Thursday, November 10, 2011

Account of a Religious Service - Atlanta 1864

In the last days of July 1864, two armies were engaged in combat. One army was on the field of battle to protect Atlanta, Georgia. The second army was locked in combat to capture Atlanta. Chaplain James H. McNeilly of the 49th Tennessee came to the front lines near twilight to conduct a religious service for the Confederate troops.

"I  take my place midway of the line, a few feet back of the trenches, so that those who remain there can hear and those who gather around me, from five hundred to a thousand, can spring back to their places at a moment's notice. We can't make a light, for it would attract the fire of the enemy. I have a great many earnest Christians, officers and men, to help me. The colonel is a Presbyterian elder, the lieutenant colonel a shouting Methodist. 
There is a gigantic fellow with a voice corresponding to his size beside me...While he is singing the gathering song and the men are coming out of the trenches, the picket stops for a moment on the way to the front. 
As they stand by me, one of those stray bullets comes through the embrasure, strikes one in the temple, passes through his brain, and lodges in the breast of the man next to him. There is confusion for a few minutes. The dead man's body is cared for by his comrades. The wounded man is taken to the infirmary. 
Quiet is restored and the song starts again, and I preach the sermon with a vivid illustration of the nearness of that mysterious, unseen world that lies so near us and claims some of us every day. I finish the sermon and ask those who wish to take Jesus Christ as a Saviour to rise up. Maybe two hundred rise."

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