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'A Christian Soldier'

[source: New York Evangelist, 4 January 1872, page 1]

A CHRISTIAN SOLDIER

Dear Evangelist:--Reading the obituary notice of the late departed General Gregory, U.S.A., I thought that a little scrap from my field notes of the campaign of 1864 might be of interest to his many friends among your readers. At the date alluded to, I was attached to the 3d Division 6th Corps hospital, near the battlefield of Cold Harbor. It was Sabbath afternoon. The noon round of the hospital was finished. Seeing a strong force of chaplains on the ground, and learning that arrangements had been made with sufficient numbers to take part in the afternoon services, I started toward the front to see what I could do among the troops. I had scarcely made a mile in advance, when in a belt of pine woods on my right, I saw a large detachment of white and colored troups. They were a part of the reinforcements then being pushed to the front--had just come up from White House Landing. The weather was exceedingly warm, the roads very dusty. The men were halted here to recover from the fatigue of the march before going into action. Some were sitting or lounging in groups, talking or smoking, others were overhauling their accoutrements, others preparing or taking a hasty meal.

Here seemed my opportunity. I sought the officer in command, and on introducing myself and stating my errand, asked if it would be agreeable to have a preaching service then and there. Springing to his feet and warmly grasping my hand, he said: "With all my heart, chaplain, with all my heart!" "Here, Adjutant, order each company to report at headquarters in twenty minutes." Within the time specified my congregation was assembled--the men sitting or standing in circles, the officers on the inner line. My pulpit was of novel construction--of empty hard-tack boxes. My text was these words of Paul: "Learn to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." I have now the little army hymn-book, the leaf turned down at the hymn then sung, "My soul, be on thy guard." This was lined out, and the Colonel acted as chorister. All sang, and the pine woods rang with that soul-stirring anthem, that martial humn of the soldier of Christ.

After a few words of cheer, we parted not to meet again until the mass-meeting of the chaplains of the army at Washington. Among the speakers was Gen. Gregory. As the meeting closed, I sought him out, and asked him if he remembered the itinerant chaplain and the service in the woods of Cold Harbor? Almost crushing my hand in his grip, he said, "I do, chaplain, well remember that time; those were dark days then, but God has since done wonderful things for us, of which we are glad." This was our last meeting, and now one more of that noble class of men, a soldier of the Havelock and Howard stamp, has gone to his rest and reward. May we meet again at the roll-call of the redeemed of Christ.

J. P. ROE.
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

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revised 12 Apr 07
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