This book, written by an army Chaplain in the American Confederate Army during the Civil War, outlines the revival amongst the Confederate troops in the early to mid-1860’s.
It explains the hindrances as well as the helps to the revival and then continues to give more precise details, season by season, of the revival, providing examples of God’s work amongst the men living, and dying, in extremely harsh conditions.
It gives evidence that God still works, despite the dreadful situations in which men find themselves.
To those who may struggle with the record of how God blessed those who 'rushed to arms without just cause' the author says, 'read the narrative, weigh the facts and then make up your verdict.' We have included 5 of the 25 chapters.
The late American war has no parallel in history.
When we consider the area of the contest, its gigantic proportions, the number of men under arms, the magazines of warlike stores, the sieges, the marches, the battles, the enthusiasm of the people, the discipline and valor of the soldiers, the wretchedness and desolation which followed the contending hosts, —we may in vain search the annals of the world for the record of a struggle approaching it in all the dreadful elements of war.
The American may now add to his boasts, that his country claims pre-eminence in the greatest of all national calamities—a civil war.
We have read, but now we know by experience, that war, more than all things else, reveals the angel and the demon in man.
Our composite race evinced on both sides in the struggle the special traits of its near and remote ancestors. The good and bad were strangely mingled. So it has ever been in wars, especially in wars between people of the same race. Ours gave a powerful emphasis to this sad truth.
Sincere piety, brazen wickedness; pure public virtue, sordid baseness; lofty patriotism, despicable timeserving; consecration to a sacred cause and shameless abandonment of principle, appeared in every section of the country.
To the people of the Old World the war must have been a subject of interest and wonder.
The rapid transformation of peaceful citizens into excellent soldiers must have created among them surprise, if not alarm; the ingenuity and skill displayed in the preparation of war material revealed a progress in this direction which they hardly dreamed that we had made; the steady valor of many battlefields assured them that the American veteran of twenty months was not inferior to the European veteran of twenty years.
The atrocities of the war must have shaken their faith in the sincerity of a people who subscribed the code of nations, and professed to regard the Bible as a revelation from Heaven. On the other hand, the patient endurance of hardships, toil, and all manner of privation by a people whom they had been educated to look upon as voluptuous, tyrannical, and effeminate, by reason of their peculiar institutions, must have filled them with astonishment, if not with admiration. The leading public journal of the world thus described the impression made on the European mind by the attitude of the Southern people.
“The people of the Confederate States have made themselves famous. If the renown of brilliant courage, stern devotion to a cause, and military achievements almost without a parallel, can compensate men for the toil and privations of the hour, then the countrymen of Lee and Jackson may be consoled amid their sufferings From all parts of Europe, from their enemies as well as from their friends, from those who condemn their acts as well as those who sympathize with them, comes the tribute of admiration.
“When the history of this war is written the admiration will doubtless become deeper and stronger, for the veil which has covered the South will be drawn away, and disclose a picture of patriotism, of unanimous self-sacrifice, of wise and firm administration, which we can now only see indistinctly.
“The details of that extraordinary national effort, which has led to the repulsion and almost to the destruction of an invading force of more than half a million of men will then become known to the world; and whatever may be the fate of the new nationality, or its subsequent claims to the respect of mankind, it will assuredly begin its career with a reputation for genius and valor which the most famous nations might envy.”
Such were the compliments, which the South wrung from reluctant, and opposing nationalities by the genius and ability she displayed in her struggle for independence.
But there is one aspect of the war, on the Southern side, which has been almost wholly overlooked by statesmen and politicians. We mean its religious aspect. Whatever may be the judgment of the world as to the principles on which the Southern people entered into the strife, it must be admitted that they brought with them into it, and carried with them through it, a deep and strong religious element. Their convictions of right in what they did were second only to their convictions of the truth of the Christian religion. Nor has the stern logic of events eradicated this conviction from the Southern mind. The cause is lost, but its principles still live, and must continue to live so long as there remains in human nature any perception and appreciation of justice, truth, and virtue.
The great moral phenomenon of the war was the influence and power of religion among the Southern soldiers. War is a dreadful trade, and the camp has always been regarded as the best-appointed school of vice; the more wonderful then is it to see the richest fruits of grace growing and flourishing in such a soil.
Christianity visits and reforms every grade of human society; and some of its greatest miracles of grace are wrought upon the most wicked subjects, and in the worst localities. “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;” and this blessed truth has been as fully tested amid the horrors of war as in the sweet days of peace. We do not usually consider how important the part military characters have borne in the history of our religion. True, it is not to be propagated by means of the sword; and yet many who have borne the sword have been its bright ornaments, and sometimes its most successful preachers.
The soldiers mentioned in the New Testament have great interest connected with their brief history, and some of them are models of faith and piety.
Among the anxious multitudes that flocked to the preaching of John the Baptist, there were soldiers who put in their question as well as others, “saying, and what shall we do?” To whom the Baptist replied, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” Thus from the beginning did the “men of war” receive the truth.
Was it not a Centurion, a Roman captain of a hundred men that gave that simple and beautiful illustration of his faith as he kneeled before the Saviour praying for his servant? How pure must have been his life, and how clear and strong his faith, to bring from our Lord that high commendation, “Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”
We cannot forget that amidst the darkness and horror of the crucifixion conviction seized the heart of another Roman soldier, and while the Jews derided the suffering Christ, he exclaimed, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”
It was in the house of Cornelius of the Italian band, “a devout man, that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always,” that the gospel message was opened to the heathen world. To this godly soldier an angel was sent to assure him that his “prayers and his alms had come up for a memorial before God.” On him, his family, and his “devout soldiers,” the Holy Ghost fell while Peter preached, and like as it was on the day of Pentecost, they “spake with tongues and magnified God.” Thus, at the headquarters of the “Italian band” at Caesarea was the first Church of Gentile converts established.
Centurion Julius, of “Augustus’ band,” under whose charge Paul was sent to Rome, was a kind-hearted, gallant soldier, if not a Christian; for he “entreated the Apostle courteously,” and gave him liberty, when they touched at Sidon, “to go unto his friends and refresh himself.” And when Paul and his companions were shipwrecked on the island of Malta, another soldier, “whose name was Publius,” “the chief man,” or governor, “received them and lodged them three days courteously.” It was doubtless under a deep sense of this man’s kindness that St. Paul prayed for his sick father, “and laid his hands on him and healed him.”
In every age of the Church since, soldiers have been found among the most zealous and devoted followers of the Redeemer.
When Christianity was made popular by the example and patronage of Roman Emperors, of course thousands of all classes flocked to her standard; but history also shows that every rise of the pure faith in ages of superstition and ignorance, every genuine revival, has been sustained and helped forward by military men. Among the Reformers in Germany, in France, and in England, there were “devout soldiers,” who wielded the sword of the Spirit as valiantly against the enemies of the Lord as they did the sword of war against the enemies of their country.
Whatever some may think of Oliver Cromwell, there is no doubt that he was a devout and earnest Christian, and that there was much sound religion among his invincible “Ironsides.” He talks of experimental religion as no man could who had not felt its inward and renewing power. After a number of fruitless efforts against the Royalists, he determined to rally “men of religion” to his cause, convinced that “with a set of poor tapsters and town apprentice people” he could never overcome the forces of the King. With these “men of religion” he always conquered. They marched into battle singing psalms and shouting such watchwords as, “The Lord of Hosts!” How far their invincibility was grounded in their religion, Cromwell shall judge for us: “Truly I think he that prays and preaches best will fight best. I know nothing that will give like courage and confidence as the knowledge of God in Christ will; and I bless God to see any in this army able and willing to impart the knowledge they have for the good of others.” From this unfailing source he drew the strength and wisdom so conspicuous in his own deeds. “He seldom fought without some text of Scripture to support him.”
In his reverses and victories he saw the hand of God. When his cause looked gloomy he urged his soldiers “to see if any iniquity could be found in them,” and to put away “the accursed thing.” When victory crowned his arms, he would exclaim, “This is nothing but the hand of God.” He taught his soldiers to regard themselves as the “instruments of God’s glory and their country’s good.”
In the great revival, which prevailed in England under the preaching of Whitefield, the Wesley’s, and their associates, godly soldiers bore a conspicuous part. And in America, no lay preacher was more zealous and successful than Captain Thomas Webb, of the British army. Converted under the preaching of John Wesley at Bristol, England, he soon began to recommend in public the grace, which had renewed his own heart. Afterwards in America he preached with great fervor, and as he always appeared before the people in his military dress, he attracted large crowds, and many of his hearers felt the power of the gospel proclaimed by this soldier of the Cross.
The name of Col. Gardiner is “like ointment poured forth.” Wild and profligate in early life, he strove, after his conversion, to make some amends for his sinful career by his zeal and devotion in the cause of Christ. His full influence for good only the final day will reveal. By the highborn, and the lowly, his religious power was felt and confessed. He found the army an inviting field for Christian effort, and his earnest toil was repaid with richest fruits. One of his dying dragoons said “he should have everlasting reason to bless God on Colonel Gardiner’s account, for he had been a father to him in all his interests, both temporal and spiritual.”
Such he was, to all the men under his command. He fought against every form of vice. “He often declared his sentiments with respect to profanity at the head of his regiment; and urged his captains and their subalterns to take the greatest care that they did not give the sanction of their example to it.”
For every oath a fine was imposed, and the money used to provide comforts for the sick men. Of this plan he says: “I have reformed six or seven field officers of swearing. I dine with them, and have entered them into a voluntary contract to pay a shilling to the poor for every oath; and it is wonderful to observe the effect it has had already. One of them told me this day at dinner that it had really such an influence upon him, that being at cards last night, when another officer fell a swearing, he was not able to hear it, but rose up and left the company. So, you see, restraints at first arising from a low principle, may improve into something better.”
The renown of Havelock is immortal. But not as a warrior only is he remembered. The odor of his piety and the fruits of his faith will survive the imposing monuments raised in memory of his devotion and valor. He was a brilliant light in the midst of thick darkness. His life was great in deeds of piety; his death was glorious. On a litter, in a soldier’s little tent, the stricken warrior lay. “He would allow of no attendance but that of his wounded, gallant boy, on this, the last day of his life, General Outram came to see him. The two friends had often faced death together, and passed through trying scenes side by side, and a warm affection had sprung up between them. Outram approached the side of the dying hero and inquired how he was. Havelock replied that he never should be any better, “but,” he added, “for more than forty years I have so ruled my life that when death came I might face it without fear. I am not in the least afraid. I die happy and contented; to die is gain.” Finding himself rapidly failing, he left messages for his wife and children far away on the Rhine, and “then told his son to come and see how a Christian could die.” “He sleeps on the field of his fame, and his lonely tomb, beneath the tropical grove, is hung round with unfading laurels, and never will the Christian traveler or soldier pass it without dropping one tear to him who sleeps beneath.”
Hedley Vicars was an excellent Christian soldier. In the midst of the dangers attending the hard service in the Crimea he was as peaceful and happy as if reposing quietly with his friends at home. In one of his letters from Sebastopol he says to his sister: “It is six months since I have been in reach of a house of prayer, or have had an opportunity of receiving the sacrament; yet never have I enjoyed more frequent or precious communion with my Saviour than I have found in the trenches, or in the tent. When, I should like to know, could we find the Saviour more precious than when the bullets are falling around like hail?” Again he writes: “I have often heard it said, ‘the worse man, the better soldier.’ Facts contradict this untruth. Were I ever, as the leader of a forlorn hope, allowed to select my men, it would most certainly be from among the soldiers of Christ, for who should fight so fearlessly and bravely as those to whom death presents no after terrors?”
“You should be braver than the rest of us,” said some of his brother officers to Dabney Carr Harrison, one of the heroes of the South in the late war, after witnessing some exhibition of his serene fearlessness in danger. “Why so?” said he, pleasantly. “Because,” said they, “you have everything settled for eternity. You have nothing to fear after death.” “Well, gentlemen,” he said, solemnly, after a moment’s pause, “you are right. Everything is settled for eternity; and I have nothing to fear.”
General Joseph Warren, the first eminent sacrifice in the Revolutionary war, spent two full hours in prayer the night before the battle of Bunker Hill. “When he rose from his knees, there was no anxiety on his face; all was peace and joyful trust in God. He gave a few simple directions, took a cup of coffee and a light breakfast, and left for the lines on Bunker Hill, where his life was given up, as he had prayed, a cheerful sacrifice for his country.”
The bravery of Christian soldiers in battle has been well attested. Some rigid, irreligious disciplinarians are often annoyed by the zeal of godly men in an army, but great commanders like Cromwell and Washington know how to turn this zeal to good account.
An officer once complained to General Andrew Jackson that some soldiers were making a noise in their tent. “What are they doing?” asked the General. “They are praying now, but they have been singing,” was the reply. “And is that a crime?” the General demanded. “The articles of war order punishment for any unusual noise,” was the reply. “God forbid that prayer should be an unusual noise in my camp,” said Jackson, and advised the officer to join the praying band.
In a desperate battle a pious cavalryman had his horse killed under him by a cannon ball. “Where is your God now?” exclaimed an ungodly officer near him. He replied, “Sir, he is here with me, and he will bring me out of this battle.” The next moment the officer’s head was taken off by a cannon ball. Faith in God gives true courage. A line of battle was formed, and waiting for the word to move on. “I stepped out of the line,” says a Christian soldier, “and threw myself on the ground, and prayed that God would deliver me from all fear and enable me to behave as a Christian and good soldier. Glory be to God, he heard my cry and took away all my fear. I came into the ranks again, and had both peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Another, as he marched to battle, exclaimed, in the fullness of hope, “I am going to rest in the bosom of’ Jesus!” When the day closed he was in heaven.
