The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Chaplains and Faith During the Civil War

By Virginia Ross for The Quill

The Rev. Judy Moore shared her research on the life of Civil War Chaplains at the Henderson County Family History and Genealogy Society, April 19th at the Henderson County Library.

Emphasizing that the Civil War was a family war with brother against brother at times, she said that all depended on where someone was living, to whom they pledged their allegiance, or close family ties determining the side on which they fought.

When the war broke out on April 12, 1861, family life circled around the church and community. These were men who knew their God and Savior. Joining the cause close to their hearts, they needed spiritual guidance and their reliance on their faith was found in their letters home.

Before the war broke out, grassroots revivals in 1857 and later 1863 reflected in their personal faith. These were young men thoroughly Sunday Schooled and had a personal relationship with God.

Even though two sides fought, both read the same Bible so Christian was pitted against Christian and was relying on Him to guide them to victory.

These men needed spiritual guidance as camp life exposed them the sins of Army life so both sides established a chaplain's corps.

The North had 2,357 men and one woman and the South numbered 1,303 men. These messengers of God converted over 150,000 individual who re-dedicated their lives.

Rev. Moore consulted the National Civil War Chaplains Museum at Lynchburg, Va. during her research. Here she learned that a chaplain's duties might include the following: nurse, counselor, father figure, preacher, and watch dog of the morals of the camp.

In 1861 Congress decided to pay chaplains $85 a month, but later changed their minds saying that was too much so reduced it to $50 per month. Later, that was increased to $60-150 and then reduced to $100. No figures are available what the Confederate Army paid.

As about 3,700 served as chaplain both north and south, by denomination that split as the following: 41% Methodists, 18% Presbyterian, 14% Baptist and 3% Catholic. Both the Presbyterians and Baptists sent camp missionaries.

What about back home? Fiery preachers on both sides were exhorting their congregations about their side's Holy Mission and how the enemy was evil. Little gospel was preached at this time.

Even after the war ending, family remained divided; neighbor wouldn't speak to neighbor. Perhaps, we should reflect on what President Lincoln said when asked on whose side was God? He said, I do not know, but I want to be on His side."