Father “Abram” Ryan: Missouri Native, Priest / Poet of the Confederacy

The following article was written by an anonymous blogger known only to the world as “Enemy of the State” and submitted to the Southeast Missourian “Speak Out” forum found at the following URL: http://www.semissourian.com/forums/speakout/thread/3331

Adored throughout the South, Cape Catholics ignore Missouri’s Most Famous Priest
Posted by Enemy of the State on Wed, Jun 22, 2011, at  6:09 AM:

"Enemy of the State": anonymous blogger/ modern day partisan

One Hundred, and Forty Six Years ago, on June 24th, 1865, the Poet Priest of the Confederacy, Father Abram Ryan, released his most famous poem, “The Conquered Banner.

It appeared in a pro-southern Catholic newspaper, the NEW YORK FREEMAN’s JOURNAL, since then, millions of southern children learned it by heart and recited it in classrooms throughout the south.

My guess is that no Cape Girardeau Catholics ever heard of Father Ryan, who was a free lane Chaplin to our soldiers in the Confederate Service, but they should have.

Nashville named a high school after Father Ryan.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp #302 in San Diego, CA, named their camp after Father Ryan.

A memorial plaque has been erected at his former parish, Immaculate Conception Church, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

A memorial park with a statue of Father Ryan is in downtown Mobile, AL.

Father Ryan is commemorated on the Poet’s Monument in Augusta, Georgia, along with Sidney Lanier, Paul Hamilton Hayne, and James Ryder Randall

There is a stained glass window at the Confederate Museum in New Orleans

There is a stained glass window depicting Father Ryan at Bapst Library, Boston College

A memorial plaque graces the front of St Boniface Church in Louisville KY, the remaining active portion of the Franciscan Monastery where he died. The adjoining monastery building is now apartments.

Why then, should Cape Girardeau Catholics honor this great man, a devoted priest, who risked his life to tend to the needs of loyal Confederate soldiers?  It is because Father Ryan has a Cape Girardeau history.

Born born on February 5, 1839 in Hagerstown, Maryland, his parents soon moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was educated at the Academy of Christian Brothers.  Later, Later Ryan studied for the priesthood at St. Mary’s of the Barrens Seminary near Perryville.  He was ordained a Priest in the Vincentian order on September 12th, 1860.  As a new priest, he taught theology at St. Mary’s of the Barrens and was also listed in 1860-61 on the faculty roster of the diocesan seminary in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

It was from this area, that Father Ryan answered the call of the Archbishop of New Orleans who was recruiting Catholic Priests to be free lance Chaplins for the Confederate Service.  Father Ryan began to be absent from duties due to “illness” so that he could travel to minister to troops in Tennessee, and Kentucky, Louisiana.

According to wikipedia, “Fr. Ryan began formal full-time clerical duties in Tennessee in late 1863 or early 1864. Though he never formally joined the Confederate Army, he clearly was serving as a free-lance chaplain by the last two years of the conflict, with possible appearances at the Battle of Lookout Mountain and the Battle of Missionary Ridge near Chattanooga (both in late November 1863), and well-authenticated service at the Battle of Franklin (November 1864) and the subsequent Battle of Nashville (December 1864). Some of his most moving poems–“In Memoriam” and “In Memory of My Brother”–came in response to his brother’s death, who died while serving in uniform for the Confederacy in April 1863, probably from injuries suffered during fighting near Mt. Sterling, Kentucky.”

All this makes Father Ryan a notable, highly regarded priest, to risk his life, even though he wasn’t in the Confederate Army, to minster to the troops.

However, that may not have been Father Ryan’s greatest accomplishment, though I would venture that to those who Father Ryan attended, they may disagree.  Father Abram Ryan is best known as the Poet Priest of the Confederacy.

His poems, “CSA”, “In Memoriam”, and “The Conquered Banner” were, and still are, treasured in the south, and helped sooth it in it’s most difficult time, that being when they lost their war for Independence from the tyrannical northern government.

The latter, “The Conquered Banner” was required to be learned by all southern school students for many, many years, just as we were required to memorize the tyrants “Gettysburg Address.”

Father Ryan published volumes of poems, on the war, the military, and on other circumstances and several volumes of his work is even now available on eBay.

Imagine if you will, a Father Ryan Museum in Cape Girardeau.  Cape would become a stopping point for not only bus loads of vacationing Catholics, but southerners who remember him fondly from learning about him in their high school years.

I am sure that there are records in Cape Girardeau that prove that Father Ryan was at the diocesan Seminary, (St. Vincents) and also at St. Mary’s in Perryville.  Some enterprising Catholic ought to look into it as we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of our nations launch of it’s struggle for freedom from the vicious tyranny of the north.

At the very least, the Knights of Columbus ought to commemorate a plaque to this great man, this extraordinary Priest, Father Abram Ryan.

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2 responses

  1. Greetings,
    Just a side note to add to the Father Ryan points of interests around the states…there is also a Father Ryan Avenue in my home town of Biloxi, MS.

  2. G.B. Stein III | Reply

    The Knights of Columbus in Daphne, AL is also named in honor of Father Ryan. Daphne is on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.

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