Honoring Father William 'Fair Catch' Corby

(First published on 9/23/10) - On the broiling afternoon of July 2, 1863, just south of Gettysburg, Pa., a Catholic priest in a black frock coat mounted a rock and raised his right hand in the direction of a Union army unit known to history as “The Irish Brigade.” The brigade’s men were moments from marching to a soon-to-be-blood-soaked section of that historic battlefield, now called simply “The Wheatfield.”

As Father William Corby (monument, right), chaplain of the Brigade and son of an Irish immigrant father from Co. Offaly, began his absolution of the soldiers in Latin, all the brigade’s comrades in the 1st Division of the 2nd Corp of the Army of the Potomac within earshot, Catholic or not, bowed their heads to receive his blessing. It’s often been said that there are “no atheists in a foxhole,” so perhaps denominations become irrelevant, as well. For those who witnessed it, it was probably a moment they would never forget. For many onlookers, alas, there were but minutes left in their young lives to cling to the memory. It was surely one of the most poignant moments in what many consider the seminal event of that catastrophic war

Forty-seven years later, October 29, 1910, at that very spot in Gettysburg, the moment of that blessing was again “frozen in time,” but this time it was done literally, with a bronze statue of Father Corby. Father Corby himself had long since passed, but many of the no-longer-young men who had received that blessing from him were there to honor his memory. As the American flag draped over the statue fell away to unveil once again the sight of Father Corby’s hand rising above them, no doubt more than a few brushed a tear from their cheek.

The 100th anniversary of the dedication of the statue of Rev. William Corby on the Battlefield of Gettysburg took place on October 29, 2010.


Information on Father Corby from Robert McLernon

WGT’s Irish Brigade Shop

Memoirs of Chaplain Life: 3 Years in the Irish Brigade with the Arm... - by William Corby

The Irish Brigade and Its Campaigns – by David Power Conyngham

Irish Brigade In The Civil War: The 69th New York And Other Irish R...- by Joseph G. Bilby


Views: 501

Tags: American Civil War, Diaspora History, Father Corby, United States, battle of Gettysburg, william Corby

Comment by Jim Curley on May 14, 2013 at 10:16am
Okay, I'll bite. Is he called "Fair Catch" because he looks like a football player signaling for a fair catch. Gettysburg's answer to ND's Touchdown Jesus.
Comment by Gerry Regan on May 14, 2013 at 3:35pm

Jim, I believe a replica of this statue stands at Notre Dame, and is called 'Fair Catch' Corby, a name we apply here to the Gettysburg monument.

Comment by The Wild Geese on May 14, 2013 at 4:21pm

Jim, this article gives you a pretty good run down of the origin of "Fair Catch" Corby at Notre Dame.  http://www.und.com/genrel/111011aaa.html 

Comment by Patrick J. O'Leary on May 17, 2013 at 11:25pm

The question was posted  as to  if I attended  St Paddy's Parade in

Atlanta  this year. Negative on that, I was out in the boondocks at that time.


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