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Wisconsin in the Civil War

Chaplains' Virtues are Unheeded
by the Grim Rank and File

At any given time during the war, hundreds of clergy served as chaplains with Union troops. They were paid $100 per month and wore uniforms. In addition to preaching and counseling, they performed vital services such as handling incoming mail and writing letters home for the sick or wounded. The grim and tired soldiers, however, had little deference for them. This letter sent from St. Louis on August 11, 1863, describes how some soldiers generally treated chaplains during the Siege of Vicksburg earlier that year.

To him it must be a most trying, not to say humiliating, position. Every prejudice of his clerical life is rudely insulted hourly, in one form or other. That professed respect attaching to the cloth at home — that deference to expressed opinions, whether sensible or stupid, is wholly lacking. The immaculate white choker and oleaginous expression of facial sanctity, sometime indulged in as part of the profession, wholly fail of effect on masses of grim and tried soldiery. Outward forms are as dust.

It is only by the practice — the real, earnest practice of every Christian virtue, that a chaplain can hope to be regarded in the army as anything of more value than a tolerable regimental postmaster.

Source: "Newspaper Clippings, 1861-1930", Vol. 8, page 33 (from the Wisconsin State Journal, August 15, 1863)

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Chaplain Samuel Eaton of the 7th Wisconin Infantry.
Chaplain Samuel Eaton of the 7th Wisconin Infantry.

WHI 70748
George W. Honey
George W. Honey

WHI 69897
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