One group that received negligible attention historically regarding the Confederacy was the Confederate Chaplain Corps. God sent many spiritual revivals into the armies using these men as His instruments. There were also pastors in the officer corps who ministered and men of God who visited as evangelists or missionaries. The impact of the faithful gospel preaching of these men will be fully known in eternity. However, this does not mean that they should now be relegated to the dust bend of history. “Render therefore to all their dues … honour to whom honour” (Rom. 13:7).
The South has been a place where the Triune God of the Bible was honored historically. This comports with the following historic observation. “It is remarkable that in every charter granted to the Southern colonies, ‘the propagation of the gospel’ is mentioned as one of the reasons for undertaking the planting of them.” (Dr. Robert Barid, Religion of America)
The Chaplains of the Confederate Army were as a rule men of God. The South was a Christian culture made up primarily of Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans. There were other groups but putting them altogether they would not have made up ten percent. There were ecclesiastical variations, but at that point in history there was unanimity in their understanding of basic Christianity. This led to great harmony in the Chaplain Corps. This orthodoxy was evident on the matter of the supremacy of God, the necessity of worshiping the triune God in Spirit and in truth, the redemption in Christ Jesus alone, the necessity of the regenerating work of God the Holy Spirit, the veracity of God’s Word, the centrality of worshiping God in spirit and in truth, the content of the Gospel, the necessity of the preached Gospel, the vital nature of instructing the regenerated in the most holy faith, the normative result of regeneration being a holy life, the imperative of prayer, and other elements. The South also had a high standard for the ministry and high regard for the ministers as well. Sadly this has changed with the plague of liberalism.
A soldier gave his idea of what a chaplain should be.
“Presuming his orthodoxy, he should be a man whose life is the incarnation of his theology, his creed should be no mere mortal elaboration, he should be taught of the things of God by the Spirit of God that is in him. He should be largely possessed of that cardinal virtue charity…. He should have strong convictions of the righteousness of the war, that he might add to the ordinary suggestions of patriotism, new incentive to fight courageously and endure with fortitude. You see we want no ordinary man of Christian experience; nor yet any of these extraordinary orators who are more applauded for the exclusive character of their congregations than beloved for the number of their children in Christ.”
An officer gave his idea of what a chaplain should be. General Thomas J. Jackson warned,
A bad selection of a chaplain may prove a curse instead of a blessing. If the few prominent ministers thus connected with each army would cordially co-operate, I believe that glorious fruits would be the result. Denominational distinctions should be kept out of view, and not touched upon. And, as a general rule, I do not think that a chaplain who would preach denominational sermons should be in the army. His congregation is his regiment, and it is composed of various denominations. I would like to see no question asked in the army of what denomination a chaplain belongs to; but let the question be, Does he preach the Gospel?
A chaplain gave his idea of what a chaplain should be. Chaplain J. William Jones wrote,
We want effective Gospel preachers, whose burden shall be Christ and Him crucified. It is a common mistake that anybody will do to preach to soldiers; and hence the chaplaincies are generally filled by young and inexperienced men. But a moment’s reflection will suffice to convince, that since we have in the army the flower of the country so we ought to have the best preaching talent of the country. I call upon our city and country pastors earnestly to consider whether it is not their duty to enter this wide field of usefulness. It is a field worthy the attention of our most experienced, most useful ministers, and if they cannot get their consent to enter regularly upon it, I call upon them to at least give us occasional visits.
Then he said,
We want men who will stick to their posts. I am persuaded that a great deal of harm has been done by chaplains resigning, or absenting themselves, for long periods from their commands, on “details to collect clothing,” or some such pretext. The great business of the chaplain is to preach Christ publicly, and from tent to tent, and the temporal welfare of the soldiers should be made subordinate to this.
Our purpose is to honor and remember these men who preached the gospel of Christ and Him crucified. They should be remembered if anyone should!