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Chapter 3: influence of Christian officers—continued.

The piety of Stonewall Jackson has become as historic as his wonderful military career. But, as it was my privilege to see a good deal of him, and to learn from those intimate with him much of his inner life; and as his Christian character is well worthy of earnest study, and of admiring imitation, I give a somewhat extended sketch of it.

I first came into personal contact with him on the 4th of July, 1861, while our army was drawn up in line of battle at Darkesville, to meet General Patterson. The skill and tact with which he had reduced the high-spirited young men who rushed to Harper's Ferry at the first tap of the drum into the respectable ‘Army of the Shenandoah,’ which he turned over to General Johnston on the 23d of May, 1861, and the ability and stern courage with which he had checked Patterson's advance at Falling Waters, had won for him some reputation, and I was anxious to see him.

A colporter (good brother C. F. Fry) had sent me word that he desired permission to enter our lines to distribute Bibles and tracts. With the freedom with which in our army the humblest private could approach the highest officer I at once went to General Jackson for the permit. I have a vivid recollection of how he impressed me. Dressed in a simple Virginia uniform, apparently about thirty-seven years old, six feet high, medium size, grey eyes that seemed to look through you, light brown hair and a countenance in which deep benevolence seemed mingled with uncompromising sternness, he seemed to me to have about him nothing at all of the ‘pomp and circumstance of war,’ but every element which enters into the skilful leader, and the indomitable, energetic soldier who was always ready for the fight. Stating to him my mission, he at once replied in pleasant tones and with a smile of peculiar sweetness: ‘Certainly, sir; it will give me great pleasure to grant all such permits. [83] I am glad that you came to me, and I shall be glad to be introduced to the colporter.’

Afterward introducing my friend, Jackson said to him: ‘You are more than welcome to my camp, and it will give me great pleasure to help you in your work in every way in my power. I am more anxious than I can express that my men should be not only good soldiers of their country, but also good soldiers of the Cross.’ We lingered for some time in an exceedingly pleasant conversation about the religious welfare of the army, and when I turned away, with a very courteous invitation to call on him again, I felt that I had met a man of deep-toned piety, who carried his religion into every affair of life, and who was destined to make his mark in the war.

Jackson had become a Christian some time before; but it was not until the 22d of November, 1851, that he made public profession of religion and united with the Presbyterian Church in Lexington, then under the care of the venerable and beloved Rev. Dr. W. S. White, whose death in 1871 was so widely lamented.

The following incident, which was given me by Dr. White, not only illustrates his Christian character, but gives the key-note to his whole life.

Not very long after his connection with the church the pastor preached a sermon on prayer, in which it was urged that every male church-member ought, when occasion required, to lead in public prayer. The next day, a faithful elder of the church asked ‘Major Jackson’ what he thought of the doctrine of the sermon, and if he was not convinced that he ought to lead in public prayer. ‘I do not think it my duty,’ he replied, and went on to assign as his reason that he hesitated in his speech to such an extent when excited that he did not think he could ‘pray to edification’ in public. ‘Have you made the matter a subject of secret prayer?’ persisted the elder. ‘No, sir; but I will do so to-night.’ The elder then advised him also to consult his pastor, and he went at once to Dr. White's study and went over with him the arguments and passages of Scripture by which he supported his position. The next day the elder saw him walking rapidly by his place of business, and fearing that he wished to avoid the subject of their previous conversation he called him back and asked, ‘Have you made that matter a subject of prayerful investigation, major?’ ‘Yes, sir, and I was [84] just on my way to ask Dr. White to call on me to lead in prayer at the meeting to-night.’ Soon after he was called on, and made such a stammering effort that the pastor felt badly for him, and he was greatly mortified. Several subsequent efforts resulted in little better results, and the pastor began to think that, perhaps, Major Jackson was right—that he really could not ‘pray to edification’—and that he was, perhaps, an exception to the general rule that male members of the church ought to lead in public prayer. Accordingly he said to him one day: ‘Major, we do not wish to make our prayermeetings uncomfortable to you, and if you prefer it, I will not call on you to lead in prayer again.’

The prompt and emphatic reply was: ‘My comfort has nothing in the world to do with it, sir; you, as my pastor, think that it is my duty to lead in public prayer—I think so too—and by God's grace I mean to do it. I wish you would please be so good as to call on me more frequently.’ Dr. White says that he saw from Jackson's reply and manner that he meant to succeed—that he did call on him more frequently—and that he gradually improved until he became one of the most gifted men in prayer whom he had in his church. It was my privilege to hear him pray several times in the army, and if I ever heard a ‘fervent, effectual prayer,’ it was offered by this stern soldier.

