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A Past Neshaminy Reenactment (Ilena Di Toro submission)

A religious revival at the York U.S. Army Hospital

The American Civil War marked a significant number of new advancements in military procedures, weaponry, logistics, tactics, and training. One new idea, that at first was highly controversial and met with many skeptics, was the commissioning into the service a large group of military chaplains, many of which were designated for particular regiments or brigades. The idea of combining the profession of a preacher with that of a military officer was not universally greeted.

Among those men of the cloth quietly toiling to provide spiritual guidance and direction to the Union troops was an unnamed chaplain assigned to the United States Army Hospital just south of downtown York on Penn Commons. At times discouraged by the naysayers, by the spring of 1863, he was seeing positive results from his labors.

Little did he know that his work would be temporarily halted by the coming of the Confederate division of Jubal Early in late June…

Here is the account as written in the pages of the April 1863 edition of The National Preacher, a leading publication for ministers and church leaders of the mid-19th century…

The chaplain of the hospital at York. Pa., says: ”We have had here nearly three thousand patients since opening, about the first of July, 1862. We have been cheered by seeing quite a number turning to the Lord. Each month of this year I have baptized some, and added them to the general Evangelical Christian Church. Among them have been several young men of much promise, from New York State. My humble experience, both in the regiment and in the hospital, has been that the chaplaincy is not a failure, as has been so oracularly announced. We have had many discouragements, and sometimes felt almost as if it was a failure; but this was often so before in a pastorate of fifteen years. I believe I have never admitted, within the same time, so many men to church privileges on their profession [of faith], as I have done within the past three months. To God’s name be all the glory. We are quietly working on, and desire an interest in the prayers of God’s people.”