Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Did You Know...
The first Catholic Chaplain killed in combat, was awarded the Confederate Medal of Honor?

My buddy Anita prompted me to do a posting on Fr. Bliemel, so here goes!

I've found a number of articles on Fr. Bliemel, but probably the best was this one from The American Catholic; (Emphasis and comments mine)

Destiny attended Emmeran Bliemel at his birth on the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel, patron saint of soldiers, in 1831 in Bavaria. From his early boyhood his burning desire was to be a missionary to German Catholics in far off America. Joining a Benedictine Abbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1851, he was ordained a priest in 1856.

In 1860 Father Bliemel was assigned to a German Catholic parish in Nashville, Tennessee. Six months after his arrival most of the adult men of his parish joined the Tenth Tennessee regiment to fight for the Confederacy. After Nashville was occupied by Union forces early in 1862, Father Bliemel dedicated himself to giving aid to wounded soldiers in Nashville, whether they were Confederate or Union.

Father Bliemel’s sympathies aligned with the Confederacy. He viewed the South as more tolerant of Catholics and decried anti-Catholic prejudice in America which he associated with the North. It should be remembered that when Father Bliemel arrived in Pennsylvania the aptly named Know-Nothing movement, an anti-Catholic nativist party attacked by Abraham Lincoln, was strong in many Northern states.

Smuggling medicine to Confederate forces, Father Bliemel was arrested twice by the Union occupation forces. Eventually Father Bliemel decided that he had to take a more active role. The Tenth Tennessee had elected him in absentia their chaplain. Seeking permission from his bishop, which was reluctantly given, Chaplain Bliemel joined the Tenth Tennessee.
On August 31, 1864, now a veteran of many battles, Chaplain Bliemel stood with the men of the Tenth Tennessee as they launched an assault on a Union position during the battle of Jonesboro, Georgia. In the course of the attack Father ”Emery”, as the men fondly called him, performed his customary duty of rendering assistance to the wounded and the Last Rites to the dying. Colonel Grace, the commanding officer of the Tenth Tennessee (an Irish-Catholic Brigade), fell to the ground mortally wounded. Immediately Father Bliemel was at his side administering the Last Rites. In the midst of the sacrament, Father Bliemel was decapitated by a cannonball.

Father Bliemel was the first American Catholic Chaplain to die on the battlefield. The Knights of Columbus in Jonesboro keep Father Bliemel’s memory ever green.

And here is a quick snap-shot of The Rome-Richmond Connection that I compiled a few years back, much of which I borrowed from this site - "Catholicism and the Old South" (an EXCELLENT read). As a history nerd and as a husband of a Flower of The South, I find this stuff fascinating.

Historically, the South has never been known as a bastion of Catholicism. But what most historians have overlooked for going on the past century and a half, were the contributions made by Catholics on behalf of The Confederate States; most notably, Pope Pius IX.

Antebellum Southerners could readily relate to Catholicism and much of what She stood for. That only makes sense, seeing the predominance in The South of "High Church" Episcopalians and their resemblance to Catholic ritual. The shared belief by both Southern Protestants and Catholics world-wide (at the time, anyhow) of self sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves. Of the strict notion that Tradition in one's self, one's nation, one's religion, actually means something.

Jefferson Davis, all though he was Protestant, attended Catholic school (Dominicans) as a youth in Kentucky. Young Davis even expressed a desire to convert. But the good Fathers denied his request out of respect for the Davis family. Evidently, his first contact with Catholicism wouldn't be his last.

Twenty of the Confederacy's fighting generals were Catholic. Among them General P.G.T Beauregard, who ordered the barrage on Fort Sumter; General James Longstreet of Gettysburg and Chickamauga fame; and Gen. Joseph Finegan, the victor at one of the few major battles fought in Florida. Most that at least dabble in the history of The War Between The States have heard of the all Catholic New York 69th. But how many knew that The South had Catholic Brigades as well? The 6th Louisiana Tigers fought with valor in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The 10th Tennessee fought with equal elan at Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Not only on the battlefield had Catholics well represented The South. Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston, South Carolina was the Confederate Ambassador to The Papal States (The Vatican). In fact, The Papal States was the only nation to ever formally exchange ambassadors with the Confederacy. Former U.S. Senator Stephen Mallory served at the Confederate Secretary of The Navy, the first Catholic to attain such a Cabinet position in any American administration, Confederate or Union. The nephew of General Robert E. Lee was the founding pastor of St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The "Poet-Priest of the Confederacy", Irish born Father Abram Joseph Ryan was considered by many as the Poet Laureate of The South. Frather Ryan volunteered for duty as a combat chaplain upon learning of the battlefield death of his younger brother.

German born Father Emmeran Bliemel was the first Catholic Chaplain, North or South, ever to be killed in action. He was honored with the Confederate Medal of Honor, and has a Knights of Columbus Council in Georgia dedicated to him. Prior to his enlistment, Fr. Bliemel was living in Union occupied Nashville, and was arrested for "treason" on the grounds that he purchased medicine that he planned to take to Confederate forces.

One of the more interesting connections was between President Davis and Pope Pius IX. During the war proper, Union operatives were openly recruiting mercenaries in Europe. President Davis respectfully brought this to the attention of the pope. Pope Pius in turn, made it abundantly clear that the bishops in Catholic Europe would do everything in their power to end such. And they did.

During the ensuing correspondence between the two, Pope Pius ensured that he always referred to President Davis as "His Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America." During the illegal imprisonment of President Davis, comfort did reach him in the shape of a Rosary sent to him by the nuns (The Sisters of Charity) of Savannah, Georgia. The same nuns, who according to Mrs. Davis "The Sisters came to see me and brought me all the money they had, five gold dollars. They almost forced me to take the money, but I did not. They then offered to take my children to their school in the neighborhood of Savannah, where the air was cool and they could be comfortably cared for during the summer months."

Most remarkable was the solace afforded to the President by two simple gifts from the pope himself. A personally hand woven Crown of Thorns, and a portrait of the pope that he himself autographed the words from Sacred Writ, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."

Could the symbolism be any greater?


Blogger C said...

Protestant fanatics like Jack Chick claim that the Jesuits instigated the Civil War, assassinated Lincoln and then formed the KKK. He'd have a field day with this; but as is typical with someone of his ilk, he'd take it out of historical context like everything else.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Kindred Spirit said...

As a Catholic, native New Orleanian, and fellow "Flower of the South" to your wife, this post is quite dear to me. The Crown of Thorns you mention is in the Confederate Museum in New Orleans--a museum which is well worth the trip to see.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

In the novel, "Gone with the Wind," I believe that Scarlett O'Hara's family were Catholics.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I'm learning to love the South more and more, thanks for adding to my continued recovery from public school brainwashing

12:48 PM  
Blogger Volpius Leonius said...

Deo Vindice

2:40 PM  
Blogger VSO said...

Fascinating as Mr. Spock would say.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Anita Moore said...

Thank you, Cavey! Very interesting!

Now wait for the comments from those who think that this means the Catholic Church supported slavery.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Former Altar Boy said...

You're right--there's even a scene where the family is gathered for the daily roasry. Obviously Hollywood wasn't totally anti-Catholic in 1939 as it is today.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

Catholic Church supported slavery.

Over the centuries, the CC tolerated slavery because it was a social issue, not a religious one (at the time), but disapproved of it. An example of this is the medieval Church.

Jesus never condemned slavery. Well his purpose for coming to earth was salvation, not reforming his or Rome's or any other society. Of course, I would never presume that Jesus, the Man of "True God and True Man" would approve of it.

During the Civil War there were the following situations in the So. and the No.:

1. Bishop opposes slavery but the local Church sheeps-in-the-pew (SITP) supported it.

2. SITPs who opposed slavery, but the bishop supported it.

3. Bishops and his people opposed it.

4. Bishop and his people supported it.

Of course this doesn't mean the Church, which is more than just a bishop and/or his people, supported it.

I have a book on the history of the Catholic Church in America that discusses this subject. I will have to look for it. It is somewhere in the house and I can't find it just now. If anyone is interested, I will post author, title, etc., sometime later.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Interesting information. I did not know this. I bet many people don't know it. Thanks for the enlightenment.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Kevin Whiteman said...


SCARLETT: Yankees in Tara?

MAMMIE: Yes'm. And they stole almost everything they didn't
burn. All the clothes, and all the rugs, and even Miss Ellen's rosaries.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Former Altar Boy said...

Are you telling me you know the words to a movie that doesn't have a Marine or John Wayne in it?

10:41 AM  
Blogger Kevin Whiteman said...

As famous as GWtW is, that's the only line I know! As it should be!!

5:21 PM  
Blogger Anita Moore said...

As famous as GWtW is, that's the only line I know! As it should be!!

But surely you also know: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a silver-plated rat's ass" -- oh, wait...that ain't it...

Cavey, your posts about Fr. Schmitt and Fr. Bliemel inspired me to do my own on soldier priests. If you know of any more that I have left off -- and I'm sure I've left off a bunch -- I'll be happy to add them.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Aaron Linderman said...

The portrait came from the pope, but the crown of thorns was added by Davis' wife.

7:58 AM  

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