He was a ‘deacon’ (not an ‘elder,’ as has been frequently asserted) in the church, and was untiring in the discharge of all the duties of the position. On one occasion he went at the appointed hour to attend a ‘deacons' meeting’ at which there was important business to be transacted, and after waiting five minutes for several absentees (pacing back and forth, watch in hand), he asked to be excused for awhile, and darted off to the residence of one of them. Ringing the door-bell violently the gentleman came out, and Jackson accosted him with ‘Mr.——, it is eight minutes after 8 o'clock’ (the hour appointed for the meeting). ‘Yes, major, I am aware of that, but I didn't have time to go out to-night.’ ‘Didn't have time?’ retorted the deacon; ‘why, sir, I should not suppose that you had time for anything else. Did we not set apart this hour (only one in the month) for the service of the church? How then can you put aside your obligations in the matter?’ With this he abruptly started back to the meeting, and his brother deacon felt so keenly his rebuke that he immediately followed. There was no [85] difficulty in the finances of that church as long as ‘DeaconJackson managed them.

The venerable pastor said to me with deep emotion: ‘Oh, sir, when Jackson fell I lost not only a warm personal friend, a consistent, active church-member, but the best deacon I ever saw!’

He was once collector for the Rockbridge Bible Society, and when the time came to report (to the surprise of his colleagues) he reported contributions from a number of negroes, remarking in explanation: ‘They are poor, but ought not on that account to be denied the sweet privilege of helping so good a cause.’ He also reported: ‘I have a contribution from every person in my district except one lady. She has been away ever since I was appointed collector, but she will return home at 12 to-day, and I will see her at 1 o'clock.’ The next day he reported a contribution from her also.

He frequently sought the counsel and instruction of his pastor, upon whom he looked as his ‘superior officer,’ and to whom he would sometimes ‘report for orders.’ He was never blessed with large pecuniary means, but was always a most liberal contributor to every charitable object, and ever ready ‘to visit the fatherless and the widow in their distress.’

Jackson was one of the most thoroughly conscientious masters who ever lived. He not only treated his negroes kindly, but he devoted himself most assiduously to their religious instruction. He was not only accustomed (as were Christian masters generally at the South) to invite his servants in to family prayers, but he also had a special meeting with them every Sunday afternoon in order to teach them the Scriptures. He made this exercise so interesting to them that other negroes of the town craved the privilege of attending, and he soon had his room full to overflowing of eager pupils. This suggested to him the idea of organizing a negro Sunday-school, which he did several years before the war, and to which he devoted all of the energies of his mind and all the zeal of his large, Christian heart.

He was accustomed to prepare himself for the exercises of this school by the most careful study of the lessons. The day before he left home for the war was Saturday, and he was very busy all day long making every preparation to leave at a moment's warning. He paid all outstanding accounts, and settled up as far as possible his worldly affairs, while his devoted wife was busily plying the needle to prepare him for the field. [86]

At the supper-table Mrs. Jackson made some remark about the preparations for his expected departure, when he said, with a bright smile: ‘My dear, to-morrow is the blessed Sabbath day. It is also the regular communion season at our church. I hope I shall not be called to leave until Monday. Let us then dismiss from our conversation and our thoughts everything pertaining to the war, and have together one more quiet evening of preparation for our loved Sabbath duties.’

Accordingly the dark cloud of war was pushed aside. He read aloud to her for awhile from religious magazines and newspapers, and then they went to their accustomed study of the Bible lesson, which was to be taught on the morrow to the colored Sunday-school. It was such a bright, happy Saturday evening as is only known in the well-regulated Christian home. Alas! it proved the last which he ever spent under his own roof tree. Early the next morning a telegram from the governor of the Commonwealth ordered him to march the corps of cadets for Richmond at 12.30 o'clock that day. Not waiting for his breakfast he hurried to the institute, and spent the morning in making necessary preparations for the departure of the cadets, not forgetting to send a request to his pastor that he should be present to hold with them a brief service before they marched forth at the call of their sovereign State.

At 11 o'clock he came home to take a hurried breakfast and make a few personal arrangements, and the last thing he did before leaving home was to retire with his wife into their chamber, read a part of the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians— beginning, ‘For we know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens’—and then made an humble, tender, fervent prayer, in which he begged that the dark cloud of war might even then be dissipated; that the God of Peace might calm the storm and avert the calamity of war, or that He might at least go forth with him and with the young men under his command to guide, guard, help and bless them.

At 12 o'clock the venerable pastor was present to make to the corps an appropriate address of Christian counsel, and lead in a fervent, tender prayer.

At the appointed hour, to the exact minute, Major Jackson gave the order: ‘Attention! Forward! March!’

