For thousands of soldiers, both Federal and Confederate, identified as Christians and clung to the Lord for guidance, support, love, passion, and forgiveness in war. Both sides would use the Word of God to support their various ideologies and justify their causes in the war. But, even more so, faith in many religions, though the majority of troops were Christian, was a support mechanism in battle, giving them courage to advance in the face of the enemy – and death.
Cpl. Henry Skaggs, who served with Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Missouri Cavalry carried a Bible with him through the war and wrote several prayers to give him comfort in war. His love and dependency on God is clearly shown in his photograph above, where he is These prayers, handwritten by Skaggs, give us a glimpse into his fears for the war and how faith helped him serve until the end of the war. Here are a few samples.
“While faithful to my duties as an earthly soldier. May it be my highest ambition to be a good Soldier of Jesus Christ; to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life guide guard & protect me this day. Preserve my body from danger and my soul from sin. It is thou O Lord only who makes me to dwell in Safety.”
“Oh, forgive all my iniquities and let me fall asleep in Jesus in the blessed hope of eternal life. Give me patience to endure whatever I may have yet to suffer; and as I walk through the valey of the Shadow of death let me fear no evil. Feeling that Thou art with me I would especially Commend to Thy gracious case and keeping my helpless family at home. We shall meet no more in this world; oh may we all meet before Thy Throne in Glory; Do thou bind up their broken hearts and give them Strength and grace to submit to Thy will; Be Thou their everlasting friend and portion. May they take comfort in Thine own gracious promise.”
1. Prayer, Henry Ellison Skaggs Papers, The State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri.