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Chapter 9: summer of 1862.

The Spring closed brightly on the Confederate cause. The successful evacuation of Corinth was a strategic victory. The campaign of Jackson in the Valley of Virginia was as brilliant and rapid as that of Napoleon in Italy. In little more than twenty days, he marched over two hundred miles through a mountainous region, fought four battles and a number of skirmishes, killed and wounded great numbers of the enemy, took 3,000 prisoners and millions of dollars' worth of stores of all kinds, besides destroying vast quantities, chased Gen. Banks out of Virginia and across the Potomac river; and all this with a loss of less than two hundred of his own army. When we add to this his subsequent march up the Valley, his strategy against Gen. Fremont, and his decisive victory over Gen. Shields, the severest military critics must admit that the game of war was never more successful in the hands of any of the great masters of that dreadful art.

The Christian hero of this victorious army did not forget the hand that led him to conquest. Though compelled to spend a Sabbath in chasing the Federals out of the Valley, he rested the next day, and devoted a portion of it to religious services. The following is an extract from his General Order to the troops:

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 [157] 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 result of a great victory without great losses, and to make the oblation of 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.

The victories of Jackson in the Valley were speedily followed by the hard-fought battle of Seven Pines. In the evening of the first day of this battle, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was severely wounded, and Gen. R. E. Lee was placed in command of the army. Nearly the whole month of June was spent in active preparations for the great struggle which was to decide the fate of Richmond. Gen. McClellan's immense army, with every appliance of modern warfare, lay below the city, and gradually approached under cover of immense earthworks and entrenched camps. The Confederate General, having completed his arrangements for the attack on the “grand army,” opened the battle on the 26th of June by a spirited assault on the extreme right of the Federal forces. Meanwhile, General Jackson, having been heavily reinforced, came swiftly down from the Valley, and took a position from whence he could fall upon the rear of the enemy. The Confederates were now ready to open the great battle.

On that memorable Thursday afternoon the daily union prayer-meeting of the city was held in the First Baptist [158] church. It began at 4 o'clock, and nearly at the same hour the booming cannon announced the opening of the struggle.

Deeply solemn and earnest were the prayers offered up for the success of our arms, inexpressible were the feelings of the Christians there assembled as they thought of their loved ones just then entering “the perilous edge of battle.” After an hour spent in the most devout exercises, the meeting closed; and while some retired to their homes to renew their prayers in secret, many others, with hundreds from every part of the city, repaired to the range of hills in the northern suburbs, from whence the “confused noise of the warriors” could be heard and the smoke of battle seen slowly rising above the dense forests of the Chickahominy.

As darkness gathered, the scene became grander and more impressive. The groups of men, women, and children, crowning the hill-tops, some conversing in undertones, many silent and awe-struck. others with lips moving and eyes upraised to heaven in silent prayer, the smoke of battle settling along the intervening valleys, the strains of martial music floating on the still evening air, as the long lines of soldiers marched out to join their comrades on the field of blood, the bomb-shells from the opposing lines, with their fiery trains, some plunging amid the dark woods, others bursting in their flight and raining deadly fragments on the heads of the struggling combatants, the sharp, rattling volleys of musketry mingled with the roar of cannon, the thought of hundreds an hour before in joyous health now wounded and dying, the fate of the beleaguered city and its helpless thousands suspended on the issues of the fight-all these furnished the elements of a scene truly sublime, and filled the mind with contending emotions of hope and fear.

The contest thus begun raged with varying intensity and results for six days, when it closed with the terrific battle of Malvern Hill. The Federal army was driven [159] from every position with immense loss in men and munitions, and forced to take shelter on the banks of James river, thirty miles from Richmond, under the protection of a fleet of gun-boats.

The splendid achievements of the Confederate army were thus announced by Gen. Lee in an address to his soldiers:

The General Commanding, profoundly grateful to the ‘only Giver of all Victory’ for the signal success with which he has blessed our army, tenders his warmest thanks and congratulations to the army, by whose valor such splendid results have been achieved. On Thursday, June 26th, the powerful and thoroughly equipped army of the enemy was entrenched in works vast in extent, and most formidable in character, within sight of our capital. To-day, the remains, of that confident and threatening host lie upon the banks of the James river, thirty miles from Richmond, seeking to recover, under protection of his boats, from the effects of a series of disastrous defeats.

