Chaplain Henry Allen Tupper
9th Georgia Regiment
By Dr. H. Rondel Rumburg
Tupper was born in Charleston, South Carolina on the 29th day of February in 1828. In the providence of God he was born in a leap year. But his birthday was celebrated during his childhood regardless of the numerical absence of the date of it on the calendar.
His mother’s family was Christian people. The journal of his grandfather, Jacob Yoer, had the sweet spirit of divine grace in all its contents. Henry’s mother was very candid about the spiritual character of her father, who instructed his children to read the Bible on their knees.
Both of Henry Tupper’s parents were Charlestonians by birth as well as members of the First Baptist Church. When they departed this earthly scene they were interred in the church cemetery. His great-grandparents were natives of Heidelberg, Germany.
His father’s family descended from those driven from England by Charles V. His father Tristram Tupper settled in Charleston in 1810, and he married Eliza Yoer in 1816. His father was a railroad builder and president.
The great longing of his mother was the education of her children especially in the things of the Lord, while his father was a man of few words. The parents were active Christians in the First Baptist Church.
When Henry Tupper was an infant Dr. Basil Manly, Sr. was the pastor of the First Baptist Church and he was under his ministry until he went to Madison University to study theology. He attended that institution with James P. Boyce whose sister was to become Tupper’s wife.
Henry Tupper’s education outside the home was under the care of Dr. Dyer Ball who became a missionary in the East. Ball was his school teacher and Sunday school teacher as well. He was at Ball’s school in 1836 during his eighth year. His closest friend during High School was Henry Hannibal Timrod who became the famous poet. Timrod was a constant inspiration to Henry, but he spent a great deal of time during his high school years in outside sports, such as: running, riding, dancing, swimming, shooting and other related activities. Sports he allowed to interfere with his learning.
Tupper also attended Charleston College where he was influenced by skepticism. He even sought to influence his fellow students with such ideas. Tupper and Boyce were converted and both attended Madison University in New York. Here the two young men from Charleston studied Biblical languages along with other university courses. Boyce began to have eye trouble and had to return home. While at Madison Tupper became very interested in missions and resolved to give himself to the work of preaching Christ to the nations. While at Madison University he received the degrees of A.B., A.M., and D.D.
Henry Tupper gave the following account of how he was brought to salvation. “In 1837 Dr. (Richard) Fuller preached in our church from the words: ‘My son, give me thy heart.’ I wept until I was ashamed.” Yes, he was so convicted that he sought to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He said he had been constantly afraid when he went to church that he would be brought under conviction and expose himself before the people. This fear caused him to try to hide in the gallery which was against his parents rules. This time of conviction was during a protracted meeting. He confessed,
I went to the door (of the church), but was afraid to enter. Next morning before breakfast I went and took my seat by the door. Mr. Crawford came to me. The devil took possession of me and I began with my skeptical arguments. He sent Mr. Wyer to me. Though very tender and affectionate, he finally arose and said: “Young man, your infidelity will damn you.” I was greatly offended. Instead of going home to breakfast, I walked out of town full of anger and with the words ringing in my heart—“Will damn you.” I concluded that I would be damned…. I went again to the meeting. Dr. Fuller spoke to me. Sent Mr. Wyer to me, who said: “You are not far from the Kingdom,” but I knew that I would be damned. I talked wildly to mother about my sins and ruin. Went to father’s office, paced up and down the back store praying for deliverance. Tut (my brother Tristram) came in dancing and singing. I burst into tears and told him: “I will be damned, but you must not!” I made him kneel down and prayed for him. Then I hid myself in the hayloft and poured out my distressed spirit to God. Going home, I found that Dr. Fuller had left for me James’ Anxious Inquirer. The devil again entered me. I vowed I would not go again to hear Dr. Fuller and I would resist salvation even if it were forced upon me. Mother chided me kindly but wisely. My conscience pricked me. My sins seemed like a mountain crushing me to perdition. I read The Anxious Inquirer almost all night. I was relieved and alarmed. The idea of a false hope terrified me. In the morning I went to the Inquiry Meeting. In reply to my fears Dr. Fuller said: “If you go to hell I will go with you and we shall preach Jesus there until they turn us out, and then where will we go?
This state persisted for several weeks and Tupper confided
“I was bowed down because I could not feel my sins. On Sunday night I went to hear Mr. Francis Johnson. He preached on ‘The Law of God.’ I was overwhelmed and fell down on my knees in the pew and burst into tears.”
But when morning came Tupper went to see Mr. Johnson. Johnson told him he was converted as much as he. Tupper protested that he was lost. Johnson told him to go to his closet and plead with God for the fulfillment of His promise–“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Tupper said,
I did so. I believed and rejoiced in the words: “Thou shalt be saved.” The whole world was changed. It was a delight to live. I could have encompassed the universe in my love…. At the church door next day I saw (a acquaintance). I offered him my hand. In an hour or so he rode up and handed me a note, asking if my hand was offered as a retraction of the insult of cutting his acquaintance. I drew him upstairs and implored him to repent and believe. I carried him to see Dr. Fuller. We prayed together and were baptized together by Dr. Fuller on the evening of the 17th of April 1846 (upon profession of faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord)…. The night I was baptized Dr. Fuller said to the congregation: “This young man wants to go to Africa, but we need him at home.
This revival went on for almost six weeks. Dr. Richard Fuller preached nightly for that entire period. There were around 500 people brought to Christ in Charleston. Of this number some 200 joined Baptist churches. There was a sunrise prayer meeting as a result of God sending revival and that prayer meeting continued for two more years, said Tupper, “until all of us who led went away to study for the ministry.”
After being converted Tupper experienced a time of doubt and anguish of soul. This test was weathered and he came to a settled state of peace and joy. This young man experienced a work of grace in his soul which of course changed the direction of his life for time and eternity–“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Henry Allen Tupper grew up in the Charleston First Baptist Church and attended Sabbath School with the one whom the Lord intended for his bride. Nancy Johnstone Boyce was pictured on the Lord’s Day in the following way by Tupper,
Frequently she dressed in white. I often thought that the garb was a fit and beautiful emblem of her simple and pure character. The plainness of her dressing was always to be noted in view of the fact that she was literally doted on by her father, who was probably the wealthiest man in the city, and known by all to be devoted to his children. She was really “the pious, consistent little member of the church.” She visited the poor, sought children for the Sabbath school, and was ready for every good word and work.
This was one of the recollections he penned of her early life. Henry and Nannie (as he called her) were married on November 1st, 1849 at the summer residence of her father Kerr Boyce. This was at “Kalmia” in South Carolina.
As a little boy Tupper use to play at preaching in the attic of the Tupper home. His siblings were the congregation in this childish scheme. He used his room to practice up on his skills. But when he became a man he put away childish things. Preaching became his calling after his conversion and the Lord putting the burden for the ministry on his heart.
H. A. Tupper gave the following account,
I often told my friends that I intended being a lawyer until I was thirty years old and then I would enter the ministry, as Dr. Fuller…. I was deeply interested in the saving of souls, and felt no stronger desire than to see the world brought to Jesus. I thought seriously on the matter and determined to give myself to the work. Of all the preachers who made deep impressions … Dr. Fuller was the greatest…. But my head is swallowed up by my heart whenever I think or speak of this, my father in the Lord.
The Lord uses His Elijahs to impact His Elishas and so the Lord used Fuller to impact Tupper. H. A. Tupper was licensed to preach on November 14th, 1847. He was called to the Baptist Church of Graniteville, South Carolina where he was ordained pastor on the first Lord’s Day in 1850. His first pastorate was a learning experience along with a severe test. Tupper gives us the following insight,
My work at Graniteville was partly missionary and entirely gratuitous and this greatly delighted me…. It was a first love indeed. Fresh from the University, my habits of study were continued and I gave much time to the study of the Scriptures. In the afternoon I usually preached an expository sermon, and in this way took the church through most of the epistles of the New Testament. On Saturday night I met with as many as would attend and examined them on the Scripture expounded the Sabbath before…. My health seemed to fail … I had to spend the winter of 1852 in Florida. Dr. Geddings, of Charleston, said I must never preach again.
This was a great test from the Lord. Tupper persevered and was restored. His major pastorate was the Baptist Church of Washington, Georgia. Here he labored for the Lord from 1853 to 1872. Sandwiched in this time frame was his chaplaincy in the Confederate service. This pastoral ministry commenced in the spring of 1853. Tupper and his family loved their home, the town and the church. He was even known in the town as “the Bishop.” He preached three times on the Lord’s Day for much of his pastorate having a special service for the children on Sunday afternoon.
Before the War of Northern aggression he preached every Sunday and Tuesday night to the colored people and had appointments on the plantations in the vicinity. “This was service in which my heart rejoiced,” he said, and “I had a large colored membership and many of them devoted Christians.”
Tupper’s preparation for the Lord’s Day morning sermon was prepared with great care and exactness. The Lord was pleased to send blessed revivals under his ministry. There was a great emphasis on prayer for missions and the congregation was instructed clearly on the subject of missions. As a result of his pastoral guidance and example the church gave large offerings for the support of the Lord’s work among the Indians and Africans. During the time of this pastorate the Tupper family took a trip to Europe.
