Chapter 12 - Mr. Moody in Two Wars

Table of Contents

The Sanitary and Christian Commissions - Mr. Moody's Zeal - Experiences from the War - The Revival at Camp Douglas - Work in the War with Spain - On Sea and Land - Striking Illustrations - "God Keep Us From War."

When the Civil War broke out Mr. Moody was one of the busiest men in Chicago. The Young Men's Christian Association work and his Mission were occupying his time fully, but he and his associates were not slow to see the great opportunity which the army camps afforded to reach throngs of men who were not easy to approach under normal conditions. Not long after the commencement of hostilities there came into being two great organizations, the Sanitary Commission and the Christian Commission the one to look after the physical welfare, the other to look after the spiritual welfare of the soldiers.


The Sanitary Commission was the result of the federation of the so-called "Soldiers Aid Societies", which had individually already accomplished much good. At the outset the Government had not approved of these societies, fearing the effect of their operation upon the discipline of the troops, but, as their value became more apparent, and after they had been consolidated in one general organization, the field widened until the Sanitary Commission ranged in importance along with the Government Medical Bureau.

The Christian Commission was projected by a convention, held in Norfolk, Va., November 16, 1861, and Mr. George H. Stuart of Philadelphia, was elected president. Like the Sanitary Commission it was recognized and countenanced by the Government. Says one writer: "The Commissions aided the surgeon, helped the chaplain, followed the armies in their marches, went into the trenches and along the picket-lines. Wherever there was a sick, a wounded, a dying man, an agent of the Christian Commission was near by." As often as possible the workers gave Christian burial to the dead, and marked the graves so that later they could be identified by the relatives or friends. Religious services were conducted in camp or in the field; religious literature was distributed widely; in short, every means was employed to turn to the call of their Divine Master the attention of thousands of men who had answered their country's call.


The Chicago Young Men's Christian Association was one of many whose individual efforts in behalf of the soldiers led to the convention which formed the Christian Commission. The devotional committee, of which Mr. Moody was chairman, began to work immediately after the second call for volunteers, when the great rendezvous of Camp Douglas was established near the southern limits of Chicago. The committee was on the ground at the arrival of the first regiment, and began prayer meetings at once. Religious literature was given out among the soldiers, and Sunday services were established where they could easily be attended by the soldiers. The work spread so rapidly that the committee was obliged to send out a call for assistants. One hundred and fifty men, clerical and lay, responded, and eight or ten meetings were held every evening in the different camps.

During the war the Association held more than 1,500 services in or near Chicago. The Association Chapel, built at Camp Douglas in October, 1861, was the first camp chapel erected. Soldiers who were converted at Camp Douglas went to the front, and presently a call came to Chicago to send Christian workers to the Union lines. Mr. Moody answered this invitation in person, being the first regular army delegate from Chicago. His earliest work in the field was with the troops near Fort Donelson.

Mr. Moody's idea of the best treatment for Dying soldiers was to carry to them the glad tidings of salvation and to point out to them the open gates of Heaven. He maintained that the administration of physical comforts was comparatively an unimportant matter. When death is a question of only a few hours and he whom the dark angel is claiming is far from the path of righteousness, who will care to hear of temporal things while some friend stands ready, to lead him back to the way of truth?


As long as the War continued Mr. Moody went back and forth between Chicago and the various camps and battlefields. How his experience was widened, how his faith was strengthened by the visions of grace which God permitted him to see! The triumphant deaths which he and his fellow laborers witnessed are almost beyond enumeration. Many were the assurances of salvation which came to their cars from dying lips, and they saw hundreds of ashy faces lighted up With a "light that never was, on sea or land". It was practical work, this. Often there was time only for a few words of prayer, or a brief exhortation But God's blessing came with the asking.

From the many stories which I have heard Mr. Moody tell of his experiences during the terrible years of the war, I have selected the following.