After briefly referring to the defeat and pursuit of the enemy, Gen. Lee says:

The immediate fruits of our success are: The relief of Richmond from a state of siege, the rout of the grand army that so long menaced its safety, thousands of prisoners, including officers of high rank, the capture or destruction of stores to the value of millions, and the acquisition of thousands of arms and 51 pieces of superior artillery.

The services rendered to the country in this short, but eventful period, can scarcely be estimated; and the General Commanding cannot adequately express his admiration of the courage, and endurance, and soldierly conduct of the officers and men engaged. These brilliant results have cost us many brave men; but while we mourn the loss of our gallant dead, let us never forget that they died nobly in defence of their country's freedom, [160] and have linked their memory with an event that will live forever in the hearts of a grateful people.

This series of battles was illustrated by many instances of the noblest Christian heroism. The model hero, Jackson, was as terrible in the swamps as he had been in the mountains.

Rev. E. W. Yarbrough, a chaplain in the army, gives an interesting notice of this great and honored warrior:

Before leaving, Colonel Zachry proposed to show me “Stonewall Jackson,” if I would ride with him a short distance. We found him quartered under an apple tree, and at work of course. My first impressions of this Southern Boanerges will never be forgotten. His form is slender, not very erect, and of medium height. His lion heart is concealed under as pleasant a countenance as I ever saw. Had we met on the road before this war broke out, I would have taken him for a Methodist itinerant preacher on his way to an appointment pondering a most serious discourse. Notwithstanding all the feebleness of form and sweetness of expression, he was the hero of the Valley, having clipped the wings of at least four soaring Federal Generals in a short time, and having thundered upon McClellan's rear simultaneously with the advance of our forces upon his front, completely unearthing him, and then joining with his shouting hosts in the most glorious pursuit of an invading foe ever recorded.

You are aware that he is a man of God. On that memorable Thursday, in the hottest of the fight, he was seen by his men to fall upon his knees and there remain for several moments, with his right hand raised to heaven in the most earnest supplication. He is almost idolized by his men. One of his Aids lost his right arm some time since in an engagement, and I saw him a few days ago in the saddle, still clinging to his General and acting his full part. He is not the only David in our army. Our chieftain, the noble Lee, communes with God. and [161] asks for reinforcements from on High. Bethel Hill is a man of prayer, and a host of others, from our Chief Magistrate down, daily invoke the intervention of Heaven in our behalf.

The expressions that fell from the lips of the Christian soldiers slain during this bloody week are worthy of a permanent place in the annals of their country.

Mr. Yarbrough. speaking of the part the 35th Georgia bore in one of the battles, says:

Our Adjutant, J. H. Ware, was killed. As Colonel Thomas bent over him, the heroic youth grasped his hand and delivered his dying message: “My dear Colonel, tell my mother that I fell in the discharge of my duty, and died happy.”

Another gallant soldier received his death-wound, and lay gasping on the ground; as the roar of battle sounded in his ears, he asked a friend near how the fight was going. “Are we whipping them?” said the dying man.

“We are,” replied his friend. “Then I die satisfied.”

“Say to my father,” said another, “that all is well between me and my Saviour; tell him to meet me in heaven.”

Another, carried from the battle-field with a dreadful wound, said to his sister who sat by him, “Sister, I am going home to heaven — I am so glad it is such a good home.”

B. F. Leitner was wounded while bearing the colors of the 2d South Carolina regiment:

Though shot down, he did not suffer the flag to fall, but kept it upright, floating proudly in the battle-storm, until he transferred the sacred charge to another, saying, “Bear it forward and never let it fall.” He was afterwards removed to the house of Mr. Perdue, Manchester, where he was kindly cared for till he died. Just before his death, Capt. Leitner writes:

I asked him what he would have me write to father and mother about his end. “Write,” said he, “I die happy. My confidence in God [162] and our Saviour is unshaken. I am going to heaven.” I asked, “Do you know that you are dying?” “Yes,” was the answer, “and I am glad of it; I want to join the army of Jesus Christ.”

A young soldier, soon after he was shot, said to a comrade:

My wound is mortal; I shall never see my father and sisters, but tell them I died at my post and in the discharge of my duty. Tell my friends not to grieve for me, but to meet me in heaven.

Another, with that strange presentiment of death which so often with soldiers precedes the fatal event, said to his brother just before a battle:

I shall be in a battle shortly, and I expect to fall; if I do, tell my parents it will be all well with me.

