Gettysburg: Father William Corby
Featured above is the monument to Reverend Father William Corby on Hancock Avenue near the George Weickert Farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Father Corby was the chaplain to the 88th New York Infantry of the famed Irish Brigade. On July 2, 1863, Corby stood on this rock, giving blessings and final absolution to the men of the Irish Brigade before they launched an attack on the Wheatfield to help rescue the Union’s crumbling flank during the Battle of Gettysburg. Father Corby reminded the men of their duties and encouraged them not to waver and to uphold the flag. Over one third of the brigade became casualties in the ensuing attack, but their actions brought desperately needed relief to the Union’s defenses.
After the war was over, Father Corby became President of Notre Dame from 1866-72. After a five-year term at Sacred Heart College in Wisconsin, he returned to Notre Dame as President from 1877-82. A copy of the Gettysburg statue to Father Corby is in front of Corby Hall at Notre Dame University.
In 1893, veterans who served under Corby’s watchful guidance nominated him for the Medal of Honor. They noted that for Father Corby, “no spot was too dangerous or too much exposed to the fire of the enemy.” Corby never received the Medal of Honor, but veterans of the Irish Brigade presented him with a chalice that he would always cherish.
Father Corby died in 1897. According to Gettysburg Stone Sentinels “his flag-draped casket was borne by civil war comrades and a rifle volley was fired as it was lowered into the grave.” In some way, shape, or form, Father Corby's spirt will live on forever. His story will always be a reminder of the importance that faith played in the most important battle of the American Civil War.