THE frontier men were loyal-hearted, and when the Civil War came they were ready to give their lives for their country. When President Lincoln called for troops, the first regiment which was mustered in for three years' service was from Minnesota. General Sanford, United States Minister to Belgium, sent President Lincoln a battery of rifled cannon to be given to the first regiment mustered into service for three years which proved worthy of the gift; and it was given to the First Regiment of United States Volunteers from Minnesota.
I preached to the regiment, May 12, 1861, on the parade-ground at Fort Snelling,. from the text, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." It was one of the most solemn services of my life. I knew many of the men, and as I looked into their faces I knew that it would be the last time that I should tell them of the love of Jesus Christ. I was afterward elected chaplain of this regiment; but, gratifying as was the expression of loving confidence, duty to my diocese compelled me to decline.
I met the regiment again after the battle of Antietam. They had been placed at a point where the battle raged fiercest. The field was covered with the dead, and the stone house and barn hard by were filled with the wounded and dying. From one to another I went, with words of comfort and last prayers, and many a message of love and loyalty for home friends I carried away from those brave hearts. I held service for the regiment, and just after I received the following note from General McClellan:--
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
My dear Bishop: Will you do me the favor to perform divine service in my camp this evening. If you can give me a couple of hours' notice I should be glad of it, that I may be able to inform the corps in the vicinity. After the great success that God has vouchsafed us, I feel that we cannot do less than avail ourselves of the first opportunity to render to Him the thanks that are due to Him alone. I, for one, feel that the victory is the result of His great mercy, and should be glad if you would be the medium to offer the thanks I feel due from this army and from the country. Earnestly, hoping that you will accede to my request, I am very respectfully, Your humble svt.,
GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, BISHOP WHIPPLE. Maj.-Gen'l.
I held a service and delivered an address. The names of many of the officers present have become household words and will always live in the grateful remembrance of their country.
I had known General McClellan when he was chief engineer of the Illinois Central Railway. He invited me to spend the night in his tent, and we conversed until long after midnight. When we parted he said, "Bishop, you do not know what a comfort it is in my care-worn life to have a good talk about holy things! "He paid a tribute to our Minnesota boys, saying, "No general ever had a better regiment than the Minnesota First."
The general loved his soldiers deeply. He was blamed for not bringing the war to an immediately successful issue. Victor Hugo said that "it was not Wellington who conquered Napoleon at Waterloo--it was God." Our people did not know that this was God's war. North and South were reaping a harvest of their own seed-sowing. Had the war been closed then, slavery would have been fastened on the Republic.
At parting, the general asked me if I would call at the hospitals on my way to Washington and write him the condition of the sick and wounded, which I did:--
FREDERICK, September 23rd, 1862.
My dear General: I have spent the day in visiting your brave boys who are in the hospital here. I had the privilege, also, of visiting the wayside hospitals between here and the camp. I am sure it will gladden your heart, as it did my own, to know the great love they bear to you. When I told them how tenderly you had spoken of them, and how you knelt with me in prayer for God's blessing upon them, many a brave fellow wept for joy, and on every side I heard, God bless him! God Ness the general! While here and there some veteran claimed the privilege--God bless Little Mac!
I had the opportunity to commend some dying men to God, and to whisper to them the Saviour's name for the last journey.
If it were not for wearying you, I could fill an hour, telling you of words of loving confidence spoken by these brave sufferers who had been with you in good and evil report. But I cannot close without telling you how sweet the remembrance is of the service held in your camp, and to assure you that it is a pleasure every day to ask God's blessing upon you. Your way is rough, many do not know you, many are jealous of your success, many will try to fetter you. Let no cloud nor thorn trouble you. Above you is God our Father. He will hear our prayer. God bless you. I am, with love,
Your servant for Christ's sake,
H. B. WHIPPLE,
Bishop of Minnesota.
MAJOR-GENERAL GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Army of the Potomac.
During the Civil War I went three times a year to Washington to plead for the Indians, each time visiting the army. On Good Friday, 1864, I preached in St. John's Church, Washington, and after the service Mrs. Charles Sumner and Mrs. Samuel Hooper came to the vestry room. Mrs. Hooper said, "Bishop, we are caring for some sick and wounded soldiers at one of the hospitals, and knowing what your words will do for them, we have come to ask if you will preach for them this afternoon?" This was my first meeting with Mrs. Hooper, but it led to a warm friendship.
The following day I received a telegram from General Meade asking me to celebrate the Holy Communion at his headquarters on the Rapidan. It was a blessed service, and never was that trysting-place dearer than when I knelt with those veteran soldiers to receive the Blessed Communion.
During my visit to General Meade, he told me that one night some one came to his tent and to the demand, "Who is there? "a voice answered, "It is General Townsend (the adjutant-general). I come to bring you a new burden. I have a commission for you as Commander of the Army of the Potomac." He gave Meade a letter from General Halleck, pledging him the hearty support of the Government. On my return to Washington General Halleck gave me the circumstances which led to General Meade's appointment. He said:--
"After the defeat of General Hooker at Chancellorsville, President Lincoln met the Secretary of War and myself at the War Department. He asked: ' Whom shall we appoint Commander now? We can't run Joe any more.' I told the President that I had tried to feel the pulse of the army, and that I believed General Meade was the man to appoint; but I also mentioned several other names, among them that of General Sedgwick, one of the ablest men in the service. The President proposed that we should ballot. Mr. Stanton voted for General Sedgwick, and the President and I voted for General Meade."
