Prison Life among the Rebels: Recollections of a Union Chaplain

Prison Life among the Rebels: Recollections of a Union Chaplain

Prison Life among the Rebels: Recollections of a Union Chaplain

Prison Life among the Rebels: Recollections of a Union Chaplain

Excerpt

Chaplains in the Civil War, both North and South, were a mixed lot. Some were disliked intensely because they neglected their spiritual duties, some were fearful of battles, and some did not truly share the hard lot of camps with the soldiers. Yet others were held in high esteem because they attended to their primary duties and, as the war progressed, went with their men into the dangerous zones of battle to minister to their spiritual needs. Many other good men would have remained, but the pay was often so meager that they could not afford to stay in service and still try to care for their families. The chaplains always posed a problem for the rival governments, for the idea of keeping ministers incarcerated did not set well with either side. Orders and counterorders were issued throughout most of the period 1862-64 in regard to releasing such prisoners.

Very few records of chaplains have been published. One is that of the Reverend Frederic Denison, who wrote of his experiences in the Union Army. Denison and others like him, some of whom were captured and imprisoned, were in all likelihood held in high respect by most of the men, for these chaplains had indeed attended to their primary duties and, risking capture, accompanied the men into the battle zones.

Another such chaplain, a friend of Denison, has left us a remarkable record of life during captivity. Henry S. White was born in 1828 at North Hoosick, New York. He was the son of Newman Sumner White and Abigail Stark, a granddaughter of Captain John Stark, who commanded a company of militia at the battle of Bennington. White became an apprentice blacksmith to his father, then decided to go to Concord, New Hampshire to attend the Methodist Biblical Institute. He graduated in 1851, and for . . .

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