I was in a hospital at Murfreesboro, and one night after midnight I was woke up and told that there was a man in one of the wards who wanted to see me. I went to him, and he called me 'chaplain' - I wasn't a chaplain - and he said he wanted me to help him die. And I said, 'I'd take you right up in my arms and carry you into the Kingdom of God if I could; but I can't do it 'I can't help you to die. And he said, 'Who can?' I said, 'The Lord Jesus Christ can - He came for that purpose.' He shook his head and said, ' He cant save me; I have sinned all my life.' And I said, 'But He came to save sinners.' I thought of his mother in the North, and I knew that she was anxious that he should die right, and I thought I'd stay with him. I prayed two or three times, and repeated all the promises I could, and I knew that in a few hours he would be gone. I said I wanted to read him a conversation that Christ had with a man who was anxious about his soul. I turned to the third chapter of John. His eyes were riveted on me, and when I came to the 14th and 15th verses, he caught up the words, As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.' He stopped me and said. 'is that there? I said, 'Yes,' and he asked me to read it again, and I did so. He leaned his elbows on the cot and clasped his hands together and said, That's good; won't you read it again?'


"I read it the third time, and then went on with the rest of the chapter. When I finished, his eyes were closed, his hands were folded, and there was a smile on his face. O! how it was lit up! What a change had come over it! I saw his lips quivering, and I leaned over him and heard, in a faint whisper. 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.' He opened his eyes and said, That's enough; don't read any more.' He lingered a few hours, and then pillowed his head on those two verses and went up in one of Christ's chariots and took his seat in the Kingdom of God.

"You may spurn God's remedy and perish; but I tell you God don't want you to perish. He says, 'As I live I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.' 'Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?'"


After the terrible battle of Pittsburg Landing, we were taking the wounded down the Tennessee River to a hospital. I said to some of the Christian Commission, ' We must not let a man die on the boat without telling him of Christ and Heaven.' You know the cry of a wounded man is 'Water! Water!' As we passed along from one to another, giving them water, we tried to tell them of the water of life, of which, if they would drink, they would never die. I came to one man who had about as fine a face as I ever saw. I spoke to him, but he did not answer. I went to the doctor, and said 'Doctor, do you think that man will recover?' ' No; he lost so much blood before we got him off the field that he fainted while we were amputating his leg. He will never recover.' I said: ' I cant find out his name, and it seems a pity to let him die without knowing who he is. Don't you think we can bring him to?' 'You may give him a little brandy and water,' said the doctor 'that will revive him if anything will.'


I sat down beside him, and gave him brandy and water every now and then. While I was waiting I said to a man near by: 'Do you know this man?' 'O yes, that is my chum.' 'Has he a father and mother living?' 'He has a widowed mother.' 'Has he any brothers or sisters?' 'Two sisters; but he is the only son.' 'What is his name?' 'William Clarke.' I said to myself that I could not let him die without getting a message for that mother. Presently he opened his eyes, and I said 'William, do you know where you are?' He looked around a little dazed, and then said: 'O, yes; I am on my way home to mother.' 'Yes, you are on your way home,' I said; 'but the doctor says you won't reach your earthly home. I thought I'd like to ask you if you had any message for your mother.' His face lighted up with an unearthly glow, as he said 'O, yes tell my mother that I died trusting in Jesus.' It was one of the sweetest things I ever heard in my life! Presently, I said 'Anything else, William?' With a beautiful smile be said, 'Tell my mother and sisters to be sure and meet me in Heaven; 'and he closed his eyes. He was soon unconscious again, and in a few hours his soul took its flight to join his Lord and Master.


It was my privilege to go to Richmond with General Grant's army. Now just let us picture a scene. There are a thousand poor captives, and they are lawful captives, prisoners in Libby Prison. Talk to some of them that have been there for months, and hear them tell their story. I have wept for hours to hear them tell how they suffered, how they could not hear from their homes and their loved ones for long intervals, and how sometimes they would get messages that their loved ones were dying, and they could not get home to be with them in their dying hours. Let us, for illustration, picture a scene. One beautiful day in spring they are there in the prison. All news has been kept from them. They have not heard what has been going on around Richmond, and I can imagine one says one day, 'Ah, boys, listen! I hear a band of music, and it sounds as if they were playing the old battle-cry of the Republic. It sounds as if they were playing the 'The Star Spangled Banner! Long may it wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!' And the hearts of the poor fellows begin to leap for joy. 'I believe Richmond is taken. I believe they are coming to deliver us and every man in that prison is full of joy, and by and by the sound comes nearer and they see it is so. It is the Union army! Next the doors of the prison are unlocked; they fly wide open, and those thousands of men are set free. Wasn't that good news to them? Could there have been any better news? They are out of prison, out of bondage, delivered, Christ came to proclaim liberty to the captive."


A veteran of the war tells the following story, which, while its importance is slight, gives an idea of the interest aroused by Mr. Moody's work.

"The death of Mr. Moody calls to my mind the first time I ever saw or heard of him. It was at Murfreesboro, Tenn., in the spring of 1862, when General Rosecrans was preparing his army auspices of the Christian Commission. His preaching resulted in quite a revival in a number of regiments and brigades, and caused considerable excitement and great interest. General Alexander McDowell McCook, who commanded one of the corps, became much interested in the work. There was something of a rivalry between a number of regiments as to which furnished the most recruits to Moody's Christian army. They told a story on Colonel Fred Kneffler, of an Indiana regiment, who was an enthusiastic admirer and defender of his regiment and did not propose to allow it to play second to any regiment in the army of the Cumberland.

"One day an officer of another regiment came over and related in the hearing of Colonel Kneffler that the evening before some twenty converts had been baptized. This made the number exceed the converts of Colonel Fred's regiment by some twelve or fifteen. The Colonel immediately summoned his adjutant and in his extremely German brogue - made more broken by the excitement under which he labored - ordered him to detail fifteen men band have them baptized without delay."


Mr. Moody was at Shiloh, at Murfreesboro, with the army at Cleveland and Chattanooga; he was one of the first to enter Richmond with Grant's army. devoting himself there to the soldiers of both armies without discrimination. But the greatest Christian work with which he was connected during the war was the revival among the Confederate prisoners at Camp Douglas. This camp, originally used for the instruction of Union recruits was transformed into a prison at the time when about 10,000 rebel captives were sent there after the taking of Fort Donelson. The burden of the souls of these men lay heavy on Mr. Moody's heart. One day he secured a permit to visit them, and gave it to the secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association, himself accompanying him in the thought that as assistant to the other he might enter the lines without a question. The guard refused to let both the men in on one pass, Mr. Moody exhibiting in vain the can of oil which he was carrying to furnish light for the service. But the officer of the day, who overheard the conversation and came up to investigate, recognized Mr. Moody and took him to headquarters, where through the exercise of his official influence the young missionary was given a pass to go in and hold meetings for the prisoners whenever he might choose.

A few minutes later Mr. Moody and his friend, Mr. Hawley, began their first meeting for the prisoners. Deep interest was manifested from the start. Meetings were held in the prison camp thereafter every afternoon and evening. Great numbers were soundly converted, and they were organized into a Young Men's Christian Association. As large an opportunity as possible was given them for Christian culture. In this revival work a great many Christian ministers and laymen assisted.


The report of the Army Committee for the year 1865 shows a distribution of 1,537 Bibles, 20,565 Testaments, I,000 prayer books, 2,025 hymn Books, 24,896 other religious books, 127,545 religious newspapers, and 43,450 pages of tracts, besides 28,400 literary papers and magazines. The Camp Douglas chapel was erected at a cost of $2,300, and a soldiers' library and reading room were furnished by the Association, in a building erected by the Christian Commission. This was all in addition to the regular home work.

An employment bureau was established this year, chiefly for the Benefit of the many wounded soldiers who were continually applying to the Association for assistance. Situations were found for 1.435 men, 124 boys, and 718 girls, besides transient employment for many persons who were unable to get out to service.

All this work was clue in large part to the consecrated zeal of Mr. Moody. He never would be limited to a certain line of opportunity, but always took advantage of every chance to do something for his Master. His work during the Civil War exemplified all those qualifications of his which shone through his later and more extended efforts, and it was for him, moreover, practically the first recognition he received outside his own city of Chicago.

