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Christ In the Camp, or, Religion in the Confederate Army, Preface by John William Jones

Christ In the Camp, or, Religion in the Confederate Army
John William Jones


THE history of the Army of Northern Virginia is yet to be written. Much concerning it has already been published—much that vs valuable as "material for the future historian;" more, perhaps, that is worthless—but it remains for some master-hand to separate the wheat from the chaff and tell the true story of the heroic deeds and splendid achievements of that Grand Army which sheds lustre upon the American name and is fast becoming the pride of the whole country—North as well as South. 

It will ever be a source of regret to all lovers of the truth of history that the great chieftain who led this army to so many splendid victories, who sheathed his stainless sword at Appomattox and retired to the shades of academic life at Lexington, the idol of his people and the admiration of the world, was not spared to finish the task he had begun of writing the history of his campaigns; for the world would have believed what he wrote as implicitly as it did those modest despatches which used to be signed, "R. E. Lee, General."

But he was called from his unfinished work to wear his glittering "crown of rejoicing," and so we must wait for the historian of the future to study the material, estimate the "overwhelming numbers and resources" against which the Army of Northern Virginia fought, and give to posterity the results of his labors.

But any history of that army which omits an account of the wonderful influence of religion upon it—which fails to tell how the courage, discipline and morale of the whole was influenced by the humble piety and evangelical zeal of many of its officers and men—would be incomplete and unsatisfactory. The Army of Northern Virginia has a religious history as distinct and as easily traced as its military exploits, and the material for volumes on this feature of its history is so abundant, that in attempting its portrayal one is embarrassed chiefly by the richness of the mine he is to work—the main difficulty being that of selecting from the mass of material at his disposal so as to condense the wonderful story within the limits of a single volume. For such a work I think that I may (without improper egotism) claim some special qualifications.

It was my proud privilege to follow the fortunes of that army, as private soldier or chaplain, from Harper's Ferry in '61 to Appomattox Court House in '65—to know personally many of its leading officers—to mingle freely with the private soldiers in camp, on the march, in the bivouac, on the battle-field, and in the hospital—and to labor in those glorious revivals which made nearly the whole army vocal with God's praises.

In 1865 I was solicited by many of my fellow-chaplains and old comrades, and by General Lee himself, to prepare this chapter of our history, and I collected at that time a large amount of material, to which I have since made constant additions. It will, therefore, be for me a "labor of love" to cull here and there an incident, to recall here and there a reminiscence, to paint here and there a picture which will serve to illustrate the subject, and to show beyond all cavil that "religion in Lee's army" was not a myth, but a blessed reality, a "silver lining" to the dark cloud of war, a bright spot in the gloomy picture, a solace in hardships, sufferings and afflictions, and a bright guiding star to many of our brave men when called on to "cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."

In the preparation of this volume I have made free use of my own diary, and of letters from the army which I wrote for the Religious Herald and the Christian Index, and especially of a series of papers recently published in the Religious Herald, which were very kindly received, and for the publication of which, in book form, I have received many calls from friends living in different sections of the country and representing all creeds of our evangelical Christianity.

I must also make especial acknowledgment of indebtedness to the
excellent book of my friend, Rev. Dr. W. W. Bennett (late President of Randolph-Macon College), on "The Great Revival;" to war files of several religious newspapers , to a large number of letters and other documents furnished me in '65 and '66 by chaplains, missionaries, and others of our army-workers, and to a complete file of the minutes of our
Chaplains' Association of the Second and Third Corps, furnished me by the courtesy of the accomplished secretary, Rev. L. C. Vass.

Nor must I fail to make due acknowledgment to my old friend and honored brother, Rev J. C. Granberry, D. D., Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, for his admirable introduction. Bishop Granberry's zealous and efficient service as chaplain in the Army of Northern Virginia—a service which was only temporarily suspended when he was wounded and taken prisoner in the faithful discharge of his duty—gives him special qualification to speak on this subject, while his wide influence with evangelical Christians of every name gives peculiar weight to his kind words of commendation.

It may be proper to add that, while the book is written by an ardent Confederate, who does not pretend to conceal warm Confederate sympathies, everything has been scrupulously avoided which could reasonably give offence from either sectional or sectarian bias.

The work begun twenty-two years ago is now finished, and the author sends it forth with the earnest hope that it may prove acceptable to many at the North as well as at the South, with the fervent prayer that it may be useful in leading men to Christ and in strengthening the faith and brightening the hope of true children of our loving Father, who, behind the "frowning providence'' of war, hid "a smiling face" for those who trusted Him even in the storm.

J. W  J.
Richmond, Virginia,
May 30, 1887.

J. William Jones, Christ in the Camp, or, Religion in the Confederate army (Atlanta: The Martin & Hoyt Company, 1904), 5-8.


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