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In support of this policy Kenrick discouraged his priests from serving as chaplains for either army. Father Bannon, however, could not be dissuaded, Father Bannon's military career commenced in November, when he joined Captain Kelly's Washington Blues as a chaplain in its response to a call for militia troops to defend western Missouri from raiders from "Bloody Kansas. Louis by the first Sunday of December, After the firing on Fort Sumter, St. Louis began to polarize into two armed camps. After the surrender of Camp Jackson its troops, including Bannon, became prisoners of the Federal forces until release on May 11, Bannon returned to St.

John's where he remained until December 15, At the time of his departure Bannon was targeted for arrest by Federal authorities due to the views which he had expressed from the pulpit.

The Confederacy's fighting chaplain: Father John B. Bannon

On the night of the 15th, Bannon snuck out of the back door in disguise and a false beard, while Federal officials entered the front door. He then continued his clandestine journey across Missouri to Springfield where he became a member of the "Patriot Army of Missouri," under the command of General Sterling Price.

He then commenced his service as a chaplain, initially voluntary, to the First Missouri Confederate Brigade. He and the rest of the Brigade had been taken prisoner at the fall of Vicksburg. Although not officially paroled, Bannon was released and went to Mobile and then on to Richmond. Although his main service was to the Irish Catholic members of the First Missouri, some of whom had been parishioners at St.

John's, Bannon was widely respected in the army.

Irish Fr. John Bannon: Confederate hero, Civil War secret emissary to pope

He quickly earned the title of "the Catholic priest who always went into battle. As firing continued, Father Bannon was seen to be blessing, standing or kneeling with soldiers, and administering the last rites to the dying. In the midst of the fray he would step in and take up a fallen soldier. If he were a Catholic, he would give him the rites of the Church; if a Protestant, and if he desired, he would baptize him.

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I must attend now to those who are not able to be removed from the field. A Catholic priest must do his duty and never consider the time or place. If I am killed, I am not afraid to meet my fate. I am in God's keeping. His holy will be done. Throughout the night he, "Would go up to a watch-fire, and waking one of the men, called him aside, hear his confession, and send him to summon another.

The whole night would be spent thus in going from campfire to campfire. The men were always willing to come, generally too glad of the opportunity; some would even be watching for me. An Irish Catholic artillery gunner declined because he had been long from the Sacraments and was afraid of confession. Father Bannon's support of the Confederate cause was based on deeply felt principles. His feelings derived from three influences, ethnic, religious and a general observation of the state of America in his day.

Among many Irish-Americans of his day, a parallel was seen between the British desire to impose its culture and will on Ireland and the efforts of the North to impose its standards on the South. This identification of the North as the oppressor led many Irish-Americans to support the Confederacy. The circumstances prevalent in St. Louis led some Catholics to identify abolitionism with anti-Catholicism. Many Germans who had participated in the revolutions in Europe in had immigrated to St. In their struggles in Europe for freedom and the unification of Germany, their main enemy had been the Austrian Empire, which was identified with Catholicism.

The hostility of the German community toward the Irish and its prominence in the Union cause in St. His observation of Northern and Southern society also led Bannon to his decision to support the Confederacy. In Bannon's view the issue could be defined in terms of good versus evil and the forces of light against the darkness. His view of the struggle was revealed in his sermons.

The Southerners were God's chosen people while the Unionists were the Egyptians or philistines. He preached that the struggle was on between "the cross and the crescent, for which the last, the Yankee substitutes the dollar; a war between materialism and infidelity of the North, and the remnant of Christian civilization yet dominant in the South. Bannon clearly shared the Southern vision. At the time of his visit to Richmond, one of the main military problems facing the Confederacy was the growing imbalance in military strength due in part to the influx of immigrants, many of them Irish, into the Union Army.

On August 30, , Bannon was surprised to receive a request from President Jefferson Davis to meet him at the President's house. During the visit President Davis asked Bannon to undertake a secret diplomatic mission to Ireland to discourage Irish immigrants from enlisting in the Union Army. In further conversation with Davis and Secretary of War Judah Benjamin, Bannon suggested that his mission be expanded to include an attempt to persuade the Papal States to extend recognition to the Confederacy.

It was hoped that recognition by one European state would induce others to follow.

Civil War History

Bannon left America on October 3, aboard the Robert E. After arriving in Liverpool, England, Bannon headed for Italy.

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While in the Vatican he was accorded several long audiences with Pope Pius IX, during which he argued the Confederate cause. Although formal recognition was not obtained, the Pope did speak warmly of the Confederacy. It would also be helpful in Bannon's mission in Ireland. After the conclusion of the Vatican effort, Bannon returned to his native Isle in October, His first duty was to write long letters to the families of fifty or sixty Irish natives who had died while fighting for the First Missouri. Bannon them approached his diplomatic mission with zeal.


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