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It was obviously an astute observer of the powerful relationship between religion and warfare who once quipped that there are no atheists in foxholes. The sentiment is every bit as applicable to wars that took place before there were foxholes, including the Civil War. Religion had a constant presence at the front. Chaplains, such as Father Thomas H. Mooney of the 69th New York (part of the famed Irish Brigade), and other men of God were seemingly as ubiquitous in the field as commanding officers, and sometimes more respected. Rather than condemning the war and keeping their distance, as some of their peers did, these men actively participated in campaigns, and many adopted the philosophy that if the soldiers could no longer come to church, they would bring church to the soldiers. They played an important role in boosting or maintaining moral, making sense of the chaos of war and sanctifying the causes to which so many men gave their lives.

Mooney was captured by one of Mathew Brady?s photographers in early June 1861 as he delivered Sunday Mass to the 69th under the watchful eye of Colonel Michael Corchran. In an effort to raise morale, and possibly invoke divine intervention, Mooney christened one of the regiment?s cannon ? and received a stern reprimand from his bishop, who read about the act in the newspaper. Mooney was later relieved and called back tot New York as a result.

Photo: Library of Congress