Chaplain's Corner:

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From Chaplain Alan Farley
(Hon Chaplain, 290 Foundation
John 15:13-14, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. [14] Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

On October 13, 1864, Albert G. Willis, a Baptist minister, was captured in Rappahannock County, Virginia, and held prisoner by the Federals. Shortly before, A Union soldier had been killed by one of Col. John Singleton Mosby’s Rangers, and an order went out to capture some Confederates in retaliation.

An eyewitness reported; “I was within a short distance of Reverend Willis and heard the Yankee officers talking. They said they had one of Mosby’s men and did not know if they would hang him or shoot him.”

But another Confederate partisan had also been captured. The Federals let the two men draw straws as to which would forfeit his life in exchange for the dead Union soldier. Willis had the lucky draw; and when the other man realized his fate, he broke down and wept bitterly. He told the soldiers that he was married and had children at home. And then he confessed; “I am not a Christian and am not prepared for death.”

Albert Willis seized the moment for heroism. He declared; “I am a Christian and not afraid to die; and I am single. If they will accept me as your substitute, I will die in your place that you might live.”

Willis was hanged and a placard was placed on his chest telling all passersby that this man was hanged in retaliation. His body was taken to the nearby Flint Hill Baptist Church and buried.

Years later the Baptists in the area erected a monument at his grave. And until the hanging tree was cut down in 1933, the local citizens would point it out and retell the story of the young Baptist minister who gave his life so another could live.