A soldier, on coining home with a fatal wound, said to his mother as she met him, taking out his Bible:

Mother, here is the Bible you gave me — I have made good use of it.

He died in triumph, exclaiming, “Not my will, but thine, 0 God, be done.”

As a brave young man was being carried from the field dreadfully mangled, he stopped the bearers and told them he was dying; “but,” he added, “it is all well with me-I am not afraid to die.”

Another wrote to a friend a day or two before the battle in which he fell:

You inquire in reference to my religious condition. Though I do not live altogether up to my duties, yet I do not fear death; and if it be the will of God to take me, I feel willing to go; yet I would prefer to live. I put my trust in the merits of a crucified Redeemer, and depend on him alone for salvation. I would like to live to see you all again, but if God determines otherwise, I hope we will meet in heaven.

Again this Christian soldier wrote:

May heaven grant that if I fall a martyr in the cause of my country, my kindred and their posterity may be [163] proud that they had a relative who offered his life upon the altar of liberty. If I fall, I hope you will hear that I died bravely.

“The desire of his heart was gratified,” said his brother; “be died as a hero, in front of the foe, on the bloodiest field of the war, and was buried without a coffin near the spot where he fell. We leave him to sleep in his soldier grave, in the sacred soil of distant Virginia; but, in the morning of the resurrection, we shall hope to meet him where the battle's thunder is never heard, and where the smile of God shall fill our hearts with peace forever.”

Such was the end of Wateman Glover Bass, a noble Georgia soldier.

Said a young soldier to one of his comrades, as they were standing in line of battle, waiting for the order to advance:

This is a solemn time, I intend to do my duty, and am willing to spill my blood freely for my country.

In his last letter home, he had said to the loved ones: “It I see you no more, I have a good hope of meeting you in heaven.” He saw them no more, for as he moved forward in the front rank he was pierced by a ball and fell dead instantly.

Another said, as he moved on: “If I fall in battle, all is well ;” and another, to the last question of a friend: “If I fall on the field of battle, I shall be safe, for I know in whom I have believed, and he will keep what I have committed to his charge.”

A brave man, writing to his wife after a terrible battle, said of his feelings during the action:

For my part, fear was dispelled. I felt, though I should fall a victim to the enemy's balls, I had a house in heaven. With such feelings, I endeavored to discharge my duty in the best possible manner.

In a subsequent engagement, in which he was killed, he said, on beginning the fight: “If I fall, it shall be well with me.” [164] Another exclaimed just before he died:

Oh, what joy! What boundless bliss! How my soul exults in the prospect of being so soon released from the sorrows of earth and initiated into the joys of heaven. Tell all my friends to meet me in heaven.

A noble young Virginian said to a comrade, as he lay mortally wounded on the bloody field:

It is sweet to die for one's country — I would not have it otherwise.

As a captain stood by one of his men who was dying, the soldier said to him:

Captain, I am going to die-death has no terrors for me — I do not fear to die — there is a beauty in death. Give my love to all at home, and tell them I die in a good cause-fighting for my country, and in Christian faith. Captain, you have been kind to me. Captain, quit swearing and try to meet me in heaven.

Then, pressing the hand of his officer, he fell asleep in Jesus.

An officer, passing over the bloody battle-field of Frazier's Farm, saw a soldier kneeling with eyes and hands upraised to heaven; on approaching and touching him, he found him dead.

Among the many Christian soldiers who fell in the seven days fighting around Richmond, no man has a brighter record for virtue, religion, and patriotism, than Colonel Robert A. Smith, of the 44th Georgia regiment. He was a resident of Macon, Ga., and greatly beloved and honored by his townsmen. In a brief tribute to his memory, they said of him:

As a lawyer, he attained a high degree of proficiency in his profession, to which he devoted himself with prayerful energy, and in his practice he never swerved from the teachings of his conscience. Day after day he became more and more spiritual, drifting farther and farther from the world and “nearer, nearer home;” and, turning a deaf ear to the syren tones of ambition, heard but the divine assurance, “Blessed are the pure in heart, [165] for they shall see God.” And whether weeping o'er the grave of the wife of his early manhood, kneeling by the bedside of the dying Lazarus, pleading with the felon in his cell for mercy from on high, or in the halls of pleasure trying to steer the bark of the giddy and thoughtless toward a better and a brighter world, in the camp or in the bivouac, on the march or in battle, he was always the same good, true, brave, Christian man. He gave generously of his worldly possessions, and the poor and the friendless, the widow and the orphan, weeping around the grave where they buried their benefactor, tell more eloquently than words how he had lived. His life was a living poem.

