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A special Combat Gallery Sunday: The original Fighting Irish, on the eve of the Wheatfield, 154 years ago

Absolution Under Fire, By Paul Wood, via the Snite Museum of Art Notre Dame. Note the drummer boys in distinctive Zouave uniforms and the famous green harp flag. Click to bigup

On July 2nd 1863, minutes before the Irish Brigade would charge the Wheatfield at Gettysburg, Father William Corby gave absolution to the men. Corby would later become President of Notre Dame University and the following quote from Col. St. Clair Mulholland comes from their web page on Corby:

Colonel St. Clair Mulholland was attached with the Irish Brigade and later gave this account of Corby’s famous absolution [Originally published in the Philadelphia Times, reprinted in Scholastic, April 3, 1880, pages 470-471]:

There is yet a few minutes to spare before starting, and the time is occupied in one of the most impressive religious ceremonies I have ever witnessed. The Irish Brigade, which had been commanded formerly by General Thomas Francis Meagher, and whose green flag had been unfurled in every battle in which the Army of the Potomac had been engaged from the first Bull Run to Appomattox, was now commanded by Colonel Patrick Kelly, of the Eighty-eighth New York, and formed a part of this division. The brigade stood in columns of regiments closed in mass. As the large majority of its members were Catholics, the Chaplain of the brigade Rev. William Corby, CSC, proposed to give a general absolution to all the men before going into the fight. While this is customary in the armies of Catholic countries of Europe, it was perhaps the first time it was ever witnessed on this continent… Father Corby stood upon a large rock in front of the brigade, addressing the men; he explained what he was about to do, saying that each one would receive the benefit of the absolution by making a sincere Act of Contrition, and firmly resolving to embrace the first opportunity of confessing his sins, urging them to do their duty well, and reminding them of the high and sacred nature of their trust as soldiers and the noble object for which they fought. The brigade was standing at “Order arms,” and as he closed his address, every man fell on his knees, with head bowed down. Then, stretching his right hand towards the brigade, Father Corby pronounced the words of absolution. The scene was more than impressive, it was awe-inspiring. Near by, stood General Hancock, surrounded by a brilliant throng of officers, who had gathered to witness this very unusual occurrence and while there was profound silence in the ranks of the Second Corps, yet over to the left, out by the peach orchard and Little Round Top, where Weed, and Vincent, and Haslett were dying, the roar of the battle rose and swelled and reechoed through the woods. The act seemed to be in harmony with all the surroundings. I do not think there was a man in the brigade who did not offer up a heartfelt prayer. For some it was their last; they knelt there in their grave-clothes — in less than half an hour many of them were numbered with the dead of July 2.


A relic with the ability to induce a shudder

Object 19880274-001, Canadian War Museum

This early Colt M1911 was used by an individual with the 27th Infantry Battalion (City of Winnipeg), Canadian Expeditionary Force, during the First World War.

If you note, there is a bullet or shrapnel hole from the right penetrating the left-hand side of the grip, meaning if the pistol was in a holster or hand, the owner likely had a very bad experience somewhere on the Western Front.

Canada placed orders for a total of 5,000 Colt Government Model pistols between August and October 1914, with officers, senior NCOs and machine gunners of early units heading to France so equipped with these .45ACP Connecticut-made guns.

The 27th Winnipeg was authorized on 7 November 1914 and disembarked in France as a fully trained and equipped unit on 18 September 1915, just in time to head to the front for the meat-grinder that was Somme the next year.

Close to 61,000 Canadians were killed during the war, and another 172,000 were wounded.

The 27th and a dozen other Manitoba-area Great War battalions are perpetuated today as the “Little Black Devils” of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles (R Wpg Rif).

Vale, Fitzgerald

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, answers questions about the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during a press conference at Fleet Activities Yokosuka.

The list of the fallen are from the Gulf Coast, the East Coast, the West Coast and the Midwest. Going on their names, they encompass numerous ethic backgrounds, all part of the national melting pot. One is a teenager, a striker. Another is a 37-year old PO1, likely well into his second decade of service. There are combat rates, CIC personnel, clerks.

All are American, and volunteered for the service, showing the persistent dangers of sea duty even in today’s environment–  reportedly stricken in a horrific collision and resulting flooding of their berthing spaces while in the slumber of the predawn hours.

The U.S. Navy Identifies 7 Deceased Fitzgerald Sailors

The remains of seven Sailors previously reported missing were located in flooded berthing compartments, after divers gained access to the spaces, June 18, that were damaged when USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal.

The deceased are:

– Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia

– Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California

– Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut

– Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas

– Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California

– Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland

– Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio

Hope you aren’t a fan of the 50m Prone Rifle and Pistol events in the Olympics

Moving towards being “more youthful, more urban, and more women” the International Olympic Committee approved a host of changes to the shooting sports for the upcoming Tokyo Games.