As has been noted before Henry A. Tupper was a good student and devoted himself to the study as well as to other aspects of the ministry. His library was one of quality containing some 1,500 volumes. The Tupper children had been encouraged to love books and they were very fond of reading. He also wrote, “There were few things that we cared for or coveted beyond our constant reach, save more knowledge of Jesus, more experience of his love, and more perfect assurance of our election and calling.” During this time there were repeated offers of pastorates, professorships and other enticements to get him to leave.
Whatever Tupper was doing one subject seemed to cling to his mind and as he said “haunted” him; that was the subject of missions. He enjoyed the ministry the Lord had given him but wondered at times if he could be more useful elsewhere. He chairman of the Executive Committee on Missions in the Georgia Association. His drive for missions led to the Japan Plan. He explained,
I had something to do to supply missionaries and sustain them, but I wanted more…. Finally I formed the plan of a self-sustaining colony to Japan. I paid two visits to Dr. (James B.) Taylor (Corresponding Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board) at Richmond, Va. I corresponded with the United States Ministers in the East…. Some $250,000 would be invested for the benefit of the mission. But the way was not clear; the War came on, and the cherished plan, like my others for missionary work, was unrealized.
One who was well acquainted with him said,
Dr. Tupper is essentially a missionary man, whom circumstances alone prevented from going to the missionary field. Personally … before the war, when quite wealthy, he contributed thousands annually to the missionary cause.
Two days before the Secession Convention Dr. James P. Boyce wrote Tupper his brother-in-law, I have been all along in favor of resistance, by demanding first new guarantees, and if these were not granted, then forming a Southern Confederacy. If you Georgia people come in, we are safe enough….
War of Northern Aggression
Rev. H. A. Tupper described himself regarding his relation to the invasion of the South. He said, “In the principles on which the War was fought I was a South Carolinian thoroughly imbued.” He believed those words best described his position! Tupper traveled to Sullivan’s Island on the same boat that carried the orders for General P. G. T. Beauregard to bombard Fort Sumter. Upon arrival Pastor Tupper stayed behind the battery until Major Anderson’s United States Army garrison surrendered.
Tupper was vocal about loving and defending civil and religious liberty. He held to the views of those who fought for liberty in the First War of Independence. Yes, he was a state rights man on the order of South Carolina.
Chaplaincy of the Ninth Georgia
Pastor H. A. Tupper received a commission as chaplain of the North Georgia Regiment from President Jefferson Davis, but he declined any remuneration for his chaplain work. There is an interesting description given by Tupper in his Journal that gives his view of camp life,
To breakfast at ten o’clock is not very usual in camp, yet the 9th Georgia has been so fashionable to-day. As ordered, we left late encampment yesterday morning and pitched tents here between Centerville and Fairfax (Virginia). Rain on way, but pleasant meditation on Psalm 34:7 (“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them”). Great comfort and sublimity in the things of Almighty power and love stretched over the universe, and under whose shadow the children of men are allowed to trust. After wet time in getting up tent, I had just got snugly ensconced between my blankets when horsemen rode rapidly up to staff tents, and soon I heard from guard: “We are ordered off.” About nine, the regiment started with rapid march. Whither, none knew; but enough for the soldier, “A fight on hand.” No water, no provisions taken, in excessive haste. Chaplain stopped at door and filled canteen and brought a partly eaten pone of stale corn bread. The night black and stormy. Rain came down in a flood. Couldn’t see “hand before the face.” Separated from regiment, let horse pilot way, though started and jumped and whirled round ever and anon, at what I knew not, and she probably as wise. Road to Fairfax Court House the left, to Fairfax Junction right, at intersection; but which the regiment would take I had no idea, and had no idea that would see road when got to crossing. Fortunately halted there by picket, who directed to the right. Soon ran into rear of column and all together we tumbled along. I know no more expressive word. The road like slime. The rain unabated, the darkness above, the same because it could not be blacker. Men tumble down and walked upon; shoes drawn off by mud; several pistols and one sword lost. Still the line crowds on to Fairfax Junction, where arrive about 1 a.m. after such a march as even the severely taxed “Ninth” has never had and will probably never have again. No one has ever experienced the like—seen such a night, had such a march, and, on the whole, been in such a press of circumstances. And when we arrived the announcement is issued from headquarters: “No need of regiments…. Fight over and enemy repulsed.” Next order: “Take the woods and return in morning to camp.” With great difficulty fires are kindled. And there we stood all night in rain—drenched and searching and looking for the day. Never did the light look so beautiful, but the most beautiful of sights was our “camp” again after the remarch, which was made in quick time, and the half dry and hungry 9th made first for their mess chests, at which they got about 10 a.m…. My thoughts, in that horrible darkness and storm, were above this world, I hope. The glorious wings seemed stretched over me. No thought of evil to myself entered my mind.
