The Second Irish (Tiffany) Colors

In the autumn of 1861, Rev. William Corby, C.S.C. joined the 88th Regiment of New York as a chaplain in the predominantly Catholic Irish Brigade in the Civil War. Rev. James Dillon, C.S.C., brother to Patrick – another future Notre Dame president, was attached to the 63rd New York regiment, also part of the Irish Brigade. Throughout the entire Civil War, the Irish Brigade was never without at least one priest.

Of all the priests, brothers, and sisters of the Congregation of Holy Cross who served in the Civil War, Fr. Corby is the best-known. At the Battle of Gettysburg, Fr. Corby granted absolution to the troops immediately before they marched into combat, and many ultimately to their deaths. The absolution was later immortalized by Paul Wood’s Absolution Under Fire, currently hanging in the Snite Museum of Art, and by twin statues of Fr. Corby on Notre Dame’s campus and at Gettysburg.

Statue of Rev. William Corby with a bandaged hand, c1930s-1940s.


Long after the Civil War, the veterans still held tight to their war stories. Like his compatriots, Fr. Corby kept in touch with other members of his brigade and attended reunions. Additionally, he helped organize the Notre Dame G.A.R. post (nationally noted for being the only one comprised solely of priests and brothers), penned Memoirs of Chaplain Life (1893), and sought artifacts for the museum at Notre Dame.

W.L.D. O’Grady, a former captain with the 88th, unsuccessfully worked to collect all of the known Irish Brigade flags and bring them to Notre Dame. He saw Notre Dame as a good central location in the United States, even though the 69th New York National Guard Armory would be a more natural home. The unstated reason was most likely political: perhaps O’Grady didn’t want the flags in the hands of New York’s Democratic political machine. Owner of one of the flags was James D. Brady, a Virginia Republican member of the United States House of Representatives. Brady was sympathy to O’Grady’s cause, and in 1896 he donated to Fr. Corby the Second Irish (Tiffany) Colors of the 63rd New York Regiment.

GARC: Restored Irish Brigade flag (Second Irish (Tiffany) Colors), 2000.

Brady had intended to visit Notre Dame in order to make a formal presentation of the flag, but his schedule prevented him from doing so in 1896. A year after the flag had arrived at Notre Dame, it must have been clear that Brady was never going to make the trip. James F. Edwards, curator of Notre Dame’s Bishops Memorial Hall, acknowledged the gift to the museum in a monthly circular of donations with no special notice or fanfare.

For many years, the Second Irish Colors was on prominent display in Main Building and was relocated to Lemonnier Library (now Bond Hall) when it opened in 1917. From there it moved to the old ROTC building (now West Lake Hall), to the Snite Museum of Art, and to Pasquerilla Hall Center (the newer ROTC building). Finally in 1998, the flag was accessioned into the collections of the University Archives as an important piece of Notre Dame history.

GDIS 45/60: The Second Irish (Tiffany) Colors on display in the Wightman Art Gallery, c1930s-1940s. Typed caption on the reverse: “The battle flag of the Irish Brigade which was presented to the University of Notre Dame by Gen. James D. Brady. It rests in the Wightman memorial art gallery of the University of Notre Dame.”

The silk embroidered flag was in rough shape even back in 1896; its tears and holes were falsely assumed to be evidence of the ravages of war. In reality, this particular flag made by Tiffany & Co. was never carried into battle. It was commissioned by prominent New York merchants and was delivered to the Irish Brigade the day after the brigade had lost half of its men at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. The banquet for the presentation of the new colors went on as planned, but ended early on account of renewed Confederate cannon fire.

The soldiers purportedly declined to carry the new colors into battle because the brigade was so depleted that it risked capture. A more likely explanation is that the soldiers preferred to follow a flag presented by the Democrat New York City government rather than one from American-born citizens of the city. General Thomas Meagher took it back to New York City where it was displayed for banquets, parades, and other patriotic events for the remainder of the war. As the last colonel of the 63rd regiment, James Brady took possession of the flag at the end of the Civil War.