He did noble acts, nor dreamed them all day long,
And made his life, death and that vast forever
One grand, sweet song.

And one who knew him long and knew him well says:

No man was more severe upon his own faults or more charitable toward those of others.

As a Christian, so he was a patriot. At the inception of the war, at the head of his gallant little band, the Macon Volunteers, he tendered his services and was ordered to Norfolk, Va. After giving to his company an enviable reputation and discharging his duties for nearly twelve months, he was elected Colonel of the Forty-fourth Georgia regiment. His exposure and unceasing labors to perfect his regiment produced the disease which, in connection with his wounds, caused his death. In his soldier life, his character was as spotless and consistent as in the peaceful days before. When the day's work was done, he was wont to gather his command around him, and reading a lesson from the Bible, pray the Giver of all good for guidance and protection.

When his regiment left Goldsboro for Richmond, though having suffered for weeks with sickness, he refused to remain behind. At Petersburg, on account of [166] his serious illness, Gen. Walker deemed it unadvisable to apprise him of the departure of his regiment. He thus wrote to a friend: “I learned of their departure after they left, and I sat on the railroad side till midnight to come with Gen. Walker, and came with him notwithstanding his grumbling.”

On the day of the battle of Ellyson's Mill he was so feeble and exhausted by long sickness that it was absolutely necessary to assist him on and off his horse. He was so weak that it was with difficulty he could sit upright in his saddle. But his brave spirit and inflexible, iron will refused to succumb. Emaciated and exhausted as he was, he yet unfalteringly led his regiment through that deadly tempest of shot and shell until he fell, three times wounded. After he had fallen, to those who went to assist him he would still cry, “Charge, men! Charge!” It was a Marmion scene. With much reluctance he then consented to be carried off the field of carnage. Two days later the brave soldier and Christian warrior breathed his last, and angel voices in choral strains bade his hero soul welcome to “ home, sweet home.”

Worthy to stand by the side of Colonel Smith was Major John Stewart Walker, of the 15th Virginia regiment, who closed a useful and holy life on the bloody hill of Malvern. He entered the army from a sense of duty. The pomp and circumstance of war had no charms for him apart from the principles involved. As the captain of a company, he joined the Army of the Peninsula, and nobly shared in that arduous campaign, which, opening with the battle of Bethel, closed with the evacuation of Yorktown. He was a friend and father to the young men whom he led to the war. He watched over their health and their morals, and thus gained their confidence and love. During the dreary days spent in winter quarters, he provided a library of select reading for his men, and thus relieved while he instructed and elevated their minds.


Upon the reorganization of the army, in the spring of 1862, he was elected Major of the 15th Virginia regiment, and by his firmness, valor, and Christian deportment, soon gained the hearts of the regiment. A simple but touching incident will show that the weapons of his warfare were not wholly carnal: After his death there was taken from his pocket a little volume stained on the back and leaves with his heart's blood. It was found to be a sort of Scripture Diary, containing selected passages suitable for each day in the year, with comments selected from the most eminent writers on practical religion. This little book seems to have been the constant companion of his Bible, and many of the most striking passages and comments were marked in pencil. The following are the texts marked from the 25th of June, the day before the series of battles, to the 27th, the day of the fierce conflict at Gaines' Mill. Amidst all the preparations for the death struggle his mind dwelt on spiritual things:

June 25.-But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope; for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 1 Thess. IV: 13, 14.

It is the most melancholy circumstance in the funerals of our Christian friends, when we have laid their bodies in the dark and silent grave, to go home and leave them behind; but, alas! it is not we that go home and leave them — no; it is they that are gone to the better world, and left us behind.

“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him.” Psalms XXXIV: 7.

“ In sorrow the angels are around us; they came to the Saviour in that garden of agony, where such a cup of sorrow was pressed to his lips as his people never drank, and he was strengthened. So they visit the chamber of [168] sickness, where the good man lies, and minister unto him when all earthly comforters fail. They call the saint to follow them; they take him on their wings and bear his soul to heaven.

And he went a little further and fell on his face, and prayed, saying: ‘Oh, my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’

Matt. XXVI: 39.

