From Chaplain Alan Farley
(Hon Chaplain, 290 Foundation
TOMORROW MAY BE TOO LATE
Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:”
Dr. J.A. Alexander once said; “If men are prepared to die they are ready for anything.” Death is never a popular consideration in a finite world; but it is the leveller of all mankind and a vital subject thrust upon us by time and eternity. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
Confederate chaplains, armed with this mandate, prepared the Confederate soldiers for battle. They were reminded of the brevity of life and the uncertainty of the future as a hazard of war. The chaplains would follow up the discussion of the Lord’s mandate by continuing the quotation of sacred Scripture with Hebrews 9:28, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
A part of the soldier’s preparation for fighting was a preparation for dying as Divine providence dictated. God must be faced ultimately and every man who would face Him, acceptably, must have the sin-bearer, who is Christ the Lord. The gallant soldiers would then go into battle to face their mortal enemies. In the following events you will see how one Southern soldier faced the final enemy called death.
The bloodiest one day in American history was the 17th of September, 1862. The battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam was unequalled in its toll on human life. Some 26,000 men on both sides were either killed or wounded that September day.
It is important for these soldiers to know how to die. The chaplains sought to prepare their flocks for eternity. This was their task from God. It is just as important for us, their sons and daughters, to know the same thing. A person certainly unprepared for death is not prepared for eternity. One who possesses eternal life by free grace is ready to face eternity. Why did R.E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, John Pelham and the myriad of others die so peacefully and victoriously? Perhaps the Alabamian who died as a result of the battle of Sharpsburg will give us a clue.
Three or four days had elapsed after that bloodiest day. The following event transpired on the Confederate side after the wind of battle had been spent. Rev. S.W. Thomas and another man, both delegates of the United States Christian Commission, were dispatched to look for wounded men in areas where skirmishing had taken place outside the primary confines of the battle-field. Providentially one of the ministers developed a great thirst and in order to quench it they went to a deserted farm to look for some water.
While they were satisfying their thirsts they discovered, in the barnyard, what appeared to be bundles of rags. They investigated the piles of rags. As they drew close they realized they had discovered two dead soldiers. In an adjacent area they found thirteen badly wounded men. They sent immediately for ambulances. These men had been wounded days before and speedy treatment was of the essence.
The scene was so ghastly that it burned itself into their minds like acid etching a metal plate. It was discovered that almost all of the men were Confederates. The wounded men could not move so they removed the dead from among them. An Alabama soldier whose leg had been blown off was moaning despairingly; “Water! Water! Water!” Assistance was immediately given, but the loss of blood had been extensive and he appeared to have only a short time to live.
A captain who was riding by was attracted by an ambulance near the barn. As he rode near Rev. Parvin, of the Christian Commission, was kneeling in the barnyard, and he was praying with the dying Confederate soldier. The captain reigned in his horse, uncovered his head, and listened. He heard the soldier answering a question; and the answer he gave was, “Yes, yes, my trust is in the Lord Jesus.”
Those words were moaned out in great pain and weakness. The scene was one of wretched filth and pained looks. However, out of that scene ascended words of the Christian victory. The final words of the dying Confederate soldier, who was in such a horrible physical state were, “MY TRUST IS IN THE LORD JESUS. I’M AS HAPPY AS A PRINCE.” His words evidenced a resident peace of heart and soul.
The captain was captured by the dying Confederate that day. He was not captured as a prisoner of war, he was captured by the awesome scene of the dying of one of the Lord’s sheep who hailed from Alabama. The captain forthwith volunteered all the help needed to assure prompt care of the other wounded compatriots of the dying Confederate.
Later the captain confided to Rev. Parvin that he had been more touched by what he had observed in that barnyard, than by all the sermons he had heard in all his lifetime.