Through the generosity of Jack and Kay Gibbons, conservation and restoration work began on the flag in February 2000. The enormous undertaking was completed that September and the flag, mounted and framed for preservation, was first displayed in Notre Dame’s Eck Visitors Center, then on exhibit at South Bend’s History Museum. Due to its delicate nature, the flag must spend years resting in storage after it has been on display for an extended period. However, the Second Irish (Tiffany) Colors of the 63rd New York Regiment is always available for serious scholars to view.

For more information about the Second Irish Colors and the conservation process, please see Blue for the Union and Green for Ireland: The Civil War Flags of the 63rd New York Volunteers, Irish Brigade (, by Peter J. Lysy, archivist at the University of Notre Dame.

World War I Memorial Door

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1924, University President Rev. Matthew Walsh dedicated the World War I Memorial at Notre Dame before saying a military field mass in front of it.  The memorial is an addition to the east transept of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart designed by Notre Dame architects Francis Kervick and Vincent Fagan.  The professors also designed Cushing Hall of Engineering, Howard Hall, Lyons Hall, Morrissey Hall, and South Dining Hall.

GNDL 28/29: Basilica of the Sacred Heart – Vincent Fagan artists' rendering of the World War I Memorial Door, c1923.
Vincent Fagan artist’s rendering of the World War I Memorial addition to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1923.

The cry for a memorial for Notre Dame’s contributions to the Great War began shortly after armistice in 1919.  The memorial initially was going to have inscribe all 2500 Notre Dame active students, alumni, and faculty members who served.  In that number were two future University Presidents who served as chaplains during WWI – Rev. Matthew Walsh and Rev. Charles O’Donnell.  In the end, the tablets only list the names of the 56 who sacrificed their lives in the war.

GHOP 1/08: Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior World War I Memorial Door before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1930s-1944. The statues were placed in 1944.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior World War I Memorial door before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1930s-1944.  The statues were placed in their nitches through the campus statue project in 1944.

The Notre Dame Service Club worked diligently to raise funds for the memorial through dances, Glee Club concerts, and general petitions in Scholastic.  Notre Dame formed a post of Veterans of Foreign Wars in January 1922, which then took up the efforts.  The VFW disbanded in 1923, as there would be few veteran students left on campus to keep the post going.  They had hoped to have the memorial complete by the end of their run, but it would still be another year before it would be finished.

A moulded Gothic arch in deep reveal frames a pair of oak doors with twisting iron hinges. Each door contains a tiny opening with a list of stained glass, one carrying the emblem of the Tudor Rose and the other a Poppy.  (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

In January 1923, a special committee of Notre Dame’s VFW post approved Vincent Fagan’s design for the memorial to be a new side-entrance to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the idea favored by University President Walsh (see sketch above).  Scholastic noted that “[t]he design is beautiful and appropriate and will add charm to the campus as well as ‘hold the mind to moments of regret'” (Scholastic, March 24, 1923, page 677).

These [sic] is a splay on the outside of the doors and in the masonry of the arch to carry the names of the soldier dead.  The stone lintel above the door bears the inscription:  “In Glory Everlasting!”  Over the lintel is a carved panel with two strong eagles supporting a shield bearing the university seal and it is surmounted by the Chi and Rho of Christ’s monogram:  The eagles carry in their claws a ribbon which reads “God, Country, Notre Dame.” (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)
In the splayed sides about waist high are two projecting corbels on each side [the military figures].  Every Memorial Day these corbels will support the altar table for the military Field Mass offered up for the repose of the souls of those whose names are inscribed above.  Flanking the deepness of the door itself two buttresses rise, shaping themselves into niches with tracery toward the cap.  Over half way up they break back, leaving a supporting ledge for a statue of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael, one on each buttress.  From these ledges there are raised shields bearing the fleur-de-lys and the sword, while high across the facade of the porch from buttress to buttress we read: “Our Gallant Dead.” (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)
When the memorial was finally dedicated on Memorial Day 1924, it wasn’t quite yet complete.  However, it would be finished in time for Commencement.  At the dedication, President Walsh remarked,

 The real purpose of a memorial, from the Catholic point of view, is to inspire a prayer for those we desire to remember.  It is very proper that this memorial should be a part of the Church of Notre Dame.