This account gives a sense of the physical reality and the spiritual as well. Meditating on God Word, thinking of eternity (“above this world”), realizing the protective providence of God (“the glorious wings … stretched over”) and a sense of peace (“no thought of evil to myself).
A war correspondent for the Louisville Courier wrote from Virginia and his account gives a sense of Tupper’s preaching,
To-day the Second Brigade, to which we are attached, was mustered for Divine service. The occasion reminded me more of a Baptist Association gathering than anything I have seen for a long time. A rustic pulpit was erected beneath the shade of the forest trees, and about the clergyman was gathered a force of over three thousand men. The good old songs of Zion caused the leaves to quiver with a poetic tremulousness, and the very air was redolent with heartfelt prayer and praise. Our fighting chaplain. Rev. H. A. Tupper, of the Ninth Georgia, a chaplain in the Confederate army and a Baptist minister at home, a lover and defender of civil and religious liberty everywhere, preached us a very able discourse from the advice of Eli to Joshua: “Be ye men of good courage.
Thus the preaching of Chaplain Tupper was not a political tirade but an earnest, from the heart Christian sermon.
Although not through with his work as a chaplain Tupper made an application to War Department to be released from his commission and be permit to preach to the Confederate soldiers in South Carolina and Georgia. He arrived in Charleston and began work at Trapman Hospital.
Due to over exposure to the elements, physical exhaustion or contact with disease Chaplain Tupper succumbed to illness. He returned home to recuperate. The recuperating chaplain heard that the Morris Street Baptist Church had been sold to become a silver factory. This was overwhelming to him so he purchased it from the recent buyer. Tupper said he purchased it “in the name of his Master … and opened the ‘Soldiers’ Chapel.’” Chaplain Tupper had the joy of preaching to his old regiment, the 9th Georgia. The meeting with those war-worn men he said “was delightful.” He also took stock of their spiritual state and said it was “most gratifying.” He discovered that fifty of them had been converted, and there were some awaiting baptism.
Once his beloved South had been devastated by war and the firing of weapons and the destruction of Southern manhood had ended he returned to his home and pastorate in Washington, Georgia. During those terrible years of Federal occupation and reconstruction, better described as deconstruction, Pastor Tupper ministered grace to his hearers and comfort to his family.
Foreign Mission Board Secretaryship
January 1872 Tupper heard that he had been elected to the position just vacated by the death of Dr. James B. Taylor on December 22nd, 1871 to be the Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Southern Baptist Convention. Tupper’s description was that “the news came to me like a flash in a cloudless sky that I had been elected….” Then he went on to say,
My mind seemed fixed that I would never quit my church for any other or for any professorship or even any secretaryship. Surely I had been well tested in the near twenty years of my pastorate. But here was something different; here was perhaps the realizing of all my missionary hopes and preparations…. But, per contra, the breaking up of our home, the quitting of the church, the tearing away from the delightful associations…. The thought was appalling. But I resolved that I would do God’s will and rejoice in the sacrifice….. I preached to the united churches (of Washington) from Phil. 4:1…. Then the Lord’s Supper was celebrated, then the heart-rending-scene. I was made ill. The doctor said I must go to bed, but instead I took the train for Richmond as the only hope of redeeming my promised acceptance.
He went to Richmond in February of 1872 but his family did not come on until June. This move he considered to be the last one, so he secured a plot at Hollywood Cemetery, and sadly not long after the purchase their little Kate was laid to rest in that plot. Soon Richmond seemed like home to the whole family. First Baptist Church became their church home and Tupper began to teach a class in the Sabbath School.
During the years of Tupper’s close connection with mission work many fields were expanded and work in Mexico, Brazil and Japan began under his watch. He began to write on missions. He was also active on boards of educational institutions such as Hollins College, Richmond College, Mercer University, and Baptist Theological Seminary.
Through these years as secretary he had been active preaching as well as doing a through joy with the Foreign Mission Board. The weight of years soon accumulated and Tupper retired from the Mission Board in June of 1893. Then he became Instructor of the Bible at Richmond College. The Lord summonsed his servant home March 27th, 1902 in Richmond, Virginia the former capital of the Confederate States of America. Dr. Henry Allen Tupper had supported the new nation and in her army he had served as Chaplain of the Ninth Georgia Regiment. He was buried with many of his fellow Confederates in the Hollywood Cemetery.