By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability and expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, altho' death was levelling my companions on every side. GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to John A. Washington, Jul. 18, 1755
Possibly because of his close encounters with death, General George Washington understood the meaning of the Bible verse, II Corinthians 12:9, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Washington was a Christian who regularly attended church, read his Bible, and gave to missionary organizations. Often, he would leave his military camps on Sundays to attend the services of any church he could find, no matter which denomination. Prayer was a big part of his life, and he was often seen riding into the woods to find a solitary spot to pray, or found in his private quarters on his knees with the Bible opened.
Washington recognized the need for clergy on the battlefield for encouragement, admonishment, and comfort, and he empathized with the men’s desire for spiritual guidance and instruction in understanding Biblical concepts such as the grace he personally experienced. Consequently, he was a champion of the establishment of a chaplaincy corps.
After the battle at Lexington and Concord, many pastors enlisted in the Continental Army and encouraged the men in their congregations to follow suit. In its infancy, the chaplaincy service was not organized -- some clergy were commissioned by the army, some by governors, and some were aligned with militias. July 29, 1775, is considered the official birthday of the American Chaplaincy Corps when Congress recognized chaplains in the national army with a rank equal to that of a captain and with a monthly pay of twenty dollars.
In August 1775, General Washington reported that fifteen chaplains were serving twenty-three regiments and that twenty-nine regiments were without any. In September, there were twenty regiments supplied and twenty vacancies. The situation worsened, and by January 9, 1776, there were only nine chaplains and eighteen vacancies. Because Washington thought that chaplains weren’t paid enough, he suggested assigning a chaplain for each two regiments as a means of doubling the salary. Chaplains usually served six months. Some served during the week and returned home each weekend. Some were responsible for paying for their temporary replacements back home. Although officers without rank, they had no specified uniform, but did bear arms, at least the sword of an officer and a gentleman, and occasionally a firearm.
Normally, chaplains conducted services, offered Holy Communion, acted as representatives of God, prayed with the men before a march and before roll call at night, and comforted the wounded. Some served as surgeons. They also officiated at funerals and performed marriages.
|Chaplain James Caldwell|
|Chaplain prays with troops in Iraq.|
Love the post and thanks for the info. Last may I did a historical highlights tours and learnt more about the 3 wars on American soil, Mostly the revolutionary war and the civil War but we did hear a little of the war of 1812. Mostly about how Dolly Madison save the portrait of George Washington and important papers.ReplyDelete
It is good to hear about the chaplains. I love how they are still connected to the different services. We have chaplins to the services also. I wonder if its because of this service of chaplins if thats why they started being involved in other areas like Sport teams and Schools. (not sure about America but we now have chaplins in many public schools)
So glad you liked the post, Jenny. I love historical tours, too.Delete
Susan, Thank you for this post. Washington was a great President and commander. His Christian faith is an inspiration and I had no idea he was responsible for chaplains serving in the military.ReplyDelete
I am so glad they are available to our warriors today.
Thank you, Jackie. I do a lot of research for the novels I write and I love coming across information like this about military chaplains.Delete
Thanks for this interesting post, Susan. At one time, one of my sons considered becoming a chaplain in the National Guard. I'd never heard how the army chaplaincy got started or even that George Washington was such a man of prayer.ReplyDelete
I wish we had more politicians of Washington's caliber.Delete
I did not know George Washington was a Christian, read his Bible and prayed regularly. I am pleased to hear that he also encouraged the chaplain corps. Interesting post. sharon wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)comReplyDelete
Susan, what an interesting post! Thank you so much for sharing.ReplyDelete
mauback55 at gmail dot com
I heard George Washington was a deist, not a Christian, but maybe that was wrong. Not sure about military chaplains, but in Medieval times there does seem to have been the odd fighting Bishop.ReplyDelete
Great essay by William Federer about George Washington's being a Christian, with quotes from Washington's letters and writings - http://swordattheready.wordpress.com/answering-the-charge-that-george-washington-was-a-deist/ReplyDelete
Might skim that at some point soon. As I say, it may be wrong, but not sure its entirely militant secularists who believe this, as I think deism was popular in that period of 'the enlightenment'.Delete
It looks like an interesting site, but I think that sometimes the perspective of these things is a little unbalanced, as if people think freedom somehow didn't exist before Washington.
Maybe giving Britain (and other countries) more credit for the contributions that were made to the establishment of freedom sometimes instead of just bashing us as 'tyrants'?
Thank you for this marvelous post, Susan. Our southwest Colorado writing group has a chaplain because we think there should be more to group's unity than just an opening/closing prayer.ReplyDelete
What a nice idea to have a chaplain for your writing group. May God bless all of your efforts to glorify his name through your writing.Delete