corby asked his commander to halt the brigade so he could giveĀ  its soldiers a blessing. After all, the men had not had a chance in the constant marching of the campaign to receive the sacrament of confession, and Corby wanted to make sure their souls were properly prepared. Shortly after finishing his prayer, the Irish Brigade, already reduced to a shadow of its former glory and size, was decimated by Confederate fire. According to Catholic theology at the time, Corby had acted just in the nick of time to save the souls of the men who died that day on the bloody fields south of Gettysburg.

After the war, as the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg grew in the popular memory of the conflict, many of Corby’s comrades sought to commemorate their former chaplain’s service. They wrote extensively about his wartime exploits, unsuccessfully sought a Medal of Honor for him for performing the prayer “under fire,” and commissioned a painting by Paul Wood to depict his famous Gettysburg absolution. Wood’s painting is featured on the cover of my book, courtesy of the Snite Museum of Art.

Corby himself wrote a memoirs of his experiences. It is perhaps the best available account of the life, challenges, and duties of a Catholic chaplain in either army during the Civil War. In 1911, veterans and admirers dedicated a statue of Corby that still stands today prominently on the Gettysburg battlefield. The site has subsequently become an important place in the Catholic remembrance of the war, a constructed memory that emphasized Catholic valor and patriotism despite the bigotry of nativists and anti-Catholics in American society. Numerous speeches have been given at the site, including one in 2013 by the current president of Notre Dame, Rev. John F. Jenkins, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the event.

You can read more about Corby in my book when it comes out later this year.