Monday, June 6, 2011

Galveston Research Summary #4 - Letters to New Awlins!

Previous "Galveston Research Summaries" can be found below:

#1 - Dissent, Sedition, and Confederate Secret Police (here)
#2 - Ursuline Sisters (here)
#3 - The Pearce Civil War Museum and Collection (here)
Summary of Galveston/Civil War Research Project (here)

And now, for the latest in Galveston Research Summaries (!):

Not surprisingly, the kind, expert, and enthusiastic assistance of the Archives of the University of Notre Dame (AUND) was criticial to my researching and writing of my recent book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010).

Likewise, I've mentioned before (here) interesting connections between the Notre Dame/Civil War project and my current Galveston (TX)/Civil War writing and research project, especially the involvement of Catholic sister-nurses in both cases.

As it turns out, the University of Notre Dame Archives also has some great material to support my Galveston/Civil War project, and - perhaps to many readers of this blog - unexpectedly!

It's no surprise that a primary mission of the AUND is to collect, preserve, and make accessible the permanent historical records of the University of Notre Dame...however, from the late 1800s, the University has also committed itself to documenting the history of the Catholic Church in the United States; to that end, the University Archives has acquired historical material and papers from the bishops of Baltimore, Bardstown-Louisville, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Vincennes-Indianapolis and many other Sees.

Among the diocesan papers they maintain are those of the Archdiocese of New Orleans (La.), including more than 34 linear feet (!) of records from 1786-1897.

So...what does this have to do with my Galveston/Civil War research project?

The connection lies in Bishop Jean Marie Odin (1800-1870). Odin was the first bishop of Galveston (1847) but just as the Civil War was starting, he was named as the Archbishop of New Orleans. You can read more about Bishop Odin at the "Handbook of Texas Online", specifically his entry here.

Odin was beloved by the people of Texas (especially Galveston) and many persons from Galveston maintained a steady correspondence with Bishop Odin over the course of the war.

Fortunately, to help researchers, the AUND has made available online its "Calendar" of correspondence, which serves an excellent finding aid, with summaries of the correspondence.

With the Calendar as a guide, I've been able to secure copies of more than a dozen letters written from Galvestonians to Bishop Odin in New Orleans during the war from AUND, although there are many more. From what I can tell, these have not been used in the Galveston/Civil War literature to-date, and I am confident that the information I'll glean from them will 1) make the book all the more interesting and 2) add to the scholarship of Galveston and the Civil War.

I would encourage other Civil War researchers to take advantage of the AUND in more "unexpected" ways! There are some GEMS in there!

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