The Civil War General Who Became a Priest
December 20, 2008 by Leave a Comment
Along with Church History, the Civil War has been a big interest of mine ever since I can remember. So I try to wrap the topics together whenever I get the chance. I knew that a number of Civil War veterans had joined the priesthood, but I never heard of any generals taking this route. That is, until I came across the case of General William Olmsted, who was ordained a priest at age 65. This item is from the The New York Times, March 9, 1909:
BRIG. GEN. OLMSTED, SOLDIER-PRIEST, DIES
Raised the First Company of New York Volunteers for the Civil War.
FOUGHT IN MANY BATTLES
At the Close of the War Was Indians’ Physician–
Took Orders Eight Years Ago–
Dies of Paralysis.
Brig. Gen. William Adams Olmsted, who took holy orders some eight years ago, and who until recently had been Chaplain of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Fifty-first Street, near Ninth Avenue, died of paralysis at St. Vincent’s Hospital yesterday, at the age of 75 years. In January his right side became paralyzed. He had been in an almost unconscious state since. The funeral will be held from St. Ambrose’s Church, Fifty-fourth Street and Tenth Avenue, on Thursday morning, and it is expected that the interment will be in Calvary Cemetery. He was born in Albany on Christmas Day, 1834, and received the degree of M.D. at Howard University, Washington, D. C. At the commencement of the Civil War, in 1861, he raised the first company of volunteers in New York State.The company had 170 men. He was made Captain for his services. After the battle of Big Bethel, Va., in which Capt. Olmsted fought, he was promoted to be a Lieutenant Colonel. He was at the battles of Seven Pines, Fair Oaks, Oak Grove, Savage Station, and Glendale. At Malvern Hill in 1862 he was brevetted for gallant and meritorious service. In 1863 he was ordered to Elmira, N. Y., to raise a regiment, which became the 189th New York Volunteers. He was then transferred to the command of the First Brigade, Second Division, Second Army Corps, and retained the command up until the disbandment of the army. Eight or nine years ago he took holy orders at Notre Dame University, Indiana. Before that he was a physician among Indians. The only relative Gen. Olmsted leaves is a grandnephew, Dr. William H. Haskin, of 42 East Forty-first Street.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a Civil War veterans’ organization. While General/Father Olmsted was at Notre Dame, he belonged to the university’s GAR post, which was made up of priests and brothers who had served in the war.