And thus the loving husband bade adieu to his home, the [87] faithful church-member turned away from his communion service, the earnest Sunday-school teacher left his lesson untaught, and the peerless soldier marched forth from the parade-ground to win immortal fame, to come not back again until his body was borne to its burial in the beautiful cemetery at ‘Lexington, in the Valley of Virginia,’ and two continents were bursting with the fame of ‘StonewallJackson.

Jackson gave a great deal of time to his colored Sundayschool. He was accustomed to carry around himself the most carefully prepared reports of the conduct and progress of each pupil, and to do everything in his power to interest the whites of the community in the school.

Soon after one of the great battles, a large crowd gathered one day at the post-office in Lexington, anxiously awaiting the opening of the mail, that they might get the particulars concerning the great battle which they had heard had been fought. The venerable pastor of the Presbyterian Church (Rev. Dr. W. S. White, from whom I received the incident) was of the company, and soon had handed him a letter which he recognized as directed in Jackson's well-known handwriting. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘we will have the news! Here is a letter from General Jackson himself.’ The crowd eagerly gathered around, but heard to their very great disappointment a letter which made not the most remote allusion to the battle or the war, but which enclosed a check for fifty dollars with which to buy books for his colored Sunday-school, and was filled with inquiries after the interests of the school and the church. He had no time or inclination to write of the great victory and the imperishable laurels he was winning; but he found time to remember his noble work among God's poor, and to contribute further to the good of the negro children whose true friend and benefactor he had always been. And he was accustomed to say that one of the very greatest privations to him which the war brought, was that he was taken away from his loved work in the colored Sunday-school.

Jackson thus acquired, a wonderful influence over the colored people of that whole region, and to this day his memory is warmly cherished by them. When Hunter's army was marching into Lexington, the Confederate flag which floated over Jackson's grave was hauled down and concealed by some of the citizens. A lady who stole into the cemetery one morning while the Federal army was occupying the town, bearing fresh flowers [88] with which to decorate the hero's grave, was surprised to find a miniature Confederate flag planted on the grave with a verse of a familiar hymn pinned to it. Upon inquiry she found that a colored boy, who had belonged to Jackson's Sunday-school, had procured the flag, gotten some one to copy a stanza of a favorite hymn which Jackson had taught him, and had gone in the night to plant the flag on the grave of his loved teacher.

It will be gratifying to many of our readers to add that this school is still kept up, and is in a most flourishing condition under the management, of Colonel J. L. T. Preston, of the Virginia Military Institute, Professor J. J. White, of Washington and Lee University, and others of the best people in Lexington.

Jackson was equally scrupulous in attending to all his religious duties. ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ seemed the motto of his life. Regular in meeting all of his religious obligations, he walked straight along the path of duty, doing with his might whatsoever his hands found to do. In the army his piety, despite all obstacles, seemed to brighten as the pure gold is refined by the furnace. He beautifully illustrated in his life the lesson of the great apostle: ‘Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.’ He was a man of prayer, accustomed in all he did to ask the Divine blessing and guidance. His old body-servant said that he ‘could always tell when a battle was near at hand by seeing the general get up a great many times in the night to pray.’ He was frequently observed in the beginning and in the midst of the battle to lift up his hands towards heaven, and those near could hear his ejaculatory prayers. Just before the battle of Fredericksburg he rode out in front of his line of battle and offered earnest prayer for the success of his arms that day. The morning of the opening of the campaign of Chancellorsville he spent a long time in prayer before mounting to ride to the field.

A writer in the Richmond Whig thus describes a scene enacted soon after the battle of McDowell: ‘General Jackson addressed his troops in a few terse and pointed remarks, thanking them for the courage, endurance and soldierly conduct displayed at the battle of McDowell on the 8th inst., and closed by appointing 10 o'clock of that day as an occasion of prayer and thanksgiving throughout the army for the victory which followed that bloody engagement. There, in the beautiful little valley of the South Branch, with the blue and towering mountains [89] covered with the verdure of spring, the green sward smiling a welcome to the season of flowers, and the bright sun, unclouded, lending a genial, refreshing warmth, that army, equipped for the stern conflict of war, bent in humble praise and thanksgiving to the God of Battles for the success vouchsafed to our arms in the recent sanguinary encounter of the two armies. While this solemn ceremony was progressing in every regiment, the minds of the soldiery drawn off from the bayonet and sabre, the enemy's artillery was occasionally belching forth its leaden death; yet all unmoved stood that worshipping army, acknowledging the supremacy of the will of Him who controls the destinies of men and nations, and chooses the weaker things of earth to confound the mighty.’

Rev. Dr. Wm. Brown, former editor of the Central Presbyterian, relates a characteristic anecdote of this ‘man of prayer.’ During a visit to the army around Centreville, in 1861, a friend remarked to Dr. Brown, in speaking of General Jackson in the strain in which many of his old acquaintances were accustomed to disparage him, ‘The truth is, sir, that “old Jack” is crazy. I can account for his conduct in no other way. Why, I frequently meet him out in the woods walking back and forth muttering to himself incoherent sentences and gesticulating wildly, and at such times he seems utterly oblivious of my presence and of everything else.’ Dr. Brown happened the next night to share Jackson's blanket, and in a long and tender conversation on his favorite theme—the means of promoting personal holiness in camp—the great soldier said to him: ‘I find that it greatly helps me in fixing my mind and quickening my devotions to give articulate utterance to my prayers, and hence I am in the habit of going off into the woods, where I can be alone and speak audibly to myself the prayers I would pour out to my God. I was at first annoyed that I was compelled to keep my eyes open to avoid running against the trees and stumps; but upon investigating the matter I do not find that the Scriptures require us to close our eyes in prayer, and the exercise has proven to me very delightful and profitable.’

And thus Dr. Brown got the explanation of the conduct which his friend had cited to prove that ‘old Jack is crazy.’

A friend was once conversing with him about the difficulty of obeying the Scripture injunction, ‘pray without ceasing,’ and Jackson insisted that we could so accustom ourselves to it that [90] it could be easily obeyed. ‘When we take our meals there is the grace. When I take a draught of water I always pause, as my palate receives the refreshment, to lift up my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life. Whenever I drop a letter into the box at the post-office I send a petition along with it for God's blessing upon its mission and upon the person to whom it is sent. When I break the seal of a letter just received I stop to pray to God that He may prepare me for its contents and make it a messenger of good. When I go to my class-room and await the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede with God for them. And so of every other familiar act of the day.’

‘But,’ said his friend, ‘do you not often forget these seasons, coming so frequently?’

‘No!’ said he. ‘I have made the practice habitual to me; and I can no more forget it than forget to drink when I am thirsty. The habit has become as delightful as regular.’

Jackson had a firm and unshaken trust in the promises of God and His superintending Providence under all circumstances, and it was his habitual practice to pray for and trust in Divine guidance under every circumstance of trial.

His friend, Elder Lyle—one of the noblest specimens of a faithful Christian that ever lived—used to question him very closely on his Christian experience, and one day asked him if he really believed the promise: ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’ He said that he did, and the elder asked: ‘If you were to lose your health, would you believe it then?’ ‘Yes! I think I should.’ ‘How if you were to become entirely blind?’ ‘I should still believe it.’ ‘But suppose, in addition to your loss of health and sight, you should become utterly dependent upon the cold charities of the world?’ He thought for a moment and then replied with emphasis: ‘If it were the will of God to place me there, He would enable me to lie there peacefully a hundred years.’ He nobly stood this test when called on to cross the Jordan of Death.

Soon after he was wounded he said to Rev. B. T. Lacy—who exclaimed, on seeing him: ‘Oh, general, what a calamity!’ ‘You see me severely wounded, but not depressed—not unhappy I believe it has been done according to God's holy will, and 1 acquiesce entirely in it. You may think it strange; but you [91] never saw me more perfectly contented than I am to-day; for I am sure that my Heavenly Father designs this affliction for my good. I am perfectly satisfied that either in this life, or in that which is to come, I shall discover that what is now regarded as a calamity is a blessing. And if it appears a great calamity (as it surely will be a great inconvenience) to be deprived of my arm, it will result in a great blessing. I can wait until God, in His own time, shall make known to me the object He has in thus afflicting me. But why should I not rather rejoice in it as a blessing, and not look on it as a calamity at all? If it were in my power to replace my arm, I would not dare do it unless I could know that it was the will of my Heavenly Father.’

His dispatches and official reports all breathed this spirit of trust in and dependence upon God. His simple ‘God blessed our arms with victory at McDowell yesterday,’ was but a type of the character and spirit of his dispatches.

After his capture of Winchester in 1862 he issued the following order:

General order no. 53.

Headquarters, Valley District. Winchester, May 26, 1862.