No one who knows Notre Dame need be told of the spirit of loyalty and faith that has animated this university from its beginning.  We should imitate our dead in that they have shown us the lesson of patriotism.  If only the people of America would follow their example there would be no discrimination because of race or creed.  When Washington said that religion and morality are the basis of patriotism he gave us the definition to every patriotic move at Notre Dame.

It is to the boys of the World War and to the men of the Civil War that this memorial is dedicated.  Let us ask God that this memorial will not only be beauty in stone, but also a reminder to pray for the men to whom it is dedicated.
(Notre Dame Daily, May 21, 1924, page 1)

Inside the doors is a small stone-lined vestibule leading into the church and lighted by two narrow lancets of leaded antique glass bearing medallions of warrior saints. The Memorial is the result of the faithful efforts of the Notre Dame Veterans of Foreign Wars and the cooperation of the university. Its design and construction have been in the hands of Messrs. Kervick and Fagan of the architectural department, and a new spot of interest is created in the northwest comer of the main quadrangle. (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

For many years, the memorial door was the natural place to hold mass on Memorial Day and other military occasions.  With the changes made to altar placement with Vatican II and the academic year ending well before Memorial Day, this tradition has gone by the wayside.  The memorial remains an important corner of campus and the “God, Country, Notre Dame” inscription is often quoted today.

GNDS 5/11: Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I (WWI) Memorial Door, 1925.
GNDS 5/11: Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I (WWI) Memorial Door, 1925.Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I Memorial Door, 1925.
GDIS 29/02: Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart's World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530.
Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530.
GPUB 06/39: Three ROTC students, one member of each military branch (Navy, Air Force, Army), standing in front of the World War I Memorial Door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1960s-1970s.
Three ROTC students, one member of each military branch (Navy, Air Force, Army), standing in front of the World War I Memorial door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1960s-1970s.


Notre Dame Daily
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Main Quad Cannons

On May 22, 1896, the United States Congress approved the Disposition of Condemned Cannon, Etc., which provided the Secretaries of War and of the Navy the authority “to loan, or give to soldiers’ monumental associations, posts of the Grand Army of the Republic, and municipal corporations, condemned ordnance, guns, and cannon balls which may not be needed in the service of either of said Departments” (Annual Reports of the War Department, 1903).  In December 1899, Notre Dame GAR Post 569 filed a petition with the Secretary of War to acquire two cannons for campus.

Commencement flag-raising ceremony on Main Quad with the two Civil War cannons, c1930. Hurley Hall is in the background.
Commencement flag-raising ceremony on Main Quad with the two Civil War cannons, c1930. Hurley Hall is in the background.

With the help of Indiana Representative Abraham Brick, Notre Dame requested a ten-inch Columbiad cannon from Fort Winthrop in Massachusetts and a ten-inch seacoast mortar from Fort Morgan in Alabama.  After about six months of back and forth, the Fort Morgan mortar became unavailable.  It is unclear if the deal fell through because getting the mortar to Notre Dame would be too expensive or if they simply took too long figuring out the logistics.  Consequently, the request was changed to an eight-inch seacoast howitzer from Fort McHenry in Maryland.

Statement of Guns, Howitzers, and Mortars on Hand at the Various Forts. F.H. Wurzer in the House of Representatives sent this list on 04/23/1900 to Brother Paul for him to pick out two cannons for Notre Dame.
Statement of Guns, Howitzers, and Mortars on Hand at the Various Forts. F.H. Wurzer in the House of Representatives sent this list on 04/23/1900 to Brother Paul for him to pick out two cannons for Notre Dame.

General William Olmstead of Notre Dame GAR Post 569 inquired about the history of the gun at Fort Winthrop.  Ordnance Sergeant Joseph R. Neaves responded that he didn’t think it had much of a history – it came to Fort Winthrop in the late 1850s or early 1860s and that it probably was never fired since it wasn’t mounted (UPEL 87/05).

The cannons arrived to Notre Dame sometime before September 22, 1900, when they are first mentioned in Scholastic.  The article recounts how football manager John Eggeman went looking for his billy goat during a storm, and “[a]fter a long search, John discovered the goat trying to eat one of the cannons down near the post-office.  Of course this was a bluff on the part of the goat” [Scholastic, 09/22/1900, page 59].

George T. Hanlon laying on a cannon on Main Quad, c1910s.
George T. Hanlon laying on a cannon on Main Quad, c1910s.

The cannons were located next to the flag pole, which then was just west of Hurley Hall.  While they were a prominent part of the landscape, they didn’t garner much attention in the student publications.  Due to their location, they stood as sentinels during flag-raising ceremonies.  In later years, it became tradition for the graduating head cheerleader to lead one last college yell from atop one of the cannons during the flag-raising ceremony at Commencement.

Commencement - Graduating head cheerleader Al Perrine leads the traditional last yell from atop one of the cannons as the class flag is raised on Main Quad while clergy, faculty, and students are gathered around, 1941/0601.
Commencement – Graduating head cheerleader Al Perrine leads the traditional last yell from atop one of the cannons as the class flag is raised on Main Quad while clergy, faculty, and students are gathered around, 1941/0601.

In 1942, Notre Dame donated the cannons to a scrap drive to support the war effort of World War II, thus returning them back to the United States military and putting them back to work for a new war.

Scholastic issue October 16, 1942, page 11: Articles featuring the Notre Dame donation of the Civil War cannons to the St. Joseph County scrap drive during World War II (WWII); Mr. George McDonald of the United Steel Workers of America speaks to the Law School; and Professor Eugene Kormendi designing a new statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Scholastic issue October 16, 1942, page 11: Article featuring the Notre Dame donation of the Civil War cannons to the St. Joseph County scrap drive during World War II (WWII)


UPEL 79/03
UPEL 87/04-12
GNDL 8/01
GNDS 9/15
GDIS 46/03

Annual Reports of the War Department, 1903 (

Rev. William Corby at Gettysburg

Notre Dame’s military ties pre-date the Civil War, so when war broke out between the North and the South, Notre Dame inevitably became involved in the conflict.  Students and alumni joined the ranks, on both sides of the fighting.  Members of the Congregation of Holy Cross also volunteered, but in more peaceable jobs of chaplains and nurses.  Rev. William Corby was one of those priest who left his position at Notre Dame and joined up with the predominately Catholic Irish Brigade in 1861.  Corby spent the next three years as chaplain for the New York regiment.

Notre Dame’s Civil War Chaplains with two officers from the Irish Brigade at the Union Army camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, Summer 1862. Sitting: Captain J. J. McCormick; James Dillon, CSC; and William Corby, CSC. Standing: Patrick Dillon, CSC, and Dr. Philip O’Hanlon. Photo by Alexander Gardner, official photographer of the Army. Original glass negative is housed in the Library of Congress.

On July 1, 1863, the Irish Brigade marched into Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  They spent much of the next day  getting their armament into position near Cemetery Hill.  Corby notes in his memoirs that he could see the Confederate lines a mile away, also preparing for battle.  Around 4pm, the conflict became heated.  Corby recounts, “The Third Corps were pressed back, and at this critical moment I proposed to give a general absolution to our men, as they had absolutely no chance to practise [sic] their religious duties during the past two or three weeks, being constantly on the march”  [Corby, page 181].

