At Home, July 17, 1861
My Dear Son:
It may have seemed strange to you that a professing Christian father so freely gave you, a Christian son, to enlist in the volunteer service. My reason was that I regarded this as a purely defensive war. Not only did the Southern Confederacy propose to adjust the pending difficulties by peaceful and equitable negotiations, but Virginia used again and again the most earnest and noble efforts to prevent a resport to the sword. These overtures being proudly spurned, and our beloved South having been threatened with invasion and subjugation, it seemed to me that nothing was left us but stern resistance or abject submission to unconstitutional power.
After going on to further explain his reasons for joining the cause, he proceeds to give his son a few pointers about his life in the army. Firstly, he told him to take special care of his health. Second, that he should obey his authority promptly and unquestioningly. His next point is a beautiful illustration of the usual perception (or rather condition) of the military. He continues:
3. Try to maintain your Christian profession among your comrades. I need not caution you against strong drink as useless and hurtful, nor against profanity, so common among soldiers. Both these practices you abhor. Aim to take at once a decided stand for God. If practicable, have prayers regularly in your tent, or unite with your fellow-disciples in prayer-meetings in the camp. Should preaching be accessible, always be a hearer. Let the world know that you are a Christian. Read a chapter in the New Testament which your mother gave you, every morning and evening when you can, and engage in secret prayer to God for his Holy Spirit to guide and sustain you. I would rather hear of your death than of the shipwreck of your faith and good conscience.
What great advice! There are a lot of other great tidbits in the letter, which I might include in a future post. But from this letter you can see the wickedness that the army was known for and how adamantly this father is exhorting his son not to fall prey to its vices.