Such honor God puts upon his faithful servants, even amidst the sins of the camp and the horrors of the battlefield. In the Southern armies the moral miracles were as great as ever appeared among armed men since the dawn of Christianity And among the sad memories of our struggle, the recollection of the great and blessed work of grace that swept through all military grades, from the General to the drummer-boy, is “the silver lining” to the dark and heavy cloud of war that shook its terrors on our land.
THERE is a strongly marked difference between armies of invasion and armies of defence. The former are often mere bands of butchers following at the heels of some ambitious leader. But when men fight for country, kindred, and home, they bear a moral character that lifts them above mercenary motives.
Soldiers may fight bravely for glory, or for gain. We should not underrate the valor of the men that bore the standards of Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon, to so many victories; but take from such soldiers the esprit du corps, and you have left no pure and high inspiration, which makes it “sweet to die for one’s country.”
In our war the Northern people fought, as they declared, to maintain the Union as it came from the hands of the fathers; the Southern people fought for the right of self-government. The war was brought to our doors, and was waged against us with the most determined and relentless spirit. Our people were thoroughly aroused, and rushed into the army from all ranks of society. They bore with them the convictions, thoughts, and habits they had been accustomed to in peaceful life. They were citizen soldiers; and though they shook off to some extent, in the early part of the war, the influences of education and religion; yet, when dangers thickened, and disease and death thinned their ranks, these returned upon them with increasing power.
The feelings of true patriotism lie next to the higher sentiments of religion in the heart, and the man that cheerfully bears the yoke for the sake of his oppressed country will not stubbornly refuse to bear the yoke of Christ. Therefore, the patriotic fervor, which prevailed among the Southern soldiers super-induced a state of, mind highly favorable to the work of religion.
In most nations the privates of an army are “raked up from the lowest tier of human society.” Their officers look upon them as so much hone and muscle, to be wrought, by iron discipline, into a huge engine of destruction called an army.
If war is a necessary evil, why should we strip those who engage in it of the common attributes of humanity? Soldiers are more than “food for cannon.” They have like passions with other men, and may be reached by the same means that have been proved to be efficient in the salvation of other men.
Never were these divinely appointed means more fully tested than during the late civil war; and surely never were they found more effectual in turning men “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” In the midst of all the privations and horrors of war “the grace of God appeared” unto thousands and tens of thousands in the camp and in the hospital, “teaching them that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” The subjects of this revival were found among all classes in the army. Generals in high command, and officers of all lower grades, as well as private soldiers, bowed before the Lord of Hosts, and with deep penitence and earnest prayer sought the pardon of sins through the atoning blood of Christ.
Speaking of those who obeyed the call of mercy in the ranks of the army, a writer in the midst of the war exclaims: “We cannot express our feelings while we think of them. Glorious fruits of the grace of God are these men that have been ‘born again’ on fields of blood. They left their homes for battle with a desperate foe— they entered into associations and upon scenes, by universal consent, the most unfavorable to piety; but the ever-blessed Saviour went with them; listening to ten thousand fervent prayers, he revived his work and made the still, small voice to be heard amid the thunder of war. It is a sublime expression of mercy.”
In contemplating such a revival, we naturally look at its subjects with deep interest. Who were they? What were they? What characteristics did those men present, who were lions in the day of battle, and yet wept and beat their breasts in great sorrow when they thought of their sins?
Is there not something peculiar in these men who are converted while they stand guard, or lie in their rifle-pits, or sit by their campfires, through the dismal, rainy nights? These men that walk their beats filled with the love of God, and shout his praises in the thunder of battle?
We have already referred to the patriotic fervor that pervaded the Southern armies. In addition to this, our camps were blessed from the outbreak of the strife with moral and religious men who never forgot their obligations to God. The army had in it every class of believers, from the bishop to the neophyte. Preachers, students of divinity, Sunday-school teachers and scholars, elders, deacons, vestrymen. Class-leaders, stewards, exhorters—men from all the official grades of all the denominations of Christians took up arms and swelled the ranks of the army.
Some of these, alas! Castaway the “pearl of great price,” others suffered its luster to be dimmed, but the majority kept it bright and untarnished throughout the dreadful ordeal. The influence of such men in the worst of armies would be powerful for good; how great it must have been among such soldiers as marched under the Southern banner! It has been well observed that “no Christian soldier can pass through a campaign, and exemplify the Christian tempers and qualities looked for in a follower of Christ, without dropping seeds of saving grace into some minds and hearts that will culminate in everlasting life.”
The irreligious men who were blessed with these godly examples were not strangers to their pious comrades. They were often from the same town, county, or district, and at home had felt the same religious power that was brought to bear upon them in the army. The gospel preached in the camp was not a new sound to them, nor were the words of prayer a strange language. It was home-like to meet for the worship of God, and not infrequently the same minister whom they had known in their distant homes lifted up his voice among them “in the wilderness,” and called them to repentance. How often were scenes like the following witnessed among the rough-looking men in “gray jackets,” who crowded the “log chapels” to hear the glad tidings of salvation. Rev. Dr. Sehon, writing of his labors among the soldiers in General Lee’s army, says:
“A most interesting incident occurred during the exercises of the evening:
“A request was made for a Bible for the stand. Several were ready to respond. The book was received from a tall and interesting looking young man. I noticed his large blue eyes and attractive face as he came forward and placed the holy book before me. Instantly his home rose before me. I fancied how father, mother, brothers, sisters, felt when he left, and how they thought of and prayed for him. While lining the hymn I turned to the title page of the Bible and then my eyes were filled with tears. On the blank leaves were written the parting words of love and affection of the dear ones at home, with the kind advice and earnest prayers for the safety and happiness of the owner of the book. I closed the book with feelings of most sacred character, and was far better prepared, by this simple incident, for the solemn services of the hour. In the course of the sermon, I remarked that they were now peculiarly the subjects of earnest prayer and anxious solicitude. That for them, at this very hour, prayer from many a heart and home-altar was ascending to God—that as in the volume I then held in my hand, which had been laid on the table by my unknown young friend, so each had with him a similar silent, yet painful witness of the anxiety, devotion and prayers, as pledged in these sacred gifts of their loved ones at home—that they should now pray themselves to their heavenly Father and engage earnestly in his service.
“There was a low and gentle wail which came up from that weeping crowd like the mournful sounds of the passing breeze through the lofty pines of the distant forest.”
The intelligence and social position of the Confederate soldiers were higher than we usually find in large bodies of troops. The private at home was often equal, and sometimes superior in social status to the officer that led him, and did not forget the claims of good breeding after he entered the army. “I am proud to say it for Confederate soldiers,” said the venerable Dr. Lovick Pierce, of Georgia, “that for a long time while traveling with hundreds and thousands of them on all the railroads used for transportation, I have heard less profane language issuing from them than I have ever heard from any promiscuous crowd of travelers in all my journeying. It is a well-earned fame, and deserves an imperishable record. Most of them seem to belong to the gentleman stock.”
Said the Rev. J. M. Atkinson: “The talent, the energy, patriotism—and now, it would seem, the piety of the country is, for the most part, to be found in the army. One of the most remarkable manifestations of this time, and of the war, is the character of our armies. It is unlike that of any soldiers known in history. In religious fervor, in intelligent patriotism, they resemble the best troops of the English Commonwealth, when least infected with fanatical rancor and selfish ambition. But in refinement, in urbanity, in education, in simplicity of purpose, in intelligent appreciation of the questions involved and the interests at stake, and above all, in Christian sensibility, at once kindly and fervent, catholic and deep, it is incomparably superior to the best soldiers of Cromwell’s army. The reciprocal feeling, which binds our armies to our people, and our people to our armies, is another peculiarity of this time and this contest. Our soldiers are not foreign mercenaries, fighting for plunder or pay; not worthless adventurers, fighting for fame or power; not religious fanatics or partisan warriors, battling for a name or a man. But their hearts are still in their homes. The cherished images of their dear parents, their wives and children, are still before them. They are fighting with resolute and tenacious power, with generous and self-sacrificing valor.”
On the souls of such men the truths of the gospel rested with saving power. And even the most wicked and reckless among them were often readily impressed and easily led into the ways of virtue and religion.
“At the commencement of the war,” wrote an officer, “I organized a company of cavalry. My men were taken from all grades of society; the very great majority, however, were wicked and profane. I soon found that it would require very prompt action on my part if I wished to wield a moral influence over them. I had told them from the first that I should not permit gambling in their tents, and I would require them, when off duty on the Sabbath, to observe it as the Lord’s Day. When we had been out but a few months, one night, after I had gone to rest, I was aroused by one of my faithful boys (poor fellow, he afterwards fell a victim to the Yankees’ bullet), who informed me that a number of my men, with others from another company, were gambling in one of the tents. At once I repaired to the place and caught them in the very act. I told them with some warmth that they knew I was opposed to gambling, and that I was sorry to find so many of them doing that which I had forbidden; that I would not consent to command a set of blacklegs and blackguards; that they must look about for some other person to take charge of them, unless they would consent to burn those cards and promise me never again to engage in the game whilst members of my company. The leader, who was dealing the cards at the time, threw them down, remarking, ‘We want no other captain.’ The others assented. The cards were destroyed, their visitors left, and I never after caught them at cards or heard of their joining in this wicked practice.”
The armies of the South were homogeneous. There were but a few thousand foreigners at any time in the Confederate ranks. Hence, there was but little of that beastliness and brutality displayed which marked the foreign mercenaries in the opposing armies. Our forces were strictly Native American, of the Southern type, and while they exhibited to a mournful extent the peculiar vices of their race, they also manifested the respect and reverence of their race for all the ordinances and institutions of religion. For, whatever may be thought or said of the Southern people through ignorance or prejudice, one thing is certainly true, that their religious sentiments are deep and strong. And another thing is equally true, that among them there have been fewer departures from the great cardinal doctrines of the Scriptures than among any other people in Christendom. The four or five leading Christian denominations, which occupy the South, have never been seriously disturbed by any of those false theories, which, among other people, have drawn away thousands from the true faith.
Itinerant venders of the various “isms” of the age have found a poor market for their wares among the people of the South. Hence, among the subjects of the army revival there was not found a strange jumble of opinions, which had to be cleared from the mind before the simple truths of the gospel could have their full effect.
The heroic men on whom God shed forth his Holy Spirit so abundantly and gloriously are well described in the following extracts:
The Rev. James A. Duncan, U. U., draws this striking picture of the private soldier in the Confederate army:
“If the private soldier be a true man, there is something of moral sublimity in his conduct that attracts our highest admiration. And yet how apt some people are to forget him. There is no star on his collar, no glittering ornament on his arm; but his plain gray jacket may enclose as noble a heart as ever throbbed in a human breast, or thrilled with patriotic devotion on the day of battle. In sleepless vigilance he paces his sentinel watch during the long hours and gloom of night, while the quiet stars shed their soft light on his musket, or the storm and rain beat pitilessly down on his shivering body and weary head. Look at him in battle at his gun, begrimed with powder, weary, hungry, almost exhausted; yet the fire gleams in his fearless eye as he rams home the charge, or sights his piece at the foe. ‘Forward’ is the command along the line, and you can see him as he brings his musket to a charge and dashes on to the very muzzles of the death-dealing guns to win the day or die in the attempt.
“Kneel down by him, when, wounded and dying, he lies there on the field of victory while the life-blood flows from his heart. He speaks to you—but not a murmur, not a complaint escapes his lips—taking the locket from his neck and the Bible from his bosom, he tells you to give them to some dear one at home, and say that he died bravely for his country. Or, if he be not mortally wounded, accompany him to the hospital, and watch his fortitude and patience while in the hands of the surgeon. See how he suffers, and yet a general could not bear it better.
“The private soldier! His is the coarse fare, hard march, weary fight—the drudgery and the hardships are his!
“There is something as inspiriting in his cheerfulness in the camp as there is grand in his heroism on the field. Now he is a house carpenter building him a shanty, then a dirt dauber constructing a mud chimney. Now he is a cook frying “middling” on the coals and baking bread on a piece of bark set up before the fire. Now he is washer-man, and has stripped off his only shirt to have it done up, that he may enjoy a clean garment. In a word, he is a wonderful creature, that PRIVATE SOLDIER—he is cook, washer-woman, carpenter, tent-maker, Wagoner, pedestrian, clerk, butcher, baker, market huckster, groom, stable-boy, blacksmith, scout, anything and everything a man can or must be in camp, and then he wins a battle and gives the glory to his officer. We like him. His rich, ringing shout, and his merry, loud laugh makes music of a manly, stirring sort. His wit is as original as it is amusing. It is amusing to hear him, as his regiment passes through a town where hundreds of well-grown exempts stand on the sidewalk, ‘Fall in, boys! now is your time—ain’t going to fight soon?’ Or to hear the mock sympathy with which he exclaims, ‘Boys, ain’t you almost big enough yet? Never mind, if you ain’t but twenty-five years old, come along with big brother, he will take care of you.’ On seeing a fellow dressed up in fine clothes, he cries out, ‘Come out of them clothes; I see you, conscript; tain’t worth while ahiding in them clothes.’ Another will exclaim, ‘Here’s your musket; I brought it ‘specially’ for you; beautiful thing to tote; just fit your shoulder!’
“He moves our sympathies perhaps yet more while we look at him alone in his tent, or by the camp-fire, holding in his hand the letter from home. We cannot decipher the sacred contents, but we are at no loss to know its effect upon the soldier as he folds up the precious letter which the hand of affection has traced with words of love, fond remembrance, and anxious hopes, and brushes away the tear that has unbidden come in testimony of the memories that have been awakened.”