My cousin, General Halleck, I had known intimately from boyhood. He was a man of great intellectual ability, and few men have had a more perfect knowledge of the science of war. At his graduation from West Point he was made Assistant Professor of Engineering, and was detailed to build the fortifications on Bedloe's Island, New York. While he was second-lieutenant, General Scott asked his opinion in reference to sea-coast defences, and was so impressed by the young officer's views that he requested Thomas H. Benton, of the United States Senate, to offer a resolution asking Lieutenant Halleck to give the Military Committee his opinion on such defences. He was sent to California at the close of the Mexican War to take charge of engineering on that coast. It was during the time that gold was discovered, and prices were so advanced that the servant who accompanied Halleck was receiving twice the amount of his master's salary. Halleck remained faithfully at his post, and as a reward for his services the War Department gave him a year's leave of absence.
Senator Forsythe of Georgia, an eminent jurist, had advised Halleck to devote his leisure time to reading law, saying that the day would come when he would find it useful. A law firm in San Francisco, Peachy and Billings, offered him a copartnership with the understanding that, as his duties as a military officer had made him familiar with Spanish land grants, he should be the consulting member of the firm. He accepted the offer, and purchased a civilian suit of clothes at a cost of five hundred dollars. A few days after, a client called to consult about a land grant. Halleck wrote out his opinion and asked his partners what he should charge for it, and they said five hundred dollars. This was the beginning of his success. Colonel Morris, of the army, wrote to General Riley congratulating him upon his wise organization of a stable government on the Pacific coast. Honest General Riley replied to General Morris: "You give me too much credit.
That youngster, Halleck, has furnished the brains for my work."
Halleck was a man of unflinching integrity, a hater of shams, and never considered policy in his actions. From the beginning of the Civil War he was loaded down with responsibilities which carried him to the grave. His first command was in Missouri where he brought order out of confusion, and saved Missouri from secession. His next command was in Mississippi, where he won from his troops the sobriquet "Old Brains." He was General-in-Chief for a time, and afterward Chief of Staff to President Lincoln, whose confidence he retained throughout that l eventful struggle. He was brusque in manner, and often made bitter enemies. I remember upon one occasion, when I was his guest,' a prominent politician called upon him and said:--
"I have asked the President to appoint three per-sons brigadier-generals. They are loyal men and deserve recognition. The President tells me that he has promised you and Secretary Stanton that he would not appoint men to high office in the army without your approval. I am here to consult you. f Do you oppose their appointment? "
The general turned, with flashing eyes, and exclaimed: "I am opposed to their appointment! You cannot run this war machine with political gas."
The following letter is characteristic:--
HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOTJKI.
ST. Louis, Nov. 29th, 1861. ET. REV. H. B. WHIPPLB, Bishop of Minnesota, Faribault.
My dear Cousin: Yours of Nov. 12th is just received. I have little or no time for private correspondence, nevertheless I cannot let the letter of my old friend and cousin pass unnoticed. . . .
Affairs in this Department are in a most deplorable condition--whether made so purposely or not I will not say. If I can ever get any order out of this chaos I shall be satisfied.
Of course I shall be well abused by the extreme abolitionists and the pro-slavery secessionists. But it will not drive me from the course of policy which I have determined on and shall pursue until I am removed, which, very likely, will soon take place. I am resolved to be made the instrument of no political faction, having no political aspirations myself. I shall do my duty faithfully, as I understand it, let the consequences be what they may. . . .
Good-bye, dear Cousin, write me as often as you can.
H. W. HALLECK,
While in command at Louisville he was seized by sudden illness. I visited him, and it was my privilege to baptize him and give him the Holy Communion.
Some years after, I delivered an address at the burial of General Meade, at the request of his wife, in St. Mark's Church, Philadelphia. The President and Cabinet, General Sherman and other distinguished officers were present.
I said, I should not speak of the life of our brother as a soldier; it was not necessary. His name would always be honored by his country, and his fame remain a precious heirloom to his children. I spoke of that Easter Communion on the Rapidan, amid the camps of soldiers, and said, That day I learned much of the soldier's heart--that loyalty to God and loyalty to country are blended in brave, true hearts. There is sometimes an idea among men that the profession of arms is not favorable to the development of the highest Christian character. I have not so read the gospel of the Son of God. When God's herald, John the Baptist, preached by the River Jordan the Roman soldiers were among the first to go out to hear him. It was of a Roman Centurion that our Lord said, "I have not found such faith, no, not in Israel"; and when He hung upon the cross it was the Captain of the Guard who bowed his head and heart, and cried, "Truly, this was the Son of God." When the gospel was preached to a Gentile world, the first man received into the Church was a .
Roman Centurion, who for his bravery had been permitted to call his legion "the Italian Band." Until the names of Washington, Wellington, Havelock, and a host of others have perished, faith in Jesus Christ will be the highest laurel for a soldier's brow.