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The house of worship having been obtained, an army church was organized.
"An Army Christian Association has been formed in the Sixteenth Massachusetts Regiment, at Camp Hamilton, near the fortress, which promises most beneficent results. It supplies the place of our parish and church organizations at home, and gives the chaplain of the regiment some reliable coadjutors in his religious duties. The members of churches scattered throughout a regiment find some nucleus about which they can rally, and thus become identified as Christian disciples. Soldiers also longing to break from the thraldom. of sin, and feeling as never before the need of being Christians, find here a home and sympathy and loving watch-care. I look upon it as the most important movement of a moral and religious nature yet inaugurated in the regiment. It receives not only professing Christians into its fold, but all who desire to be guided by Christian principles; nor is
The following was also written for the occasion:
"To Christians in New England homes,
Where sons of pilgrims love to dwell, Once more the ancient summons comes, 'Up to your tents, O Israel!'
"We come, but trust not princes, Lord,
it restricted in membership to any sect or to Protestants, but welcomes all who desire to be guided by duty and acknowledge fealty to the law of God. It may lead to a church organization ultimately; but if so, its basis must be equally simple and truly liberal. This is no place for the building up of any sect or combination of sects, but for the upbuilding of the kingdom of the Redeemer in the hearts of all who desire to be soldiers of Jesus Christ while soldiers in the American army."
Nor was this church inactive. The Chaplain writes:
"On Tuesday evening we have a meeting for prayer and counsel. It is conducted just like our church and class meetings at home, only, thank God! we know no name but the all-prevailing one of Jesus, the divine and ever-blessed Redeemer. It is under the special care of a most excellent soldier, J. A. Smith, who is a local Methodist preacher, and untiring in his religious efforts here.
With faith we lean upon thy word,
"For thy pavilion, Lord of hosts!
We pitch the chief tent of the field;
Thy leadership the army boasts,
And trusts thee more than sword or shield!
Here, in thy temple, still thou art,
"Throughout the camp may earnest heed
Thy tabernacle!' shall exclaim
"The chaplain finds in these brethren noble coadjutors, and desires they should have full and ample credit for their aid. They ask no such praise, yet they most thoroughly deserve it. But for their hearty and earnest co-operation little could have been accomplished for the spiritual welfare of the soldiery. This Tuesday evening meeting is especially valuable to strengthen the hearts of Christians and prevent their becoming weary in well-doing, or being tempted to desert the ranks of the army of the living God, and enlisting in the service of sin, whose bitter, hard-earned wages are spiritual death. Away from home and home influence, that man is arrogant indeed who believes he stands so firm that he is in no danger of falling if he neglect to seek loving, fraternal watch-care, and Christian sympathy."
The tabernacle worship was not without musical aid. The Chaplain says:—
"A choir has been formed in the regiment, composed of officers and soldiers, for conducting the musical services of the sanctuary on the Sabbath, and at our other meetings. It is duly organized by the choice of chorister and organist and the assignment of the regular parts of music. I say organist, for we have at present a very sweet-toned melodeon, which formerly belonged to a secessionist young lady at the Hampton Female Seminary, and has been kindly loaned us for a few weeks by the military authorities."
The Chaplain congratulates the Old Dominion upon the introduction of the New England system of free schools.
"The American army, especially the Massachusetts soldiery, are fast transplanting Northern ideas and New England institutions to the sacred soil of Virginia. They will flourish well here, we doubt not, unless overshadowed by the Upas-tree of slavery, beneath whose poisonous shadow every
good and Christian plant sickens, and ultimately must die, except the axe be laid at the root of that tree, and it 'be hewn down and cast into the fire.' This week we commenced a school in the chapel-tent of the Sixteenth Massachusetts Regiment, under the superintendence of the chaplain of the regiment, assisted by five competent teachers selected by him from among the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers. As its tuition is absolutely free to all who attend it, it may certainly be denominated a free school, and, so far as the writer knows, is the first entirely free school in Virginia, with the exception of those established for the contrabands here. God grant that this New England plant may take root and thrive!
"We have scholars in all the primary branches, in writing, in fine, just the same branches are taught as in the common district schools of New England."
The Chaplain also organized a Soldiers' Teachers' Association, whose objects are thus set forth :
"The teachers who have in charge the regimental school feel the need of unity of plan and counsel, and to compare and agree upon methods of instruction together. They, therefore, are to hold meetings every Friday evening for these purposes, at the tent or 'log-cabin' of the chaplain. It is my intention, in some future letter, to give the names of those non-commissioned officers and private soldiers, who so nobly devote themselves to instructing their fellow-soldiers, with no reward but the pleasure of doing good. Lest it should be thought strange that so many could be found in a Massachusetts regiment who need primary-school instruction, it ought to be mentioned that all, or nearly all, the scholars are of foreign parentage, and have not had early advantages, through no fault of their own.
"They are earnest for knowledge, and though a holiday was
given yesterday, because of the illness of the chaplain, and no school is regularly held on Saturday, the men declined the holiday, and the school was continued both yesterday and on Saturday, by the assistant teachers, at the urgent request of the men. There has not yet been a single instance of insubordination or disrespectful word or look on the part of these earnest scholars, who, though uncultured, desire strongly improvement, and are deeply grateful for the opportunity afforded them. God bless them and their noble soldier-teachers!"
The true New-Englander, though duty may call him to don the martial garb and repair to the tented field, yet does not leave his religion behind him, and cherishes still the emblems of its continued presence and power. The hallowed chime of the home Sabbath bells cannot indeed be heard, but the sacred day is remembered. The Chaplain thus alludes to its observ
"Yesterday was even more than usually a hard-working day with me. The idea of rest for the clergy on the Sabbath is certainly obsolete. I held two services with my own regiment in their chapel-tent, and then, by request of the First Delaware Regiment, preached in their encampment to a kind and attentive audience. It seemed a little singular to me to be invited to preach to a congregation all of them from a slaveholding State, and many of them slaveholders, and none of them Unitarians. It certainly is not because my views of State policy or Christian truth are unknown here, though I am no partisan or sectarian anywhere. The chaplain of this regiment, an Old-School Presbyterian, is now absent; and I understand it was at his suggestion the invitation was given me. I enjoyed much the occasion. way thither, I was requested to visit a dying soldier in the