And the following from the pen of Rev. R. H. Rivers, D. D., is not less eloquent and truthful:
“The model Confederate soldier is a patriot. He loves his country with a deep and all-absorbing passion. He sees its broad acres desolated, its towns and cities sacked and burned, its noble women insulted and exiled, its venerable men driven from happy homes to pine in penury, its priests torn down from their pulpits and altars to languish in criminals’ cells, its churches desecrated, and the very graves of his sires disturbed.
“Yes, the Confederate soldier is a patriot; it is for this he wields the sword and shoulders the musket; it is for this he surrenders home, bids adieu to all its hallowed associations, and undergoes the hardships of the camp, the fatigues of the march, the privations of the soldier, and the perils of battle.
“He is brave. He marches without fear to the brink of death. The booming of cannon, the shrill sound of rifle and musketry, the clash of arms, the smoke of battle, the groans of the wounded, and the fallen corpses of the dead, inspire him with no terror. Brave, but not reckless, he would stand, if need be, in the very front of the battle, facing danger and braving death. Such is true courage, and it is possessed in all its plenitude by the model soldier.
“He is obedient to his superiors. Obedience is a high duty of the soldier. Accustomed almost from infancy to command, and altogether unused too much of the hard and servile labor which devolves upon him in the army, he feels that it is a high virtue now to obey. Disobedience would be ruinous to the cause; insubordination must bring defeat to our arms, and subjugation or extermination. This he sees, and however hard the labor, however humiliating the work, however severe the task, however perilous the undertaking, he goes forward doing his duty, obeying orders, and exerting an influence as extensive as our armies and as potent, though quiet as ‘Heaven’s first law.’ A private in the ranks—his name unheralded, and his deeds, his noble deeds, unsung—he exerts an influence, by his cheerful obedience, as gentle as the dews of heaven, as pure as the alembic from which they are distilled, and as fragrant as the flowers on which they fall.”
These are portraits from friendly hands. Let us look at two others drawn by those who were then ranked among our enemies.
The first is a picture by a Federal soldier of the “Pennsylvania Reserves,” who since the war has published a book entitled; “Our Boys.” lie is describing the conversations that often took place between the Northern and Southern soldiers during a brief armistice:
“In one of those conversations that the soldiers of both armies so frequently took with the Potomac rolling between them, the following occurred:
“May we ask,” inquired the Federal soldier, “to what regiment you belong?”
“Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry.”
“You are one of its officers?”
“Yes; If am Captain of Company C. My name is Andrew L. Pitzer.”
“To repeat all the conversation that followed would be a task indeed. The war was talked of—the soldier’s life was discussed. Jokes were perpetrated freely; but one little circumstance occurred during the conversation, which made an impression on my mind that time can never efface. It was as follows:
“One of our boys held up a pack of cards, and called out:
“Do you know what this is?”
“Several other rebels had by this time joined the officer, who acted as spokesman, and continued to carry on the conversation.
“I cannot see what it is at this distance,’ he replied.
“I’ll tell you,” said the owner.
“The history of the Four Kings,” was the significant reply.
“Oh! Yes—that’s—yes—I understand now. Cards, If believe.”
“May If show you the history I read?” asked the rebel.
“Yes, sir, if you please.”
Placing his hand to his breast, the rebel officer drew from a side-pocket the most blessed of all books, a small Bible. Ah! What a reproach! Not that it was meant as a reproach, for it was done with the innocence and simplicity of a child; but to witness such an exhibition of superior morals in one upon whom we looked as being a rebel—an insurgent—was truly abasing. How I should like to know whether he is yet living. Many on our side, who came to the rocky brink and conversed with him on that day of armistice, have passed away forever.
“I do not remember who the soldier was that exhibited the pack of cards to the rebel officer; but there is one thing I do remember, and that is, that he felt the reproof so sensibly, that, after standing for a moment gazing vacantly upon the cards as he held them in his hand, and listlessly twisting the corners, he threw them over the brink, and away they went sailing and fluttering as they slowly descended to the green waters many a fathom below.”
The second picture is from Rev. Dr. Bellows, and was drawn by him at the Unitarian Convention, which met in the city of New York in the midst of the war. He gave his views of “Southern social life,” and the influences proceeding from it, thus:
“No candid mind will deny the peculiar charm of Southern young men at College, or Southern young women in society. How far race and climate, independent of servile institutions, may have produced the Southern chivalric spirit and manner, I will not here consider. But one may as well deny the small feet and hands of that people, as deny a certain inbred habit of command; a contempt of life in defence of honor or class; a talent for political life, and an easy control of inferiors. Nor is this merely an external and flashy heroism. It is real. It showed itself in Congress early, and always by the courage, eloquence, skill and success with which it controlled majorities. It showed itself in the social life of Washington, by the grace, fascination and ease, the free and charming hospitality by which it governed society. It now shows itself in England and France, by the success with which it manages the courts and the circles of literature and fashion in both countries. It shows itself in this war, in the orders and proclamations of its generals, in the messages of the rebel Congress, and the essential good breeding and humanity (contrary to a diligently encouraged public, impression) with which it not seldom divides its medical stores, and gives our sick and wounded as favorable care as it is able to extend to its own. It exceeds us at this moment in the possession of ambulance corps.
“I think the war must have increased the respect felt by the North for the South. Its miraculous resources, the bravery of its troops, their patience under hardships, their unshrinking firmness in the desperate position they have assumed, the wonderful success with which they have extemporized manufactures and munitions of war, and kept themselves in relation with the world in spite of our magnificent blockade; the elasticity with which they have risen from defeat, and the courage they have shown in threatening again and again our capital, and even our interior, cannot fail to extort an unwilling admiration and respect. Well is Gen. McClellan reported to have said (privately), as he watched their obstinate fighting at Antietam, and saw them retiring in perfect order in the midst of the most frightful carnage ‘What terrible neighbors these would be! We must conquer them, or they will conquer us!”
OUR soldiers, though worthy of the eulogies we have recorded, did not escape the vices of a military life. In the first months of the strife the call of the war trumpet was heard above all other sounds. The young men rushed to the camps of instruction; and, freed from the restraints of home, and the influence of pious relatives, thousands of them gave way to the seductive influences of sin.
Legions of devils infest a camp. Vice grows in it like plants in a hot bed, and yields abundant and bitter fruits. “In the Old Testament it is said, ‘one sinner destroyeth much good.’ If so, what destruction of good must be effected by a large body of ungodly soldiers in close and constant contact, where one may, without extravagance, consider them as inoculating each other daily with the new infection of every debauch through which they pass.”
The “strong man armed” keeps watch and ward over a camp of soldiers, and is not overcome and cast out without a tremendous struggle.
All that can hinder a work of grace confronted the revival in our army. Before the “soldiers of Christ” addressed themselves in earnest to the work, gambling, profanity, drunkenness, and other kindred vices, prevailed to an alarming extent.
The temptation to recklessness is strong among all soldiers. Religion is supposed to be well suited to the pursuits of peaceful life, but not to rough, uncertain army life.
“We are led by custom,” says the celebrated Adam Smith, “to annex the character of gaiety, levity, and sprightly freedom, as well as of some degree of dissipation, to the military profession. Yet, if we were to consider what mood or tone of temper would be most suitable to this situation, we should be apt to determine, perhaps, that the most serious and thoughtful turn of mind would best become those whose lives are continually exposed to uncommon danger, and who should, therefore, be more constantly occupied with the thoughts of death and its consequences than other men. It is this very circumstance, however, which is not improbably the occasion why the contrary turn of mind prevails so much among men of this profession. It requires so great an effort to conquer the fear of death, when we survey it with steadiness and attention, that those who are constantly exposed to it find it easier to turn away their thoughts from it altogether, to wrap themselves up in careless security and indifference, and to plunge themselves, for this purpose, into every sort of amusement and dissipation. A camp is not the element of a thoughtful or melancholy man; persons of that cast, indeed, are often abundantly determined, and are capable, by a great effort, of going on with inflexible resolution to the most unavoidable death. But to be exposed to continual, though less imminent danger, to be obliged to exert, for a long time, a degree of this effort exhausts and depresses the mind and renders it incapable of all happiness and enjoyment.
“The gay and careless, who have occasion to make no effort at all, who fairly resolve never to look before them, but to lose in continual pleasure and amusement all anxiety about their situation, more easily support such circumstances.”
This is the language of a very eminent philosopher. There is truth and error in it. This effort on the part of the soldier to turn away his thoughts from death is only the more open manifestation of his former indifference to the truth. It is sad, indeed, to think that great dangers are often made the occasion and excuse for great neglect of our highest interests. The philosopher overlooks the great means of overcoming the fear of death—” Repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.” This sustains the soul with the strength of God, and gives the assurance of eternal happiness.
This reckless spirit, we must admit, greatly prevailed, and was much encouraged by many who had been long in the military profession, and brought with them into our armies the vicious habits of many years of sin.
The general demoralization, which spread over the country, was a great barrier to the progress of the truth. War brings all evils in its train; and though founded in justice and right, and conducted on the highest principles of civilization, will leave its frightful marks on every feature of society. In the Revolutionary War good men shuddered at the evils which overspread the land.
“Ignorance of God and divine things greatly prevails. Unbelief, hardness of heart, worldly-mindedness, covetousness, hypocrisy, a loathing of the heavenly manna, almost universally prevail. Many count gain to be godliness, and the most part are seeking each one his gain from his quarter.
“There is a grievous inattention to religion and virtue among our civil rulers, which, nevertheless, are the only permanent foundation of good order in civil society; while a gospel ministry is neglected by those who ought immediately to support it.
“Whoredom, adultery, and all the lusts of the flesh, defile our country. Horrid profanation of the sacred word of God, perjury, violation of the holy Sabbath, neglect of secret and family religion, and of relative duties. Pride, hatred, malice, envy, revenge, fraud, injustice, gaming, wantonness, extortion, and dissipation, have come in like a flood—and all this while we are under the chastening hand of God.”
Such was the work of sin during one of the holy wars of the world.
In some sections of the South during the late war the state of morals was almost as bad—nay, we might say, fully as bad. “Many churches,” writes one, “are vacant, their ministers having gone to the war. Most of our Sunday-schools are disorganized, and but few, I fear, will be revived until the war closes. Intemperance and profanity abound, and are fearfully on the increase. Religion is at the lowest ebb. Such a thing as the conversion of souls seems scarcely to enter into the mind of either clergy or laity.”
Some may think this picture overdrawn, but there are thousands of living witnesses who can attest its correctness.
Among the soldiers the great, overshadowing evils were lewdness, profanity, and drunkenness; among the people at home, the “greed of gain” was the “accursed thing.”
It was a melancholy fact that many men entered the army the avowed enemies of all intoxicating drinks who alas! Very soon fell victims to the demon of the bottle. With many there seemed to be a conviction that the fatigue and exposure of their new mode of life could not be endured without the artificial stimulant of ardent spirits. This was a great and fatal error. The soldier does not need, even in the worst climates, and in the hardest service, his rations of rum.
Carefully collected and arranged statistics, prepared by the sanitary officers of the British Army, through a space of thirty years, establish the following facts:
“1. That the total abstinence regiments can endure more labor, more cold, more heat, more exposure, and more privations, than those who have their regular grog ration.
“2. That they are less liable to fevers, fluxes, pleurisies, colds, chills, rheumatisms, jaundice, and cholera, than other regiments.
“3. That when attacked by any of these diseases their recovery is much more certain and speedy.
“4. That they are much more readily aroused from the effects of concussions and severe wounds, and are far less liable to lockjaw, or mortification after wounds.
“5. That only about six in the temperance regiments die, from all causes, to ten of the other regiments.”
These facts were collected from various fields of observation: Africa, Canada, Greenland, the East Indies, West Indies, and the Crimea.
Robert Southey wrote the following to a kinsman, a lieutenant in the British Army:
“General Peche, an East Indian officer here, told me that in India the officers who were looking out for preferment, and who kept lists of all above them, always marked those who drank any spirits on a morning with an X, and reckoned them for nothing. ‘One day,’ said he, ‘when we were about to march at daybreak, I and Captain were in my tent, and we saw a German of our regiment. So I said we’d try him; we called to him, said it was a cold morning, and asked him if he would take a glass to warm him. I got him a full beaker of brandy and water, and he drank it off. When he was gone, I said, ‘Well, what do you think? We may cross him, mayn’t we?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ said he, ‘cross him by all means.’ And the German did not live twelve months.’”
It is related of the Duke of Wellington, that during the peninsular war he heard that a large magazine of wine lay in his line of march. He feared more for his men from barrels of wine than from batteries of cannon, and instantly dispatched a body of troops to knock every wine-cask on the head.
General Havelock, in speaking of the forbearance of his troops after storming the city of Ghunzee in Affganistan, says: “The self-denial, mercy, and generosity of the hour were, in a great degree, to be attributed to the fact that the European soldiers had not received spirit rations for several weeks, and that they found no intoxicating liquors among the plunder of the city. Since, then, it has been proved that troops can make forced marches of forty miles, and storm a fortress in twenty-five minutes without the aid of rum, let it not henceforth be argued that distilled liquors are an indispensable portion of a soldier’s ration.”
The cause of Christ was hindered, and that of Satan promoted in the Southern armies by the influence and example of wicked and licentious officers and men.
One who had observed the course of intemperance in the army wrote:
“The prevalence of vice, —drunkenness and profanity in our camps—is attributable to the officers themselves. By far the larger number of the officers of our Southern army are both profane and hard drinkers, where they are not drunkards.”
Another says: “There is an appalling amount of drunkenness in our army. More among the officers than the men. This evil is now on the increase.”
A surgeon writing from the army says: “I was greatly astonished to find soldiers in Virginia whom I had known in Georgia as sober, discreet citizens—members of the different churches—some deacons, and official members—even preachers, in the daily and constant habit of drinking whiskey for their health.”
An officer who had visited many portions of the army gave it as his opinion that with the exception of the reverse at Fort Donelson, we were defeated not by the Federals but by whiskey.
A distinguished General is said to have remarked that “if the South is overthrown, the epitaph should be ‘Died of Whiskey.”‘
This was one of the giant evils. Hundreds all over the land, moved by an unholy desire for gain, engaged in the manufacture of ardent spirits. It was estimated that in one county in Virginia, and that not one of the largest, the distillers, in one year, consumed 31,000 bushels of grain, enough to furnish 600 families with food for the same period. While the commissioners, appointed by the court of that county to procure grain to feed the families of soldiers, could not purchase enough for that purpose, the smoke of fifty distilleries darkened the air; meanwhile, the cries of the poor mothers and helpless children went up in vain for bread.
The same was the case in other States. In one District in South Carolina 150 distilleries were in operation. A gentleman in North Carolina said he could count from one hilltop the smoke of 14 distilleries. One of the Richmond papers declared that a single distiller in that city made at one period of the war a profit of $4,000 a day.
In Augusta County, Va., it was estimated that 60,000 bushels of grain were consumed monthly by the distilleries in operation there.
A writer on this subject estimated that in the second year of the war 1,600 barrels, or 64,000 gallons of ardent spirits, of the worst sort, were daily manufactured in the Confederate States.
Men who flourish and grow rich in such business forget the counsel of Lord Bacon, to “seek only such gains as they can get justly, use soberly distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly.”
The temptation to drink in the army was very strong; men were cast down in spirit, away from home, wife, children, mothers and sisters, all that makes life dear. Many that ventured to drink at all under such circumstances found it hard to avoid excesses.
But this evil was not confined to the soldiers. In the councils of the General government and State governments its baleful influence was felt. And some bold, stupid men declared “they had never heard of anything great being accomplished in war without the aid of whiskey.”
Such a remark could not have been made in seriousness; it was the senseless babbling of some wretched votary of Bacchus.
The best and ablest officers of the army sought by example and by precept to suppress this vice; and the following noble language from General Bragg is a sample of the general orders issued from time to time against the evils, which infested our armies:
“Commanders of all grades are earnestly called upon to suppress drunkenness by every means in their power. It is the cause of nearly every evil from which we suffer; the largest portion of our sickness and mortality results from it; our guard-houses are filled by it; officers are constantly called from their duties to form court-martials in consequence of it; inefficiency in our troops, and consequent danger to our cause, is the inevitable result. No one is benefited but the miserable wretch who is too cowardly to defend a country he is willing to sell, by destroying those noble faculties lie has never possessed. Gallant soldiers should scorn to yield to such temptations— and intelligent and honorable officers should set them an example. They should be encouraged to send to their families at home the pay they receive for their services, instead of wasting it in their own destruction, and at the risk of the holy cause in which they are engaged. Small as the amount is. It will cause many a dear one to rise up and call them blessed.
“‘Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine to those that be of heavy hearts,’—but for us, the glorious cause in which we are engaged should furnish all the excitement and enthusiasm necessary for our success.”
When ardent spirits were offered to our great warrior Jackson, in his last illness, as a medicine, he exclaimed, “Give me pure water and milk.” And among the soldiers there were many that followed the example of this great leader.
An occasional instance of moral heroism appeared amidst the wreck and ruin wrought by indulgence in strong drink:
“A little drummer-boy in one of our regiments,” says an army correspondent, “who had become a great favorite with many of the officers by his unremitting good nature, happened on one occasion to be in the officers’ tent, when the bane of the soldiers’ life passed around. A captain handed a glass to the little fellow, but he refused it, saying, ‘I am a cadet of temperance, and do not taste strong drink.’ ‘But you must take some now—I insist on it. You belong to our mess today and cannot refuse.’ Still the boy stood firm on the rock of total abstinence, and held fast to his integrity. The Captain, turning to the Major, said, ‘H— is afraid to drink; and he will never make a soldier.’ ‘How is this?’ said the Major, playfully; and then assuming another tone, added—’ I command you to take a drink, and you know it is death to disobey orders.’ The little hero, raising his young form to its full height, and fixing his clear blue eyes, lit up with unusual brilliancy, on the face of the officer, said, ‘Sir, my father died a drunkard; and when I entered the army I promised my dear mother on my bended knees that, by the help of God, I would not taste a drop of rum, and I mean to keep my promise. I am sorry to disobey orders, sir, but I would rather suffer than disgrace my mother and break my temperance pledge.”‘
This boy hero, and thousands of others, have had reason to make the following thrilling lines the expression of their abhorrence of drunkenness:
“A young lady who was in the habit of writing considerably and in stirring tones on the subject of temperance, was in her writings so full of pathos, and evinced such deep emotion of soul, that a friend accused her of being a maniac on the subject of temperance, whereupon she wrote the following:
“Go feel what I have felt,
Go bear what I have borne—
Sink ‘neath a blow a father dealt,
And the cold world’s proud scorn;
Then suffer on, from year to year,
Thy sole relief, the scalding tear.
Go kneel as I have knelt,
Implore, beseech, and pray—
Strive the besotted heart to melt,
The downward course to stay,
Be dashed with bitter curse aside,
Your prayers burlesqued, your tears defied.
“Go weep as I have wept,
O’er a loved father’s fall,
See every promised blessing swept—
Youth’s sweetness turned to gall—
Life’s fading flowers strewed all the way
That brought me up to woman’s day.
Go see what I have seen,
Behold the strong man bow,
With gnashing teeth, lips bathed in blood,
And cold and livid brow;
Go catch his withering glance, and see
There pictured his soul’s misery.
“Go to thy mother’s side,
And her crushed bosom cheer;
Thine own deep anguish hide,
Wipe from her cheek the bitter tear,
Mark her worn frame and withering brow,
The gray that streaks her dark hair now—
With fading frame and trembling limb;
And trace the ruin back to him,
Whose plighted faith in early youth
Promised eternal love and truth,
But who, foresworn, hath yielded up,
That promise to the cursed cup;
That led her down through love and light,
And all that made her prospects bright,
And chained her there, ‘mid want and strife,
That lowly thing, a drunkard’s wife—
And stamped on childhoods brow so mild,
That withering blight, the drunkard’s child.
“Go bear, and see, and know,
All that my soul hath felt and known,
Then look upon the wine-cup’s glow,
See if its beauty can atone—
Think if its flavor you will try:
When all proclaim, ‘tis drink and die!
Tell me I HATE the bowl—
Hate is a feeble word,
I loath—ABHOR—my very soul
With strong disgust is stirred
When I see, or hear, or tell,
Of the dark BEVERAGE OF HELL
But the revival had other foes to fight besides the beastly devil of intemperance.
History teaches that periods of great national calamity are marked by great public demoralization. Our war gave powerful witness to this sad truth. Worldly-mindedness, a vaunting pride, relaxation of morals, self-seeking, desperate gambling, hard-heartedness, and a host of other evils flourished amidst the woes and wants and consuming sorrows of the war.
But perhaps the most prominent, and in view of the condition of the country, the most appalling evil was the eager greed of gain which fostered a widespread and cruel spirit of extortion.
If there ever was a time when the apostolic warning, that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” received a full confirmation among any people, it was in those mournful days of the Confederacy when, in all the avenues of trade, and even close on the rear of our war-stricken, but unfaltering army, like a dreadful portent, the extortioners sat, croaking day and night their horse-leech cry, Give! Give!
All, classes, all trades, all professions, and both sexes alas! Seemed infected by the foul contagion. So universal was the practice of cutting out the “pound of flesh,” that whenever an exception occurred it was thought worthy of special notice in all the public prints, and was referred to in the pulpits as an instance of one, at least, in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
This cursed lust of gain, this Shylock exaction, more than all things else, embarrassed the Government, impaired public credit, depreciated the currency, caused great distress among the poorer classes, sowed the seeds of disaffection broadcast over the land, and finally broke the spirit of the people and the army.
The pitiful fallacy about the inexorable “laws of trade,” which some, retaining a slight degree of sensitiveness, plead as an apology for extortion, the merest tyro in political economy would hardly think of applying to a besieged city, or a country closed by blockade against the commerce of the world.
The evils, which hung like an incubus on the South, and finally, with the help of heavy Northern legions, laid her banners in the dust, and her hopes in the grave, were faithfully portrayed by many patriotic citizens who watched the progress of events.
The following extract from a discourse delivered in the city of Richmond during the war by Rev. Dr. Moore, of the Presbyterian Church, gives a dark but truthful picture of the times:
“There are evils inevitable to war from which we cannot expect to escape. We must expect to find personal ambition in the guise of patriotism; itch for office, with its horse-leech cry of “give, give;” favoritism and nepotism, by which the sons, relations and friends of those in office will be placed over the heads of better and older men, who are unable to command this kind of patronage, and must, therefore, drudge in humbler and harder positions; wastefulness in the use of public funds and the granting of public contracts; blunders in movements, both civil and military, that are hard to explain; provoking circumstances and red-tape delays in the transaction of public business; insolence and petty tyranny in men raised from obscurity, and dressed in a little brief authority, who lord it with arrogance and sometimes with cruelty over braver and better men placed under their command; heartless brutality in drunken surgeons and drunken nurses allowing sick men to pine and suffer, and even to die from sheer and inexcusable neglect; drunkenness in the ranks, as well as among the officers, preparing many a gallant man for disgrace and defeat in battle, and a drunkard’s grave when the war is ended; profanity, gambling, pillage and speculation at least in small matters. All these evils are well-nigh inevitable in a time of war, with our poor fallen nature as it is, and can only be diminished by looking to that God before whom we bow this day in reverent supplication.”
Sins so enormous and prevalent, spreading like dark clouds over all the land, and casting their deep shadows on our brightest hopes, aroused the faithful in all the Churches to the most earnest efforts against the rising tide of iniquity. The pulpits, and the religious and secular press, warned the people of the rocks on which the ship of State was fast drifting. In the general assemblies of all the evangelical Churches, the most decisive measures were adopted, with a view to bring about a thorough reformation among our people.
At the Bible Convention in the city of Augusta, Ga., composed of the leading ministers and laymen of the different Christian denominations, Bishop Pierce, of that State, in an able discourse, depicted the condition of public morals in the following language:
“The history of the world confirms the testimony of the Bible as to the moral dangers of accumulated treasure. Wealth is favorable to every species of wickedness. Luxury, licentiousness of mariners, selfishness, and indifference to the distresses of others, presumptuous confidence in our own resources—these are the accompaniments of affluence, whenever the safeguards of the Divine word, both as to the mode of increase and proper use, are disregarded. As to the higher forms of character and civilization, unless regulated and sanctified by Scripture truth and principle, opulence has always been one of the most active causes of individual degeneracy and of national corruption. Under the influence of its subtle poison, moral principle decays; Patriotism puts off its nobility and works for hire; Bribery corrupts the judgment-seat, and Justice is blinded by gifts; Benevolence suppresses its generous impulses, and counts its contributions by fractions; Religion, forgetting the example of its Author and the charity of its mission, pleads penury, and chafes at every opportunity for work or distribution; Covetousness devours widows’ houses and grows sleek on the bread of orphans; Usury speculates on Providence and claims its premium, alike from suffering poverty and selfish extravagance; Extortion riots upon the surplus of the rich and the scrapings of the poor, enlarges its demand as necessity increases, and, amid impoverishment, want, and public distress, whets its appetite for keener rapine, and, with unseated desire, laps the last drop from its victim and remorselessly sighs for more. The world counts gain as godliness, prosperity as virtue, fraud as talent; and money, MONEY, MONEY, is the god of the land, with every house for a temple, every field for an altar, and every man for a worshipper. The Church, infected by popular example, adopts the maxims of men, grades the wages of her servants by the minimum standard, pays slowly and gives grudgingly, and stands guard over her treasures, as if Providence were a robber, and they who press the claims of Heaven came to cheat and steal.
“Whenever the conservative laws of accumulation and distribution, as prescribed in the Bible, are ignored, then not only does the love of money stimulate our native depravity, but the hoarded gain furnishes facilities for uncommon wickedness. The attendant evils are uniform they have never failed in the history of the past. When commerce, manufactures, and agriculture, pour in their treasures, then, without the counteracting power of Scripture truth and Gospel grace, they infallibly breed the sins, which have been, under God, the executioners of nations. Such is the suicidal influence of unsanctified wealth, that the greater the prosperity of a people the shorter the duration. The virulence of the maladies super induced destroy suddenly, and that without remedy. Now, mark how apposite, how prophetic, how descriptive, the word of the Lord: ‘They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts.’ ‘He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.’ ‘He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye.’ How these passages rebuke the spirit of speculation, the greedy desires, the equivocal expedients, the high-pressure schemes of the people! ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth.’ ‘Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded nor trust in uncertain riches.’ 0, ye who make, and save, and hide, and hoard, hear ye the word of the Lord: ‘Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten; your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.’ O, ye who strut and shine in plumage plucked from the poor and needy, ‘ye have received your consolation;’ ‘weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon you.’”
The circulation of the of God’s Word and the faithful preaching of the gospel by Chaplains, and other ministers sent forth by the Churches, and the distribution of select religious literature by the hands of pious colporteurs, were the chief means of bringing about the greatest revival, in the midst of the greatest war, of modern times. There were other instrumentalities, subordinate and collateral in their relations to these, which were often successful in giving the thoughts of the soldiers a serious turn.