“ The poorest circumstances in life, with a religious spirit of resignation, are far better than the greatest abundance and highest honors without it; for these can never give that peace of mind which the other can never want.

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Matt. XVI: 30.

“ Let the world imagine to itself a magnificent Deity, whose government is only general; the Christian rejoices in his providential superintendence of the smallest matters.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Eph. VI: 17.
It was a two-edged blade,
Of heavenly temper keen,
And double were the wounds it made
Where'er it glanced between.
'Twas death to sin-'twas life
To all who mourned for sin;
It kindled and it silenced strife-
Made war and peace within.

Friday, June 27.-“And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke XVI: 27.

“Every Christian should be a martyr in spirit.”

Such were the truths upon which he stayed his soul; and sustained and comforted by them, he went calmly, [169] with God, and had the blessed assurance that he pleased him.

An officer of his regiment, who knew him long and intimately, gave the following testimony to his religion and patriotism:

Leaving his family and home early in the contest, he was always found at his post. He avoided no danger and shunned no responsibility which demanded his presence. As captain of a company, and commandant of a regiment, he won the love and confidence of his men. They knew that he would never order them where he was not willing to lead the way. When I say that duty was his watchword, I say all. The last word that I heard him utter, far in advance of his regiment, amidst a shower of shot and shell, was Forward! and with that glorious utterance for soldier or for saint, he fell pierced by a deadly ball.

It is impossible to separate his character as a soldier and as a Christian. He was a soldier because he was a Christian; and while he fought manfully against the enemies of his country, his fervent spirit labored and fought earnestly against the enemies of his Lord. The Word of God was his light in camp, and the tumult of war did not disturb his daily devotions. I believe he prayed without ceasing. and that in his last end the arms of the Everlasting One were under him.

The deadly ball that pierced his body could not pierce the panoply with which God had armed him, but he fell as a Christian should fall, with his harness on at the post of duty. He rests from his warfare.

Amidst the storm of battle this Christian warrior fell. From the field of blood his spirit ascended to heaven. How sudden, how vast, how glorious, the change! From the rush of contending hosts, from the thunder of cannon, and the fierce rattle of musketry, he rose to the joys and songs and beauteous scenes of Paradise.

The death of Lieutenant Virgil P. Shewmake, of the [170]

The death of Lieutenant Virgil P. Shewmake, of the 3d Georgia regiment, was another bright testimonial to the value of our holy religion:

Though young, having just entered his 21st year when he joined the army, none of the temptations incident to camp-life moved him from his Christian integrity and gentlemanly propriety. Severely wounded, and his right arm amputated, twenty days after the battle of Malvern Hill he breathed his last in the triumphs of Christian faith. Frequent conversations were held between himself and father on the subject of his religious hopes, and he ever concluded with, ‘If I die, tell mother and sisters to meet me in heaven.’ On the day of his death, he asked his father what he now thought of his case. With aching heart his father replied: ‘I think, my son, you will die.’ ‘How long, then, do you think I will live?’ ‘Perhaps till night, possibly through the night.’ Then, turning his face from his father, he most fervently and pathetically prayed God that, if consistent with his will, he would spare him to reach home, and once more see his dear mother and sisters. If he willed otherwise, then to bless them and his dear father with grace to live so that they might all meet him in heaven. A short time before he expired, he was seen to shudder and slightly struggle. After this, lying quiet a moment, he turned to his father, and with animation said: ‘Pa, is this death?’ who, with choking utterance, replied: ‘Yes, my son, you are dying.’ ‘Then, Pa, it is easy to die-I thought it would be hard.’ Calling his comrades who were present, he with great composure bade them all farewell, then extending his hand to his father, said: ‘ Goodbye, Pa; meet me in heaven; tell mother and sisters I have gone to heaven and to meet me there.’ A few moments after this affecting scene, he calmly, gently fell asleep in Jesus.

It is a sad yet pleasing task to record such instances of religious heroism. It shows how deep and genuine [171] was the piety that not only cheered our soldiers amidst the usual hardships of war, but sustained them in the hour of mortal agony, and opened to the eye of faith the glorious prospect of life eternal. The solemn hour of death fully tests the religious life, strips the soul, and leaves it bare to its own inspection, reveals the true character of our motives, and the real bearings of our actions upon our future destiny.

To such a test thousands in the armies of the South were brought, and clear and happy were their souls in the consciousness of duty well performed. Truly, our Christian soldiers died well.

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