I have an old memorandum-book filled with names of soldiers from every State of the Confederacy
who had applied to me for Bibles and Testaments, and some of the scenes I witnessed in my work of Bible and tract distribution are as fresh in my memory as if they had occurred on yesterday.
I had a pair of large ‘saddle-bags’ which I used to pack with tracts and religious newspapers, and with Bibles and Testaments when I had them, and besides this I would strap packages behind my saddle and on the pommel.
Thus equipped I would sally forth, and as I drew near the camp some one would raise the cry, ‘Yonder comes the Bible
and tract man,’ and such crowds would rush out to meet me, that frequently I would sit on my horse and distribute my supply before I could even get into the camp.
But if I had Bibles or Testaments to distribute, the poor fellows would crowd around and beg for them as earnestly as if they were golden guineas for free distribution.
Yes, the word of God seemed to these brave men ‘more precious than gold—yea than much fine gold.’
The men were accustomed to form ‘reading clubs,’ not to read the light literature of the day, but to read God's word, and not unfrequently have I seen groups of twenty-five or thirty gather around some good reader, who for several hours would read with clear voice selected portions of the Scriptures.
I have never seen more diligent Bible-readers than we had in the Army of Northern Virginia.
The efforts made by our Confederate people to supply our armies with Bibles and religious reading were worthy of all praise, and a whole volume would not suffice to give even a meagre record of the labors of the different societies formed for the purpose.
Dr. W. W. Bennett
, who was himself Superintendent
of the Soldiers' Tract Association, and a most efficient chaplain, has given in his ‘Great Revival’ so admirable a summary of the work of these agencies, that I quote him, as follows:
So important was the work of colportage in promoting religion among the soldiers, that we feel constrained to devote to it a separate chapter.
And the pious laborers in this department are eminently worthy of a place by the side of the most devoted chaplains and missionaries that toiled in the army revival.
Receiving but a pittance from the societies that employed them, subsisting on the coarse and scanty fare of the soldiers,