The loudest calls were for the Holy Scriptures, and the most earnest efforts were made to meet the demand. But owing to the stringency of the blockade, and the poor facilities in the South for printing the Bible, we were never able to put a copy into every hand that was stretched out for one. The Bible Society of the Confederate States, organized at Augusta, Ga., in March 1862, and the State Bible Societies already in existence, labored nobly to provide for the wants of the country.
Finding that for the main supply they must rely on importations from abroad, the Confederate Bible Society directed its Corresponding Secretary, Rev. Dr. E. H. Myers, to communicate with the British and Foreign Bible Society, with the view of securing such occasional supplies as might be lucky enough to escape the dangers of the blockade and reach our ports.
Dr. Myers, after detailing the operations of the Society, said: “The proposition is simply that we be allowed a credit with your Society for the Scriptures we need— say to the value of about £1,000, —until such time as sterling exchange is reduced to about its usual cost—we paying interest on our purchase until the debt is liquidated.”
To this letter the following noble response was sent, granting the Society three times the amount they asked, free of interest:
LONDON, 10 Earl Street Blackfriars,
October 10, 1862.
THE REV. DR. MYERS:
Dear Sir, —I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th of August, which did not, however, reach us until the 3d of this month. The request that it contains was immediately submitted to our Committee for their consideration and decision, and, I have much pleasure in informing you that it was unanimously agreed that your request should be complied with, and that the Scriptures should be sent as directed, to Messrs. Fraser, Trenholm & Co. The only portion of your letter to which the Committee demurred was that in which you proposed that interest should be paid upon the debt until it was liquidated. We could not, for a moment, entertain such a proposition. We are only too thankful that God has in his providence put in our hands the means of supplying your wants. Into the political question, which now agitates the States of America, it is not our province to enter. We hear of multitudes wounded and bleeding, and we cannot pass by on the other side, when it is in our power to do something towards staunching the wounds and to pour into them some few drops of the Balm of Gilead. May He who sitteth above the water-floods speedily command peace, and as Jesus in the days of his flesh trod the boisterous waves of the Sea of Galilee into stillness, so may he walk upon the rough waters of political strife and fierce contention, which now desolate your country, with such majesty and mercy that immediately there may be a great calm.
“You will then understand, my dear sir, that a credit has been granted by our Society to the Bible Society of the Confederate States to the amount of £3,000 free of interest, and that the books will be forwarded as directed to Messrs. Fraser, Trenholm & Co. The first order, which has already reached us, will be executed with as little delay as possible. It will be gratifying to our Committee to receive any account of the work of God within the District, which your Society embraces, with which you may be pleased to favor us.
I am, my dear sir,
Yours very sincerely,
This venerable institution gave another illustration of the principles on which it is founded by granting to Rev. Dr. Hoge, of Virginia, who went abroad during the war to procure religious reading matter for our soldiers, 10,000 Bibles, 50,000 New Testaments, and 250,000 portions of the Scriptures, “mainly for distribution among the soldiers of the Confederate Army.”
With the portion of these grants that passed in to us through the blockade, the New Testaments printed within our limits, and, we are happy to say, several donations from the American Bible Society—one of 20,000 Testaments to the Baptist Sunday School Board, and others through the Bible Society of the city of Memphis—our camps were kept partially supplied with the Divine Word. We say partially, for often the distribution would be limited to a single copy of the Bible or Testament for a mess of five or six men.
So urgent was the appeal from all portions of the army for more Bibles that the people at home were called upon to send to the various depositories all the spare copies about their houses. In this way many a precious heirloom copy of the Word went forth on its mission of mercy. One lady sent a beautiful pocket Bible, with the following note:
“This Bible was the property of my dear son H—, who died three years ago; it was given him by his only sister, about the time he was taken sick. For this reason I have kept it back, but seeing the earnest request in the papers, and as I can no longer read its sacred pages, after dropping a tear at parting with it, I send it for the use of the soldiers. I had given away long since all I could find about the house, and now send you this, hoping that, with God’s blessing, it may save some soul.”
Before the fall of Nashville, arrangements had been perfected there for printing the entire Bible. The Western Publishing House of the Baptist Church issued an edition in the first year of the war, and a copy was sent to President Davis, who acknowledged it in the following terms: “The Bible is a beautiful specimen of Southern workmanship, and if I live to be inaugurated the first President of the Confederacy, on the 22d of February, my lips shall press the sacred volume which your kindness has bestowed upon me.”
In all his career, as the beloved and honored President of the Confederacy, and as the victim of a long and cruel imprisonment, has this eminent Christian Statesman shown that he has been guided in his actions by the principles, and comforted in his sorrows by the promises of this blessed Book of Life.
The eager desire of our soldiers to possess the Bible is worthy of permanent record, and the war abounded with the most touching incidents illustrative of their appreciation of the holy volume.
During a skirmish some of our men were ordered to the front as sharpshooters, and directed to lie on the ground and load and fire as rapidly as possible. After a short time the ammunition of one of these men was expended and though his position was very dangerous as it was, it would have been certain death to procure a fresh supply. “In this condition,” says an eye witness, “this soldier drew from his pocket his Bible, and while the balls were whizzing about him, and cutting the grass at his side, quietly read its precious pages for a few moments, and then closed his eyes as if engaged in prayer.” This was not unlike the case of the poor little collier boy, the only son of his mother, and she a widow. A mine had fallen in, and buried a number of men with this poor youth; after several days the mine was opened and the bodies recovered. By the side of the boy was found an old tin box, on which he had scratched these words: “Dear mother, don’t cry. We are singing and praying to the last, and God is down here with us.”
“We were present not long since,” wrote an army correspondent, “when a chaplain, at the close of public service, announced that he had a prospect of being able to get a supply of Testaments for the portion of the men still destitute, and that those who wished a copy could give him their names after the benediction. Scarcely had the last words of blessing died on the minister’s lips before the war-worn heroes charged on him almost as furiously as if storming the enemy’s breast-works.”
Another narrates the following: “As some of the Confederate troops were marching through Fredericksburg, Va., with bristling bayonets and rumbling artillery, a fair lady appeared on the steps of a dark brown mansion, her arms filled with Testaments, which, with gracious kindness and gentle courtesy, she distributed to the passing soldiers. The eagerness with which they were received, the pressing throng, the outstretched hands, the earnest thanks, the unspoken blessings upon the giver, thus dispensing the word of Life to the armed multitude, to whom death might come at any moment— all made up a picture as beautiful as any that ever shone out amid the dark relatives of war. As a rough Texan said, ‘If it was not for the ladies, God bless them, there would be no use fighting this war.”‘
A chaplain in the army said, that during the battle of Fredericksburg, he saw many soldiers reading their Testaments with the deepest attention while lying in the trenches awaiting orders.
Such scenes were of almost daily occurrence during the progress of the war.
The amount of ministerial labor performed in the Confederate army the final day only can reveal. Many of the best ministers of the various Churches went out as chaplains, and “endured hardness as good soldiers” for the sake of immortal souls. They were instant in season and out of season; some of them fell on the battlefields by the bullet, and not a few in the hospitals by disease, while ministering to the spiritual wants of the men who bravely fought and died. And many still survive who bear the scars of wounds, and, what is yet more honorable and comforting, the recollection of duties well performed.
But the work became too great for the regular chaplains. A great demand arose for ministerial reinforcements. Pious officers and private soldiers earnestly appealed to the churches to send their ablest preachers “to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” That great and good man, General Jackson, in a letter to the Presbyterian General Assembly, gave the following opinion on the subject of providing adequate religious instruction for the army:
“My views are summed up in 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 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 my 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 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 under-estimate 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 when 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 cooperation in advancing the interests of the Church. This can be done in the army, and I am persuaded it should be.
“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 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 one should have denominational feelings, that they will not be in the way of advancing a common and glorious cause.”
In response to this and similar appeals, the Churches renewed their efforts on behalf of the soldiers. The army became a home mission field of the greatest fruitfulness. Evangelists, missionaries, and regular pastors whenever they could leave their charges, joined in the noble task of preaching Christ to the struggling sons of the South. The religious wants of the army, and the best methods for supplying them, were among the chief topics of discussion in all the large Church assemblies. There were but few, if any indeed, that drew back from this hard but blessed toil. When we remember, then, that no Christian Church in the South failed to do its part in the great work of army evangelization, we may form some adequate estimate of the amount of moral influence brought to bear on the soldiers by means of the preached Word. And these good men endured cheerfully all the hardships of the soldier’s life. In all seasons they toiled for souls; and glorious was their reward. By thousands the men of war rushed to the standard of the Cross-, and joyfully embraced the hope of salvation. He who did his work in the army faithfully found the position of an evangelist, a missionary, or a chaplain, no sinecure. There was ample work for all in this grand mission field.
Rev. Dr. Stiles, of the Presbyterian Church, one of the most eloquent and able ministers in America, who gave himself when above seventy years of age as an Evangelist to the army work with an apostolic fervor and zeal, gives us the following sketch of the work of a faithful chaplain:
“These men not only give themselves laboriously to the ordinary duties of the Christian ministry in their peculiar position, but their earnest love of Christ, and the soldiers’ life prompts them to a course of extraordinary self-denying service, admirably adapted to revive and extend the interests of the Christian Church in the army.
“They form camp churches of all the Christians of every denomination in their regiments. The members are expected to practice all the duties of brotherly love, Christian watchfulness, and Christian discipline. Indeed, they are taught to feel themselves under every obligation of strict membership. The chaplain writes to every minister or church, with which the member may have been connected, or the young convert desires to be united, and, giving the name of the person, solicits the prayers of the said church, both for the individual and the whole camp church, and by correspondence keeps them apprised of the walk and history of the party. These chaplains keep a minute record, not only of the names of the whole regiment, but of all that may assist them either to save the sinner or sanctify the believer. Some of them have ten or twelve columns opposite the names of the different companies of the regiment, so headed as to supply all that personal knowledge of the party, which might be serviceable in promoting their spiritual welfare. These columns they fill up gradually with such intelligence as they may be able to obtain in their pastoral visitations—when sick, wounded, or slain; when awakened, convicted, converted—all important information is conveyed by the chaplain to the family and the church. These things must necessarily follow—the work of the faithful chaplain is most laborious; he is held in the very highest and warmest estimation by every man in the regiment, saint and sinner. He possesses a power to sanctify and save them which nothing but earnest and hard-working devotion could finally secure.”
Working in harmony with these grand instrumentalities, there were other subordinate influences which are well worthy of notice.
The part borne by the noble and pious women of the South in our war is eminently worthy of permanent record. They were the angels of mercy that moved among the sick and dying and turned their thoughts to God and heaven. In the early part of the conflict, before the government had fully organized the Commissariat of the Army, their nimble fingers made up the clothing for nearly all our soldiers. All over the South, matron and maid vied with each other in these glad toils. And with clothing they sent every article that could contribute to the comfort of the troops. Their beds were stripped of blankets and quilts, their pianos of india-rubber covers, their floors of carpets, to shelter their brave defenders from the rigors of winter. Often the costliest jewellery and plate were sold to buy supplies for the army, —and nothing was deemed too valuable to be devoted to the cause which was freighted with all their hopes. Their children were given as freely as their money. A more than Spartan, a Christian heroism glowed in their hearts and brightened all their deeds. Without repining, even with cheerfulness, they bore all the hardships of the war, and amid want and woe, doubt and disaster, cheered on their husbands, sons and fathers in the path of duty.
When in the progress of the war those places of rest and refreshment for the weary and hungry soldier sprang up, the wayside hospitals, the wives and daughters of the South were their presiding geniuses. The white, smooth pillow, the clean bed, the well-swept floor, the tempting food to suit the sick soldier’s appetite, were all their handy-work. They met him at the door, and often with their own hands relieved him of the heavy knapsack and the soiled white cotton haversack in which he carried his cold corndodger and uncooked pork, and sent him to some quiet bed where he lay down thanking God for the angels that had met him in his journey.
These welcome resting-places, and the scenes that daily occurred in them, are thus described by a lady, one of the most gifted women of the South, who soothed the sorrows of many a sick and wounded soldier:
“These wayside hospitals are located, generally, at the depot of some railroad, where the sick and wounded soldier immediately as he leaves the cars, exhausted, weary and faint, finds a grateful shelter, where surgical aid, refreshments and attention, are immediately tendered him. These institutions are generally supported entirely by voluntary contributions, and refreshing and delightful is it to see the un-stinted supplies coming daily in and always equaling the demand. Much faith and prayer have been put in exercise for these tarrying places for the war-worn soldier, so that their ‘bread and water’ has never yet failed; nor do we believe they ever shall, while the people of a covenant-keeping God claim his exceeding great and precious promises.
“There are many cases of pathetic interest to be met with at these hospitals. One I will relate, as an incitement to early piety, and as another testimony to the power of our holy religion:
“After I had ministered to several of the wounded, I drew near the couch of one whose case was considered one of the worst there, but who appeared, since his wounds had been dressed and refreshments administered to him, much relieved. After conversing some time with him, he asked my name. I told him, and that I was the wife of the gentleman who had just been giving him his breakfast—(for he had to be fed as an infant). I told him, moreover, that the gentleman was a preacher—a Methodist preacher. ‘I am a member of the Methodist Church,’ said he, ‘and would he be kind enough to pray for me now, for I have not heard the voice of prayer for many months.’
“After the prayer was ended, the subject of religion continued to be our theme. He said he was quite resigned to God’s will concerning him, and that he was not afraid to die; and while dwelling on the goodness of God, his countenance assumed that serene and beautiful expression, indicative of peace within and joy in the Holy Ghost. Well was it for him that he had strength from on high, and that the everlasting arms of God’s love were his support, for in a few hours from the time we conversed together it was found amputation of his arm would be necessary, from which he suffered excruciatingly until death came to his relief. But all the time of his mortal agony his faith remained firm and unshaken, and he pillowed his sinking head on the bosom of Jesus, and ‘breathed his life out sweetly there,’ while to all around, witnessing a good confession of Christ’s power to save, to the uttermost, all those that put their trust in him.”
Not only in these, but also in the regular hospitals our women showed themselves the dearest earthly friends of the soldier. Some of the best appointed hospitals were under their charge, and the success which attended their efforts to heal the sick drew unwilling praises from those officials who regarded such work as beyond the sphere of womanly duties
It is a pleasing task to present the reader with a view of Southern women among the sick, wounded and dying, ministering at the same time to the body and the soul. Scenes like the following were witnessed all over the South:
At Richmond, Va., there was a little model hospital known as “The Samaritan,” presided over by a lady who gave it her undivided attention, and greatly endeared herself to the soldiers who were fortunate enough to be sent there. “Through my son, a young soldier of eighteen,” writes a father, “I have become acquainted with this lady superintendent, whose memory will live in many hearts when our present struggle shall have ended. But for her motherly care and skilful attention, my son, and many others, must have died. One case of her attention deserves special notice: A young man, who had been previously with her, was taken sick in camp near Richmond. The surgeon being absent, he lay for two weeks in his tent without medical attention. She sent several requests to his Captain to send him to her, but he would not in the absence of the surgeon. She then hired a wagon, and went for him herself; the Captain allowed her to take him away, and he was soon convalescent. She says she feels that not their bodies only, but their souls, are committed to her charge. Thus, as soon as they are comfortably fixed in a good, clean bed, she inquires of every one if he has chosen the good part; and through her instruction and prayers several have been converted.
“Her house can easily accommodate twenty, all in one room, which is made comfortable in winter with carpet and stove, and adorned with wreaths of evergreen paper flowers; and in summer well-ventilated, and the windows and yard filled with greenhouse plants. A library of religious books is in the room, and pictures are hung all round the walls. Attached is a dining room for the convalescent patients, supplied by private families, except the tea and coffee, which are made in the room; and there is also a dressing room where they keep their knapsacks, &c. The rooms are kept in order by the convalescents, who serve under her direction, and learn to love their respective duties. The sick are supplied with every thing that can make them comfortable. Morning and evening services are held, consisting of reading the Scriptures, singing and prayer; and she is her own chaplain, except when she can procure a substitute. Thus has she been engaged since April 1861, with uninterrupted health and unparalleled success, making soldiers, and mothers, and wives glad, and heaven rejoice over repenting sinners.
Here is another sketch of a soldier’s friend, who labored in some of our largest hospitals:
“She is a character”—writes a soldier—” a Napoleon of her department; with the firmness and courage of Andrew, she possesses all the energy and independence of Stonewall Jackson. The officials hate her; the soldiers adore her. The former name her ‘The Great Eastern,’ and steer wide of her track; the latter go to her in all their wants and troubles, and know her by the name of ‘Miss Sally.’ She joined the army in one of the regiments from Alabama, about the time of the battle of Manassas, and never shrunk from the stern privations of the soldier’s life from the moment of leaving camp to follow her wounded and sick Alabamians to the hospitals of Richmond. Her services are not confined, however, to the sick and wounded from Alabama. Every sick soldier has now a claim on her sympathy. While but yesterday, my system having succumbed to the prevailing malaria of the hospital, she came to my room, though a stranger, with my ward nurse, and in the kindest manner offered me her services, and soon after leaving returned to present me a pillow of feathers, with case as tidy as the driven snow. The very light of it was soothing to an aching brow, and I blessed her from my heart and lips as well. I must not omit to tell why ‘Miss Sally’ is so disliked by many of the officials. Like all women of energy, she has eyes whose penetration few things escape, and sagacity fearful or admirable, as the case may be, to all interested. If any abuse is pending, or in progress in the hospital, she is quickly on the track, and if not abated, off ‘The Great Eastern’ sails to headquarters. A few days ago, one of the officials of this division sent a soldier to inform her that she must vacate her room instantly. ‘Who sent you with that message to me?’ she asked him, turning suddenly around. ‘Dr.---,’ the soldier answered. ‘Pish!’ she replied, and swept on in ineffable contempt to the bedside perhaps of some sick soldier.
“She always has plenty of money to expend in her charitable enterprises, and when not attending in the wards, or at the cooking stove, dresses with care in the neatest black silk. Such a woman merits an honorable fame.”
A lady, writing from the hospital at Culpeper Courthouse, says: “I have lost four of my patients. Three of them died rejoicing in Jesus. They were intelligent, noble, godly young men. One from Virginia said to me as he was dying, ‘Sing me a hymn.’ I repeated, ‘Jesus, lover of my soul.’ He remarked, ‘Where else but in Jesus can a poor sinner trust?’ Just as he passed away, he looked up and said, ‘Heaven is so sweet to me;’ and to the presence of Jesus he went.
“Another from South Carolina seemed very happy, and sung with great delight, ‘Happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.’ Young B., of Virginia, was resigned, and even rejoiced at the near prospect of death. He repeated the line, ‘How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord.’ His end was peace.
“One of these young men had determined to enter the Christian ministry.”
While many engaged in these works of mercy in the hospitals, others toiled at home as earnestly for the benefit of the soldiers, who were supplied with socks and gloves almost wholly by the busy fingers of their sisters, wives and mothers. And when these welcome contributions arrived in camp, what blessings were invoked on our fair benefactors!
The scene described by Rev. Mr. Crumley, as he distributed among the soldiers, after one of the Maryland campaigns, the supplies sent forward by the Georgia Relief Association, one of the noblest institutions of the war, is truthful and touching:
“After leaving Warrenton, I visited the wounded in private houses around the battle-field, where I very narrowly escaped being taken prisoner by the Yankees. In Winchester I found thousands of the wounded from Maryland crowding into churches, hotels, private houses, and tents, in every imaginable state of suffering and destitution. Though kind words and prayers are good and cheering to the suffering, they could not relieve the terrible destitution. At length my anxious suspense was relieved by the coming of Mr. Selkirk, Dr. Camak, and Rev. Mr. Potter, bringing supplies from the Georgia Relief and Hospital Association, which were in advance of anything from the Government. Their coming was clothing to the naked, medicine to the sick, and life to the dying.
“Could that little girl have been with us as we distributed the gifts of the Association, and have seen the pleasure with which the heroic youth, who had made the Maryland campaign barefooted, drew on his rough and bruised feet the soft socks which she knit, no doubt she would knit another pair. Could that young lady have seen the grateful expression upon the face of that noble warrior, as, with lips parched with fever, he sipped the wine, or tasted the pickles her hands had prepared, whispering, ‘God bless the ladies of Georgia;’ or that other, as he exchanged his soiled and blood-stained garments for those sent by the Association, ejaculating, ‘Yes, we will suffer and die, if need be, in defence of such noble women’—fresh vigor would have been added to her zeal in providing comforts for our suffering ‘braves.’ How much more comfortable and sweet would have been the slumber of that mother could she have seen her ‘patriot boy,’ who had lain upon the bare ground, warmly wrapped in the coverlet or carpet blanket she had sent for the suffering soldiers.
It is a well-known fact that the wife of our illustrious leader, Robert Edward Lee, though a cripple, unable to walk by reason of disease, constantly employed her time during a great part of the war in making gloves and knitting socks for our soldiers.
Imagine the scene when they were distributed among her husband’s veterans.
Our women never grew weary in well doing. How often were they seen passing along the lines as the troops waited at some railroad station, superintending the servants who had been sent by them loaded with good things for “our dear soldiers.” And when trains filled with men paused but a few moments, they were often found ready with refreshments.
The following scene at a village in Georgia was repeated daily along the lines of railroad throughout the South:
“At Greensboro there were no ‘little fellows’ or ‘aunties’ popping into the cars or crying at the windows ‘wish to buy some fruit, etc.; but there were ladies—old and young—standing in the hot sun, little boys, servants and gentlemen—young and old, many of them with baskets, pitchers, etc. You would think that this was a regular vending shop, but not so; the cars stop; you hear some soft voice from without, saying, ‘Any soldiers aboard?’ another (bless these young ladies), ‘Any sick soldiers aboard?’ Some one answers affirmatively, probably a soldier with his head out at some window, moved by the inquiry for soldiers. ‘Will you have some milk, some fruit, some bread, some meat?’ In comes a servant with a pitcher of nice, fresh milk, and another with bread and meats, and a little boy with fruit. Thus all the time the cars are stopped at Greensboro the soldiers are helped bountifully. Ever and anon you can hear one of them exclaim, ‘These are the cleverest people I have met with in a long time.’ I have been told that this is an every day business with the good citizens of Greensboro. The writer has passed there four times recently, and found it so every time. These people feel for their soldiers.”
There is something in the following scene to touch the heart and moisten the eye:
“After the battle of Sharpsburg we passed over a line of railroad in Central Georgia. The disabled soldiers from Gen. Lee’s army were returning to their homes. At every station the wives and daughters of the farmers came on the cars and distributed food and wine and bandages among the sick and wounded. We shall never forget how very like an angel was a little girl; how blushingly and modestly she went to a great rude bearded soldier, who had carved a crutch from a rough plank to replace a lost leg; how this little girl asked him if he was hungry, and how he ate like a famished wolf. She asked if his wound was painful, and in a voice of soft, mellow accents, ‘Can I do nothing more for you? I am sorry that you are so badly hurt; have you a little daughter, and won’t she cry when she sees you?’ The rude soldier’s heart was touched, and tears of love and gratitude filled his eyes. He only answered, ‘I have three little children. God grant they may be such angels as you.’ With an evident effort he repressed a desire to kiss the fair brow of the pretty little girl. He took her little hand between both his own and bade her ‘good-bye, God bless you.’ The child will always be a better woman because of these lessons of practical charity stamped ineffaceably upon her young heart.”
There was a moral grandeur in the following scene that might well stir the heart of a true soldier to its utmost depths:
“As we were on our way to Manassas on the 19th of July, 1861,” said an officer of the Virginia troops, “on a crowded train of flats, the people along the route of the Manassas Gap railroad turned out in large bodies, bringing baskets full of provisions and luxuries for the soldiers. Everybody was full of joy, and we rushed on to the battle with railroad speed, amid the waving of handkerchiefs and the loud huzzahs of a loyal people—little thinking that many of the hearts that beat high for praise would ‘soon feel that pulse no more.’ Not far from one of the depots, which we had just left in great glee, on an eminence near by the road, there stood a lady of more than womanly stature, but of womanly face, with hands uplifted and eyes upturned to heaven in reverential prayer for us and our country. And there she stood with outstretched arms until the train carried us out of sight. I thought of Miriam the prophetess—only the hands of the one were lifted in praise, of the other in prayer to God. I never shall forget that scene, and the deep impression it made upon all. The shout of reckless joy was turned into serious thought, and blessed, I believe, was the influence of that sight on many a brave heart.”
The women of the South were faithful and eminently successful co-laborers in the army revival.
There was another instrumentality worthy of our notice. This was the influence of letters from home on the minds of the soldiers. In camp or bivouac, on the march or in battle, the thoughts of the soldier wandered back to his home. It seemed doubly dear to him when absent, and every line sent by the loved ones there was read over and over, often with tear-dimmed eyes, and then carefully put away as a precious treasure. These secret and powerful appeals turned the feet of many a wanderer into the way of life, recalled many a backslider to his duty, and stimulated many a wavering believer to endure “hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
This home correspondence was as successful in leading thousands to the Lamb of God as it was in the case of the noble soldier who said in a letter to his honored Christian mother:
“I will here state to you what I never have written home to E—, of the thoughts that have most affected my mind, and I hope and trust in God that the same thoughts and reflections have changed my manner of life. E — has doubtless shown you what I call my farewell letters to my children, as well as the one to her. The letters were written to my children while I was at Richmond, Va. The advice I thought and still think was good, but alas, where does that advice come from. It is from the best friend my children have upon earth, a father; yes, a father, who says: ‘My children, read your Bibles, abstain from bad company and bad habits, the lusts of the flesh and vanities of a wicked world,’ but who says at the same time by his own conduct and example, Come along children—taking them, as it were, by the hand—I will lead you down to hell; yes, I was leading them by my example as directly to hell as I possibly could. Oh, the horrible thought of being the means of damning the souls of my children! Conviction seized upon me, and then and there, on the —the of June, I resolved, if God would spare my life, that I would reform my habits of life; or if he would permit me to return home, that I would set a different example before my children. I have prayed that he would, and that I might keep my resolution to the day of my death. I wrote you a letter on the same day, while my eyes were still wet with tears. I asked your prayers in my behalf; I know you have prayed for me. Can God in justice forgive me? I pray he may, I know my children will; may God bless them and help them to do so, and save them from following my bad example, at the same time to take my good advice and carry it out, that they may be saved from that awful hell to which I was leading them.”
