“An Appeal to Truth”

As a volunteer here at PAHRC for the summer, I’ve been cataloging the pamphlet collection. One of the first pamphlets I dealt with immediately caught my attention. Entitled “An Appeal to Truth”, it was written in 1915 by Cardinal Mercier, who was then serving as the Archbishop of Malines (Mechelen) in Belgium. Directed towards the archbishops of Germany, Bavaria, and Austria-Hungary, Mercier wrote about supposed war-time offenses committed during Germany’s occupation of Belgium during World War I.

1915 publication of “An Appeal to Truth”

Cardinal Mercier attempted to dispel various nasty rumors that Germans were directing at Belgian citizens as well as make public Belgium’s victims of abuse.

Cardinal Mercier was particularly agitated over the German government’s accusations that Belgians were committing crimes against occupying German soldiers. Mercier claimed that these accusations, which were addressed in the German government’s 1915 publication, entitled The White Book, were completely untrue and fabricated.

The German government claimed that Belgians, including young girls, were murdering and torturing wounded German soldiers, The Cardinal stated, “Hardly had the German armies trodden the soil of our country, when the rumour spread among you that our civilians were taking part in military operations; that the women of Vise and of Liege were gouging out the eyes of your soldiers…” (2)

The Cardinal denied these allegations and instead offered his own; he argued that Germans soldiers had committed unspeakable acts against entire villages in Belgium, and that not even priests or nuns were safe from them:

“Fifty innocent priests and thousands of innocent Catholics were put to death; hundreds of others, whose lives have been saved by circumstances independent of the will of their persecutors, were in danger of death; thousands of innocent persons, with no previous trial, were imprisoned; many of them underwent months of detention, and, when they were released, the most minute questioning, to which they were submitted, revealed no guilt in any of them.” (9)

At the pamphlet’s core was Cardinal Mercier’s attempt to convince German bishops to agree to a fair tribunal. He sought a public forum in which the Archbishops of Belgium would be given a chance to refute the German charges and present evidence accordingly. Additionally, he sought revenge for the murdered and harassed Belgian citizens.

It seems to me that, in an effort to appear even-handed, Cardinal Mercier added “If, in formulating these denunciations, we are calumniating the German army, or, if the military authority had just reasons for commanding or permitting those acts which we call criminal, it is to the honour and the national interest of Germany to confute us.” (9)  Additionally, this statement places the German Bishops in a precarious position because if they do not accept the public trial then it could be argued that they did not rise to defend the honor of Germany and its soldiers. The Cardinal maintained that on several occasions Germans ignored their cries for justice. He stated:

“On August 18th, 1914, the Bishop of Liege wrote to Commandant Bayer, Governor of the town of Liege: – ‘Several villages have been destroyed one after the other; important people, among them some priests, have been shot; others have been arrested, and all have protested their innocence…’ No reply was received to this letter.” (4)

Cardinal Mercier argued that the Germans had conducted their own investigation into the matters without including any cross-examination. He cited a German inspection of Louvain from 1914 as an example of the one-sided nature of these inquiries. Cardinal Mercier stated that when German authorities spoke to witnesses, “Sometimes it was in the presence of a representative of local authority, who was ignorant of the German language, and so was obliged to accept and to sign on trust the official reports.” He claimed that this evidence was unacceptable, the argument one-sided, and that it was unfair for them to take the argument to the Pope without giving the Belgian’s a chance to voice their issues. (6-7)

Mercier entreated German bishops to agree to a fair tribunal in which both sides would be given equitable opportunity to present their case. He used priestly solidarity to back his request, “Is it not upon us, the pastors of our people, that the duty lies of helping to get rid of these bad feelings, and of reestablishing on its foundations of justice, to-day so shaken, the union in love of all the children of the great Catholic family?” (12)

Unfortunately, I have been unable to ascertain if the German bishops agreed to a tribunal or even responded to this public letter. However, while looking for other materials in PAHRC’s pamphlet collection relating to German atrocities committed in Belgium during the Great War, I found a pamphlet written by J. Esslemont Adams and Leon Mirman entitled “Their Crimes.” The pamphlet, published in 1917, discussed crimes against Belgian and French citizens during the German occupation. They state “Germany has been martyrizing Belgium. She has from that moment onwards turned the land into a prison: the frontiers are armed against Belgians like a battle front…” (60)

1917 publication of “Their Crimes”

Adams and Mirman’s arguments seem to back Cardinal Mercier’s allegations, even going so far as to cite the Cardinal’s letter to Governor General von Bissing (the German Governor General of Belgium during the occupation). The passage stated the crimes against both French and Belgian women and children, “Sometimes the attacks were individual and sometimes committed by bodies of men, e.g., at Melen-Labouxhe, Margaret W. was violated by twenty German soldiers, and then shot by the side of her father and mother. They did not even respect nuns.” (32)

What I took away from reading these pamphlets is the suffering occupied territories encounter during times of war. The authors of these publications wanted to increase public awareness in an effort to demand retribution for victims and to form a sense of national solidarity for the war effort. I will endeavor to search for some of the answers that these two sources leave me with. For now, they have imparted a vivid picture of the intensity and insanity that accompanies war.

A Philadelphia Artist

I’m currently processing the Campbell- Martin- Furlong Papers, a collection of papers that documents these three interrelated Catholic families as well as other related families such as the Kennedys and Jenkins.  Most of items are family correspondence, though some business and estate materials are also included. One member of the Martin family who is fairly well-represented in the collection and who caught my attention is William A. K. Martin (1816-1867). Other than family correspondence, a decent amount of letters and other items deal with Martin’s career as an artist. 

Martin’s works primarily included landscape, portrait, and maritime paintings, specifically paintings of U.S. Naval ships. He also painted works with religious themes. A parishioner and friend of St. Philip Neri’s first pastor, John Patrick Dunn, Martin donated one of his first paintings, depicting the Scourging of Christ at the Pillar, to the church. The painting, which hung above the altar of the church, was described in detail in the April 21, 1842 issue of the Catholic Herald in an article entitled, “Beautiful Painting.”  

The Catholic Herald April 21, 1842

Martin’s preoccupation with maritime subjects resulted from the fact that several members of the Martin and related families were merchant captains. William’s father, Captain John Martin, mainly conducted business with New Orleans and the Caribbean as well as Western Europe and China. William spent much of his young life at sea. One item in the collection includes his passport from age 12-signed by Secretary of State Henry Clay- when he travelled through Europe. 

William A. K. Martin's passport, 1829

From the turn of the century up until the mid 1800s, Philadelphia served as the preeminent city for artists in the country, particularly portrait artists and lithographers. Thus, Martin was privy to a vibrant artistic scene. He was able to receive tutoring in portrait painting from notable artist John Neagle. Martin was also a member of the Artists Fund Society and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts which held annual exhibitions to sustain art activity in the city. 

Receipt of payment for lessons in portrait painting with John Neagle, January 9, 1841

Letter from noted lithographer John Sartain with information regarding a meeting of artists associated with the Academy of Fine Arts, January 15, 1856, p.1

Sartain letter, p.2

Martin’s correspondence and business-related materials appear to demonstrate that Martin had a fairly steady amount of business in his home town. His work garnered some interest outside Philadelphia as well. He was asked to exhibit paintings at the Metropolitan Mechanical Institution in Washington D.C.  Moreover, Librarian of Congress, John Silva Meehan took an interest in his paintings. Meehan worked on Martin’s behalf to have him hired to paint a marine subject for one of the panels in the new extensions of the U.S. Capitol building. 

Letter from John S. Meehan to W.A.K. Martin, February 2, 1857

Although Meehan urged Martin to begin work on the project in order to provide members of Congress with a taste of what they could expect, Martin did not want to begin such a large endeavor without certainty that he would be hired for the job. With the recent birth of his fourth child, Martin writes: My pecuniary situation with an increasing family is such as to place it out of my power to incur the expense and loss of time such as I did on the prior occasions, unless with a certainty of success and as ‘hope deferred maketh the heart sick’ and doubting I fear that this twin hope is doomed to meet the fate of its brother killed by an omnibus. Hope however lingers to the last. Thus, the opportunity to have his work displayed in the Capitol building did not come to fruition. 

