Religion and the American Civil War

By Randall M. Miller; Harry S. Stout et al. | Go to book overview

Afterword

JAMES M. MCPHERSON

As he waited nervously to go into action at Vicksburg on May 19, 1863, a private in the 37th Mississippi "took out my Bible and read it with peculiar interest, especially 91st Psalm, and felt that I could claim the promise therein contained. Indeed I was both spiritually and physically strengthened, and believed I could go into battle without a dread as to consequences. Was determined to discharge my duty both to my God and country." 1

The verses from Psalm 91 that strengthened this soldier were probably these:

I will say of the Lord,
He is my refuge and fortress:
My God; in him will I trust. . . .

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night;
nor for the arrow that flieth by day. . . .

A thousand shall fall at thy side,
and ten thousand at thy right hand;
but it shall not come nigh thee. . . .

For he shall give his angels charge over thee,
to keep thee in all thy ways.

This soldier was scarcely unique. Thousands of his fellows in both the Confederate and Union armies carried Bibles and sought their comfort on the eve of battle. "If a man ever needed God's help it is in time of battle," wrote a private in the 24th Georgia, a sentiment echoed across the lines by a private in the 25th Massachusetts: "I felt the need of religion then if I ever did." A soldier in the 100th Pennsylvania, who carried a well-thumbed Bible while under fire nearly every day for a month in the Wilderness campaign, wrote to

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