Letters from the camp were regarded as precious treasures by the fathers and mothers of the brave boys who had gone to the war. The scene so graphically described below was almost daily repeated throughout the Confederacy:
“I went to a neighbor’s some time ago to buy chickens and meat, for I am a new comer in the settlement, and didn’t fill my smokehouse at the right time. The man was making a split basket before the door, and his wife was spinning, as nearly every wife in the country is. They were old people, except a hireling boy, alone on their farm. Their three sons went to war last spring. I had not been long in the house before the old lady brought out the last letter from the son before Richmond and put it into my hand, just as you would offer the morning paper to a guest at your office or house. I was at another house where a neighbor called in, and without preliminary said: ‘Fetch that letter here you got from the post-office Thursday.’ The letter was brought and read to us all, from beginning to end. Every letter, after being opened and read by those to whom it is addressed, seems to be common property. Though roughly written and spelled, some of them are vastly entertaining and informing, and there are touches of the heart toward the close, at which the mother or wife of the writer, who listens for the twentieth time to the reading with unabated interest, will bring the corner of her apron to her eyes.”
The influence of devout Christian officers was powerful for good in our armies. We had, it is true, many reckless, unprincipled, and abandoned men, who were leaders in sin. But there were others, and not a few, who combined an humble piety with the most exalted patriotism. Many of these brought their religion with them into the army, and many others were the happy subjects of the great revival. General Lee attached his men to him not less by his goodness of heart and his deep-toned, unobtrusive piety, than by his skill and courage as a warrior—he was to them the model of a Christian soldier. Can the influence of General Jackson over his men ever be fully estimated? And was not this in a great measure owing to the depth and power of his religion? Said a soldier after the battle of Cross Keys: “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.”
An incident of Jackson 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. “O 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.
A 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 awaiting 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 his horse, and then, in the presence of his rough, bronzed-faced troops, with heads 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 and 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.’
“Few such spectacles have been witnessed in modern times, and it is needless to add that few such examples have ever told with more wondrous power upon the hearts of men. Is it surprising that Stonewall Jackson is invincible, and that he can lead his army to certain victory whenever God’s blessing precedes the act?”
All the armies of the Confederacy were more or less blessed with pious Generals, who strove to lead their soldiers to the cross of Christ. General Gordon, writing from the Army in Virginia, urged the ministers of the Churches to come out into the camps. “The few missionaries we have,” he says, “are not preaching, it is true, in magnificent temples, or from gorgeous pulpits, on Sabbath days to empty benches, but daily, in the great temple of nature, and at night by heaven’s chandeliers, to audiences of from 1,000 to 2,000 men anxious to hear of the way of life.”
A writer, speaking of the religious influence in the Army of Tennessee, says: “General Cleburne, the hero of many battle-fields, had a place prepared for preaching in the centre of his Division, where himself and most of his officers were present, and where I was assisted by General Lowry, who sat in the pulpit with me and closed the services of the hour with prayer. He is a Baptist preacher, and, like the commander of the Division, is a hero of many well-fought battlefields. He takes great interest in the soldiers’ religious welfare, often preaches to them, and feels that the ministry is still his high and holy calling.”
Generals Findly, Bickler, Stewart, with others of the same army, were pious and devoted Christian officers, and gave much assistance to the chaplains and missionaries in the revival that swept so gloriously through the armies in the West. They recommended religion to their soldiers by precept and example.
But these men were Generals, and their contact with the soldiers was not so close as that of inferior officers. In the companies and regiments the work of pious officers was most effectually done. We select a few out of the many illustrative incidents that crowd upon us:
“In General Lee’s army there was a captain who made a profession of religion. As soon as he found peace, he called his company together and told them that they had always followed where he had led them, that he wished to know whether they were willing to follow him to the feet of Jesus and walk with him in the paths of righteousness. All, without a single exception, manifested a desire to follow the example of their leader.”
“There was another company whose captain was a wicked man. He exerted a bad influence over his men. He was openly profane, and never attended religious services. In these days the company was known as one of the most wicked in the regiment. Months rolled away, and another man was appointed to the command. He was a consistent Christian, and a man of earnest, deep-toned piety. He sought to carry his men to church, and in the prayer meeting strove to lead them to the throne of grace. He showed that he cared for their spiritual as well as their physical interests. Now, mark the change. In that company, once noted for wickedness, prayer meetings were held every night. Among its members are some active, energetic Christians, and some happy converts have been made there. How responsible the position of an officer!”
Thousands of such men, quiet, unobtrusive, devout, happy Christians, labored with a success in winning souls to the Saviour which eternity alone can reveal. Many of them sleep in their lonely graves on the fields where they prayed and fought and fell; others survive, and, among their comrades in arms and their brethren in Christ, are still fighting for the victory that shall give them the crown of life and an abundant entrance into the heavenly Jerusalem
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, often sleeping on the wet ground, following the march of the armies through cold or heat, through dust or mud, everywhere were these devoted men to be seen scattering the leaves of the Tree of Life. Among the sick, the wounded, and the dying, on the battlefields and in the hospitals, they moved, consoling them with tender words, and pointing their drooping spirits to the hopes of the gospel. The record of their labors is the record of the army revival; they fanned its flame and spread it on every side by their prayers, their conversations, their books, and their preaching. They went out from all the Churches, and labored together in a spirit worthy of the purest days of our holy religion. The aim of them all was to turn the thoughts of the soldiers not to a sect, but to Christ, to bring them into the great spiritual temple, and to show them the wonders of salvation. If any man among us can look back with pleasure on his labors in the army, it is the Christian colporteur.
The number of religious tracts and books distributed by the colporteurs, chaplains, and missionaries in the army, we can never know. But as all the Churches were engaged in the work of printing and circulating, it is not an over-estimate to say that hundreds of millions of pages were sent out by the different societies. And, considering the facilities for printing in the South during the war, we may safely assert that never were the soldiers of a Christian nation better supplied with such reading as maketh wise unto salvation; and certainly, never amidst circumstances so unpropitious to human view, did fruits so ripe, so rich, so abundant, spring up so quickly from the labors of God’s servants.
Earliest in the important work of colportage was the Baptist Church, one of the most powerful denominations in the South. In May 1861, at the General Association of the Baptist churches in Virginia, vigorous measures were adopted for supplying the religious wants of the army.
The Sunday school and Publication Board, in their report on colportage, said: “The presence of large armies in our State affords a fine opportunity for colportage effort among the soldiers. These are exposed to peculiar temptations, and in no way can we better aid them in resisting these than by affording them good books. To this department of our operations we ask the special, earnest attention of the General Association. Shall we enter this wide and inviting field, place good books in the hands of our soldiers, and surround them by pious influences? Or shall we remain indifferent to the spiritual dangers and temptations of those who are flocking hither to defend all we hold dear?”
The Association cordially responded, and “recommended to the Board to appoint at once, if practicable, a sufficient number of colporteurs to occupy all the important points of rendezvous, and promptly to reach all the soldiers in service in the State; that during the war as many colporteurs as could be profitably employed, and as the means of the Board would admit, be kept in service; that special contributions to colportage should be raised from the Baptist churches, from the community, and even from such persons in other of the Confederate States as may feel interested in the welfare of the soldiers who are gathered from various Southern States to fight their common battles on the soil of Virginia; that steps should be taken to secure the issue of a tract or tracts specially adapted to general circulation among the soldiers.”
The work was put in charge of Rev. A. E. Dickinson, who had already acquired a valuable experience and a high reputation as the Superintendent of Colportage under the direction of the General Association. He sent forth his well-trained band of colporteurs into this new field, which they cultivated with the happiest results, and with a zeal and self-denial worthy of the cause of Christ.
One year after these labors were commenced, Mr. Dickinson said in his annual report:
“We have collected $24,000, with which 40 tracts have been published, 6,187,000 pages of which have been distributed, besides 6,096 Testaments, 13,846 copies of the little volume called Camp Hymns, and a large number of religious books. Our policy has been to seek the co-operation of chaplains and other pious men in the army, and, as far as possible, to work through them. How pleasant to think of the thousands who far from their loved ones, are, every hour in the day, in the loneliness and gloom of the hospital, and in the bustle and mirth of the camp, reading some of these millions of pages which have been distributed, and thus been led to turn unto the Lord.”
In his report for 1863, in the midst of the war, he says: “Modern history presents no example of armies so nearly converted into Churches as the armies of Southern defence. On the crest of this flood of war, which threatens to engulf our freedom, rides a pure Christianity; the gospel of the grace of God shines through the smoke of battle with the light that leads to heaven; and the camp becomes a school of Christ. From the very first day of the unhappy contest to the present time, religious influences have been spreading among the soldiers, until now, in camp and hospital, throughout every portion, of the army, revivals display their precious, saving power. In one of these revivals over three hundred are known as having professed conversion, while, doubtless, there are hundreds of others equally blessed, whose names, unrecorded here, find a place in the ‘Lamb’s book of life.”‘And in 1865, in reviewing the blessed work of saving souls amid the bloody scenes of four gloomy years, the Board said:
“Millions of pages of tracts have been put in circulation, and thousands of sermons delivered by the sixty missionaries whom we have sent to our brave armies. If it could be known by us here and now how many souls have been saved by this agency, doubtless the announcement would fill us with surprise and rejoicing. Hundreds and thousands, we verily believe, have in this way obtained the Christian’s hope, and are now occupying some place in the great vineyard of the Lord, or have gone up from the strife and sorrow of earth to the peaceful enjoyments of the heavenly home.”
The Evangelical Tract Society, organized in the city of Petersburg, Va., in July 1861, by Christians of the different denominations, was a most efficient auxiliary in the great work of saving souls. It was ably officered, and worked with great success in the publication and circulation of some of the best tract reading that appeared during the war. More than a hundred different tracts were issued; and in less than one year after the organization of the Society, it had sent among the soldiers more than a million pages of these little messengers of truth. The Army and Navy Messenger, a most excellent religious paper, was also published by this Society, and circulated widely and with the best results among the soldiers. Holding a position similar to that of the American Tract Society, this association was liberally sustained by all denominations, and had ample means for supplying the armies with every form of religious reading, from the Holy Scriptures to the smallest one-page tract. Its officers, editors, agents, and colporteurs, were among the most faithful, zealous and successful laborers in all departments of the army. During the period of its operations, it has been estimated that 50,000,000 pages of tracts were put in circulation by it.
The Presbyterian Board of Publication, under the direction of Rev. Dr. Leyburn and other ministers of that Church, entered the field and did faithful service in the good cause. The regular journals of that denomination, a monthly paper— “The Soldier’s Visitor,” specially adapted to the wants of the army, Bibles, Testaments, and most excellent tracts in vast numbers, were freely sent forth to all the camps and hospitals from their centre of operations.
The Virginia Episcopal Mission Committee heartily united in the work, and spent thousands of dollars per annum in sending missionaries to the army, and in printing and circulating tracts. Rev. Messrs. Gatewood and Kepler, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, were the zealous directors of operations in Virginia, while in other States such men as Bishop Elliott, of Georgia, Doctor, now Bishop, Quintard, of Tennessee, and the lamented General Polk, gave the weight of their influence and the power of their eloquence, written and oral, to promote the cause of religion among our soldiers.
At Raleigh, N. C., early in the war, Rev. W. J. W. Crowder commenced the publication of tracts, encouraged and assisted by contributions from all classes of persons. In less than a year he reported: “We have published, of thirty different tracts, over 5,000,000 pages, more than half of which we have given away, and the other half we have sold at about the cost of publication— 1,500 pages for one dollar.” This gentleman continued his labors in this good work throughout the war, and furnished millions of pages of the best tracts for army circulation.
“The Soldiers’ Tract Association,” of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized and went into operation in March 1862, and became a valuable auxiliary in the work of colportage and tract distribution. By midsummer it had put in circulation nearly 800,000 pages of tracts, and had ten efficient colporteurs in the field. Its operations steadily increased to the close of the war; and besides the dissemination of millions of pages of excellent religious reading, with thousands of Bibles and Testaments, two semi-monthly papers were issued, “The Soldiers’ Paper,” at Richmond, Va. and “The Army and Navy Herald,” at Macon, Ga., 40,000 copies of which were circulated every month throughout the armies.
In addition to these, there were other associations of a like character successfully at work in this wide and inviting field.
The Georgia Bible and Colportage Society, Rev. F. M. Haygood, Agent, was actively engaged in the work of printing and circulating tracts in the armies of the Southwest.
The South Carolina Tract Society was an earnest ally in the holy cause, and sent out its share of tracts to swell the vast number scattered like leaves of the tree of life all over the land.
The presses in every great commercial centre were busy in throwing off religious reading of every description, and yet so great was the demand that the supply was unequal to it during the whole of the war. At Richmond, Raleigh, Columbia, Charleston, Augusta, Mobile, Macon, Atlanta, and other cities, good men labored day and night to give our gallant soldiers the bread of life; and still the cry from the army was, send us more good books. At one period of the war the Baptist Board alone circulated 200,000 pages of tracts weekly, besides Testaments and hymn-books; and with the joint labors of other societies, we may estimate that when the work was at its height not less than 1,000,000 pages a week were put into the hands of our soldiers.
Our readers will be pleased, we doubt not, to learn from the colporteurs themselves what they saw of the work of the Lord.
Rev. Dr. Ryland, of the Baptist Church, writing of his labors in Richmond, says: “Many cases of deep and thrilling interest have come under my observation. Some were fervent disciples of Jesus, who, during the war, having maintained their integrity, gave me a cordial welcome to their bedside. Others were rejoicing in recent hope of eternal life; and many others exhibited marked anxiety about their salvation. Since the battle of Seven Pines, I have conversed with probably five hundred who, having passed through the recent bloody scenes, have told me with different degrees of emphasis that they had resolved to lead a better life. All these battles [the seven days’ fighting around Richmond], with their hairbreadth escapes and their terrible sufferings, have produced a softened state of mind, which harmonizes well with our efforts to evangelize. I have almost from the beginning of the war been laboring as a colporteur in the hospitals of Richmond; and my impression is, that the results of this work are infinitely greater and more glorious than many believe.”