W.A.K. Martin to John S. Meehan, February 12, 1857, p.1

Letter to Meehan, p.2

Black Catholics in Philadelphia and The Journal

A major part of the American Catholic Historical Society’s collection housed at PAHRC is its collection of Catholic newspapers. This collection contains Catholic newspapers, mostly from the early 19th to the early 20th centuries, that were published throughout the United States, as well as some foreign newspapers.  

One of these periodicals is The Journal, a weekly Philadelphia newspaper published in 1892. The paper was created by black Catholics for the African American Catholic community. PAHRC has several issues of the paper.  

July 9, 1892 issue

Black Catholics, made up of both free and enslaved African Americans, had been a presence in Philadelphia since the establishment of the city’s Catholic community. Black Catholics worshiped at the oldest Catholic churches in Philadelphia, including Old St. Joseph (1733), Old St. Mary (1763), and Holy Trinity (1788), although they worshipped separately from the white congregation. When they did attend mass with whites, blacks often had to sit in certain designated areas which were usually the back of the church or the balcony. However, researchers have recently noted that some black families were able to rent pews in the gallery of Old St. Joseph.  

The number of black Catholics in Philadelphia grew considerably during the Haitian revolution (1791-1804) when many refugees immigrated to the city. Evidence of black Catholics can be found within the sacramental registers of the older parishes, particularly Old St. Joseph. Old St. Joseph’s baptismal and marriage records include notations for those parishioners who were “slaves” or “negroes”. Most of these records do not include surnames of the family or individual.  

Old St. Joseph baptismal records from May 1796

The above baptismal records from May 1796 include the following entries:  

Josephine Louisa, negress, born March 1773, of London and Phyllis, (Ethiopian?) slaves; baptized May 1 (1796) by Rev. L. Neale  

Rachel, born March 17, 1789, of Margaret Felia and Phanice, negroes, unbelievers; baptized May 2 by Rev. M. Ennis  

Louis, negro; aged about 6 months, born of John Lewis and Ophelia, negroes; baptized May 6, by Rev. R. Houdet  

Old St. Joseph marriage record: John Louis Lindor and Louisa Rosette, negroes of the Colored Island of San Domingo were married June 9, 1801 by Rev. George Staunton; witnesses were Peter Michel and John King

The Black Catholic community continued to grow during the 19th century. The Jesuit priest Father Barbelin opened a school, Blessed St. Peter Claver, for black children on Lombard St. in 1859, which was later taught by the Sisters of Providence from Baltimore. By the 1880s, black Catholics began a concerted effort to establish a church and accompanying school for the community. In 1886, the St. Peter Claver Union, which Father Ernest Hiltermann of Holy Trinity Church had formed for black Catholics, along with the help of others within the Catholic community, most notably Katharine Drexel, purchased the former Fourth Presbyterian Church located on the southwest corner of 12th and Lombard Streets, renaming it St. Peter Claver Church. The church was dedicated in 1892.  

St. Peter Claver Church, circa 1961

 The Journal, most likely associated with the founding of the new parish, devoted its coverage to local and national news relating to black Catholics as well as news about black issues in the United States. It also covered news concerning St. Peter Claver. The top of the newspaper’s title page read “The Catholic Church is the only Liberator of the Negro.” The paper’s proprietors and publishers were Swann and Hart, located at 20 N. 13th Street. The Journal only ran from about February to September 1892. In the September 25th issue the editors note, “The Journal is having a hard struggle to keep its head above water and live, but with all our drawbacks we’ll live.”  


Early Records: Saint Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia, PA. American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, 1947.  

Souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee of St. Peter Claver’s Parish, 1886-1961. (PH0120)  

Willging, Eugene P.  and Herta Hatzfeld. Catholic serials of the nineteenth century in the United States; a descriptive bibliography and union list. Second series: Part Five, Pennsylvania. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1964.

Daughters of Charity Nursed Wounded Civil War Soldiers at West Philadelphia hospital

by Christine McCullough-Friend

Women’s religious orders have served both Catholics and non-Catholics within the Philadelphia community since the establishment of the Diocese of Philadelphia two centuries ago. These women, who have and who continue to devote their lives to the betterment of society have played a pivotal role in social work, education and medicine.

As we begin to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, one example of this service that should be highlighted is the work of the Daughters of Charity (formerly Sisters of Charity) at Satterlee Military Hospital. The sisters ministered to thousands of wounded and dying Civil War soldiers from 1862 until the hospital closed in 1865. 

Nurses and staff

The 12-acre site where the Satterlee Hospital was located in West Philadelphia, bounded roughly by 40th to 44th Streets, from Spruce to Pine Streets, was at that time very rural, far removed from the cramped and crowded conditions of urban Philadelphia. The ‘pure country air’ afforded the soldiers an opportunity to rest and recover from their wounds.

The hospital, initially called West Philadelphia Hospital, was renamed Satterlee Military Hospital in honor of Richard Smith Satterlee, a distinguished army surgeon. The surgeon in charge was Dr. Isaac Hayes, an Artic explorer before he joined the army. The hastily constructed buildings were completed in just over 40 days. The 2,500-bed facility was not quite finished when 22 Daughters of Charity arrived on June 9, 1862.

Initially, the hospital was fairly ill equipped, especially with regard to the accommodations for the sisters. Beverages were served in wash pitchers and the food in basins. The sisters ate their meals earlier than the officers, sharing just four eating utensils reserved for officers’ use. The chapel was so small that some sisters had to exit the room so others could enter and receive Holy Communion.  

Satterlee Hospital became a self-contained city when a tent city was built on the grounds in 1863. The hospital increased its capacity to accommodate 4,500 wounded soldiers. A 14-foot high fence surrounded the property, which now sprawled south to Baltimore Avenue and west to 46th Street. On the grounds there was a post office, clothing store, laundry facility, carpenter shop, printing shop, dispensary, library, and three kitchens referred to as restaurants.

Although the official capacity of Satterlee was 4,500, the actual capacity exceeded this number. After the Battle of Bull Run, the wounded arrived by the hundreds. After the Battle of Gettysburg, they arrived by the thousands, swelling the hospital population to more than 6,000. During the Battle of Gettysburg which occurred during July 1863, the greatest number of wounded were admitted to the hospital in a single month. The following month of August saw the greatest number of deaths in any one month, averaging at least one per day. In just one year, patients consumed more than 800,000 pounds of bread, 16,000 pounds of butter and 334,000 quarts of milk.

During the war, more than 100 Daughters of Charity passed through the doors of Satterlee Hospital, ministering to the wounded soldiers’ spiritual and medical needs. The tiny chapel was soon expanded to seat 400 worshippers. Many soldiers often arrived several hours before mass to obtain a seat. Several wounded soldiers contributed generously to outfit the chapel properly, purchasing a set of stations of the cross and taking great pains to decorate the chapel for feasts and special occasions. 

The hospital’s chaplain was Father Peter McGrane who was stationed at St. Patrick’s at 20th and Locust Streets. Every day, Father McGrane traveled from St. Patrick’s to Satterlee to say mass, hear confessions, instruct and baptize and frequently arrange for burial. He labored throughout the war ministering to the wounded and dying. Archbishop James Wood also visited Satterlee several times to confirm many adult converts.

Father Peter McGrane, no date

The practice of military medicine during the war was an eye-opening experience. The wounds caused by the new and improved artillery met the outdated medical practices of understaffed field hospitals, resulting in an epidemic of needless deaths. Conditions began to improve with the advent of permanent army hospitals like Sattelee, staffed by experiences surgeons and dedicated sisters.

During its four-year existence, more than 50,000 wounded soldiers were treated at Satterlee. The contributions made by the medical professionals and the Daughters of Charity who staffed the hospital are immeasurable.

PAHRC holds a copy of a diary kept by a Daughter of Charity at the hospital from 1862 to 1865.


Smith, Sara Trainer, ed. “Notes on Satterlee Military Hospital…from the journal kept at the hospital by a Sister of Charity.” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society 8, no. 4 (December 1897): 399-449.

West, Nathaniel. History of the Satterlee U.S.A. Gen. Hospital at West Philadelphia from October 8, 1862 to October 8, 1863. The Hosptial Press, 1863. (Call# IC0135)