Monday, September 10, 2018

Stonewall Jackson's Requiem


Attending church services was one of the activities Confederate soldiers could choose to break the monotony of their day-to-day lives. At the peak of the revivals in the Army of Northern Virginia (and to an extent, the Army of Tennessee), soldiers could attend services almost every evening (and probably twice on Sunday).  There were never enough chaplains or colporteurs to meet the needs of the soldiers. Truly, the harvest was great, and the workers few.

Not long ago, I began wondering what messages were being delivered about the time of Stonewall Jackson's mortal wounding. He was mistakenly shot by his own troops during the night of May 2, 1863. As the army was fighting the battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, there were no church services held in Confederate camps. Many of the chaplains were busy at various field hospitals. The next church service was held on May 10. We, of course, know that Jackson only had hours to live.

J. K. Hitner, a member of the Rockbridge Artillery, wrote a "Brief Compend[ium] of the Religious History of the Rockbridge Artillery." It appeared in Jones's Christ in the Camp: "It was the first quiet Sabbath after the battles [Chancellorsville and Second Fredericksburg]--Sabbath, May 10. The services were conducted by Rev. B. T. Lacy, who preached from the text, "All things work together for good to those that love God," etc.: Rom. viii. The attendance was very large--between 2,500 and 3,000--consisting of privates and officers of all grades, from General Lee down. I never witnessed such thoughtfulness and seriousness depicted on the face of any auditors. The preacher stated this was General Jackson's favorite text--then unfolded the doctrine and the peculiar comfort to be derived from it by those who were truly children of God. At the same time, the condition of General Jackson was very critical, and the men seemed to feel that much depended on his recovery. At the conclusion of the sermon, Mr. Lacy stated that it might be God's will to spare his life in answer to our prayers, and called upon all to join him in an earnest petition to the throne of grace that God would be pleased to spare him to us. I heard many broken utterances and ejaculations during the prayer, and some declared they tried to pray then, while they thought they had never tried to pray in earnest before. Deep and solemn earnestness appeared written on every countenance. At the conclusion, an impressive pause followed; then the preacher said a few words in application of the text--that if would be all for the best, whatever God would determine in reference to the event; and then the crowd quietly dispersed to their camps, ever to retain in their memories this impressive proceeding." (484)

Lexington Presbyterian Church
Jones adds that once the service concluded, Lee and Lacy met privately about Jackson's condition. Lacy had left Jackson's deathbed to lead the service. Lee inquired about Jackson's condition, and being told that Jackson would probably not live through the day, Lee exclaimed, "Oh! sir, he must not die. Surely God will not visit us with such a calamity. If I have ever prayed in my life I have pleaded with the Lord that Jackson might be spared to us." "And then his heart swelled with emotion too deep for utterance, and he turned away to weep like a child." (75-76)

Jedediah Hotchkiss, Jackson's topographical engineer, makes mention of the sermon in his diary, but did not seem to be present. However, he did attend service the following Sunday. Lacy was again present, and "preached the funeral sermon for General Jackson." Lacy's sermon was based on 2 Timothy 4:7-8: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Hotchkiss goes on to add: "The audience was large, but it looked strange not to see the earnest face of General Jackson there..."(Make me a Map of the Valley, 144, 146)

Francis Kennedy, chaplain of the 28th North Carolina Troops, also preached both on May 10 and May 17. Members of Lane's brigade, to which Kennedy belonged, had been the troops who mistakenly mortally wounded their beloved Stonewall Jackson. The pain they felt was undoubtedly as great as that expressed by Lee. On May 10, Kennedy selected Psalms 103:2 as his text: " Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:" The following Sunday, May 17th, he selected Ecclesiastes 8:11: "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Unfortunately, Kennedy, a Methodist, does not elaborate upon the passages.

Last Tribute of Respect - Mort Kunstler
Turning toward Jackson's "official" funerals, we can examine the passages used at services where Jackson's remains were present. At a private service inside the Virginia Governor's mansion on May 13, the Rev. Thomas V. Moore, pastor of Richmond's First Presbyterian Church, used Isaiah 2:22: "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Robertson, Stonewall Jackson, 758) Jackson's funeral train was soon on its way to the Shenandoah Valley. That evening, the train stopped in Lynchburg and a service was held in the First Presbyterian Church. Dr. James B. Ramsey officiated, and Miss Massey sang "Come, Ye Desolate." (Robertson, Stonewall Jackson, 759) On Thursday, the party boarded a canal boat and began traveling toward Lexington. On arriving, Jackson's remains were transported to the Virginia Military Institute and placed in his old classroom. On May 15, Jackson was taken to the Presbyterian Church, where Dr. William S. White preached on I Corinthians 15:26: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (Robertson, Stonewall Jackson, 761) Then, White read a letter that Jackson had written to him on the death of his son, killed fighting at Second Manassas: "The death of your noble son and my much esteemed friend... must have been a severe blow to you, yet we have the sweet assurance that, whilst we mourn his loss to the country, to the church, and to ourselves, all has been gained for him... That inconceivable glory to which we are looking forward is already his..." (Chambers, Stonewall Jackson, 2:457)

There are undoubtedly other passages used by other chaplains in the army. It would also be interesting to see what passages pastors of churches across the South were using on May 17. Did they mention the death of Jackson? Always something more to research....

(All Scripture passages used come from the Authorized Version[sometimes referred to as the King James Version].)

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