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CASE HISTORICAL MUSEUM

GETTYSBURG - THE IRISH BRIGADE

July 2, 1863

On the afternoon of July 2, 1863, General Robert E. Lee attempted to roll up the Union's left flank at Gettysburg.  He sent two divisions of Longstreet's Corps smashing through the union's positions in the Wheatfield and Peach Orchard.  Union General Sickles' Third Corps was sent reeling back with severe losses. 

   Among the units sent to help restore the kines was Colonel Patrick Kelly's Brigade.  Known as the "Irish Brigade", it consisted of the 63rd, 88th, New York Regiments, the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th Pennsylvania.  Because of severe casualties in earlier battles, the brigade was down to 532 effectives.

   The Irish boys knew they were going into a grim situation from which many would not return.  Father William Corby, the brigade priest, sensed the need to offer spiritual inspiration.  While the brigade was forming, he stood on a rock and offered absolution to the entire unit.  Although performed in European battles, this ceremony is thought to never have been done in America up to that time.  In forgiving the sins of so many, Father Corby sternly reminded the soldiers of their duties; that the church would deny Christian burial to any who wavered and did not uphold the flag, and to confess their sins in the correct manner at their earliest opportunity.  The men knelt as the chaplain"s voice rang out above the terrible sound of battle.

FATHER CORBY'S IRISH BRIGADE
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   With the brigades of Cross and Zook, the Irish Brigade swept into farmer Rose's wheatfield where they were met by terrifying fire from Kershaw's and Sermmes' Confederate brigades.  The wheatfield was taken and retaken severasl  times as Kelly's emerald and gold flags surged back and forth with the tide of battle.  At the end of the day, 198 of Father Corby's lads would not be present for their next confession.

   After thr Civil War, Father Corby would serve as President of Notra Dame University.  His statue there and the one at Gettysburg have a raised right hand, in part, to the memory of those 198 men lost on a farm in Pennsylvania.