Within four weeks this army has made long and rapid marches, fought six combats and two battles, signally defeating the enemy in each one, captured several stands of colors and pieces of artillery, with numerous prisoners and vast medical, ordnance and army stores, and finally driven the boastful host, which was ravaging our beautiful country, into utter rout. The general commanding would warmly express to the officers and men under his command his joy in their achievements, and his thanks for their brilliant gallantry in action, and their patient obedience under the hardships of forced marches, often more painful to the brave soldier than the dangers of battle. The explanation of the severe exertions to which the commanding general called the army, which were endured by them with such cheerful confidence in him, is now given in the victory of yesterday. He receives this proof of their confidence in the past with pride and gratitude, and asks only a similar confidence in the future. But his chief duty to-day, and that of the army, is to recognize devoutly the hand of a protecting Providence in the brilliant successes of the last three days, which have given us the results of a great victory without great losses, and to make the oblation of [92] our thanks to God for His mercies to us and our country in heartfelt acts of religious worship. For this purpose the troops will remain in camp to-day, suspending, as far as practicable, all military exercises, and the chaplains of regiments will hold Divine service in their several charges at 4 o'clock P. M. to-day.

A correspondent, as quoted in Dr. Bennett's ‘Great Revival,’ says:

I saw something to-day which affected me more than anything I ever saw or read on religion. While the battle was raging and the bullets were flying, Jackson rode by, calm as if he were at home, but his head was raised toward heaven, and his lips were moving, evidently in prayer. Meeting a chaplain near the front in the heat of a battle, the general said to him, “The rear is your place, sir, now, and prayer your business.” He said to a colonel who wanted worship, “All right, colonel, but don't forget to drill.”

This incident is related by one of his staff Entering the general's room at midnight, Major——found him at prayer. After half an hour the major stepped to the door and asked of the aid if he did not think the general had fallen asleep on his knees from excessive fatigue. “Oh, no; you know the general is an old Presbyterian, and they all make long prayers.” The major returned, and after waiting an hour the general rose from his knees.

Another writer says:

General Jackson never enters a battle without invoking God's blessing and protection. The dependence of this strange man upon the Deity seems never to be absent from his mind, and whatever he says or does, it is always prefaced, “by God's blessing.” “By God's blessing we have defeated the enemy,” is his laconic and pious announcement of a victory. One of his officers said to him, “Well, general, another candidate is waiting your attention.” “So I observe,” was the quiet reply, “and by God's blessing he shall receive it to his full satisfaction.”

After a battle has been fought the same rigid remembrance of Divine power is observed. The army is drawn up in line, the general dismounts from his horse, and then, in the presence of his rough, bronzed-faced troops, with head uncovered and bent awe-stricken to the ground, the voice of the good man, which but a few hours before was ringing out in quick, fiery intonations, is now heard subdued and calm, as if overcome by the presence of the Supreme Being, in holy appeal to the “sapphire throne.” [93]

Few such spectacles have been witnessed in modern times, and it is needless to add that few such examples have ever told with such wondrous power upon the hearts of men. Is it surprising that “StonewallJackson is invincible, and that he can lead his army to certain victory, whenever God's blessing precedes the act?

Jackson delighted in religious conversation and frequently engaged in it with his whole soul at times least expected by those who did not know him. During one of his battles, while he was waiting in the rear of a part of his command, which he had put in position to engage the attention of the enemy while another division had been sent to flank them, a young officer on his staff gave him a copy of the sketch of ‘Captain Dabney Carr Harrison,’ a young Presbyterian minister, widely known and loved in Virginia, who had been killed at Fort Donelson. He expressed himself highly gratified at getting the sketch, and entered into an earnest conversation on the power of Christian example. He was interrupted by an officer, who reported ‘the enemy advancing,’ but paused only long enough to give the laconic order, ‘Open on them,’ and then resumed the conversation, which he continued for some time, only pausing now and then to receive dispatches and give necessary orders. A chaplain relates that on the eve of the battle of Fredericksburg he saw an officer wrapped in his overcoat, so that his marks of rank could not be seen, lying just in the rear of a battery quietly reading his Bible. He approached and entered into conversation on the prospects of the impending battle, but the officer soon changed the conversation to religious topics, and the chaplain was led to ask, ‘What regiment are you chaplain of?’ What was his astonishment to find that the quiet Bible-reader and fluent talker upon religious subjects was none other than the famous ‘StonewallJackson.

He did everything in his power to encourage his chaplains and help them in their work, was a regular and deeply interested attendant on religious services, and was largely instrumental in the organization of our Chaplains' Association. He was accustomed to say, when hearing accounts of religious matters in the army which pleased him: ‘That is good—very good—we ought to thank God for that.’

I remember one day, when walking over from near Hamilton's Crossing to a meeting of our Chaplains' Association, that General [94] Jackson overtook me (riding alone, as was his frequent habit), and, inquiring where I was going, he promptly dismounted, and throwing his bridle over his arm walked with me several miles, engaged in earnest conversation about the religious interests of his men, and how best to promote them.

