Friday, January 14, 2011

Father Nelson Baker- First American Saint To See Combat Military Service

Mounment to the 74th NY at Gettysburg

Father Baker in rare black and white video syaing Christmas Mass

Out of all the big news we see out of Rome today something might get lost in the shuffle. That is Father Nelson Baker will be officially declared a Saint. See Vatican notification of this today here.

His life before he entered the Priesthood is indeed interesting. One thing I noticed was this.

Nelson was still young when he enlisted to fight in the American Civil War as part of the 74th Regiment of the New York State militia in early July of 1863. Just hours later, his unit was ordered to march to the Pennsylvania - Maryland border. Within days, Nelson would become one of tens of thousands of men the Union utilized in one of the most violent battles of all time, Gettysburg.

When the 74th Regiment had finished its mission on the Pennsylvania front, the remaining soldiers were immediately ordered to New York City to quell bloody draft riots which had broken out. After successfully completing that grim mission, Nelson Baker and his unit returned home to Buffalo, as its term of enlistment (30 days of active duty) had expired.

Shortly after his return, Joseph Meyer, a close friend of Nelson's, suggested that the two establish a business partnership. The 21-year-old Civil War veteran, responsive, but not enthusiastic, explained to the surprised Meyer that he was considering becoming a priest. Finally, though, Nelson accepted his friend's proposal and the two began what eventually became a highly successful feed and grain enterprise.

Though it appears his service was brief this appears to me to be the first American Saint to have in life actually served in combat. A little brief factoid but one that I am interested in since I live Civil War history too.

On the afternoon of the 2nd of July 1863, the brigade of which this regiment formed a part, supported Car's Brigade in resisting the assault of the enemy along the line of Emmittsburg Road. On July 3rd, supported the left centre of the army.----

Casualties 17 killed - 69 wounded - 3 missing Total 8Mustered in June 20, 1861. Mustered out June 26, 1864.

As mentioned he was involved in the rather sad and nasty business of the New York Draft riots also. His recollections of that would indeed be interesting reading.

This was a small part of his life but one since I am a Civil War Buff I think is pretty cool.

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