More than thirty years passed by before the United States again found itself in arms. Like the Civil War, the War with Spain was undertaken for the relief of an oppressed people. The opportunity for a Christian campaign in the army camps was as great in 1898 as in 1861, perhaps greater, and the organized forces of Christian workers were much more efficient at the outset in the later year. This increased efficiency in Christian organization, who shall say in how much it was due to Mr. Moody's service during the long interval?


April 25, 1898, three clays after the President's first call for volunteers, the International Committee of the Young Men's Christian Association met in New York City to discuss the situation, and decided to undertake immediately a work among the soldiers and sailors. The organization had the machinery necessary for the undertaking. In nearly 700 cities throughout the country there were local associations; these in the several states were united in state organizations, with state committees and state secretaries, and were finally all bound together in an international organization, with its international committee, sub-committees and secretaries. Accordingly, in order to promote united effort and to secure effective co-operation, the international committee appointed a sub-committee to organize and supervise the work, its official title being "The Army and Navy Christian Commission of the International Committee of Young Men's Christian Associations." The work of the Commission was divided into three departments the Executive, for general supervision, with Colonel John J. McCook as chairman; the General work, for the direction of the social, physical and regular religious effort, including the Bible classes, with C. W. McAlpin as chairman; and the Evangelistic department, for the promotion of evangelistic effort in the different camps, with D. L. Moody as chairman.

The Evangelistic department through Mr. Moody kept a force of clergymen and evangelists in the field, co-operating with the regular religious work carried on in the tents. A careful and conservative estimate shows over 8,000 soldiers who publicly professed to accept Christ in all the meetings during the summer, while the number of those stimulated in their Christian lives cannot be estimated. An interesting fact in this connection is that the regiments that suffered most in the battles around Santiago were, with few exceptions, the regiments that, when in Tampa, were encamped around the great canvas-covered tabernacle where were held nightly services, some of which were attended by more than 2,500 soldiers, and where many of these men became Christians. One of these companies went into the battle with seventy-six men, and the next day, at roll call, only seventeen answered.

The work was established in the regiments of colored troops at the various camps, with colored young men of influence and ability in charge. This received the approbation of all students of the race problem. A prominent colored minister, after watching it carefully, termed it the "most practical and most helpful work I have ever seen carried on among the colored people."


In all the camps visitation of the sick was carried on, both the camp secretaries and visiting evangelists taking part in this service.

The following is one of many incidents: A new ward being opened one day was at once filled with sixty-six invalid soldiers. Going through the wards a worker came in contact with a sick boy from a Pennsylvania regiment, and stopping to talk to him, found the boy ready for the Gospel message. The boy said he came from a Christian home and had a brother in the missionary field, but that he had been a bad boy and had given his family much trouble. After talking with him a while, he said to the secretary, "Do you mean to say that I can be saved now and here?" The secretary assured him that such was the case, and opened to him the simple way of salvation. Before the secretary left, the boy joined him in prayer, praying for himself, and when he was leaving he said, "Now, remember, chaplain, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour, and in so doing you tell me I am saved." He exacted a promise from the secretary that he would return during the evening, and when he returned the boy greeted him cheerfully, and said, "I am a very sick boy, but remember, whatever comes, I tell you now that I have accepted Jesus Christ and am trusting Him as my Saviour." The next morning, as the secretary made his rounds, the soldier boy had gone to his long home.


The Commission followed closely in me wake of the Army of invasion, and pressed its work among the soldiers around Santiago de Cuba. It followed General Miles' army to Porto Rico, and with the third expedition to the Philippines workers and equipment were sent to render similar service.

The Navy Department at Washington supported the plan cordially, although from the nature of the case it was not easy to accomplish work on the ships. It was decided to place a representative of the Commission on each ship that had no regular chaplain, but the war was over so quickly that only one vessel was thus supplied. An idea of the feasibility of the work, however, is shown in the following incident from the one worker's report:

"At first, as I started to go over the ship with other things, I would fill my side pockets with copies of the New Testament, and give a copy away now and then, after a special personal talk with an open-hearted sailor or marine. As a matter of fact, I thought there would be no general eagerness for the books, and so great tact should be exercised in giving them out. I said to myself the first day, 'These 300 Testaments will last through my entire service but I was utterly mistaken. One day a marine said, 'What are those little books in your pockets?' I replied, 'Testaments.' Then he quickly said, 'Will you give me one?' I gave him one, and by that time there was about me quite a crowd of men who were off duty (I was below in their quarters), and they all wanted the books. From that time I gave away fifty books a day until they were all gone. One night I heard some one at my window. I sprang up, thinking it was a marine after a drink of icewater; but, to my surprise, a sailor was standing there in the dark, like Nicodemus. He said, with some hesitation, 'Chaplain, I am after one of those little Bibles.'