He was especially anxious to have his regiments supplied with chaplains, and his corps with missionaries, and it was largely due to his exertions that his corps was better supplied than any other part of the army.

In a letter to the Southern Presbyterian General Assembly he said:

My views are summed up in a few words:

Each branch of the Christian Church should send into the army some of its most prominent ministers who are distinguished for their piety, talents and zeal; and such ministers should labor to produce concert of action among chaplains and Christians in the army. These ministers should give special attention to preaching to regiments which are without chaplains, and induce them to take steps to get chaplains, to let the regiments name the denominations from which they desire chaplains selected, and then to see that suitable chaplains are secured.

A bad selection of a chaplain may prove a curse instead of a blessing. If the few prominent ministers thus connected with each army would cordially co-operate, I believe that glorious fruits would be the result. Denominational distinctions should be kept out of view, and not touched upon. And, as a general rule, I do not think that a chaplain who would preach denominational sermons should be in the army. His congregation is his regiment, and it is composed of various denominations. I would like to see no question asked in the army of what denomination a chaplain belongs to; but let the question be, Does he preach the Gospel?

The neglect of the spiritual interests of the army may be seen from the fact that not one-half of the regiments have chaplains.

Among the wants of the church in the army are some ministers of such acknowledged superiority and zeal as, under God, to be the means of giving concert of action. Our chaplains, at least in the same military organization encamped in the same neighborhood, should have their meetings, and through God's blessing devise successful plans for spiritual conquests. All the [95] other departments of the army have system, and such system exists in any other department of the service that no one of its officers can neglect his duty without diminishing the efficiency of his branch of the service. And it appears to me that when men see what attention is bestowed secularly in comparison with what is religiously, they naturally underestimate the importance of religion. From what I have said, you may think I am despondent; but, thanks to an ever kind Providence, such is not the case. I do not know where so many men, brought together without any religious test, exhibit so much religious feeling. The striking feature is that so much that is hopeful should exist, when so little human instrumentality has been employed for its accomplishment. In civil life, ministers have regular meetings to devise means for co-operation in advancing the interests of the church. This can be done in the army, and I am persuaded it should be done. . . .

‘Some ministers ask for leave of absence for such trivial objects, in comparison with the salvation of the soul, that I fear they give occasion to others to think that such ministers do not believe that the salvation of the soul is as important as they preach. It is the special province of the chaplains to look after the spiritual interests of the army, and I greatly desire to see them evincing a rational zeal proportional to the importance of their mission. Do not believe that I think the chaplains are the only delinquents. I do not believe, but know, that I am a great delinquent, and I do not design saying what I have said respecting the laxness of chaplains to apply to all of them. I would like to see each Christian denomination send one of its great lights into the army. By this arrangement I trust that, if any should have denominational feelings, they will not be in the way of advancing a common and glorious cause.’

Let us go some bright Sabbath morning to that cluster of tents in the grove across the Massaponax, not far from Hamilton's Crossing. Seated on the rude logs, or on the ground, may be seen fifteen hundred or two thousand men, with upturned faces, eagerly drinking in the truths of the Gospel. That reverent worshipper that kneels in the dust during prayer, or listens with sharpened attention and moist eyes as the preacher delivers his message, is our loved Commander-in-Chief, General R. E. Lee; that devout worshipper who sits at his side, gives his personal attention to the seating of the multitude, looks so supremely happy as [96] he sees the soldiers thronging to hear the Gospel, and listens so attentively to the preaching, is ‘StonewallJackson; those ‘wreaths and stars’ which cluster around are worn by some of the most illustrious generals of that army; and all through the congregation the ‘stars’ and ‘bars’ mingle with the rough garb of the ‘unknown heroes’ of the rank and file who never quail amid the leaden and iron hail of battle, but are not ashamed to ‘tremble’ under the power of God's truth. I need not say that this is Jackson's Headquarters, and the scene I have pictured one of frequent occurrence.

General Jackson had Rev. B. T. Lacy commissioned chaplain (not ‘corps chaplain,’ as he has been improperly called, for there was no such rank; and, indeed, Confederate chaplains had no military rank whatever, but were all on the same footing of equality as simply preachers and spiritual leaders of their commands), and ordered to report to him for duty, and he assigned him to preach at his Headquarters and labor in the more destitute commands of the corps. Dr. Lacy was a genial gentleman, an indefatigable worker, and a powerful and effective preacher, and his association with General Jackson gave him special influence and a wide field of usefulness. Some of the services at Jackson's Headquarters were of deep interest and wide-reaching in their blessed results.

