next
[17]

Chapter 1: religious elements in the army.

On the memorable 17th day of April, 1861—the day on which the Virginia Convention, in response to Mr. Lincoln's call for seventy-five thousand men to coerce the seceded States, passed its ordinance of secession—there occurred at the little village of Louisa Court House a scene similar to those enacted all over Virginia and the South, which none who witnessed it can ever forget. The ‘Louisa Blues,’ a volunteer company composed of the best young men of the county, were drilling at noon on the court green, when a telegram from the governor of the State ordered them to be ready to take a train of cars at sundown that evening. Immediately all was bustle and activity—couriers were sent in every direction to notify absentees—and in every household there were busy fingers and anxious hearts preparing those brave men to meet promptly the call of the sovereign power of their native State.

I remember one doting mother who wept in secret the tears she restrained in the presence of her loved boy of just sixteen summers, who had but recently risen from severe illness, but whose frame grew strong with eagerness to march with his comrades to the post of duty. When asked if she was not willing for her boy to respond to his country's call, she replied in that spirit of patriotism which characterized the women of the South throughout the war: ‘Certainly I am! I wish him to go, and should be ashamed of him if he were unwilling to go. But there is one thought of which I cannot rid myself, and which causes me the bitterest anguish. I have always looked upon an army as a complete “school of vice,” and I fear that, amid the demoralizing influences of the camp, my boy (carefully nurtured though he has been) will wander far from the paths of virtue and religion, and will come back, if spared to return, not the innocent boy send forth to my country's service but a reckless, vicious man.’ [18]

An hour before the appointed time that splendid company— mustering considerably more than its previous roll strength, for a number of new recruits had enlisted in its ranks—marched to the depot where an immense crowd had assembled to see them off. An aged minister of the gospel (now gone to his reward) spoke words of earnest counsel, and led in a fervent prayer that the God of Jacob might go forth with these young men, keep them in the way whither they went, and bring them back to their homes in peace and safety—but, above all, that he would shield them from the vices of the camp and lead them into paths of righteousness.

The man of God is interrupted by the shrill whistle of the iron horse—the train dashes up to the depot—all are soon aboard, and, amid tender farewells and suppressed sobs of anxious friends, and the waving of handkerchiefs and vociferous cheers by the vast crowd, those patriot-soldiers hurry forth at the bidding of their loved and honored Virginia.

At Gordonsville they were met by companies from Augusta and Albemarle, and two companies of students from the University of Virginia, who marched forth from those classic shades to illustrate a bright page in the history of their Alma Mater.

Orange, Culpeper and other counties along the route swelled their numbers as they rushed to the capture of Harper's Ferry and the defence of the border.

The call of Virginia now echoes through the land—from seaboard to mountain-valley, from Alleghany to Chesapeake, from the Potomac to the North Carolina border, the tramp of her sons is heard. Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas catch the sound, and her sons in every clime heed the call of their Mother State. The farmer leaves his plow in the furrow, the mechanic his job unfinished, the merchant his books unposted, the lawyer his brief unargued, the physician his patient unattended, the professor his chair unfilled, the student his classes, and the preacher his pulpit, and there rush to our northern frontier, not Hessian or Milesian mercenaries, not men bought up for so much ‘bounty money,’ but the wealth, the intelligence, the refinement and culture, the virtue and patriotism, the very flower of our Southern youth and manhood.

Thus was formed what was afterwards called the Army of [19] Northern Virginia—the noblest army (I hesitate not calmly to affirm, after the lapse of years) that ever marched under any banner or fought for any cause ‘in all the tide of time.’ But I do not propose, in this volume, to attempt even a sketch of the military exploits of this noble army of heroes.

I revert rather to another and far different scene from the one I have sketched. Over a year has rolled by, and that fair-haired, rosy-cheeked boy, ‘mother's darling,’ of April, 1861—now a bronzed veteran of the Army of Northern Virginia, who has followed the ‘stars and bars’ on many a victorious field—returns to his boyhood's home. But he comes not back with light, elastic step and erect carriage as when he marched forth so gayly at his country's call. He is borne on a litter—he has been shot through the lungs, his life-tide is ebbing away, and he has come home to die. On that memorable 27th day of June, 1862, at Cold Harbor, when ‘StonewallJackson issued his crisp order, ‘Tell General Ewell to sweep the field with the bayonet,’ and our whole line pressed grandly forward, carried every position before it, and persuaded General McClellan that it was indeed time to ‘change base’ from before Richmond to the shelter of his gun-boats at Harrison's Landing, our youthful hero fell in the very forefront of the battle in one of the most splendid charges of the famous old Thirteenth Virginia Infantry. The surgeons gave us no hope, but God spared him to reach home and linger for over six months to illustrate how a Christian soldier could be patient under suffering, and how, when he came to die, a smile could light up his countenance, joy could beam from his eye, and peace reign within his heart. The camp had not proven to him a ‘school of vice,’ but on the contrary he had learned there the preciousness of his mother's Bible, and had gone with simple faith to her Saviour. And as the last hour drew near he met death with calm resignation, said to the weeping loved ones who stood around: ‘I trust in Jesus and am not afraid to die,’ and left, in his triumphant death as well as in the peaceful hours of his later life, the fullest assurance that he went to join his sainted mother—for she had ‘gone before,’ a few weeks prior to his death—in that brighter, better home above, where ‘war's rude alarms’ never disturb, and loved ones never part.

The fears of that Christian mother, as her boy left the parental roof to encounter the peculiar temptations of soldier life, were the fears of our wisest and best men. Armies had been hitherto [20] regarded as decidedly demoralizing, and it had passed into a proverb: ‘The worse the man the better the soldier,’ against which the examples of Hedley Vickars, Havelock, Colonel Gardiner and other Christian soldiers were cited in vain. It is not for a moment denied that these fears were well-founded, and that as a rule the influence of an army is demoralizing. Its very object is to destroy life, and its scenes of carnage unquestionably tend, if not properly used, to blunt the moral perceptions, and harden in iniquity. And, then, absence from the influences of home and church, and the restraints of society, coupled with the common idea that things which would be criminal at other times are allowable in the army—all tend to raise the floodgates of immorality and vice.