Rev. W. M. Young gave a like testimony: “I have seen scores of instances in which the reading of tracts had been instrumental in the conversion of souls. Yesterday, going up Main street, I was hailed by a soldier sitting on the pavement, ‘Parson, don’t you know me? Under God I owe everything to you. While languishing in the hospital you gave me a tract, ‘Christ found at the lamp post,’ which has brought joy and peace to my soul. If God spare me to go home, I expect to devote my life to the public proclamation of the gospel.”‘
Rev Joseph H. Martin wrote from Knoxville: “While I was opening a box of tracts a soldier said, ‘some of those tracts were given to our regiment at Chattanooga, and never before in my life have I seen such an effect on men. Many have given up swearing, and I among the number, through the influence of these silent but powerful preachers.’”
Rev. M. D. Anderson says: “I met a young man wounded, and began to talk with him on religion. He said, ‘O sir, don’t you remember that at the camp meeting at _____ you spoke to me on the subject? Do get down and pray for me.’ He has since been converted, and is an active co-laborer with me. An old marine who had weathered many a storm, and was lying sick in the hospital, seemed astonished that I should urge upon his attention the claims of the gospel. ‘How is it that you, a young man, should be so concerned about me, a poor old sailor?’ He said that rarely, if ever before in his life, had any one spoken to him about his soul. His interest in divine things increased until, I think, he became a true Christian. He died a most happy death.”
Rev. B. B. Ross, of Alabama, writing to Rev. A. E. Dickinson, says: “I am just from a pleasant tour among the hospitals in Mississippi, where I found 3,000 sick. They are greedy, yea ravenous, in their appetite for something to read. Under the labors of your colporteurs there has been a revival of religion at Quitman, and there is also a revival in progress at Lauderdale Springs. The surgeons have been especially kind to me—at times calling my attention to certain eases of the sick, at others making appointments for me to preach.”
Rev. S. A. Creath, Army of Tennessee: “I am still following up the army, trying to be of service to them. At Atlanta I saw 3,000 sick men. Started to work this morning before sun up, and by 9 A. M. had distributed 20,000 pages of tracts. Several have professed religion, and the Lord’s blessing seems to be on us.”
“I have been a month,” wrote a colporteur from Richmond, “laboring in this city, during which time I have distributed 41,000 pages of tracts. I preach almost daily in the hospitals; and a notice of a few minutes will give me a large congregation. Never in my life have I witnessed such solemn attention to the preached word. Oftentimes I meet with soldiers who tell me that they have become Christians since they entered the army, and not infrequently I am asked by anxious inquirers, what they must do to be saved. ‘O; how encouraging to a soldier is a word of sympathy,’ said one of the sick men to me.”
Another from Petersburg writes: “I have been for some weeks devoting my time to the hospitals in this city. The noble men are so fond of having one to talk with them about the Friend of sinners, and the heavenly home, that my heart is made to rejoice with theirs. The other day I was reading a few tracts to a sick soldier, and while reading one on ‘The Blood of Christ,’ he became so happy that he shouted. ‘Glory to God!’ Another said, ‘When I first came into the hospital I was sad and dissatisfied, but since I have been here I have learned of Jesus, and thank God even for tribulations.’”
A colporteur from the army at Corinth, Miss., writes: “I have distributed 70,000 pages of tracts here, and feel much encouraged. The officers grant me free access to the camps, and commend my work. Oftentimes have I seen the men throw aside their cards to take up the tracts I would place on their table, saying that they played only because they had nothing to read. There are many pious men here, and they warmly co-operate with me.”
From Savannah, Ga.: “The Testaments and tracts have effected good—some have made a public profession of religion, whilst others are deeply interested in divine things. We need more tracts and more Bibles.”
Rev. J. A. Hughes thus speaks of his labors at Atlanta: “In going among the thousands in the hospitals, I have met with many things to gladden my heart, and to cause me to love the work. I find a number of Christians; some tell me that camp-life has had a very unfavorable influence on their religious character; others say it has been of great service to them, that it has bound them closer to the Saviour, made them more acquainted with their own weakness and sins, and afforded them a fine field in which to labor for the souls of their fellow-men. Some few hesitate to take a Testament, though they will accept a tract. One man positively refused a Testament but took the tract, ‘A Mother’s Parting Words to her Soldier Boy,’ by the reading of which he was deeply moved and became a true penitent, asked me to pray for him, and finally died in the triumphs of faith. To a young man who felt himself a sinner I gave ‘Motives to Early Piety.’ He was led to Christ, whom he publicly confessed. A soldier said to me on the street, ‘you are the gentleman who gave me a tract the other day. I had read it before, at home, but never has the reading of that book so affected me as of late; away from home and friends, it is doubly sweet.’ Three have professed conversion from reading, ‘Why will ye die?’ several from reading ‘A Mother’s Parting Words.’ A soldier told me ‘The Call to Prayer’ had roused him to a sense of his duty as a professor of religion.”
Rev. Joseph E. Martin, from Chimborazo hospital at Richmond, writes: “We have had lately sixteen conversions. One young man was very anxious to learn to read. I procured him a spelling-book, and in a few days he learned so rapidly as to be able to read the Testament. He has since professed religion. A middle-aged man from Georgia has learned to read since he joined the army, and has committed to memory almost all the New Testament with the book of Job.”
Another faithful laborer says: ‘ A young man said to me, ‘Parson, you gave me a book, (Baxter’s Call,) which I have been reading, and it has made mc feel very unhappy. I feel that my condition is awful, and I desire to find peace.’ I pointed him to the Lord Jesus. While passing through a hospital with my tracts one poor, afflicted soldier wept piteously and said, ‘Sir, I cannot read; will you be good enough to read some of those tracts to me?’ I read several, and among them, ‘A Mother’s Parting Words to her Soldier Boy.’ ‘Oh,’ said he, ‘that reminds me so much of my poor old mother, who has faded from earth since I joined the army.’ He wept and seemed greatly affected.”
Rev. George Pearcy, writing from Lynchburg, Va., says: “I collected from Sunday Schools and individuals above a hundred Testaments, a few Bibles, and some books and tracts—these were placed in three large hospitals for the sick soldiers. There have been as many as 10,000 soldiers in the encampment here; hence it is a most interesting field for usefulness. Many soldiers have the Bible or testament and love to read it. A good number are members of Churches. Far away from home and kindred, they are delighted to receive the visits of a brother Christian, and get something to read. All receive the tracts, and read them with delight. The Lord has blessed the work. He has poured out his Spirit upon many. Several have died in the triumphs of faith. It was a great pleasure and privilege to speak to them of the Saviour, and witness their trust in him during the trying hour. One who died a week ago, said, in a whisper, a short time before he breathed his last, when the nurse held up the tract, ‘Come to Jesus,’ ‘I can’t see.’ He was told it was the tract, ‘Come to Jesus,’ and that Jesus says, ‘Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. ‘Thank the Lord for that,’ he replied. ‘Have you come to him? And do you find him precious?’ ‘Precious, thank the Lord.’ ‘He has promised never to leave nor forsake his people.’ ‘Thank the Lord for that;’ and so he would say of all the promises quoted. One young man, to whom I gave a tract, told me that at home he was a steady, sober man, never swore; but that becoming a soldier, he did as many others did—threw off restraint, and did wickedly; ‘But now,’ said he, ‘I have done swearing, and will seek the salvation of my soul.’”
“When I joined the army,” said a soldier to a colporteur, “I was a member of the Church, and enjoyed religion, but since I came into camp I have been without anything of a religious character to read, and assailed on every side by such temptations as have caused me to dishonor my religious profession. O, sir, if you had been with me, and extended such aid as you now bestow, I might have been kept from all the sin and sorrow which, as a poor backslider, I have known.”
One who had visited the hospitals at Richmond wrote: “The field of labor opened here for the accomplishment of good is beyond measure. An angel might covet it. At three o’clock services were held in the main hail of the hospital. It was a most imposing spectacle to see men in all stages of sickness—some sitting upon their beds, while others were lying down listening to the word of God—many of them probably for the last time. I do not think I ever saw a more attentive audience. They seemed to drink in the Word of Life at every breath.”
“Some time since,” says Rev. A. E. Dickinson, “it was my pleasure to stand up in the presence of a large company of convalescent soldiers in one of our hospitals to proclaim salvation. During the reading of a portion of Scripture tears began to flow. I then announced that dear old hymn, — “‘There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,’ &c., the reading of which seemed to melt every heart, and the entire audience was in tears before God. Every word in reference to spiritual truth fell with a soft, subduing fervor on their chastened hearts.”
Lately a colporteur at Lauderdale Springs, Miss., was distributing tracts, and a captain approached him and asked for one. “Select for yourself, captain,” said he. The captain looked over them, and selected “Don’t Swear,” and began to read it aloud to the soldiers standing around, pausing occasionally to comment on the points made in the tract. When he had finished, he exclaimed, “I am done swearing. Take this,” handing the colporteur a ten-dollar bill, “and send it to aid in bringing out another edition of this tract.”
The soldiers themselves were often the most successful tract distributors. A private in a Virginia regiment, all the time that his command was near Richmond, sold the daily papers to his comrades, and with the profits bought tracts, which he circulated among them. It was truly a noble sight to see this pious young man, after a long walk to the city, and after having sold his papers, worn down with fatigue, coming with the proceeds to purchase religious reading for his fellow-soldiers.
“When I entered the army,” said a soldier, “I was the chief of sinners. I did not love God, nor my soul, but pursued the ways of unrighteousness with ardor, without ever counting the cost. I studiously shunned preaching and our faithful chaplain, lest he should reprove me; and when he was preaching in the camp I would be in my tent gambling with my wicked companions. One day he presented a tract entitled, ‘The Wrath to Come,’ and so politely requested me to read it that I promised him I would, and immediately went to my tent to give it a hasty perusal. I had not finished it until I felt that I was exposed to that wrath, and that I deserved to be damned. It showed me so plainly where and what I was, that I should have felt lost and without a remedy had it not pointed me to that glorious Refuge which has indeed been a refuge to me from the storm, for I now feel that I can trust in Christ.”
The history of this little tract is the history of thousands of like character that preached silently but powerfully and successfully, in camp and hospitals in tent and bivouac. The following incident is a simple, truthful, and touching illustration of the good that may arise from the humble work of a tract distributor?
“Richard Knill did not become a subject of the grace of God until he was twenty-six years of age. A sermon preached by his pastor, in which various extracts were given from ‘Buchanan’s Christian Researches in the East,’ had a powerful effect on the heart of Knill, and he resolved to prepare himself for the work of a missionary.
“While he was considering the question of future duty, opportunities for usefulness, presenting themselves in various directions, he was not backward in improving them. On one occasion he heard that a military company of a thousand men were about to be disbanded and sent to their homes he resolved to distribute among them the choicest religious tracts, with the hope that they would benefit not only the soldiers themselves, but the families and the homes to which they were about to return. ‘I proceeded,’ he tells us, ‘to the grenadiers, who were all pleased, until I came to one merry-andrew kind of a fellow. He took the tract and held it up, swore at it, and asked, ‘Are you going to convert me?’’
“I said, ‘Don’t swear at the tract; you cannot hurt the tract, but swearing will injure your soul.’
“‘Who are you?’ he exclaimed. ‘Form a circle round him,’ said he to his comrades, ‘and I will swear at him.’
“They did so; he swore fearfully, and I wept. The tears moved the feelings of the other men, and they said, ‘Let him go; he means to do us good.’
“So I distributed my thousand tracts, and left them in the care of Him who said, ‘My word shall not return unto me void.’
“Many years after I had taken leave of these soldiers, I returned from India to my native country and visited Ilfracombe. There I was invited to preach in the open air, a few miles distant. Preparations were made for my visit, and during the time that I was preaching, I saw a tall, gray-headed man in the crowd, weeping, and a tall young man who looked like his son, standing by his side, and weeping also. At the conclusion of the service they both came up to me, and the father said:
“‘Do you recollect giving tracts to the local militia at Barnstable, some years ago?’
“‘Do you recollect anything particular of that distribution?’
“‘Yes, I recollect one of the grenadiers swore at me till he made me weep.’
“‘Stop,’ said he, ‘Oh, sir, I am the man! I never forgave myself for that wicked act. But I hope it has led me to repentance, and that God has forgiven me. And now, let me ask, will you forgive me?’
“It quite overcame me for the moment, and we parted with a prayer that we might meet in heaven. Is not this encouragement? May we not well say one tract may save a soul.”
Chapter 1. Religion Among Soldiers
Chapter 2. Subjects of the Revival
Chapter 3. Hindrances to the Revival
Chapter 4. Helps to the Revival
Chapter 5. Helps to the Revival - Colportage
Chapter 7. Winter of 1861-'62
Chapter 8. Spring of 1862
Chapter 9. Summer of 1862
Chapter 10. Summer of 1862....
Chapter 11. Summer of 1862....
Chapter 12. Autumn of 1862
Chapter 13. Autumn of 1862....
Chapter 14. Autumn of 1862....
Chapter 15. Winter of 1862-'63
Chapter 16. Spring of 1863
Chapter 17. Spring of 1863....
Chapter 18. Spring of 1863....
Chapter 19. Summer of 1863
Chapter 20. Autumn of 1863
Chapter 21. Winter of 1863-'64
Chapter 22. Spring of 1864
Chapter 23. Summer of 1864
Chapter 24. Autumn and Winter of 1864-'65
Chapter 25. Spring of 1865