Upon one occasion, I called at Jackson's Headquarters and found him just going in to a prayer meeting which he was accustomed to hold. I gladly accepted his invitation to attend, and shall never forget the power, comprehensiveness, and tender pathos of the prayer he made during that delightful prayermeeting. Only a few days before the battle of Chancellorsville, I had the privilege (in company with several brother-chaplains) of dining with him at his mess, and of lingering for an hour of most delightful converse in his tent. Military matters were scarcely alluded to, and then he would quickly change the topic; but we fully discussed questions pertaining to the promotion of religion in the camps—how to secure more chaplains and to induce pastors to come as missionaries to the soldiers, and kindred topics. And then we got on the subject of personal piety, the obstacles to growth in grace in the army, the best means of promoting it, etc., and as the great soldier talked earnestly and eloquently from a full heart, I had to lay aside my office as teacher in Israel and be content to ‘sit at the feet’ of this able [97] theologian, this humble, earnest Christian, and learn of him lessons in the Divine life. More than almost any man I ever met, he accepted fully the precious promises of God's word, walked by a living faith in Jesus, and was guided by the star of hope as he trod firmly the path of duty. How far the glorious revivals with which we were favored were in answer to the prayers, and in blessing on the efforts of ‘StonewallJackson, and to what extent his influence was blessed to individuals, eternity alone can reveal. I have it from a well-authenticated source that the conversion of Lieutenant-General Ewell, Jackson's able lieutenant, was on this wise: At a council of war, one night, Jackson had listened very attentively to the views of his subordinates, and asked until the next morning to present his own. As they came away, A. P. Hill laughingly said to Ewell, ‘Well! I suppose Jackson wants time to pray over it.’ Having occasion to return to his quarters again a short time after, Ewell found Jackson on his knees and heard his ejaculatory prayers for God's guidance in the perplexing movements then before him. The sturdy veteran Ewell was so deeply impressed by this incident and by Jackson's general religious character, that he said: ‘If that is religion, I must have it;’ and in making a profession of faith not long afterwards he attributed his conviction to the influence of Jackson's piety.

Since he lived such a life, it was to be expected that he would die a glorious death. In the full tide of his splendid career, just as he was completing what he regarded as the most successful military movement of his life, with high ambition and bright hopes for the future, he was shot down by the fire of his own men, who would gladly have yielded up their own lives to have saved their loved chieftain one single pang.

He bore his sufferings, and the amputation of his arm with the utmost Christian fortitude, saying repeatedly that he was perfectly resigned to God's will and would not, if he could, restore the arm, unless assured that it was his Heavenly Father's will.

When he seemed better and expected to recover, he spoke freely of being so near death when first wounded, and expecting fully to die before a surgeon could reach him, and said that he ‘gave himself up to the hands of his Heavenly Father, and was in the possession of perfect peace.’

Rev. Dr. B. T. Lacy relates that, alluding to this period of [98] expected death, he said: ‘It has been a precious experience to me that I was brought face to face with death, and found all was well. I then learned an important lesson: that one who has been the subject of converting grace and is the child of God can, in the midst of the severest sufferings, fix his thoughts upon God and heavenly things, and derive great comfort and peace; but that one who had never made his peace with God would be unable to control his mind, under such sufferings, so as to understand properly the way of salvation, and repent and believe on Christ. I felt that if I had neglected the salvation of my soul before, it would have been too late then.’

He dictated a letter to General Lee, in which he congratulated him on ‘the great victory which God has vouchsafed to your arms.’

But before this note was sent, the following came to him from General Lee, in response to a previous note which had been sent by Jackson:

General: I have just received your note informing me that you were wounded. I cannot express my regret at the occurrence. Could I have directed events, I should have chosen, for the good of the country, to have been disabled in your stead. I congratulate you upon the victory which is due to your skill and energy.

Most truly yours,

R. E. Lee, General.

Jackson seemed deeply touched at the generous letter from his chief, but said, after a brief pause: ‘General Lee is very kind: but he should give the glory to God.’

Afterwards, in talking about this great victory, he said: ‘Our movement yesterday was a great success; I think the most successful military movement of my life. But I expect to receive far more credit for it than I deserve. Most men will think I had planned it all from the first; but it was not so—I simply took advantage of circumstances as they were presented to me in the Providence of God. I feel that His hand led me: let us give Him all the glory.’