Portrait of Rev. William Corby, CSC, 1863
Portrait of Rev. William Corby, CSC, 1863

Colonel St. Clair Mulholland was attached with the Irish Brigade and later gave this account of Corby’s famous absolution [Originally published in the Philadelphia Times, reprinted in Scholastic, April 3, 1880, pages 470-471]:

There is yet a few minutes to spare before starting, and the time is occupied in one of the most impressive religious ceremonies I have ever witnessed.  The Irish Brigade, which had been commanded formerly by General Thomas Francis Meagher, and whose green flag had been unfurled in every battle in which the Army of the Potomac had been engaged from the first Bull Run to Appomattox, was now commanded by Colonel Patrick Kelly, of the Eighty-eighth New York, and formed a part of this division. The brigade stood in columns of regiments closed in mass.  As the large majority of its members were Catholics, the Chaplain of the brigade Rev. William Corby, CSC, proposed to give a general absolution to all the men before going into the fight.  While this is customary in the armies of Catholic countries of Europe, it was perhaps the first time it was ever witnessed on this continent…  Father Corby stood upon a large rock in front of the brigade, addressing the men; he explained what he was about to do, saying that each one would receive the benefit of the absolution by making a sincere Act of Contrition, and firmly resolving to embrace the first opportunity of confessing his sins, urging them to do their duty well, and reminding them of the high and sacred nature of their trust as soldiers and the noble object for which they fought.  The brigade was standing at “Order arms,” and as he closed his address, every man fell on his knees, with head bowed down. Then, stretching his right hand towards the brigade, Father Corby pronounced the words of absolution.  The scene was more than impressive, it was awe-inspiring.  Near by, stood General Hancock, surrounded by a brilliant throng of officers, who had gathered to witness this very unusual occurrence and while there was profound silence in the ranks of the Second Corps, yet over to the left, out by the peach orchard and Little Round Top, where Weed, and Vincent, and Haslett were dying, the roar of the battle rose and swelled and reechoed through the woods.  The act seemed to be in harmony with all the  surroundings.  I do not think there was a man in the brigade who did not offer up a heartfelt prayer.  For some it was their last; they knelt there in their grave-clothes — in less than half an hour many of them were numbered with the dead of July 2.

Paul Wood’s Absolution under Fire at the Snite Museum of Art

Corby continued, “That general absolution was intended for all  in quantum possum  not only for our brigade, but for all, North or South, who were susceptible of it and who were about to appear before their Judge.”   A non-Catholic officer approached Corby after the Battle of Gettysburg and echoed Mulholland’s sentiments about the absolution:  that it was one of the most powerful prayers he had ever heard [Corby, page 184-185].

Rev. William Corby, CSC, statue at Gettysburg, c1910s "Dominus noster Jesus Christus vos absolvat, et ego, auctoritate ipsius, vos absolvo ab omni vinculo, excommunicationis interdicti, in quantum possum et vos indigetis deinde ego absolvo vos , a pecatis vestris, in nomini Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen" [Corby, page 183]
Rev. William Corby, CSC, statue at Gettysburg, c1910s
“Dominus noster Jesus Christus vos absolvat, et ego, auctoritate ipsius, vos absolvo ab omni vinculo, excommunicationis interdicti, in quantum possum et vos indigetis deinde ego absolvo vos, a pecatis vestris, in nomini Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen” [Corby, page 183]
 The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, with casualties exceeding 57,000.  Fr. Corby’s absolution of the troops stayed deeply in the imagination of the survivors for years to come.  After the war, Mulholland remained a friend of Notre Dame until his death.  In 1900, Professor Jimmy Edwards invited Mulholland to Notre Dame’s Commencement Exercises.  Mulholland regretted that he was unable to attend because he had just spent a week with veterans at Gettysburg.  He was surprised to find them still talking about the absolution:  “Instead of being forgotten it is becoming more widely known” [CEDW XI-2-c].

