200 who promptly responded, a number of whom professed faith in Christ
before leaving the ground.
In that long line of nearly forty miles of entrenchments extending from north and west of Richmond
to Hatcher's Run
and Five Forks
, the opportunities for preaching and other religious services were varied.
Some parts of the line were subjected to almost constant fire from the enemy, and the men could never assemble outside of the ‘bomb-proofs’— but other parts were sufficiently distant from the enemy's lines to allow the men to assemble even outside of the trenches.
A large number of comfortable chapels were erected—more would have been built but for the scarcity of timber—and where the men could not assemble in crowds there were precious seasons of prayer and praise and worship in the ‘bomb-proofs.’
Let me try to picture several scenes as specimens of our daily work along the Petersburg lines
. One day I went to Wise
's Brigade, stationed in the trenches near the Appomattox
, at a point where the lines of the enemy were so close that it was almost certain death to show your head above the parapet.
As I went into the lines I saw what I frequently witnessed.
An immense mortar shell (the men used to call them ‘lamp-posts’) would fly overhead, and some ragged ‘gray-jacket’ would exclaim, ‘That is my shell!
That is my shell!’
and would scarcely wait for the smoke from its explosion to clear away before rushing forward to gather the scattered fragments, which he would sell to the ordnance officer for a few cents a pound (Confederate money), to help eke out his scant rations.
Entering the trenches I soon joined my gallant friend, Major John R. Bagby
, of the Thirty-Fourth Virginia Regiment, who accompanied me down the lines as we distributed tracts and religious newspapers, and talked with the men concerning the great salvation.
There was a good deal of picket-firing going on at the time, the minnie-balls would whistle by our ears, and (forgetful of Dr. Dabney
's application of the doctrine of ‘Special Providence
’) I found myself constantly dodging
to the no small amusement of the men. At last we came to a man who was the fortunate possessor of a frying-pan, and the still more fortunate possessor of something to fry in it. As we stood near, a minnie struck in the centre of his fire and threw ashes all around.
He moved about as much as I should have done to avoid smoke, and went on with his culinary operations, coolly remarking: