Quotes taken from Steven Woodworth, “While God is Marching On”

I.  God’s providence

“Give my love to Mother, and tell her not to be uneasy about me for all things work together for good to them that are called the Children of God” (Levi Lockhart to his sister, from Second North Carolina Hospital, June, 1863)

“A merciful Providence has again taken me through the ordeal of battle unscathed” (Northern soldier to parents after Gettysburg)

“I sometimes think that I can plainly see a Providential hand connected with our co. so far. I do not put my trust in any arm of flesh nor in heavy battalions, but in him who rules the armies and holds the destiny of the nation in His hands.” (James Theaker, 50th Ohio)

“Providence has again by this natural occurrence, forced upon the several armies in the field an armistice of several days.” (Tally Simpson, 3rd South Carolina)

“The ways of Providence are past finding out” (Aurelius Lyman, 46th Indiana, upon hearing General Grant was injured in a fall from his horse)

“I hope they will acknowledge the hand of God in their affliction and that he will sanctify this dispensation of his providence to theirs and our eternal well being” (William Wallace, speaking of civilians at home who lost loved ones)

“I believe God will take care of me; but should he see fit to take me, I am prepared” (Overheard from a captain in the Army of Tennessee upon going into battle) 

“I am glad that you believe there is a being that doeth all things well. Lizzie, if that ball had went through that hit me on the breast, could you still said he doeth all things well? I hope you would for I have reason to hope that I would now have been better off and free from the troubles of war and of camp life and of temptation.” (David Blair, 45th Ohio, to his sister after something in his breast pocket stopped a bullet.)

“My Dear Mother,…Do not mourn my loss. I had hopes to have been spared, but a  righteous God has ordered it otherwise and I feel prepared to trust my case in his hands”

(John Mosely, 4th  Alabama, last letter to his mother after being badly wounded and taken prisoner, aware that he was dying, he was allowed to write home) .

“Now Mother, You must not worry at all about your boys, for if there is a Supreme protecting over us, it can certainly protect us as well here as Wisconsin, and if the hairs of our heads are all numbered and not a sparrow falls to the ground without the knowledge and  will of this overruling power, why it is certainly wrong to think Providence will ordain any thing but what is right and just; then why complain or worry for fear something will happen to our friends when even if our worst fears were realized it might be the best thing that could happen after all.” (Richard Crowe, 32nd Wisconsin)

“This letter will be sent to you only in case I am killed or taken…Keep a good heart. God is good & he is our all in all & will suffer no evil thing to befall us – none that will not be finally for our good – Goodbye. God bless you my dearest Mother (Sidney Bean, 4th Wisconsin. Professor of mathematics at Carrol College, enlisted and became lieutenant colonel. He was killed by a sharp shooter May 29th 1863)

Maj. Abner Small, 16th Maine, after bloody battle in 1864, heard Union soldiers singing Doxology. Small confused, didn’t understand how war did not stop trust in God. “They didn’t bother to think how many voices the war had stopped from praising God.”

“Let the world imagine to itself a magnificent Deity, whose government is only general; the Christian rejoices in the providential superintendence of the smallest matters.” (Confederate Maj. John Stewart Walker, found in a devotional book upon his death after the Battle of Bull Run.

Some veered into fatalism or belief in fate, which leads to this well-known story. A few days before the battles around Richmond, R. L. Dabney, Jackson’s chief of staff, preached a sermon on God’s special providence. He told the men that they need not dodge in the battle, since every shot and shell and bullet sped on its way under the guidance of a special Providence…” During the battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862, Jackson directed those about him to dismount and shelter themselves as they came under fire. Seeing Dabney hiding behind a large gate-post, a man critical of Dabney’s Calvinism said, “Why Dr. Dabney, if the God of battles directs every shot, why do you want to put a gate-post between you and Special Providence?” Dabney replied, “this gate-post is Special Providence!”


II.  The Afterlife

“God may have in store for us as much happiness yet on earth, & unending companionship beyond the grave.” (Andrew Wardlaw, 14thOhio, letter to his wife)

When 3rd Ohio halted on a march through cold rain, their colonel surprised to hear soldiers singing “with great unction,” the hymn “There is a land of pure delight.”

If I fall today I die a Christian, and the wealth of earth is not worth one moments’ time in heaven.” (Confederate Reuben Pierson to his father, 1863)

“If I fall in battle, this poor, frail body may be left for devouring worms, but He will take care of this soul. It will be housed in eternal mansions of glory. O what a pleasant thought to think and know after we have passed through all the afflictions of the body and troubles of the mind to go to that world where death cannot come nor trouble. Yes, where we have parents, sisters, brothers, and where all of the redeemed have gone through all ages of the world, yes, there to be with our Savior who has suffered so much for us, to enjoy his smiles through all eternity.” (Thomas Boatright, 44th Virginia, letter to wife, March, 1863)

“I am tired to death of the war and look forward eagerly to the day when we shall all sit down in his kingdom.” (Joshua Callaway, 28th Alabama)

“If I never see you no more on earth, I hope we will meet on Canaan’s shore.” (Samuel Lockhart, 27th North Carolina, letter to his sister)

“We’ll meet in heaven; I’ll wait for you there” (dying sergeant in 8th Illinois Calvary to fiancé on his death bed)

“Beautiful thought. I’ll see him in heaven, but Christ will occupy my thoughts there.” (Emily Elliot, in diary several weeks after husband’s death)

“May you, my dearest love, and I, go hand in hand through a long and peaceful life, stand together acquitted at the bar of God and then on the wings of angels fly away to heaven to cast our crowns at the feet of Jesus and spend eternity in singing his praises, followed by our dear little children.” (Joshua Callaway, letter to wife)

“I do not reckon they were prepared to die, but I do not like to judge; I hope they were prepared to meet God in peace.” (Lockhart, after hearing of the deaths of two black men back home)

“Like the boiling cauldron of hell, as it is represented to us by our good chaplains.” (Daniel Crotty, 3rd Michigan, describing combat scene)

“…heat enough to make a fellow contemplate the place prepared for the ungodly” (James Gooding, black soldier, 54th Massachusetts)

“These are trying times, and we should all humble ourselves and try to live as we should live and as we will wish we should have done when we come to die. We should live always with God before our eyes and endeavor to serve him continually. At best our days are few and evil, and we should live agreeably together in this world so that we may be better prepared to enjoy our heavenly home above; a few days, weeks, months, or years at farthest we will be called upon to leave our earthly home and if we live right the days allotted to us here below the change will be a good one. If not it will certainly be a very bad one.”     (Samuel Piper to his wife, 158th Pennsylvania)

III.  The Way of Salvation

The sermon left a soldier “feeling sad and fearful I have got hold of the shadow and not the substance…” He was afraid he would “prove to be a hypocrite amidst all the instruction I have had…and so many sermons I have heard…I often think of the realities of eternity, and the certainty of death rushes upon my mind. Am I prepared to meet God if I were called this moment…Oh, am I prepared? – this great question.” (Confederate Thomas Boatright)

“I can now go into the fight without that great dread which has hitherto haunted me, I have a good mind to say that I believe that God is reconciled to me through the blood of Christ…But I am afraid to say it! Oh, for a little more faith!” (Joshua Callaway)

“I would give anything in this world to be a good Christian…Still, it looks like a hard matter for me to give up.” (Samuel Lockhart, to sister)

“I have thought of your advice in the last letter you wrote to me a great many times since I read it, warning me to put my trust in Him whose arm is ever able and willing to save those who will seek him. I have a good mother and two sisters at home who are continually writing me such advice and it has been a subject on my mind for the past 4 months…I have tried to pray, have had others pray for me…but still I feel myself a sinner, but there is one thing I have broke myself of, and that is swearing.” (Moses parker, 3rd Vermont, to letter to “Friend Eliza”)

When Maj. James Doherty, 57th Massachusetts, lay in field hospital dying, Chaplain Rev. Dashiell, “pressed upon him the gracious offer of salvation through Christ” but the major replied, “I cannot insult the savior by offering him the dregs of my life. God bless you, Chaplain.” Then he died.

“I have hope that my sins have been forgiven through the mediation of…Him who was crucified so that poor, wretched, sinful mortals might find acceptance to a throne of grace.” (Reuben Pierson, letter to father, 1864). “Come Ye sinners, poor and needy” a popular hymn among the soldiers.

“I am quite feeble, but my faith and trust is in God through the merits of Christ’s death and suffering on the cross for me – live or die I am his.” (Alfred Fielder, 12th Tennessee, wounded at battle of Atlanta, 1864. Fielder lived)

“He proposed his whole dependence and earnest trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. His hope in the merits of the cross was precious to himself and to his friends” (a friend about 24 year old Nesbit Baugher, 44th Illinois, who lived six weeks after receiving wound.)

“S.A Cunningham noted that of all his soldiers in 41st Tennessee who died in a battle, not “one was prepared to die…How strange that men will go blindly into eternity when a light is offered that will show them the way.”

“We have Christian men in the Regiment, but there are many who take no interest in religious matters. I trust that God’s Spirit will move upon their hearts and turn them to repentance.” (Elisha Rhodes in diary)

When a chaplain came to see Capt. James K. Lee, after Lee suffered mortal wound in 1861, the pastor spoke tenderly to the captain of his “intense sufferings.” The captain replied, “Oh, they are nothing compared to the sufferings Christ bore for me!”




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