Thursday, August 21, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #53

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I am back in the American Bible Society archives this week.  Today I was once again working in materials related to the Civil War, specifically letters written to the ABS by Civil War chaplains.  Here is part of a letter I read today.  It is from the chaplain of the 16th Massachusetts from Middlesex County, Mass.  The New England exceptionalism evident in the connection he makes between Lexington and Concord and the Civil War  is priceless.

“My own regiment is not indebted directly to the American Bible Soc.—Massachusetts sends her regiments thoroughly equipped into the field and she would not deem them so, did not every soldier have offered him ‘the sword of the spirit which is the word of God….

The American Bible Society have donated about five hundred Bibles and Testaments in addition all of which bear the imprint of the American Bible Society.  They have all been called for and with those given as parting gifts by wives and mothers, there can be but few in this regiment not now supplied and I know many, very many would on a march part with every other book or even much clothing sooner than leave behind their Bible.  If the knapsack be too full to hold it, why then the owner would wear it in his bosom to shield in the day of battle the heart its divine truths had first purified...

This regiment is from Middlesex County, Massachusetts, the Co. which contains Concord and Lexington and Bunker Hill, the early Battlefields of our first revolutionary era.  Its soldiers like their fathers believe in praying as well as fighting, nor deem the one inconsistent with the other, providing the cause be as holy as is ours today (Indeed we identify the struggle of this eventual hour with that inaugurated April 19th 1775 and call it, not a curious coincidence but a special Providence. That is was Massachusetts blood, of men from the same Middlesex County, which flowed as the first blood, on the anniversary of the same day, in Baltimore 18th April 1861....   

“We have just had our Forefathers Day, December 22d, a dedication of a chapel tent given by the citizens of Massachusetts for the religious services of the regiment, a fit method of keeping the anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth rock.  In that dedication nearly every Protestant sect and the Roman Catholic priest took part, a significant and beautiful fact.  While writing this last sentence an official order from our Colonel has been put into my hand notifying me that tomorrow, being Christmas, all unnecessary military duty will be suspended and the regiment will observe the day religiously, attending divine service in the morning....

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