Sunday, March 16, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Sunday, March 16, 1862

Day of Prayer (for some)

It is Sunday and in the camps chaplains are conducting services. It was not uncommon for chaplains to accompany the troops and sometimes even join them in battle, encouraging the soldiers, performing last rites, and occasionally doing God’s work with their muskets. Chaplains received little direction from the Army, but typically busied themselves with prayer services, baptisms, and encouraging morality and temperance. Officers expected them to help build morale and maintain good order among the troops. Most chaplains were Protestants; Catholic priests were sometimes turned away by Protestant officers. Religiosity was not yet the American hallmark it would become in the 21st century, however, so many soldiers did not attend services or attend them willingly.

(Pictured here: Rev. Lemuel F. Drake of Perry County, Ohio, preaching to the men of the 31st Ohio, while encamped in Kentucky.)

Now at Savannah, Tennessee, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant continues forwarding troops to the Tennessee River expedition. By letter, he advises Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman at Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh), eight miles upstream, on how to organize the soldiers coming his way and observes, “I have just arrived and although sick for the last two weeks, begin to feel better at the thought of again being along with the troops.”

From Nashville, Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell is preparing to move southwest in support of Grant, but, as usual, will move very slowly, delayed this time by swollen streams and broken bridges. Among his Army of the Ohio regiments is the 41st Ohio. One of its captains, Emerson Opdycke, writes wife Ellen to report, “We march at 8 a.m. tomorrow.” He says no more of the advance but spends most of his letter describing reconnaissance in force 12 miles east to the late Andrew Jackson’s home, the Hermitage. After the tiring march, which raised numerous blisters on soldiers’ feet, the men “got back to camp at sundown where the bed has seldom been more appreciated.”

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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