When he had been removed to the house of Mr. Chandler, near Guinea's Station, and had so far rallied as to feel confident of his recovery, he talked very freely on his favorite religious topics. Dr. Dabney says (in his admirable biography of Jackson, [99] to which I am indebted for several incidents given above): ‘He requested his chaplain to visit him at 10 o'clock each morning for reading the Scriptures and prayer. These seasons were the occasions of much religious conversation, in which he unbosomed himself with unusual freedom and candor. He declared that his faith and hope in his Redeemer were clear. He said he was perfectly willing to die at that time; but believed that his time was not yet come, that his Heavenly Father still had a work for him to do in defence of his beloved country, and that until that was completed he should be spared. During these morning hours he delighted to enlarge on his favorite topics of practical religion, which were such as these: The Christian should carry his religion into everything. Christianity makes man better in any lawful calling; it equally makes the general a better commander, and the shoemaker a better mechanic. In the case of the cobbler, or the tailor, for instance, religion will produce more care in promising work, more punctuality, and more fidelity in executing it, from conscientious motives; and these homely examples were fair illustrations of its value in more exalted functions. So prayer aids any man, in any lawful business, not only by bringing down the Divine blessing, which is its direct and prime object, but by harmonizing his own mind and heart. In the commander of an army at the critical hour, it calmed his perplexities, moderated his anxieties, steadied the scales of judgment, and thus preserved him from exaggerated and rash conclusions. Again he urged that every act of man's life should be a religious act. He recited with much pleasure the ideas of Doddridge, where he pictured himself as spiritualizing every act of his daily life; as thinking when he washed himself, of the cleansing blood of Calvary; as praying while he put on his garments, that he might be clothed with the righteousness of the saints; as endeavoring, while he was eating, to feed upon the Bread of heaven. General Jackson now also enforced his favorite dogma, that the Bible furnished men with rules for everything. If they would search, he said, they would find a precept, an example, or a general principle, applicable to every possible emergency of duty, no matter what was a man's calling. There the military man might find guidance for every exigency. Then, turning to Lieutenant Smith, he asked him, smiling: “Can you tell me where the Bible gives generals a model for their official reports of battles?” He answered, [100] laughing, that it never entered his mind to think of looking for such a thing in the Scriptures. “Nevertheless,” said the general, “there are such, and excellent models, too. Look, for instance, at the narrative of Joshua's battle with the Amalekites; there you have one. It has clearness, brevity, fairness, modesty; and it traces the victory to its right source, the blessing of God.” ’

As he gradually grew worse, and his physicians and friends became alarmed about his condition, he was calm, resigned, even joyous, at the prospect.

Noticing the sadness of his loving wife, he said to her, tenderly: ‘I know you would gladly give your life for me, but I am perfectly resigned. Do not be sad. I hope I may yet recover. Pray for me, but always remember in your prayers to use the petition, “Thy will be done.” ’

When he saw the number of surgeons who were called in, he said to his medical director, Dr. Hunter McGuire: ‘I see from the number of physicians that you consider my condition dangerous, but I thank God that, if it is His will, I am ready to go.’

When his wife informed him that the doctors thought his recovery very doubtful, he was silent for a moment, and then said: ‘It will be infinite gain to be translated to heaven.’ When later, on that beautiful Sabbath day, he was informed that he could scarcely live till night, he engaged for a moment in intense thought, and then replied: ‘Very good, very good; it is all right.’

Dr. McGuire thus concludes a deeply interesting paper on the wounding and death of Jackson:

He tried to comfort his almost heart-broken wife, and told her he had a good deal to say to her, but he was too weak. Colonel Pendleton came into the room about 1 o'clock, and he asked him: “Who is preaching at headquarters to-day?” When told that the whole army was praying for him, he replied: “Thank God—they are very kind.” He said, “It is the Lord's day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.”

His mind now began to fail and wander, and he frequently talked as if in command upon the field, giving orders in his old way; then the scene shifted, and he was at the mess-table in conversation with members of his staff; now with his wife and child; now at prayers with his military family. Occasionally intervals of return of his mind would appear, and during one of them I offered him some brandy and water; but he declined it, [101] saying: “It will only delay my departure and do no good; I want to preserve my mind, if possible, to the last.” About halfpast one he was told that he had but two hours to live, and he answered again feebly, but firmly: “Very good; it is all right.”

A few moments before he died he cried out, in his delirium: “Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks—” then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression as if of relief, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees;” and then, without pain, or the the least struggle, his spirit passed from earth to the God who gave it.

In fine, Jackson took Jesus as his Saviour, his Guide, his great Exemplar, ‘the Captain of his salvation,’ whom he followed with the unquestioning obedience of the true soldier. And having thus lived, it is not surprising that he died the glorious death which has been described. Nay, it was not death; the weary, worn, battle-scarred veteran only received an ‘honorable discharge.’ He had won the victory, he only went to wear the ‘crown of rejoicing;’

‘That crown with peerless glories bright,
     Which shall new lustre boast
When victors' wreaths and monarchs' gems
     Shall blend in common dust.’

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