|Publisher:||B&H Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||10.02(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.70(d)|
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Faith in GOD and GENERALSAN ANTHOLOGY OF FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
By Ted Baehr and Susan Wales
Broadman & Holman PublishersCopyright © 2003 Ted Baehr and Susan Wales
All right reserved.
REVOLUTIONARY FAITH IN NORTH AND SOUTH
How could we help falling on our knees, all of us together, and praying God to pity and forgive us all!"
-Joshua Chamberlain after the war
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain looked out upon the masses of men streaming by, clad in tattered gray, and ordered that his men salute the vanquished. Years of monumental struggle, bloodshed, and suffering had ended here, in this quiet knoll called Appomattox, where the armies passed silently. Chamberlain ordered a "carry arms" salute that spread down the Union line as they faced the forces of Major General John B. Gordon. Surprised, Gordon reared on his steed and saluted back. The dignity of that act led Gordon to later call Chamberlain "one of the knightliest soldiers" of the war. In the person of this knight of the North coexisted the twin strands of a warrior and a scholar, a deeply thoughtful and religious man who bore the burden of his country's call to take up arms against treachery, aristocracy, and slavery.
His faith, honesty, and persistence in overcoming obstacles marked Chamberlain's formative years. His tenacity is best understood by a story from Lawrence's youth. As the firstborn son of a Maine farming family, Lawrence was well accustomed to brutal work, dawn to dusk. One day, he was driving an ox cart and collecting hay with his father when one of the front wheels caught between two stumps. His father, a stern man, demanded that he "clear the cart." Lawrence, thinking his father couldn't see how firmly the cart was lodged, asked of his father, "How do I do it?" His father responded forcefully, "Do it-that's how!" Thus, Chamberlain, with all of the force he could muster, did it. In his memoirs Chamberlain said, "'Do it-that's how!' was a maxim whose order far exceeded the occasion. It was an order for life that was worth infinitely more than years of book learning and dilatory resolution."
While his father wished the boy would go into the military, his mother believed he should go into the ministry. Ultimately, he decided to become a missionary, but he was too far behind in his studies to enter Bowdoin College. In nine months' time, Lawrence built a solitary study in his attic and learned Greek and Latin with the aid of tutors, passing the entrance requirements to Bowdoin. While there, Chamberlain was forced to confront another shortfall: a nagging stammer. He learned to overcome this by speaking in a sing-song manner, not unlike how he would sing as a member of chorus in church, and went on to become a gifted orator and linguist. By his graduation from Bowdoin and Bangor Theological Seminary, Chamberlain was fluent in nine other languages. He accepted a job offer as a professor of rhetoric at Bowdoin before war called him to markedly different services.
The path to war for Chamberlain must have been a difficult one. He had benefited greatly from times of peace: he had a beautiful family (his wife, Fanny Adams, was animated and charming and the daughter of the local pastor), was a beloved professor, and knew little about the art of war. Nonetheless, he could not be restrained after the Rebel victory at Bull Run led President Lincoln to call for more recruits. Though the college tried to keep him from entering service, he was committed to the cause. He said of his willingness to participate, "I have always been interested in military matters, and what I do not know in that line, I know how to learn. But, I fear, this war, so costly of blood and treasure, will not cease until the men of the North are willing to leave good positions, and sacrifice the deepest personal interests, to rescue our Country from desolation, and defend the national existence against treachery at home and jealousy abroad. This war must be ended, with a swift and strong hand; and every man ought to come forward, and ask to be placed at his proper post."
Chamberlain considered the Confederate attack on Federal forces an assault on the sacred Union, and the democracy it represented, a nation which had been paid for by the blood of his Puritan ancestors, three of whom fought in the Revolution. The "jealousy abroad" he spoke of was also no small matter: English papers at the time praised the South for ending the "horrible nightmare" that was the American experiment of democracy and individual merit. They believed the break-up of the Union would prove that aristocracy and monarchy are the proper forms of government, and that men of humble origins such as Abraham Lincoln, or Lawrence Chamberlain, had no business as leaders. In taking up arms, Chamberlain recognized the risks and accepted the great sacrifices that his involvement entailed.
Chamberlain requested a commission from the governor of Maine and received the position of lieutenant colonel under Colonel Adelbert Ames: the 20th Maine Regiment had been born. Under Ames, Chamberlain learned how to lead men and how to fight. Later, Ames would be given charge of a division, and Chamberlain would lead the 20th.
His body bore the proof of his dedication: in twenty-four engagements-including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor-Chamberlain was wounded six times. At Fredericksburg in December 1862, where Chamberlain led his men "up slopes slippery with blood," a Confederate ball grazed by his ear and neck. At Gettysburg on Little Round Top, Chamberlain held the end of the Union line against wave after wave of Alabaman Confederates. Had he lost the position, the entire Union flank would have been exposed, and the Confederates would have swept over the ridge and probably won the battle, and the war. Chamberlain vividly described the battle field: "everywhere men torn and broken, staggering, creeping, quivering on the earth, ... Things which cannot be told-nor dreamed."
During the Petersburg campaign Chamberlain was struck by a minié ball that ripped through his body, hip to hip, shattering bones and cutting the bladder and urethra. The injuries were so severe that the Union army sent out his obituary prematurely, and the division surgeons predicted that he had no chance of survival. Chamberlain, however, hung on to life as he was transferred from field hospital to hospital and quickly scrawled his wife a message attesting both to his faith and love for her: "My darling wife I am lying mortally wounded the doctors think, but my mind & heart are at peace Jesus Christ is my all-sufficient savior. I go to him. God bless & keep & comfort you, precious one, you have been a precious wife to me. To know & love you makes death & life beautiful ... Oh how happy to feel yourself forgiven. God bless you evermore precious precious one. Ever yours Lawrence."
Chamberlain survived the encounter and after a period of recovery in Maine returned to the field to again shed blood for the cause of freedom. He justified his return to war, in part, by remarking that "there is no promise of life in peace, & no decree of death in war. And, I am so confident of the sincerity of my motives that I can trust my own life & the welfare of my family in the hands of Providence." He went on to be wounded again at Quaker Roads and continued to rally his troops after being shot across the arm. His fearlessness and bravery were such that, amazingly, both his troops and the Confederates who faced him cheered him on in that engagement. Again, after that occurrence, the New York papers mistakenly published his obituary.
"In great deeds, something abides," said Chamberlain in memory of the actions that occurred in the battle of Gettysburg, including his defense of Little Round Top. Indeed, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the bloody task of holding the line against consistent rebel onslaughts. In 1889, Chamberlain would return to Gettysburg to pay tribute to the great loss in words perhaps as stirring as Lincoln's:
In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. This is the great reward of service. To live, far out and on, in the life of others; this is the mystery of the Christ-to give life's best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal.
In years after the war, Chamberlain did indeed "live, far out and on" as he became the president of Bowdoin College, became Governor of Maine, and then went into business in the last years of his life. For a man so visibly scarred by the war, Chamberlain was the last man to die of war-related injuries. In 1914, as he succumbed to his wounds, another war another world away was beginning, but Chamberlain can be credited with standing his ground and ensuring that this nation would remain united under God.
In his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln recognized that people on both sides of the Civil War were Christian people who looked to God for assistance in the struggle. Both North and South "read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other." Both Northern and Southern leaders believed that the morality and religion of the soldiers were just as important to victory as was their fighting strength.
Leaders of both sides issued orders and proclamations encouraging Christian prayers and observances among the soldiers and the citizenry. At the beginning of the war, on November 15, 1862, President Lincoln wrote a letter to his army commanders encouraging Sabbath observance among the troops as well as the avoidance of vice and immorality:
The President, Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service. The importance, for man and beast, of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of the Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine will demand that Sunday labor in the army and navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.
The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperiled by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High.
At this time of public distress, adopting the words of Washington in 1776, "Men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country, without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality." The first general order issued, by the Father of his Country after the Declaration of Independence, indicates the spirit in which our institutions were founded, and should ever be defended: "The general hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country."
In July 1862, General Robert E. Lee issued a general order to the army similarly stating that all duties except inspection were to be suspended on Sunday so that the soldiers could rest and attend religious services. When some officers began to use Sunday as a gala day for inspections and military reviews, General Lee issued a general order reinforcing Sabbath observance in the army as a moral and religious duty, as well as contributing to the health of the troops. Only the most necessary duties would be required on the Sabbath. Inspections would be performed at a time that would not interfere with the men attending divine service.
Both North and South continued the practice and tradition-dating back to the earliest days of colonial America-of proclaiming fast days and days of prayer for the respective nations.
The most famous of these proclamations is undoubtedly Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, which established an annual Thanksgiving as a national holiday:
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.
We know that by his divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.
Excerpted from Faith in GOD and GENERALS by Ted Baehr and Susan Wales Copyright © 2003 by Ted Baehr and Susan Wales
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
|The Parting Sea: Revolutionary Faith in North and South||1|
|God-Fearing Armies: Fighting for the "Right"||11|
|"He Descended into Hell" Holding Fast to Hope||29|
|"Judge Not That We be Not Judged" Abraham Lincoln||41|
|"As Safe in Battle as Bed" "Stonewall" Jackson||61|
|"Nothing But a Poor Sinner" Robert E. Lee||79|
|Behind Every Good Man: Women in the War||103|
|The Brightest and the Best: The Pendletons||123|
|The Supporting Cast||143|
|Faith, Hope, and Love: Letters between Stonewall and Mary Jackson||169|
|Appendix||Cast of the Film Gods and Generals||181|