Corby’s famous absolution has since been immortalized, among other places, in Paul Wood’s Absolution under Fire (1891) at the Snite Museum of Art and in statues on the Gettysburg Battlefield (1910) and on Notre Dame’s campus (1911).


Memoirs of Chaplain Life
by Rev. William Corby
Scholastic, April 3, 1880
CEDW XI-2-c:  St. Clair Mulholland to Jimmy Edwards, 06/08/1900
GPHR 45/3024




WAVES at Notre Dame

“Ahoy matey’s, and what’s buzzin’ Joe College? Somethin’ new has been added on the fair campus of Notre Dame”  [Scholastic issue 07/16/1943, page 11]

Enrollment at Notre Dame declined during the Great Depression for economic reasons.  The need for men in the military during World War II again threatened enrollment levels.  In an effort to keep Notre Dame, an all-male institution, a viable, University President Rev. Hugh O’Donnell, CSC, allowed the Navy to establish a V-7 training program on campus in 1942.  The V-12 program arrived in 1943.  While many are familiar with this part of Notre Dame history, few remember that the WAVES were also stationed on campus in the 1940s.

Women’s Reserve V-10 (WAVES) on the steps of the Rockne Memorial, 1943/0407

The WAVES arrived on campus in July 1943, but they lived in the Oliver Hotel in downtown South Bend.  “They work in the local Navy offices, drive Navy cars and in other ways take over the places of Navy. … The group is made up of both commissioned and non-commissioned personnel” [Scholastic, July 6, 1943, page 8].  Some of the women did learn to fly, to which Scholastic joked, “If and when the time comes for their initial solo, the gals have promised to notify the University, as time must be had to double the insurance on the Dome, you know!” [Scholastic, March 31, 1944, page 8].

Three WAVES working the pay check distribution line at Notre Dame, 1944

 Since the WAVES were not officially affiliated with the University, the Notre Dame Archives does not have many records of their time on campus.  However, the University Archives is extremely fortunate to have the scrapbook kept by Ethel E. Larkin Roselle, a WAVE stationed at Notre Dame and later Harvard University.  The photos from this blog post come from her scrapbook.


The University of Notre Dame: A Portrait of Its History and Campus, by Thomas Schlereth, pages 169-173
GRSL:  Ethel E. Larkin Roselle scrapbook

Memorial Day

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor the dead soldiers from the Civil War.  However, it did not become a federal holiday until 1967.  When the academic year used to run through June at Notre Dame, students and faculty members participated in local parades and held ceremonies for the fallen military members of the Notre Dame community at the cemeteries.

Notre Dame Military Companies marching in a Decoration Day (Memorial Day) parade in South Bend, 1913/0530

 The ceremonies at Notre Dame included the recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, addresses by students and patriotic songs, and a requiem mass.  In 1925, Notre Dame created a memorial to her students who died in World War I at the east door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which bears the epitaph “God, Country, Notre Dame.”  Through World War II, Memorial Day Masses and ceremonies were held outside of this door.

Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530

The change in the academic year to end in May and the observance of Memorial Day as a national holiday leaves campus rather quiet.


PNDP 70-Me-01
GMIL 2/04
GDIS 29/02


Remember the Maine and Shilly

On the night of February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded and sank in the Havana, Cuba, harbor.  Tensions between the United States and Spain over the fate of Cuba led many to believe that Spain was behind the sinking of the Maine.  While multiple investigations have been unable to definitively identify the culprit, “Remember the Maine!  To hell with Spain!” became a rallying cry that helped to launch the Spanish-American War.  The Maine suffered 266 fatalities and most of the 94 survivors sustained some kind of causality.  Among the fatalities was John Henry Shillington, yeoman, third class.