The group last week announced they agreed with changes proposed by the International Shooting Sports Federation, the governing body for Olympic-style shooting, that aims toward a larger goal to boost female participation while appealing to more youth.

The IOC will remove the current Men’s Double Trap, Men’s 50m Rifle Prone, and Men’s 50m Pistol events to make room for new ones.

More in my column at

Tutahaco of the Hisada may be no more

The Navy ordered 29 Hisada-class district harbor tugs, large (YTBs) in the tail-end of WWII. These chunky little 100-footers could plug away at 12 knots and were assigned across several different Naval Districts on all coasts to render towing, fire fighting and other services of her type to vessels of all size. In the 1960s, they were reclassified as district harbor tugs, medium (YTM) and, by the late 1980s, were increasingly stricken and transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal.

One, USS Nanigo (YTB/YTM-537), was lost while unmanned and under tow in 1972. Others were transferred or withdrawn until the last, USS Accohanoc (YTB-545/YTM-545), which was the tender to the Essex-class carrier USS Lexington (AVT-16) in Pensacola, was put to pasture in 1987.

As far as I can tell the last of the breed, USS Tutahaco (YTB/YTB-524), who spent most of her career at Guantanamo Bay, was sold in 1986 then turned into a live-aboard yacht, moored on the Halifax River at Ormond-by-the-Sea, Florida.

By 2015, the 70-year-old tug was repainted haze gray and was to be established as a floating museum on the Halifax.

However, the Coast Guard since February had to respond to leaking fuel oil from the vessel, deploying hundreds of feet of containment boom and absorbent boom around the tug.

The tugboat Tutahaca (sic) is surrounded by boom Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, on the Halifax River in Ormond-By-The-Sea, Fla. The tugboat leaked bilge oil into the river, and the boom is used to contain the oil. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Savannah.

The tugboat Tutahaca (sic) is surrounded by boom Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, on the Halifax River in Ormond-By-The-Sea, Fla. The tugboat leaked bilge oil into the river, and the boom is used to contain the oil. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Savannah.

Now, they have removed the aging vessel altogether.

That hull growth…

From the Coast Guard’s presser:

The Tutahaco was deemed a maritime threat to the environment after finding significant amounts of oil, PCBs, lead and asbestos.

“The Tutahaco is in a dilapidated condition,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Svencer, the incident commander for the removal. “Not only was it a threat to the environment, but to the community, and that’s our primary concern.”

The Coast Guard hired T&T Salvage to hoist the vessel onto a barge where it will be transported to All Star Metals in Brownsville, Texas to remove the hazardous contaminates.

Fair seas, Jack

WWII veteran Jack O’Neill has reportedly passed away in Santa Cruz, California, of natural causes at the age of 94.

Best known as an old school surfer, ocean lover, boating enthusiast, pioneering balloonist, and for basically inventing the modern commercial neoprene wet suit, he also founded the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program, which has introduced more than 10,000 youth to the ocean over the past 20 years– a program he called his greatest achievement.

O’Neill was a pilot in the Naval Reserves during the war.

Farewell, Indy

The last of the Forrestal-class supercarriers afloat, the decommissioned ex-USS Independence (CV-62) has arrived at her final port of call over the weekend and was greeted by several of her past crewmembers who gathered for one more goodbye.

The mothballed passed through the jetties of the Brownsville Ship Channel on tow to the breakers.

(Photo: AP)

Indy entered service in 1959 as the last of her class and spent much of her career in the Med.

She completed a single tour off the coast of Vietnam in 1965 and later carried out airstrikes against Syrian forces during the Lebanese Civil War, supported the invasion of Grenada and operations over Iraq during Operation Southern Watch, the enforcement of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

Independence was decommissioned in 1998 after 39 years of active service. She was ordered in 1954, the year after the Korean conflict went from hot to cold.

“Dismantling such a large vessel is an enormous undertaking, but it’s important to remember that the carriers themselves have a significant sentimental meaning for the people who were stationed on them,” said Chris Green, senior manager of International Shipbreaking Ltd, the same yard that has dismantled classmates USS Constellation and the USS Ranger. “We felt it was important and appropriate to give the USS Independence and those who served on her a deserving tribute.”

The yard had tried to hold services for the other carriers but fell short of being able to pull it off, so BZ to them for last week’s event.

Brownsville-based ESCO Marine, who salvaged the USS Saratoga in 2014, has since filed for bankruptcy, which means International is likely to be the name in the game in supercarrier scrapping.

Under Every Leaf.

A Site for the British Empire 1860-1913


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