USCC in the West – ONE LADY’S LOVE OF THE SAVIOUR
Luke 7:44-47 (KJV), “And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much:”
The first Delegates of the Christian Commission to the West, from the central office, were to the Cumberland Army, immediately after the Stone River battles, December 31st, 1862.
Earlier in the war much valuable work was accomplished in the Western armies, upon every principal battle-field, by the various “Army Committees,” organized in Chicago, Peoria, St. Louis, &c.
The war in Missouri was a succession of forced marches, toilsome retreats, and desperate battles between comparatively small armies. Generals Fremont and Hunter were successively displaced from the chief command, and General Halleck, in November, 1861 assumed charge of the Department.
Among the troops campaigning in Missouri was the famous “Normal School” regiment, the 33rd Illinois. Mr. B. F. Jacobs, devoted Secretary of the Chicago Army Committee, and of the Northwestern Branch of the Commission gives the story of a Friday evening prayer-meeting, held in the First Baptist Church of that city, in the fall of 1861, which is connected with the history of the regiment:
“Towards the close of the meeting, an officer rose and said – ‘I am a stranger to you, and this city. My reason for speaking is that I have a trust to execute. Our regiment, - the 33rd Illinois, - in the early part of its campaigns, at a town in Missouri, received a box containing a few hymn-books and Testaments, some papers, housewives, and other soldier comforts.
A little ticket within the box informed us that it came from a lady of the First Baptist Church, Chicago. So anxious were the men for the hymn-books that on account of a short supply, they loaned the precious volumes to each other, and more than one hundred committed to memory the principal hymns, that they might be able to sing readily at the meetings. One of my men sent for me to visit a dying soldier there. His words were few but full and precious;
“Captain I am dying: I long to see my wife and children, but I know I shall die without that. I’ve been trying to think what I could send my wife. I have nothing except these books” and taking one of the Testaments and the hymn-books from under his head, he added “Send these; and Captain, if you are ever in Chicago, I want you to go to the First Baptist Church, and tell the lady who sent those hymn-books that the 27th hymn led me to Jesus. I am going home to wait for her.”
The story of the stranger Captain deeply impressed the audience. There was a pause in his talk for a moment, when he went on again:
‘Among others in the regiment, there was a little boy, the servant of one of the Captains, who on account of his religious principles was nicknamed “Little Piety.” The Christian soldiers of the regiment organized a prayer-meeting; and were holding it one evening in a tent, near the quarters of the officer of the day, a very profane man, who hearing the singing, started out, exclaiming with an oath, “I’ll stop that noise.” As he approached the tent, the fly-door was up; “Little Piety” was speaking, standing near the cracker-box which served as a desk, so that the light of the only candle in the tent lit up his face. The little fellow was telling of his mother’s last councel to him as he went away from home: “My son, there are a great many men that don’t love Christ, and who will tempt you to swerve from your fidelity and purpose. You may be subjected to trials on account of your faith; but, my son, I want you to promise that whatever else you forget you will not forget your mother’s Saviour.” With tears in his eyes the little fellow told how he was trying not to forget Him. He listened till the meeting closed, when the leader asked –
‘Where shall we hold our next meeting?’
Stepping forward out of the darkness, the Captain responded, ‘In my tent.’
That Captain was afterwards converted to Christ, and since that time has been one of the most earnest Christians in the regiment.”
The stranger sat down; and we felt in our prayer-meeting, that night, our hearts somehow knit closer to the men who had gone out from our midst, and that we owed them henceforth more of prayer and more of work.