Excerpts from Chapter Two
CHRIST IN THE CAMP
INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIAN OFFICERS
Chapter Two is INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIAN OFFICERS and on page 42 the author states “No army, with whose history I am acquainted, at least, was ever blessed with so large a proportion of high officers who were earnest Christian men, as the Army of Northern Virginia.”
The author went on to name these men. He wrote “We had at first such specimens of Christian soldier as R. E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, D. H. Hill, T. R. Cobb, A. H. Colquitt, Kirby Smith, J. E. B. Stuart, W. N. Pendleton, John B. Gordon, C. A. Evans, A. M. Scales, ‘Willie’ Pegram, Lewis Minor Coleman, Thos. H. Carter, Carter Braxton, Charles S. Venable, and a host of others too numerous to mention. And during the war Generals Ewell, Pender, Hood, R. H. Anderson, Rhodes, Paxton, W. H. S. Baylor, Colonel Lamar, and a number of others of our best officiers professed faith in Christ.”
On Page 45 the author quotes from a directive of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. Davis wrote on March 5, 1863 “It is meet that, as a people who acknowledge the supremacy of the living God, we should be ever mindful of our dependence on Him; should remember that to Him alone can we trust for our deliverance; that to Him is due devout thankfulness for the signal mercies bestowed on us, and that by prayer alone can we hope to secure the continued manifestation of that protecting care which has hitherto shielded us in the midst of trials and dangers.”
ROBERT E. LEE
It is written on page 48 that “General R. E. Lee, the great commander of the Army of Northern Virginia from June, 1863, to the surrender at Appomattox Court house, was one of the noblest specimens of the Christian soldier that the world ever saw.” What a testimony!
On page 49 the author states that “In this age of hero-worship there is a tendency to exalt unduly the virtues of great men, to magnify the religious character of one professing Christian, and even to manufacture ‘Christian’s out of notoriously irreligious lives. This is so well understood that there may be with those who never came in contact with this great man a lingering doubt as to the genuineness of his piety-a fear that with him, as with so many others, his profession of religion was merely nominal.” Hero-worship! Times have not changed much if any!
THE LORD’S DAY
On the same page the author states “I can never forget my first interview and conversation with General Lee on religious matters. It was in February, 1864, while our army was resting along the Rapidan, Rev. B. T. Lacy and myself went, as a committee of our Chaplain’s Association, to consult him in reference to the better observance of the Sabbath in the army, and especially urge that something be done to prevent irreligious officers from converting Sunday into a grand day for inspections, reviews, etc. It was a delicate mission. We did not wish to appear as either informers or officious intermeddlers, and yet we were very anxious to do something to further the wishes of those who sent us, and to put a stop to what was then a growing evil and, in some commands, a serious obstacle to the efficient work of the chaplain. The cordial greeting which he gave us, the marked courtesy and respect with which he listened to what we had to say and expressed his warm sympathy with the object of our mission, soon put us at our ease. But as we presently began to answer his questions concerning the spiritual interests in the army, and to tell of that great revival which was then extending through the camps, and bringing thousands of our noble men to Christ, we saw his eye brighten and his countenance glow with pleasure; and as, in his simple, feeling words, he expressed his delight, we forgot the great warrior, and only remembered that we were communing with an humble, earnest Christian.”
Then “In July, 1862, he had issued a general order to the army in which he said: ‘Habitually all duties except those of inspection will be suspended during Sunday, to afford the troops rest and enable them to attend religious services.’” Oh, the need for godly leaders such as this today that have a care for the souls of those serving under them!
On pages 51 & 52 is given Rev. Dr. T. V. Moore’s words he gave in his memorial sermon for General Lee. Dr. Moore said “About in the middle of the war, when the horizon looked very dark, I spent an evening with him, at the house of a friend, and he was evidently, in spite of his habitual self-command, deeply depressed. Happening to be alone with him, as we parted for the night, I endeavored to cheer him with the fact that so many Christian people were praying for him. I shall never forget the emphasis with which he grasped my hand as, with a voice and eye that betrayed deep emotion, he assured me that it was not only his comfort, but his only comfort, and declared the simple and absolute trust he had in God, and God alone, as his helper in that terrible struggle. Another incident impressed me still more, because it brought out a most beautiful trait in his character. No one ever rendered him a service, however humble, that was not instantly and gratefully acknowledged, however lowly that person may be. During the summer of 1864, after he had been holding at bay the tremendous forces of General Grant for long weeks, retreating step by step, as he was outflanked by overwhelming numbers, until he reached the neighborhood of Cold Harbor. I had occasion to render him a slight service, so slight that, knowing at the time that he was sick, and overburdened with the great responsibilities of his arduous and continually menaced position, I never expected it to be acknowledged at all; but, to my surprise, I received a letter thanknig mefor this trivial service and adding: ‘I thank you especially that I have a place in your prayers. No human power can avail us without the blessing of God, and I rejoice to know that, in this crisis of our affairs, good men everywhere are supplicating Him for His favor and protection.’ He then added a postscript, which most touchingly exhibited his thoughtful and tender recollection of the troubles of others, even in that hour when all his thoughts might be supposed to be absorbed by his vast responsibilities as the leader of the Army of Northern Virginia.” It seems R. E. Lee had learned that in spite of circumstances to trust and then rest in the Lord. He also had grasped the Christian attribute of being able to say thank you for services rendered no matter how small or great. I remember a theological student that would accept financial gifts from others but did not believe he had to personally thank the people because he said he only had to thank the Lord. This student could have learned something from R. E. Lee.
On page 60 we read that “General Lee was emphatically a man of prayer. He was accustomed to pray in his family and to have his seasons of secret prayer which he allowed nothing else – however pressing – to interrupt. He was also a constant reader and a diligent student of the bible, and had regular seasons for this delightful exercise. Even amid his most active campaigns he found time to read every day some portion of God’s Word.” Are there many if any of our leaders in government or the military of which this might be said of them?
When General Lee heard that General Jackson was growing worse from his wounds General Lee wrote “Tell him that I am praying for him as I believe I have never prayed for myself” page 75.
On page 65 General Lee says the Bible “…in comparison with which all others in my eyes are of minor importance; and which in all my perplexities and distresses has never failed to give me light and strength.”
As to Lee’s faith it is said on page 66 that “he would, when occasion offered, speak most decidedly of his reliance for salvation upon the mercies of his personal Redeemer, and none who heard him thus talk could doubt for a moment that his faith was built on the ‘Rock of Ages.’” This is the kind of man America needs today in the White House. Yea, let me not stop there but also in the Congress!
General Lee’s belief concerning death is verbalized on page 68 in a letter of sympathy written February 28, 1870. General Lee wrote “But the great God of heaven takes us at the period when it is best for us to go, and we can only gratefully acknowledge His mercy and try to be resigned to His will. Every beat of our hearts marks our progress through life and admonishes us of the steps we make towards the grave. We are thus every moment reminded to prepare for our summons.”
General Lee was a man of sympathy. This is seen on page 72 in a letter written December 10, 1862. In the days just prior to Fredericksburg General Lee wrote to a bereaved mother who had lost two children in infancy. . General Lee wrote that he “I can say nothing to soften the anguish you must feel, and I know you are assured of my deep and affectionate sympathy. May God give you strength to bear the affliction. He has imposed and produce future joy out of present misery, is my earnest prayer.”
While General Lee’s son was in a Northern prison his wife died. General Lee wrote his son “God knows how I loved your dear wife, how sweet her memory is to me, and how I mourn her loss. My grief could not be greater if you had been taken from me. You were both equally dear to me. My heart is too full to speak on this subject, nor can I write. But my grief is for ourselves, not for her. She is brighter and happier than ever – safe from all evil, and awaiting us in her heavenly abode” page 74.
LOYALTY AND FRIENDSHIP
Lee’s “affection for Jackson and Jackson’s love for him were very touching. To Jackson’s note informing him that he was wounded General Lee replied: ‘I cannot express my regret at the occurrence. Could I have directed events I should have chosen for the good of the country to have been disabled in your stead. I congratulate you on the victory which is due to your skill and energy.’ It was on the reception of these touching words that the wounded chieftain exclaimed: ‘Better that ten Jacksons should fall than one Lee’” page 75.
On the same page it is written that “Several days afterwards, when his great lieutenant was reported to be doing well, Lee playfully sent him word: ‘You are better off than I am; for, while you have only lost your left, I have lost my right arm.”
CARE OF SOULS
After General Lee became president of Washington College he related to the Presbyterian pastor in Lexington that “I shall be disappointed, sir; if I shall fail in the leading object that brought me here, unless these young men become real Christians; and I wish you and others of your sacred profession to do all you can to accomplish this” page 76.
On page 78 General Lee a conversation concerning the students at Washington College is given. General Lee said “…if I could only know that all the young men in the college were good Christians, I should have nothing more to desire’” page 78.
General Lee himself was a member of the Episcopal Church but when a Jewish soldier requested of his captain permission to attend ceremonies in his Richmond synagogue the captain refused permission. The paper was then sent to General Lee who “…endorsed on it: ‘Approved, and respectfully returned to Captain ––, with the advice that he should always respect the religious views and feelings of others’” page 79.
However, General Lee did have to refuse a Rabbi’s request that the Jewish soldiers be relieved of duty from the 2nd to the 15th Of September, 1861. General lee wrote the Rabbi saying “It would give me great pleasure to comply with a request so earnestly urged by you, and which, I know, would be so highly appreciated by that class of soldiers. But the necessities of war admit of no relaxation of the efforts requisite for its success, nor can it be known on what day the presence of every man may be required’” page 79.
General Lee certainly left a testimony as to having placed personal faith in the lord Jesus Christ as their savior. “If I have ever come in contact with a sincere, devout Christian -one who, seeing himself to be a sinner, trusted alone in the merits of Christ – who humbly tried to walk the path of duty, ‘Looking unto Jesus’ as the author and finisher of his faith – and whose piety constantly exhibited itself in his daily life – that man was GENERAL R. E. LEE’” page 81.
The Hollywood movies portray a “good” soldier as one that drinks, curses, and fornicates with women wherever he may find them. Well, Hollywood would be lying if they sought to depict General R. E. Lee this way. Here was a man among men. He was a true soldier, warrior, leader, statesman but also a true Christian gentleman. General Lee had a heart for his men, their families, his country and his God. He was a man of principle and faith. The world may have their worldly heroes; but may God give us more men in the military, government and the churches in the vein of R. E. Lee!