Monday, September 5, 2011

September 6, 1861 (Saturday): McClellan and the Sabbath

Services on Deck of USS Pasaic, 1864 (National Archives)

       No. 7                                                   Washington, September 6, 1861.
   The major-general commanding desires and requests that in future there may be a more perfect respect for the Sabbath on the part of the command.  We are fighting in a holy cause, and should endeavor to deserve the benign favor of the Creator.  Unless in the case of an attack by the enemy, or some other extreme military necessity, it is commended to commanding officers that all work shall be suspended on the Sabbath; that no unnecessary movements shall be made on that day; that the men shall, as far as possible, be permitted to rest from their labors; that they shall attend divine service after the customary Sunday morning inspection, and that officers and men shall alike use their influence to insure the utmost decorum and quiet on that day.  The general commanding regards this as no idle form: one day’s rest in seven is necessary to men and animals.  More than this, the observance of the holy day of the God of Mercy and of Battles is our sacred duty.
                                                            GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
                                                                Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 1, Page 472.

According to the National Civil War Chaplains Museum in Lynchburg, Virginia there were 2338 chaplains to the Union army and 1303 in the Confederate army, most of those regimental chaplains. They represented all the various denominations and about one-third (the largest group) were Methodists.  While Stonewall Jackson is famous for his desire to avoid fighting on the Sabbath, he was not alone in his concern as shown by this general order of McClellan’s.

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