I shall give no rose-colored picture in these sketches, but shall frankly admit that vices common to most armies were, alas! but too prevalent in our own, and that many of our most skilful officers and bravest men blotted their fair name by open vice or secret sin.

But I shall be able to show, on the other hand, that Jesus was in our camps with wonderful power, and that no army in all history—not even Cromwell's ‘Roundheads’—had in it as much of real, evangelical religion and devout piety as the Army of Northern Virginia.

I shall not discuss in these pages the causes of the great ‘War between the States,’ or revive any of its, ‘buried issues.’ Let its stormy passions, its animosities, its bitter memories be buried forever beneath the wave of forgetfulness. And let us thank God that men who ‘wore the blue’ and men who ‘wore the gray’ may meet once more in friendly reunion—that older brethren, North and South, long alienated, have come to ‘see eye to eye,’ and to realize that they had only been ‘looking at the opposite sides of the shield’—that younger men have no alienations to reconcile, no bitter memories of a stormy past to efface—that the day is hastening when the North and the South shall be more ready to do justice to each other's motives —that the day has come when a Confederate soldier, on a Boston platform, or a Federal soldier, to a Charleston audience, may

Shoulder his crutch
And fight his battles o'er again,

while those who were once his enemies, now his friends, stand with uncovered head, or cheer to the echo his story of heroic deeds. [21]

But it is due to the truth of history, as well as necessary to a correct understanding of my subject, that I should say that the Christian people of the South not only thought they were right in resisting the invasion of their soil and the coercion, by the Federal Government, of sovereign States, but that they went forth to battle, or sent their sons, in firm reliance upon ‘the Lord of hosts.’ Scarcely a company moved without some public religious service, and it was considered a most important part of each man's equipment that he should carry in his knapsack a copy of God's word.

All of our evangelical denominations were well represented in the rank and file of our army, and many of our preachers felt it their duty to go to the front, accompanied by the very flower of their young men. Of the first four companies from Georgia to arrive in Virginia, three of the captains were earnest, Christian men, and fifty of one of the companies were members of the same church. A regiment, stationed near Portsmouth in June, 1861, was reported to contain 400 of the same denomination, and another regiment had in its ranks five ministers of the gospel. I well remember that the first time I ever saw the famous old Rockbridge Artillery—on the 4th of July, 1861, when we were drawn up in line of battle at Darksville, in the lower Valley of Virginia, expecting an attack from General Patterson—it contained seven Masters of Arts of the University of Virginia, fortytwo other college graduates, nineteen theological students, others (including a son of General R. E. Lee) who were among the noblest young men of the South, and a proportion of Christian men as surprisingly large as it was highly gratifying.

When the news of the secession of Virginia reached the quiet little town of Lexington, Virginia, nestled among the Blue mountains, some of the students of Washington College at once raised a secession flag on the dome of the college building. (They had done the same thing some days before, but the faculty had unanimously voted that it must be taken down, as Virginia was still in the Union.) The next morning, the president of the college, Rev. Dr. Junkin (the father-in-law of the afterwards famous ‘StonewallJackson, but an ardent Union man all through the war), called a meeting of the faculty to ask what they proposed to do about the breach of discipline on the part of the students, as he regarded it, in again raising the flag on the college.

Professor White voiced the sentiments of the faculty and of the [22] whole State when he at once said, ‘Virginia has now acted, and the boys are right. I say let the flag wave, and, for myself, I propose to fight under it, and to use my influence to induce our students to do the same.’

Accordingly, he raised among the students and a few graduates of the college a company of seventy-two, which they called the ‘Liberty Hall Volunteers,’ the name borne by a company of students from the same institution who did valiant service in the Revolution of 1776. They elected Professor White as their first captain, all of their officers were Christian men, more than half of the rank and file belonged to some evangelical church, and about one-fourth were candidates for the ministry.

Rev. Dr. J. M. P. Atkinson, President of Hampden-Sidney College, organized a company composed of his own students and those of the Union Theological Seminary, and nearly all of this company were professed Christians.

Not a few of our pastors had a large majority, and sometimes all of their male members in the army, and in some cases they commanded companies composed largely of members of their own churches.

I cannot better illustrate the subject of this chapter than by giving from the files of our religious newspapers copious extracts from letters from the camp, or from men in position to see and know the state of things in the army, and among the people during these early days of the war. Some of these extracts illustrate several of my chapters, but I give them as they are.

Rev. Dr. Joseph Walker thus writes from Richmond to the Religious Herald, under date of May 2, 1861:

I have never understood the compatableness of Christianity with war as I see it in the present struggle for Southern independence. Never have I seen or read of greater promptness on the part of Christians, of all denominations, to shoulder the musket in defence of their homes, their families, and all that makes life desirable. I can now comprehend what is meant by the New Testament phrase, “a devout soldier,” for I have seen the men for whom I have preached, with whom I have prayed, and whom I have seen presiding at Baptist associations, fully panoplied for the war. The self-denial of volunteers to serve in this war is unmistakably manifest in the advent among [23] us of Southern soldiers. The gallant South Carolinians came first. Close on their rear came the Georgians; and we hear that Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are on the way. To cap the climax, we hope soon to see Jefferson Davis on the hills of Richmond. But my main object in penning these lines was to speak briefly of the Georgians. At least three of the companies already arrived are commanded by Christians. Captain Doyall and Captain Beall are Baptists; Captain Smith is a Methodist; Captain Hardeman, though not, I believe a professor himself, is closely connected with a religious family. All of these gentlemen occupy high social positions in their several communities, and their companies comprise the best fighting, and some of the best praying materials of this nation. With a just cause and such defenders, can the contest in favor of the South be doubtful?

This morning I had the pleasure of visiting Captain Beall's company, which is quartered in this city. A more substantial body of men cannot be found. Among them are lawyers, doctors, and deacons of churches. From forty to fifty of this company are Baptists, mostly from Irwinton, Georgia, and its vicinity; Beall, Rivers and Stanly are my personal acquaintances and friends, who have left (I hope only for a brief season) interesting families, whose hospitality I have often enjoyed. May God preserve these patriots, and return them at His good pleasure to their homes.

Joseph Walker. Richmond, May 2, 1861.

The North Carolina Presbyterian had, about this same date, the following editorial:

The ministers of the Gospel of Peace throughout the South seem to be fully alive to the awful issue presented to us by the Northern people, who are prepared to invade our homes, and they are meeting it like men who have as much at stake as others. Reference was made last week to the fact that there were three ministers in one of the companies of Home Guards formed in this place. In the other company there are two ministers. The last North Carolina Christian Advocate, referring to this subject, says: ‘The Rev. Messrs. Atkinson, Presbyterian; Fitzgerald and Smedes, Episcopal; James and Skinner, Baptist; [24] J. W. Tucker, Methodist, and one of the editors of this paper have attached themselves to the Home Guard, a company organized in this city, under the command of Senator Bragg, for the defence of our homes. The other editor of this journal is aiding in forming a similar company near his residence in the country. Rev. Willis L. Miller, formerly one of the editors of the North Carolina Presbyterian, is the captain of the Thomasville Rifles, which company has offered its services to the State.’

A letter from Richmond, Virginia, states that the Rev. George Woodbridge, D. D., pastor of the Monumental (P. E.) Church, and a graduate of West Point, has been busily engaged for several nights drilling two volunteer companies. The Rev. Dr. Wilmer, pastor of the Emanuel Church, near Richmond, is the captain of a military company. The Rev. Moses Hoge, D. D., is a member of the Home Guard.

Rev. Dr. A. E. Dickinson, who had been for several years superintendent of the Virginia Baptist colportage board, and who in the early days of the war saw the necessity for this work, and promptly sent his band of trained colporters to the army and the hospitals, thus writes in the Religious Herald.

There never was a more inviting field for colportage effort than that now afforded by the large armies that are being stationed at various points in this State. In a few hours a colporter may place a tract in the hands of hundreds of our most promising young men, may urge upon them the claims of the Gospel, and in many ways do them good. Who can calculate the amount of good that may be done by placing the life of Havelock, or of Captain Vicars, or of Colonel Gardner, in the hands of an ambitious young man. The greater portion of the soldier's time is now occupied by the duties of his profession. How many leisure hours may be rescued from scenes of vice and turned to good account by having a colporter in every regiment? A large proportion of the volunteers are professors of religion. In a company of seventy-five we found twelve Baptists, and were told of another company in which there were forty. The flower of our churches are enlisted for this struggle, and it is sad to think of how many temptations will beset them, and of the probability that many will be led into the paths of vice, and have their Christian character wrecked. Of what immense value would a colporter be to this class in affording them good books and collecting them in prayer-meetings. Having secured [25] the sympathy and co-operation of the pious, the colporter could through them reach even the most irreligious. We invite earnest, prayerful attention to the subject. It is one of unspeakable importance. Let our pious, self-sacrificing men be urged by the constraining love of Christ: to say, “Here I am, send me;” and let patriotism, as well as religion, afford the means for their support.

A colporter writes:

I have been visiting the volunteers in this county, and I find them very anxious to obtain pocket Bibles and Testaments. Some of these brave men have wept as I have spoken to them of the claims of the Gospel, and they have asked me to pray for them. I lose no opportunity for speaking to them of their soul's salvation, and I do think that good is being done.

A Southern Methodist bishop wrote with respect to the state of things in his vicinity:

There is more prayer among the people generally than heretofore. Prayer for the country and for brothers, sons and husbands, calls the people so often to the mercy-seat that it must almost necessarily increase the spirit of devotion among them. Hence there is a good deal of religious feeling in our congregations.

The following will illustrate a phase of Southern society and the kindly relations and sympathies between master and slave which none can appreciate who did not witness them, but illustrations of which could be indefinitely multiplied. The incident is related by the Texas Christian Advocate:

A Texas planter having responded in person to one of the late calls of Colonel Van Dorn for service in the West, his negroes were left in the care of the overseer. One night, at a late hour, the overseer was aroused by a noise at the “quarter.” He immediately arose and went in the direction of the noise far enough to ascertain that it was the voice of prayer. Drawing still nearer, he discovered that the prayer-meeting was a special occasion, for the benefit of the master who had “gone to the wars.” Earnest prayers ascended that his health and life might be spared, and that God would grant him a safe return.

The following was from a soldier on duty at Manassas Junction, who professed conversion and was baptized after he enlisted in the struggle for Southern independence:

I have received and distributed the greater portion of the tracts among my brother soldiers. May God's word be blessed to the turning [26] of their hearts to Jesus. We feel that God's people are praying for us; and surely the poor soldier, more than any one else, needs to be remembered at the mercy-seat. Oh, that none may fall in battle till at the feet of the Crucified One they have found joy and peace! My own heart is so sinful that I often tremble lest I may be a castaway, but in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ I hope. I hope that the Christians of this land will pray that the peace of God may be sent into the hearts of all, that our rulers may rule in righteousness, and that the North may see its folly and guilt in seeking to subdue and oppress the South.

Two prayer-meetings were reported as held weekly in Jackson, Mississippi, on behalf of Southern soldiers—one, a female prayermeeting, held in private residences on Monday; another held on Wednesday, at 5 P. M., alternately at the different churches. Members of all denominations participated in both.

A correspondent writes:

A soldier from one of the Gulf States, whose company was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, was very sick. A kind lady paid him a visit and found him delirious. He gazed at her a moment and said: “Go away from me; you are not my mother.” But her heart was too full of sympathy for the mother of whom the poor soldier was thinking to leave him. She waited until the fever had abated, and then she talked to him of his absent, loved mother. Tears flowed down the sick man's cheeks, and that interview was a blessing to him, as also to the kind woman who had hunted him out.

Whose heart does not swell with tender emotions as he looks upon the noble soldiers who are flocking to our State, and thinks of the mothers they have left behind? Oh, the anxious hearts, the tender tears, the earnest prayers of Southern mothers, as day after day and hour after hour they think of the loved ones far away on the battle-fields of the Old Dominion!

Reader, if you know anything of a parent's heart you will sometimes think of these mothers, and your prayers will ascend with theirs for a blessing on their sons. What patriot and Christian but will thank God that an effort is being made to send colporters among the soldiers, through whose labors they may be instructed in the things that pertain to salvation. Surely such an enterprise ought to have the sympathies, prayers and contributions of every Christian among us. The colporters may rest assured that every hour in every day some pious mother [27] will be pleading before the mercy-seat for heaven's richest blessings upon their labors. Colporters, think, I beseech you, of these mothers; make mention of them as you go among their sons. It will enable you to deliver your message with more of tenderness, and they will hear it with more of profit.

Rev. Dr. Geo. B. Taylor writes from Staunton:

We have had a good many soldiers at this place, and I have found it very pleasant to visit them in capacity of minister and self-appointed colporter. By making a public request for small Bibles and Testaments I secured from the citizens generally some two or three bushels, which I distributed, getting from each soldier receiving one the promise that he would read it. I would suggest that brethren in the country and in towns, where there are more Bibles and Testaments than are actually needed, collect as many as possible together and forward them to some point where they may be given to the soldiers; small hymnbooks are also acceptable. One brother introduced himself to me and begged for a hymn-book, saying that he would have daily worship with his company. I said that I would go home and get one, and hand it to him as the regiment passed out of town. They were then about starting. I stationed myself on the sidewalk to find my friend. There was no trouble in doing this, for a square before he reached me he held out his hand to attract my attention. I was more than repaid by his joy and gratitude when I gave him a prayer-meeting hymn-book. Nor could I help emptying my pockets to other soldiers, who seemed eager to take Testaments and hymn-books even as they were marching off. As I was talking to one soldier about the Testaments I was distributing, and referring to their small size, a comrade, partially overhearing my remarks, asked whether it was hooks I was speaking of. I told him, “Yes, hooks to catch men;” and asked him if he had been caught. He told me he was a Christian. . . . . .

The following is from the pen of the venerable and beloved Rev. Dr. Robert Ryland, so long president of Richmond College, and is given in full, as illustrating the views and feelings of one of our noblest Christian ministers—one of our most widely known and honored representative Southern men—in writing in the early days of the war to his son, who had enlisted in the Confederate army: [28]

A letter to a son in camp.

At home, July 17, 1861.
My Dear Son.
It may have seemed strange to you that a professing Christian father so freely gave you, a Christian son, to enlist in the volunteer service. My reason was that I regarded this as a purely defensive war. Not only did the Southern Confederacy propose to adjust the pending difficulties by peaceful and equitable negotiations, but Virginia used again and again the most earnest and noble efforts to prevent a resort to the sword. These overtures having been proudly spurned, and our beloved South having been threatened with invasion and subjugation, it seemed to me that nothing was left us but stern resistance or abject submission to unconstitutional power. A brave and generous people could not for a moment hesitate between such alternatives. A war in defence of our homes and firesides—of our wives and children—of all that makes life worth possessing is the result. While I most deeply deplore the necessity for the sacrifice, I could not but rejoice that I had a son to offer to the service of the country, and if I had a dozen I would most freely give them all. As you are now cheerfully enduring the hardships of the camp, I know you will listen to a father's suggestions touching the duties of your new mode of life.

I. Take special care of your health. More soldiers die of disease than in battle. A thin piece of damp sponge in the crown of your hat during exposure to the hot sun—the use of thick shoes and a waterproof coat in rainy weather—the practice of drinking cold water, when you are very warm, as slowly as you sip hot tea—the thorough mastication of your food—the avoiding of damp tents and damp grounds during sleep—and frequent ablutions of your person, are all the hints I can give you on this point. Should you need anything that I can supply, let me hear from you. I will do what I can to make you comfortable. After all, you must learn to endure hardness as a good soldier. Having never slept a single night in your whole life except in a pleasant bed, and never known a scarcity of good food, you doubtless find the ways of the camp rough; but never mind. The war, I trust, will soon be over, and then the remembrance of your hardships will sweeten the joy of peace.

2. The rules of war require prompt and unquestioning obedience. You may sometimes think the command arbitrary and the [29] officer supercilious, but it is yours to obey. An undisciplined army is a curse to its friends and a derision to its foes. Give your whole influence, therefore, to the maintenance of lawful authority and strict order. Let your superiors feel that whatever they intrust to you will be faithfully done. Composed of such soldiers, and led by skilful and brave commanders, our army, by the blessing of God, will never be defeated. It is, moreover, engaged in a holy cause, and must triumph.

3. Try to maintain your Christian profession among your comrades. I need not caution you against strong drink as useless and hurtful, nor against profanity, so common among soldiers. Both these practices you abhor. Aim to take at once a decided stand for God. If practicable, have prayers regularly in your tent, or unite with your fellow-disciples in prayermeet-ings in the camp. Should preaching be accessible, always be a hearer. Let the world know that you are a Christian. Read a chapter in the New Testament which your mother gave you, every morning and evening when you can, and engage in secret prayer to God for his Holy Spirit to guide and sustain you. I would rather hear of your death than of the shipwreck of your faith and good conscience.

4. As you will come into habitual contact with men of every grade, make special associates of those whose influence on your character is felt to be good. Some men love to tell extravagant stories, to indulge in vulgar wit, to exult in a swaggering carriage, to pride themselves on their coarse manners, to boast of their heroism, and to give utterance to feelings of revenge against the enemy. All this is injurious to young and impressible minds. If you admire such things, you will insensibly imitate them, and imitation will work gradual but certain detriment to your character. Other men are refined without being affected. They can relax into occasional pleasantries, without violating modesty. They can be loyal to their government without indulging private hatred against her foes. They can be cool and brave in battle, and not be braggarts in the absence of danger. Above all, they can be humble, spiritual, and active Christians, and yet mingle in the stirring and perilous duties of soldier life. Let these be your companions and models. You will thus return from the dangers of camp without a blemish on your name.

5. Should it be your lot to enter into an engagement with the enemy, lift up your heart in secret ejaculations to the ever-present [30] and good Being, that He will protect you from sudden death; or, if you fall, that He will receive your departing spirit, cleansed in the blood of Jesus, into His kingdom. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. Commit your eternal interests, therefore, to the keeping of the Almighty Saviour. You should not, even in the hour of deadly conflict, cherish personal rage against the enemy, any more than an officer of the law hates the victim of the law. How often does a victorious army tenderly care for the dead and wounded of the vanquished. War is a tremendous scourge which Providence sometimes uses to chastise proud and wicked nations. Both parties must suffer, even though one may get the advantage. There is no occasion, then, for adding to the intrinsic evils of the system the odious feature of animosity to individuals. In the ranks of the foe are thousands of plain men who do not understand the principles for which we are struggling. They are deceived by artful demagogues into a posture of hostility to those whom, knowing, they would love. It is against such men that you may perhaps be arrayed, and the laws of war do not forbid you to pity them, even in the act of destroying them. It is more important that we should exhibit a proper temper in this unfortunate contest, because many professed Christians and ministers of the Gospel at the North are breathing out, in their very prayers and sermons, threatenings and slaughter against us! Oh! how painful that a gray-headed pastor should publicly exclaim, “I would hang them as soon as I would shoot a mad dog.”

6. Providence has placed you in the midst of thoughtless and unpardoned men. What a beautiful thing it would be if you could win some of them to the Saviour! Will you not try? You will have many opportunities of speaking a word in season. The sick, you may comfort; the wavering, you may confirm; the backslidden, you may reclaim; the weary and heavy laden, you may point to Jesus for rest to the soul. It is not presumptuous for a young man, kindly and meekly, to commend the Gospel to his brother soldiers. The hardest of them will not repel a gentle approach, made in private. And many of them would doubtless be glad to have the subject introduced to them. They desire to hear of Jesus, but they lack courage to inquire of his people. An unusually large proportion of pious men have entered the army, and I trust they will give a new complexion to military life. Let them search out each other, and establish a fraternity [31] among all the worshippers of God. To interchange religious views and administer brotherly counsel will be mutually edifying. “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.”

And now, as a soldier has but little leisure, I will not occupy you longer. Be assured that every morning and evening we remember you, at the family altar, to our Father in Heaven. We pray for a “speedy, just, and honorable peace,” and for the safe return of all the volunteers to their loved homes. All the children speak often of “ brother,” and hear your letters read with intense interest. That God Almighty may be your shield and your exceeding great reward is the constant prayer of your loving father.


We clip, without comment, from files of religious newspapers, the following items as illustrating the subject of this chapter, as well as other phases of soldier-life in the early days of the war.

Hon. J. L. M. Curry, in a letter published by the South-western Baptist, states that for two months a weekly prayer-meeting has been kept up in Talladega, Alabama. ‘When the hour comes, at 9 o'clock on every Thursday morning, the doors of every business house are closed, and the house is usually filled with sincere worshippers who congregate to pray for our country. The meetings are alternately held in the three church houses.’

Says the Christian Index: ‘Unconverted young men have written home that they daily read their Bibles, and are seeking preparation for the judgment. Some religious soldiers state that such is the pious influence in their companies, they believe themselves improved instead of injured by the camp. O that this could be said of all!’

Rev. Dr. Cross writes from the Walker Legion, near Fredericksburg, to the Nashville Christian Advocate: ‘A young man who, being slightly unwell, has spent a few days under the hospitable roof of Rev. Dr. Broaddus in town, returned to camp this morning happily converted to God. When I said to one of the Edgefield boys it was time for all hands to cease swearing and begin praying, he replied: “I stopped the former when I enlisted, and am now trying to practise the latter.” Another, who had been very profane at home, has never been known to utter an oath since he left Nashville.’ [32]

The Southern Christian Advocate thinks that there is at least one advantage for evangelical effort in the present aspect of affairs. ‘The only mitigating circumstance of a religious character that we find in this dreadful war, into which we have been forced, is found in what we believe to be the fact—that it has enhanced the religious sentiment in our people. The sense of trust in Divine Providence is widespread. We see it exhibited where we little thought to find it. Editors, who heretofore have manifested no great respect for religion, fiery soldiers who do not themselves serve God, writers who ordinarily would not be suspected of trusting in anything else than the “arm of flesh,” all acknowledge God's gracious dealings in the events of the few past months. It is not unlikely that men have lately prayed to whom prayer has been heretofore unknown. And as this feeling grows more general, as we trust it will, they who have kindred exposed, or who may lose their friends in the course of the war, may be led to earnest prayer in asking protection for others or consolation for themselves.’

In Colonel Ector's regiment from Georgia there are fourteen ministers: one Methodist, one Primitive Baptist and twelve Missionary Baptists.

A correspondent of the North Carolina Presbyterian states that after a recent sermon to the Third Regiment of North Carolina State troops, near Aquia Creek, Virginia, preached by a Methodist minister belonging to the regiment, some fifteen or twenty of the soldiers knelt to indicate anxiety for salvation.

A writer from the Second Palmetto Regiment to the Southern Christian Advocate, says: ‘God's hand was in the great achievement, and I believe that the most irreligious man in our patriot army will frankly acknowledge the fact. So evident was it, it is believed an improvement has since taken place in the morals of our troops. At least, I can say as much for this regiment. Whilst, during the campaign, we have occupied the advanced post, the post of honor and danger, and this for weeks, in the very face of the enemy, God has given us a grateful sense of security, and our religious services have gone on. Even while interrupted by the booming cannon and bursting shell, lying in our trenches, expecting every moment that the storm would break in all its fury upon us, we worshipped God.’

A correspondent of the Central Presbyterian expresses the opinion that ‘every Southern Sabbath-school has one living [33] representative at least in this war, and that most schools have many.’

A minister thus writes to the Religious Herald:

Brother Editors:
For the encouragement of fathers and other friends of our soldiers, I send you the following for the Herald: My son, a young man of less than twenty years of age, left home early in May with his company of volunteers for the seat of war. When he left he was a stranger to God's forgiving grace, and so far as I know, was not seriously concerned about his condition. I determined to follow him with my prayers, if haply the Lord might have mercy upon him. I asked three beloved brother-ministers to pray for him. I also put the New Testament into his hand, with the request that he would read it carefully and prayerfully. He made no promise, but I felt sure he would comply with my request. I have seen him but once since—a few days after leaving. It was not long before he commenced alluding to reading the Scriptures, as he wrote to us from week to week, in such a manner as to encourage us to hope that the Lord was at work with his heart. Not long after, a dear brother—the author of the little tract, “Are you ready?” addressed to soldiers—sent me a number containing an affectionate address to my dear boy, in pencil lines, with a note to me, requesting me to forward it to him, which I did, accompanied by the note to me. To the almost overpowering joy of my heart, a few days since I received a letter from him containing the following extract: “Oh! what comfort and consolation that tract afforded me; and thank God I can answer, I think, I am ready. And I am willing to die for my country. Oh! what a consolation it is to know that so many fervent prayers go up daily for me, and that they are answered! I have great reason to bless and praise the blessed God for His great goodness to me. He has preserved my life and health, and provided for me so many comforts-many more than He has provided for many others who are far more deserving than I am.”

A Father.

A correspondent of the North Carolina Presbyterian states that, as the result of prayer-meetings held every night for two or three weeks in the Third Regiment of North Carolina State Troops, seven of the soldiers have applied for membership in the Methodist and four in the Baptist Church. ‘We sometimes feel [34] more as if we were in a camp-meeting than in the army expecting to meet an enemy.’

A soldier writes to a friend: ‘I will here state to you what I never have written home to E——, of the thoughts that have most affected my mind, and I hope and trust in God that the same thoughts and reflections have changed my manner of life. E—— has doubtless shown you what I call my farewell letter to my children while I was at Richmond, Virginia. The advice I thought and still think was good; but alas, where does that advice come from? It is from the best friend my children have upon earth, a father; yes, a father, who says: “My children, read your Bibles, abstain from bad company and bad habits, the lusts of the flesh and the vanities of a wicked world,” but who says at the same time by his own conduct and example, “Come along, children”—taking them, as it were, by the hand— “I will lead you down to hell;” yes, I was leading them by my own example directly to hell as fast as I possibly could. Oh, the horrible thought of being the means of damning the souls of my children! Conviction seized upon me, and then and there, on the—th of June, I resolved, if God would spare my life, that I would reform my habits of life; or if He would permit me to return home, that I would set a different example before my children. I have prayed that He would, and that I might keep my resolution to the day of my death. I wrote you a letter on the same day, while my eyes were still wet with tears. I asked your prayers in my behalf; I know you have prayed for me. Can God in justice forgive me? I pray He may; I know my children will; may God bless them and help them to do so, save them from following my bad example, and at the same time to take my good advice and carry it out, that they may be saved from that awful hell to to which I was leading them.’

A happy transformation is thus described: ‘There was another company whose captain was a wicked man. He exerted a bad influence over his men. He was openly profane and never attended religious services. In these days the company was known as one of the most wicked in the regiment. Months rolled away, and another man was appointed to the command. He was a consistent Christian, and a man of earnest, deep-toned piety. He sought to carry his men to church, and in the prayer-meeting strove to lead them to the throne of grace. He showed that he cared for their spiritual as well as their physical [35] interests. Now, mark the change. In that company, once noted for wickedness, prayer-meetings were held every night. Among its members are some active, energetic Christians, and some happy converts have been made there. How responsible the position of an officer.’

A correspondent of the Louisville Courier writes from Virginia: ‘To-day the Second Brigade, to which we are attached, was mustered for Divine service. The occasion reminded me more of a Baptist Association gathering than anything I have seen for a long time. A rustic pulpit was erected beneath the shade of the forest trees, and about the clergyman was gathered a force of over three thousand men. The good old songs of Zion caused the leaves to quiver with a poetic tremulousness, and the very air was redolent with heartfelt prayer and praise. Our fighting chaplain, Rev. H. A. Tupper, of the Ninth Georgia, a chaplain in the Confederate army and a Baptist minister at home, a lover and defender of civil and religious liberty everywhere, preached us a very able discourse from the advice of Eli to Joshua: “Be ye men of good courage.” It was no war philippic, but an earnest, heartfelt, Christian discourse.’

A notice of a revival, in the Nashville Christian Gazette, says: ‘Several volunteers were anxiously inquiring the way of life and salvation, and one or two of them embraced religion.’ A second notice: ‘Several members of Captain Bankhead's company, Fifteenth Regiment, Alabama Volunteers, came out on the Lord's side.’ A third: ‘Among the number converted were eight noble-hearted men who had volunteered to defend the liberties of their country. You may imagine the lovely scene which then transpired: fathers and mothers embracing their noble boys, exclaiming, with hearts all illumed by heavenly love, “Now we can give you up better satisfied.” ’

Rev. Dr. Cross writes from the Walker Legion: ‘The other day I visited General Holmes at his quarters. Seeing a pistol in my belt, he said: “What! Are you a soldier as well as a chaplain?” “A soldier of Christ, general,” I replied. “Ah,” said he, “that is the noblest soldiership! Follow Him closely, serve Him faithfully; there is no way in which you can do so much for your country. We have plenty of men to fight, but not half enough to pray. May we never forget our dependence upon the Divine succor.” These remarks were characteristic. The general is a godly man, and frequently adverts to these matters in [36] conversation with his officers. On the field of Manassas the chaplain of one of his regiments approached him in a dress which he deemed too military for a clergyman. “Go back, sir,” said he, “this is no place for you; take off that sash, retire to the grove and besiege a Throne of Grace!” ’

Rev. R. W. Cole writes to The Religious Herald:

It was my privilege to spend some three or four days with the soldiers embracing Colonel Cary's regiment, a short time since, at Marlborough Point. The season was truly gloomy—being rainy—but it seemed not to detract from the energy and cheerfulness of those noble sons who are sacrificing for their country's welfare. To speak of the merit of those officers and men under Colonel Cary's command is not now my design. Suffice it to say, they all appear to be well fitted for their respective positions. It was my privilege to distribute tracts, which were thankfully received; also, to address the soldiers on the all-important concern of the soul's salvation, for three successive nights. It was truly gratifying to see the extraordinary good order maintained amongst them during religious services. On the second day after my arrival two of the soldiers, young men from Caroline, made an open profession of Christ, and were buried with Christ in baptism by your correspondent in the fair waters leading from the Potomac. Visits from our brethren in the ministry to this portion of our army will be gratifying and no doubt be hailed with pleasure by them. While they need shoes, coats and all the necessaries for bodily comfort, they also need spiritual food. May God pour out His Spirit upon our soldiers, and scores become the subjects of His salvation!

R. W. C.

Rev. Mr. Hopkins, of Martinsburg, Virginia, sends $5.00 to be appropriated to the purchase of tracts for Captain Robert White's company, Thirteenth Regiment, Virginia Volunteers. It is a thank-offering from a widowed mother, whose son died of fever at Winchester, contracted at Manassas. Up to the time of leaving home he had not made a profession of faith in Christ, although she had long dedicated him to God's service in the ministry. But her cause of gratitude now is, that during his camp life he evinced so much devotion to reading his Bible, and [37] for some time before his sickness had shown so many signs of piety, and died acknowledging his love to the Saviour, and supported by this love now ‘sleeps in Jesus.’—Central Presbyterian.

Dr. Cross, chaplain of the Walker Legion, writes to one of his church papers: ‘It is interesting to see how they flock to our nightly prayer-meetings, frequently in greater numbers than your Sabbath congregations in some of your city churches. I preach to them twice on the Lord's day, seated around me on the ground, officers and all, in the most primitive order you can imagine. But the most interesting, probably the most useful part of my work, is the visitation of the sick. Every morning 1 go to the hospital, visiting the several apartments successively; in each of which I talk privately with the men, then read a passage of Scripture, make some remarks upon it, and finish with prayer. However wicked and thoughtless they are in camp they are all glad to see the chaplain when they are sick, and I have yet to meet one who is not most respectful and attentive. I think I have never occupied a field that afforded such an opportunity for usefulness.’

A soldier wrote for the Southern Churchman the following:

A Guardian Spirit passed through a group of soldiers who lay stretched on the ground, some exchanging together in broken converse such thoughts as their situation suggested, some in the deep slumber of weariness, forgetting both danger and toil. Unchallenged by the watchful sentinel he approached one manly form extended on the ground and gazed with interest on the sunburnt features and the thoughtful, sunken eye which was fixed on the descending sun.

Soldier.—That sun which is setting on us in such full glory is now smiling on my own sweet home, casting its slanting beams upon the daisy-spangled meadow where my little ones are at play; on the rich green wheat-fields and many-colored orchards; and shining on the peaceful village churchyard, where my bones may never be laid. How those dear hearts at home are thinking of us now! How many prayers are daily offered for our safety! But the bright eyes may soon be bathed in tears; the fond hearts be wrung with sorrow! O God! my God! Thou knowest that I can face death—face it firmly, fearlessly; but my soul quails at the thought of what others will suffer! Who will comfort my broken-hearted mother? Who will take care of my precious orphan babes? [38]

Spirit.—He who hath said, “Leave thy fatherless children; I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.”

Soldier.—There is strong comfort in resting all on His promises, committing all to His care. It is in an hour like this that we prove the support and solace of religion When we look on the sinking sun with more than a doubt that we shall ever behold it rise again; when there is none of the excitement of conflict, the eager rush to the attack, the hope of triumph, the certainty of honor, to stir up all the natural ardor which glows in the breast of man—but the probability of death coming in the confusion of a night attack—then is the hour when we cling to the thought of a protecting Father and a guiding Saviour, as a drowning man clings to the one plank which supports him in a wild and stormy sea.

Spirit.—And you can hold fast this confidence in your God?

Soldier.— “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”

Spirit.—You can resign yourself into His hand, for life or for death?

Soldier.— “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.”

Spirit.—Yes, it matters little to the Christian whether, with the snows of age on his head, he descends quietly into the waters of death, accompanied to the brink by loving friends; or, in his prime, clears the deep, narrow stream with one bound, exchanging in an instant the desperate struggle, confused noises and garments rolled in blood, for the sudden hallelujah and the changeless peace of the skies! The darker the conflict the brighter the transition.

Soldier.—The bullet or the steel bears the message of God, and He sends no message to His servants that bears not on it the seal of love.

Spirit.—Faith sees that love in all things. Should this night indeed be your last, you can say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”

Soldier.—The words of the holy apostle are not for a sinner like me. As one said of old, “I lay both my good deeds and [39] my evil deeds together, and flee from them to my Saviour,” “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” Confiding in His merits, His merits alone, now in this solemn time of danger, “I will both lay me down and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety.” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.” Waking or sleeping, living or dying, keep me, my God, for I am thine!

Darkness shrouded the earth; the heavy eyelids closed, and on that hard, rude couch slumber, calm and peaceful as an infant's, fell on the weary man.

An officer in the army of the Rappahannock, writes from Camp Anderson (Caroline): ‘I am happy to state that we hold prayer-meetings every night, when the weather permits; and that the sweet incense of prayer and the voice of praise rise up to the Father of spirits and wielder of nations' destinies. It is particularly soul-cheering to me, in the midst of the profanity and blasphemy of the camp, to find so many fervent Christians, whose faith, hope and charity, being tested, are more fully developed. There are, perhaps, a dozen officers, out of about thirty, who have named the name of Jesus; and they and hundreds of the men bow down together at the same altar and cry unto our common Father.’

Says the Southern Presbyterian: ‘It was remarked by a distinguished son of Georgia, lately a member of Congress, now an officer in our army, in a public address to the citizens of a neighboring town, that when the war commenced he had many fears respecting the demoralizing effect on our young men of a life in the camp, but that personal observation in some of the camps had greatly relieved his anxiety on that score, and that he knew of many instances in which our soldiers had been converted since they had gone into the army.’

D. W. Chambers writes to the Biblical Recorder that seven weeks ago a religious association for the promotion of morality and piety was formed in the Thirty-seventh Regiment, North Carolina troops, at the instance of the chaplain and with the aid of the colonel. I numbers 132 members, belonging to some seven or eight denominations. Fifty-five soldiers have asked the prayers of their believing associates, and five have found relief in the Saviour's blood. ‘Our chaplain and colonel,’ he says, ‘are, with many good brethren, ministering spirits throughout our camp.’ [40]

A writer in the Southern Presbyterian says: ‘When Lincoln's war-cry rang along our valleys and our mountains, the students of this college, with their Greek professor for their captain, exchanged those classic walls for the tented field. On the day of the Manassas battle, they were forty-five in number—of these five fell slain upon the field, two more were mortally wounded, and others slightly. About the same time others died from disease. Thus, in one vacation, this college has cheerfully sacrificed one-fifth of its fighting force in defence of its country.’

Of the North Carolina soldiers now in Virginia, some thirty were baptized recently by Rev. W. F. Broaddus, D. D., of Fredericksburg, and six by Brother Bagby, chaplain of the Fortieth Virginia Regiment.

A correspondent writes to the Southern Churchman from Headquarters Artillery, Camp Pendleton, near Centreville: ‘Our chapel is completed, and last Sunday was well filled. Colonel Pendleton preached on prayer, a most useful sermon. In the afternoon a general prayer-meeting was held. There are many pious and influential Christian men in this corps, who I trust will make their lives tell powerfully for Christ and His religion. Many of God's people enjoy religion now as they never did before, because the Holy Spirit draws manifestly near, and is preparing, I hope, a great blessing for us. Some of the officers pray with their men at morning roll-call; others meet with them in the cabin at night. Doubt not but, when the fierce struggle for liberty and life is renewed upon this famous ground, many will go forth from the closet of communion with God, strengthened from on high. The vices which, alas, too commonly hang upon our armies, such as Sabbath-breaking, profanity, drunkenness and gambling, are, I can with candor and gratitude say, the exception in this corps.’

A soldier writes as follows:

I belonged to a Virginia regiment, engaged in active service in the mountains, far away from friends and home. I was surrounded by wicked and thoughtless companions, who spent their time in gaming, drinking, and frivolous conversations. I had, in by-gone years, been impressed with the necessity and importance of religion, but my serious impressions were gone, and I was now ashamed to acknowledge they had ever existed. Early Sabbath morning I was sent out with a scouting party many miles from camp, and, ere we were aware of their approach, we were surrounded [41] by a large body of Federal troops. A desperate battle ensued, during which I was cut off from my comrades and badly wounded in my hip. I concealed myself under a rock, and there lay for several hours meditating upon my sad and hapless fate. Wearied and exhausted by loss of blood, I fell asleep and was soon in the land of dreams. I thought myself again at my humble home in the East. But to my sorrow and inexpressible grief, my dear mother, during my absence, had been taken sick, and, after a brief illness, died. My only sister and two little brothers were left alone, in the care of two faithful old negroes, and all were clothed in mourning. My sister told me that mother spent her last moments in talking about and praying for me. She said that our dear mother told her to tell me, should I ever live to reach home, “that all of us were poor sinners and rebels against God—that we were justly condemned to die, for we had sinned against our Heavenly Father, who was our constant friend and benefactor, and had never done us an injury; but, on the other hand, had given His Son Jesus Christ to die, that we might be justified, pardoned, and saved. And if I would only believe that God would save me for His Son's sake, and would love that Son, that God would love me, forgive all my sins, make me happy; and, though I would never again see her face on earth, I would meet her in heaven.”

I was so affected by this narrative that I awoke, sobbing like a child, and the first expression which burst from my full heart was: “O God! give me faith in Thy promises, love for Thy dear Son, and an obedient heart, that I may meet Thee and my dear mother in Heaven.” I felt at once that I was willing to give up all the world for the love of God, that I could trust Him and serve Him forever. My heart was light; I saw God reconciled through His Son, and was so happy. I hobbled away to the distant camp. I told my comrades what the Lord had done for me, and many a hardened sinner wept and gave his heart to Christ, and we made the Western mountains ring with shouts of joy to God.

These extracts might be almost indefinitely multiplied, but the above must suffice.

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