Tending to the Spiritual Needs of the Michigan 7th Infantry - Monroe’s Civil War Chaplain
At the onset of the Civil War, neither the Union nor the Confederate Governments made provisions for the spiritual needs of their military men. As the armies grew, and the Civil War dragged on, policy was formed, creating a designation for chaplains in both armies. According to Terry Jones’ reference, The A to Z of the Civil War, Union chaplains were appointed by the Regimental commander and were paid $100 a month. Their duties included church services, helping with the sick and injured, writing letters home and keeping reports of the spiritual health of the unit. When the Civil War ended, approximately 2300 men served the spiritual needs of the Union army. The chaplains were not immune from danger, sixty-six were killed. Three were awarded the Medal of Honor.
The pastor of Monroe’s First Presbyterian Church, Reverend Addison K. Strong, was appointed chaplain of the Michigan 7th Infantry in August of 1861. The announcement of his appointment appeared in the Monroe Commercial on August 29, 1861:
….Rev. A. K. Strong, of this City, we understand, has been tendered the appointment of Chaplain of the Regiment, and probably will accept. Should he do so, the Regiment may congratulate themselves, as no better selection for the position can be made. His unbounded patriotism coupled with his religious zeal and earnest love of doing good will at once commend him to the confidence and esteem of the men. We noticed that the Jonesville Independent has brought a charge of “sectarianism” against the Colonel of the Seventh, for not having given the appointment to a Universalist of the place, and thinks the appointment should be “bestowed upon merit regardless of sect.” This is precisely what has been done. No more meritorious selection can be made, the country through.
Rev. Strong took seriously his commitment to correspond with the families in Monroe. His letters were published regularly in the local Monroe Commercial. On October 17, 1861 (published on October 31) he wrote about the conditions of camp life at Camp Benton:
Editor Commercial – I have delayed the fulfillment of my promise to write you for publication, partly because I desired to familiarize myself with camp life before I shall assume to speak of it, and partly because I find it more difficult to write amid the excitement about me here than the quiet of my own home. My manner of living here is certainly very different from my former course of life. It seemed, of course, strange to me at first, and though the strangeness of it has worn off, yet I cannot but feel that man was not made to spend his days in a tent away from the refining influences of the family circle and the endearing associations of home. There is no home feeling here-there can be none. We pitch our tents, lie down in our beds of straw on the damp ground, eat our handy fare, go through our daily round of duties, but all the while feel that we are only sojourners who have no interest in the soil, no interest in the people around us, no tie to bind us here a single hour. To associate only with men, seeing no women and children about, is indeed new and strange.
And yet there is not a little in our position here which is both comfortable and agreeable. We have an abundance of good substantial food-more indeed than we need, and what is of least equal in importance, we have an appetite which craves food – it really tastes good. Some of your readers might not perhaps relish it; quite likely they would prefer the table spread for them in their own quiet neat and cheerful house, but even they in a little while would learn, were they here, to welcome the hours of meals, and sit down with us to eat as though they loved what was before them.
And as to sleeping arrangements in camp it is true they are not quite as comfortable and as cleanly as we have been accustomed to, still we do sleep warm and soundly on our beds of straw made on the ground. Sometimes indeed it is rather disagreeable to wake up in the night and find the water pouring into your tents, or trickling down upon your beds, or find the cold damp air blowing in over you (for the night air here is exceedingly damp and the heavy dews and mist seem to soak through even the best protected tents and the thickest clothing one may have) yet, it may be questioned, whether those who have warm rooms and luxurious beds sleep any more soundly, or wake up in the morning more refreshed by the night slumbers than in the case with us…….
Reverend Strong’s time with the Regiment was limited. The Monroe Commercial published a brief article about his departure on June 5, 1862:
Rev. A. K. Strong, Chaplain of the 7th Michigan Regiment returned home on Saturday night last, having made a farewell visit to the Regiment, resigned his position as Chaplain, and taken final leave. He now again resumes charge of his congregation in this city.
His departure from Monroe also ended quickly. Strong gave his farewell speech at First Presbyterian on July 12, 1863.
If you would like to read more about faith and the Civil War check out these books:
|While God is Marching On by Steven Woodworth|
|Onward Southern Soldiers by Traci Nichols-Belt|