Survivors of the USS Maine, 1898/0222.
Caption: “Roll Call of the Gallant Maine Boys at the Barracks Key West, Florida, Feb. 22, 1898. Washington’s Birthday. Maine blown up Feb. 15, 1898. Crew of 360 men, 266 perished, +L. Moriniere saved. Pennant of the Maine”

John Shillington of Chicago was a popular student at Notre Dame who was involved in many campus activities, including theater and athletics.  He played varsity baseball and was captain of the 1897 basketball team.  Rumor has it that Shillington was expelled for not returning to South Bend with the baseball team after playing at the University of Chicago in May 1897.  He then joined the Navy and ended up on the doomed Maine.

Portrait of John Henry Shillington, c1897

The February 19, 1898 issue of Scholastic reported on the death of their friend:

“John H. Shillington was of a nature which won him many friends, and when, last year, it was deemed necessary for him to sever his connection with the University he went away with the best wishes of all his friends and of all his professors.  He was a manly boy, and he did not complain. ‘I often think of Notre Dame,’ he wrote to a friend from the ill-fated Maine.  ‘I can picture her daily, and in my reminiscences of her a tear is often brushed away . . . . I suppose ‘Shilly’ is forgotten by people at the old college, and I don’t blame them.  Though forgotten, I shall always hold Notre Dame near and dear to me.’

“No; ‘Shilly’ is not forgotten at Notre Dame, but remembered with affection and mourned with sincere grief.  He shall have a share in the prayers of students and professors who will not fail in the only service which friendship can now render him.  God rest his soul!”

On Memorial Day 1915, a monument was dedication in the honor of Shillington just north of Science Hall (LaFortune Hall).  The Secretary of the United States Navy Josephus Daniels gave an address at the dedication and much fanfare surrounded the event.  The monument consists of a shell from the Maine on a base of red Wisconsin granite.

Shillington Monument, c1915-1916.
“To the memory of John Henry Shillington of Brownson [Hall] who went down with the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor, February 15, 1898. This marker is raised [1915] by the men of Brownson as a symbol of their sorrow and their pride. Requiescat in pace.”

Between 1925 and 1930, the monument was moved closer to the Bronson Hall wing of Main Building.  Many students had since forgotten Shillington or knew anything about the reason for the memorial.  In 1930, Scholastic reported that the Brownson Hall residents had taken to calling the monument “The Bullet,” as do some students even today.  The Shillington Memorial was moved further into obscurity to the south side of the Joyce Center near Gate 8 in 1989.  The Shillington Monument finally found a prominent home on the south side of the ROTC Pasquerilla Center in the 2000s.


“The Destruction of the USS Maine,” Department of the Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command
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The Military at Notre Dame

Notre Dame has had a long military tradition.  The administration organized student military units early on as a means of encouraging physical activity, leadership, and discipline.  In 1859, a company of students were organized under the name “Continental Cadets.”

Dome yearbook 1917, page 133: “Notre Dame at War” drawing featuring soldiers in World War I loading a cannon

During the Civil War, many Holy Cross priests, brothers, and sisters served as chaplains and nurses.  Most notable of these was Rev. William Corby, who gave absolution to the troops of the Irish Brigade before battle at Gettysburg.  Rev. Edward Sorin worked hard to make sure the Holy Cross clerics weren’t conscripted into actual fighting and gained support from Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant.  Not only did bearing arms conflict with the vocation of the religious, Notre Dame could ill afford to loose so many clerics and still remain functional as a university.  While the Notre Dame company did not serve as a whole unit, many individual students and alumni took up arms in the Civil War — most for the Union, but some for the Confederacy.

Notre Dame Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post 569 Veterans, c1894-1897.
Seated (left to right) Brother Leander (James McLain), Lieutenant Colonel W.A. Olmstead, Rev. William Corby, CSC, Rev. Peter Paul Cooney, CSC, Brother John Chrysostom, CSC (Mark A. Wells)
Standing (left to right): Brother Benedict, CSC (James Mantell?), Brother Ignatius, CSC (Ignace Meyer), Colonel William Hoynes, Brother Raphael, CSC, Brother Cosmos, CSC (Nicholas A. Bath), Brother Eustachius, CSC (John McInerny)

After the Civil War, interest in student military organizations on campus ebbed and flowed.  In the 1880s, the a company in the senior department organized under the name “Hoynes Light Guards,” while the junior department were called “Sorin Cadets.”

