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THE DIARY OF JOSEPH B. O'HAGAN, S. J., CHAPLAIN OF THE EXCELSIOR BRIGADE Edited by the Rev. William L. Lucey Joseph B. O'Hagan, the author of this brief diary, was born August 15, 1826, in the town of Clogher, County Tyrone, Ireland. When in his teens, he joined his older brother in Nova Scotia and then entered the diocesan seminary in Halifax; there was little expectation that his life would be spent outside the area. However, in the summer of 1847 he visited Boston; while there, he met Father John McElroy, a pioneer Jesuit in that city, and soon thereafter decided to enter the Society of Jesus. He studied first at St. John's College and then at Louvain University. Returning to the United States after the opening of the Civil War, he was appointed chaplain of General Daniel Sickles' Excelsior Brigade. Father O'Hagan's first encounter with Federal soldiers was disheartening , for in a letter to a friend he stated: Such a collection of men was never before united in one body since the flood. Most of them were the scum of New York society, reeking with vice and spreading a moral malaria around them. Some had been serving terms of penal servitude on BlackweU's Island at the outbreak of the war, but were released on condition of enlisting in the army of the Union, and had gladly accepted the alternative.1 But apparently the regiment responded to the priest's attentions, for by year's end he reported that they were attending to their religious duties and had "settled down into comparative decent fellows?2 A few months later, when an appeal was made for funds for the Irish Relief Librarían at Dinand Library, Holy Cross College, Rev. Lucey received his Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University. He is the author of three books, including The Catholic Church in Maine. 1 "Father Joseph O'Hagan," Woodstock Letters, VIII ( 1879), 173-183. Similar remarks were expressed by O'Hagan in another letter, dated Nov. 11, 1861, which is now in the Woodstock College Archives. 3 Ibid. 402 Fund, the Excelsior Brigade—in spite of the meager soldier's pay of that era—contributed $1,744 to the cause.3 The chapfoin apparently joined Sickles' brigade after its arrival in Washington in July, 1861. In the fall of that year, when the unit became a part of General Joseph Hooker's division at Aquia Creek, O'Hagan was appointed chaplain of the 73rd New York Regiment. Yet he made himself available to all Catholics and became an intimate friend of Rev. Joseph H. Twichell, the brigade's Protestant chaplain* Captured briefly during McClellan's Peninsular Campaign, Father O'Hagan gained his release and rejoined his unit. His diary, deposited at Holy Cross College and herein printed for the first time, was kept during the winter lull of 1862-1863, when the Army of the Potomac was being overhauled in its winter quarters at Falmouth, Virginia. Although the diary ends in February, 1863, Father O'Hagan remained a chaplain until September of that year, when he resigned to complete the one year remaining of his studies. He returned to be with the Excelsior Brigade in the last year of the war. In 1872 he was appointed president of Holy Cross College. Owing to poor health caused by his efforts in the war, he embarked on a cruise in 1878 but died off the west coast of Mexico on December 15. Of his war services, Rev. Twichell stated: He was one of the best and kindliest of men and one of the most delightful of comrades. He had a bright, happy wit; no discomforts could overcome his cheerful temper, and his generosity was boundless. . . . His devotion to duty was unfhgging, and bore him through great fatigues, not infrequently into great perils. He was as brave as he was tender hearted and faithftd. . . .5 Unfortunately, Father O'Hagan has given us a record of only a few weeks of his career as a chapfoin. He did not have the Yankee flair for chronicling daily events, and he doubted that his experiment with a diary would be long-lived...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 402-409
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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