All this evangelistic work was directed by Mr. Moody from Northfield. His health made it inadvisable for him to go to the front during the summer heat, so he planned to take the field in person in the autumn. But when the autumn came the war was over, and his presence was no longer necessary. To him, however, belongs the credit of organization.


At. the beginning of the war, the International Committee undertook the task to which it had been manifestly called, with but little, if' any, thought of the far-reaching possibilities of the future. When the war closed it was evident that a door of opportunity had been opened for a permanent service to a large and important class of young men. Accepting the responsibility of the situation, the International Committee voted to make the work, so auspiciously begun, a permanent feature of its plan and effort, and in September 1898, its Army and Navy Department was organized. The ninety seven army posts in this country, and such as may be established in the new possessions, will form a field for extended effort, and already in several of these, associations have been organized. The regimental plan of organization is also being tested with good results. A comprehensive plan of work covering the entire Navy has already been inaugurated. A Naval Young Men's Christian Association has been formed.


The following incidents illustrate the value of the evangelistic work during the war with Spain.

"I'll never surrender to Spain," said a great stalwart soldier, "but, boys, I'm going to surrender to Jesus Christ to-night." What that meant in the way of moral courage few can understand, facing as he did the jibes and sneers of his old companions.

At the close of a meeting in Camp Thomas theatre three soldiers came to an association worker and said that a man who had been converted a week before was sick, and wanted to see them. They went up to his tent, and found him suffering terribly, but rejoicing that he had accepted Christ. He said several times, "Well, I've lived right one week, anyway."

A young soldier from one of the Texas regiments was reproved gently by the camp secretary for swearing and he immediately arose and apologized, saying: "I don't know why I utter these oaths except that I am living in an atmosphere of obscenity and cursing; I never swore at home; I trust you will forgive me, sir; I did not realize that you were present."

It was at the close of the service in the Third Brigade Young 'Men's Christian Association tent, Camp Cuba Libre, Jacksonville, Florida. A hundred soldiers had risen for prayers, and at least fifty had come forward and given their hands in token of a surrender to Christ as a personal Saviour. The benediction had been pronounced when a bright-faced Virginia boy, nineteen years old, came to the platform and said "Won't you pray for me, sir? I want to be a Christian here in camp." They knelt together, and others gathered around until twenty noble fellows were in the group of prayer. Nearly all confessed the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and went down to their tents rejoicing.


From the activity which Mr. Moody displayed in the two wars which were fought during his working career, it might be thought that he was not averse to international conflicts. This was far from true. It was simply that when war came he saw in it, and took advantage of, an opportunity to do good. Just before the commencement of the Spanish war, in a meeting at Pittsburg, he told his hearers what he thought of war.

"War, awful war!" he exclaimed. "Never has our country had more need of your prayers than at the present time. God keep us from war, if it be possible, and God keep hate of Spain out of our hearts! I have not met a man who served in the last war who wants to sec another. God knows that I do not want to see the carnage and destruction that such a war would bring. God pity America and Spain. There are many mothers who will be bereaved, many homes broken up, if we have war. Have you thought of this?

"Have you thought of this?" No; in the heat of preparation in our eagerness to avenge a wronged people, in all the excitement of what seemed to be a Divine call to arms, many of us did not think of this. But the great, tender heart of Moody ached with the sorrow of anticipation. He knew that nations are nourished by the rain of mothers' tears; he knew that sad-faced fathers to-day, like Abraham of old, stand ready to offer up their sons on their county's altar. And with a pity - dare I say it? - a pity akin to the pity of his Master, he yearned for, his people.

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