Student Jose Gallart wearing a Sorin Cadet military uniform, c1900

In 1898, two-hundred and fifty students organized to be prepared to volunteer for the Spanish-American War.  Often drilling with the military units, “The university band will also be prepared to go.” [PNDP 30-Mi-02; Catholic News, NY, NY, 04/03/1898]

In 1910, the United States War Department sent retired Captain R.R. Stogsdall to Notre Dame to officially teach military tactics and instruction on campus.  This appointment moved Notre Dame toward having more professionally organized military companies.  Boys under the age of 17 were required to participate in such companies, while it was voluntary for collegiate-level students.

The onset of World War I brought about much militarist patriotism among Notre Dame students, faculty, and clergy.  Participation among students still remained voluntary, yet the companies swelled in number.  Rev. Matthew Walsh and Rev. Charles O’Donnell, both later University Presidents, served as chaplains.  O’Donnell’s helmet hangs in the War Memorial entrance to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Student Military Company C at rifle practice in trenches on campus
with the Log Chapel and Old College in the background, 1915-1916.
This photo was published in the 1916 Dome yearbook, page 184.

Notre Dame’s relationship with the Navy began in 1927 and strengthened when University President Hugh O’Donnell “offered all of the facilities of this institution to the government.  In April of 1943 the V-7 Indoctrination School was created and the first group of 900 men, all college graduates enlisted for one month as apprentice seamen.” [PNDP 30-Mi-02; “Notre Dame’s Naval ROTC Unit,” Notre Dame, Fall 1959].  The relationship with the Navy helped to sustain Notre Dame at a time that was economically dire for the entire country.

Naval training units in ranks on South Quad during World War II

After World War II, such intense military training ended at Notre Dame.  In the 1950s, the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was established at Notre Dame.  However, student sentiment towards the military heated up with the rest of the country during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s.

Anti-Vietnam war protesters at the annual ROTC military review, May 1968

Notre Dame’s relationship with the military, its supporters and detractors, have historically reflected national sentiment and will probably continue to do so.  Notre Dame is one of a few universities with a ROTC program currently represented by all branches of the military — Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.  Today we honor those veterans who have served our great country, particularly the sons and daughters of Notre Dame.

Army ROTC training with a helicopter on campus, August 2002

Dome yearbook
PNDP 30-Mi-02, including the following articles:
St. Joseph County Forum, June 18, 1859
–Letter to Abraham Lincoln from Fr. Sorin, September 28, 1863
Catholic News, NY, NY, 04/03/1898
–“US Army Man to Drill Notre Dame Students,” South Bend Tribune, July 9, 1910
–“Notre Dame Classes Largest in History,” South Bend Times, September 20, 1910
–The Army Reserve Officer Training Program:  A Century’s Development at Notre Dame,” Notre Dame, Summer 1959
–“Notre Dame’s Naval ROTC Unit,” Notre Dame, Fall 1959
–“Notre Dame and the Draft,” by Virgil L. Levy, Lincoln Herald, Summer 1977
“God? Country? Notre Dame?,” by John Monczunski, Notre Dame Magazine, Spring 2001
GFCL 49/20
GSBB 2/07
GMIL 1/09
GDIS 22/49
GNDL 8/41
GMDG 12/34

For more information about Notre Dame in the Civil War, see also Blue for the Union and Green for Ireland: The Civil War Flags of the 63rd New York Volunteers, Irish Brigade, by Peter J. Lysy, Archivist, University of Notre Dame; as well as the blog and new book by James M. Schmidt: