said he had confined himself too closely to his room and his books during the winter.
His father feared that the privations and exposure of the camp might be fatal to his health, and held a full interview with him, in which he sought to convince him, that considering his age, his acquisitions, his tastes and habits, he could more effectually serve both God and his country by spending the summer as a colporter, than by entering the army at that time.
He also urged, that after spending the summer in that way, he might then, in eight months more, complete his course in the seminary, obtain license to preach, and enter the army as a chaplain.
A commission had already been sent to him from the Board of Publication, at Philadelphia
, inviting and empowering him to labor in their service for such time and in such a field as he might prefer.
But the war had already begun, and this commission, of course, could not be accepted.
There was a good supply of books, however, in the depository at Lexington
, and he was urged to use these in the service of the committee of Lexington Presbytery.
But, having listened to his father, as he always did, with the most deferential attention, he replied substantially as follows:
“Father, what you say has much force.
But this is to be no ordinary war, and for young men like me to hold back will have a very bad moral effect.
The superior numbers and resources of the North
will make it necessary for every man in the South
, not disabled by age or infirmity, to take part in the work of resistance.
I have thought and prayed much over this question for the last two months. To be entirely candid, I observed a day of fasting and prayer at the seminary, with a view to learn what the will of the Lord
is, and the result is as firm a conviction that I ought at once to take part in the defence of my native State, and especially of you and mother, as I ever felt that I ought to preach the Gospel.”
His appearance, manner and thoughts impressed the memory and heart of his father in a way never to be forgotten, and under the impression thus made, he said: “Go, my son, and the blessing of God go with you.”
And although he fell, the blessing of God did go with him.
The students of Washington College had formed themselves into a volunteer company, with the title of the Liberty Hall Volunteers, and chosen their professor of Greek
, James J. White
, their captain.
Hugh at once enrolled himself as a private in the ranks of this company, under the command of his eldest