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Intersection of Life and Faith

People of Faith: General Stonewall Jackson

  • Diana L. Severance Contributing Writer, <i>Faith in God and Generals</i>
  • 2003 2 Feb
  • COMMENTS
People of Faith: General Stonewall Jackson

In late March [1863], Jackson moved his headquarters from Moss Neck to Thomas Yerby's, near Hamilton Crossing. An outdoor chapel was prepared nearby, and services were held in the open air. Trees were felled and used for benches. There [chaplain] Tucker Lacy led the Sunday morning and evening services and Wednesday prayer meetings. Hymn sings were also held there on Sunday afternoons.

Often General Lee and other officers would worship there with men of Jackson's Second Corps. One April Sunday there were at least one thousand present. Rev. Lacy had never addressed such an imposing and respectful audience: "It was a noble sight to see there those, who led our armies to victory and upon whom the eyes of the nation are turned with admiration and gratitude, melted in tears at the story of the cross and the exhibition of the love of God to the repenting and return sinner."

 

Sandie Pendleton, one of General Jackson's aides, wrote his mother that Rev. Lacy was very effective in energizing the chaplains. He was an eloquent preacher as well as a charming companion at the staff mess. He was a great teller of stories and was full of witticism that always enlivened conversation.

 

In April, Jackson's wife Anna and baby Julia were able to come and spend some time with General Jackson at the Yerby's house. Jackson had not yet seen his little daughter and was the most doting of fathers when she came. On April 23, Rev. Lacy baptized little five-month-old Julia.

The following Sunday, the open air chapel was crowded with soldiers. An hour before the service was to begin, all the seats were occupied, and the soldiers were reading religious material and Bibles that had been distributed to them. General Jackson and Anna later arrived, as did Generals Lee, Early, and Kernshaw.

In a strong voice, Rev. Lacy preached to the large congregation a powerful sermon on the rich man and Lazarus, contrasting this world and the next. It was the last sermon General Jackson ever heard, for he was wounded six days later.

 

On the night of May 2, 1863, General Jackson was seriously wounded; his left arm was amputated in the early morning of the following day. When Rev. Lacy came to the tent where Jackson's arm had been amputated, he exclaimed, "Oh, General, what a calamity." Jackson thanked him and said, "You see me severely wounded, but not depressed, not unhappy. I believe that it has been done according to God's holy will, and I will acquiesce entirely in it. You may think it strange; but you never saw me more perfectly contented than I am today."

 

With his firm trust in God's providence, Jackson knew his wound was God's will, and he would wait until God revealed His reasons.

Jackson told Lacy that when he was lying wounded on the field and when he was being carried in the ambulance, "I gave myself up into the hands of the Heavenly Father without a fear. It has been a precious experience to me, that I was brought face to face with death, and found all was well." In the following days, at Jackson's request, Lacy had daily devotions at Jackson's bedside at ten o'clock.

 

The following Sunday, between twenty-five hundred and three thousand assembled for worship at Jackson's headquarters. Before the services, General Lee met Lacy and asked him about General Jackson's condition. When told he was growing weaker by the moment, Lee emotionally replied, "Surely, God will not take him from us, now that we need him so much. Surely he will be spared to us in answer to the many prayers which are offered for him."

For the text of his sermon, Tucker Lacy used Jackson's favorite Scripture: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

All the men were thoughtful and serious as they thought of all that depended on Jackson's recovery. At the end of the sermon, Rev. Lacy said it might be God's will to spare Jackson's life in answer to their prayers, and he called on all to petition the throne of grace for Jackson. At the conclusion of the time of prayer, Lacy said whatever God would do in the event would be for the best.

When Jackson died that day, there was a calm and peace among the soldiers. They accepted Jackson's death as part of divine providence, even if they did not understand it.

 

During those difficult days in May, Tucker Lacy ministered not only to Jackson and the soldiers, but to Jackson's wife Anna. Often Lacy prayed with Anna that God would spare Jackson's life, if it were His will. When Jackson died Sunday, May 10, Lacy gave spiritual comfort to Anna.

She later wrote: "Never shall I forget Mr. Lacy's ministrations of consolation to my bleeding heart on that holiest of Sabbath afternoons. Seated by my bedside, he talked so of Heaven, giving such glowing description of its blessedness, and following in imagination the ransomed, glorified spirit, through the gates into the [heavenly] city that at last peace, the 'peace of God,' came into my soul, and I felt that it was selfish to wish to bring back to this sorrowful earth, for my happiness, one who had made such a blissful exchange."

 

Lacy's Continued Ministry

 

After Jackson's death, Rev. Lacy continued with the Second Corps under Generals Ewell and Early, preaching fervently, ministering to the wounded, and building up the Chaplains' Association. John Apperson, a hospital steward of the Second Corps, often summarized Lacy's sermons in his diary. In February 1864, before the Wilderness Campaign, Lacy preached on the crucifixion of Christ, which he described as "the most important event in the history of time and the annals of eternity."

All history-past, present, and future-centered upon the cross. Then Lacy shared how the witnesses of the crucifixion represented the human race in all its variety, good and bad, virtuous and depraved. According to Apperson's diary, Lacy "drew analogies between many of the beholders of that event and many now in existence. There lives now the Roman official, the priest and pontiff, the centurion and soldier, the thief of both conditions, the militia following public opinion or popularity, the sorrowing disciples, the weeping and prayerful mother. There were the prophets of false religions, the enemies of true religion-just as now."

 

The same evening Lacy preached from Job 42:5-6: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Lacy developed the text by showing that the highest knowledge was to know God and the next highest was for man to know himself. Once a man knows God in all His righteousness and holiness, he then knows himself to be a depraved sinner in God's sight, in need of redemption that only comes in Christ. John Apperson wrote, "I have never looked at the history of Job with as much interest as I shall hereafter."

 

In addition to his sermons, Lacy prepared a popular lecture on "The Life and Christian Character of General T. J. Jackson." The chaplain described the glories of Jackson's military struggles as well as his exemplary Christian life.

Lacy's eloquence held his audience spellbound for hours, and his account of Jackson's last days challenged listeners to make their peace with God. He shared the fact that a few days before his death, Jackson had discussed "repentance" with Rev. Lacy and told him, "That, unless he had previously made his peace with God, he did not think it would be possible to collect his thoughts to contemplate such a subject then."9 Lacy used Jackson's statement as a warning to the unconverted soldiers to not delay their commitment to Jesus Christ.

 

As always, Tucker Lacy and the chaplains were most concerned with "the salvation of our sons and brothers, the salvation of our dear soldiers. We plead for those who are ready to lay down the life that now is. Shall they lose also the life which is to come? If the sacrifice of the body is demanded, shall that of the soul be made? If time is forfeited, must eternity be lost? The great object for which the Church of God was instituted upon earth is the same as that for which the Son of God died upon the Cross: THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE SALVATION OF MEN."

 

Excerpted from Faith in God and Generals, compiled by Ted Baehr and Susan Wales.  Copyright © 2003, Ted Baehr and Susan Wales. ISBN 0-8054-2728-7. Published by Broadman & Holman Publishers. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.