Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Prayer in Battle

Posted in Leadership by Andy Hall on October 24, 2010

If a man is good he thinks all men are more or less worthy; if bad he makes all mankind co-defendants. That comes of looking into his own heart and fancying that he surveys the world. Naturally the Rev. W. S. Hubbell, Chaplain in the Loyal Legion, is a praying man, as befits him. When in trouble he asks God to help him out. So he assumes that all others do the same. At a recent meeting of a Congregational Club to do honor to General Howard on that gentleman’s seventieth birthday (may he have a seventy-first) Dr. Hubbell said: “I bear personal testimony that if ever a man prays in his life it is in the midst of battle.”

My personal testimony is the other way. I have been in a good many battles, and in my youth I used some times to pray — when in trouble. But I never prayed in battle. I was always too much preoccupied to think about it. Probably Dr. Hubbell was misled by hearing in the battle the sacred Name spoken on all sides with great frequency and fervency. And probably he was too busy with his own devotions to observe, or, observing, did not understand the mystic word that commonly followed — which, as nearly as I can recollect, was “Dammit.”

Ambrose Bierce, San Fransisco Examiner, December 2, 1900

_____________________

The Loyal Legion was a group of Federal military officers pledged to defend the Union against an ongoing, Confederate insurgency in the immediate aftermath of President Lincoln’s assassination. It included many of the most famous officers in the Union military, including Grant, Sherman, and Farragut. No widespread insurrection developed, of course, and over time the Legion evolved into a fraternal and heritage organization.

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8 Responses

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  1. TheRaven said, on October 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm

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  2. Craig Swain said, on October 25, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Bierce, who no doubt would be diagnosed with PTSD were he alive today, didn’t get the nickname “bitter” for no reason. I do often mention, to those in my group, him as an example of someone coping with the condition. Unfortunately, folks will stumble to the end of the biographical sketches to conclude that he wondered in to Mexico still chasing unresolved issues.

    To his (and your point), there were some studies conducted during World War II and later wars in regard to how soldiers came to cope with battle, from a psychological perspective that is. The conclusions were that most soldiers admit to seeking some sort of solace under combat conditions. What that solace was varied by individual, of course.

    I think some would want that solace to involve some form of religious meditation. That is certainly an understandable act, and, if I can be round about in my logic – understandable that people would understand a soldier’s moment of solace in that way. But to say “there are no atheists in foxholes” is a bit off the mark.

    In my experience, the mind gets very focused when entering a combat situation. Looking back, I can recall several streams of thought merging into a conception of reality. And one of those streams I would summarize as “what happens if I don’t come back?” Now was that what some would call a prayer; or was it simply a soldier considering his own mortality? Hard call to make.

    But I will agree with Bierce that you tend to hear “dammit” a lot, along with some other words I can’t recall here.

  3. Jeffry Burden said, on November 9, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Thanks for the shout-out to the Loyal Legion.

    Indeed, thousands of prominent and not-so-prominent officers joined in the years after the war. However, even if he’d been an officer, I don’t think Bierce was the kind of guy who would have enjoyed membership. 🙂

    Jeffry Burden
    Vice Commander-in-Chief, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the U.S.

    • Andy Hall said, on November 9, 2010 at 4:26 am

      Thanks for your comment, happy to give the mention. Bierce actually was an officer — initially a line officer in the 9th Indiana, then a topographer and staff officer — but I suspect the Loyal Legion was better off without Bierce as a member, as well.

      • Jeffry Burden said, on November 9, 2010 at 5:35 am

        Whoops – my bad. He was indeed an officer. I can only imagine what the meetings would have been like with him around…

    • Andy Hall said, on November 10, 2010 at 7:47 pm

      I wonder how close our relatives came to each other at the Railroad Redoubt. Hmmmm. . . .

      • Jeffry Burden said, on November 10, 2010 at 7:56 pm

        Indeed…the 30th Alabama and 22nd Iowa were in close quarters there.


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