Lincoln And The Bible
( Originally Published 1902 )
ONE of the most beautiful stories of the Civil War has been told by a wounded Confederate soldier boy. It is as follows:
" In the summer of 1862 I was with General Lee's army on its march into Maryland. We had a rough time before we crossed the Potomac, and much worse after we got on this side. At the battle of Sharpsburg my regiment, the loth Alabama, suffered heavily in killed and wounded. Among the wounded of Company K was myself. I was supposed to be mortally wounded and left on the field, and consequently fell into the hands of the Union forces. As I lay suffering from pain, and being very weak from loss of blood, and wishing that death would come to my relief, a gentleman dressed in citizen's clothes came up to me, stooped over my almost lifeless body, and in a gentle voice said; ` My lad, you are very young to be in the army. How old are you?' ` I am sixteen, and am dying. Will you be kind enough to send this Bible to my mother?' I drew the book from my pocket and gave it to him. He said, ` Your mother shall have this Bible, and you shall take it to her.' On the fly-leaf was written my mother's name and address, with the following lines underneath, ` Will some generous foe please return this book to my mother and give this body Christian burial?' He asked my name and command. I said to him, `My name is Darby, Company K, loth Alabama.' As the stranger turned to leave I called him back and asked him to please give me his name, as I did not wish to die and never know who to thank for such kindness. You will not die, my lad; take courage, you will be cared for,' were his words. ` My name,' he said, ` is Abraham Lincoln.' When he announced his name it stunned me. I thought, was it possible that President Lincoln would notice a wounded rebel? I will never forget the impression it made on my mind.
"I was taken to the hospital at Frederick, Maryland, where I received every attention that medical skill and careful nursing could bestow to relieve my suffering. After many months I became convalescent. One morning I was called to headquarters and notified that I would be sent the next day to Port Monroe. You can imagine my delight; my heart leaped into my throat; the night passed wearily away, but I was cheered with the hope of seeing the dear ones at home. I was anxious to see what the next day would bring forth. As I was about ready to leave for Baltimore the officer handed me a small package. After I had started on the journey I unwrapped the covering of paper and found it was my Bible. In turning over the pages I found a card in the book, with the following written on it : ` Take this Book of God to your mother. A. Lincoln.' The card was in the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, and the 1st, 13th and 14th verses of that chapter were marked in pencil with the letter ` L.' The first verse read thus : ` Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say I have no pleasure in them ' ; 13th, ` Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : Fear God and keep his commandments : for this is the whole duty of man ' ; 14th, ` For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.'
" I devoted my time on the trip to Baltimore and Fort Monroe committing to memory the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, which I have never for-gotten. When I reached home I told the story of my captivity, and how kindly I had been treated by the enemy. They were not disposed to give my statement the proper credit. I produced the Bible which mother had placed in my pocket when I started to the army nearly two years previous. I turned it over to her, as President Lincoln told me I should do, just as I received it from the officer at the hospital. She was not long in finding the card and the marked verses.
" `Ah,' she said, ` my son, let these verses ever be your guide, both in war and in peace. This precious book saved your life.' I have tried to live up to the teachings of that Bible and the verses designated by the hand of the great Lincoln. I taught it to my only son as a maxim to pilot him through life, and made the same request of him that my mother did of me."
The Bible, Aesop's Fables, and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress were the three books Lincoln's mother gave him, and they composed his library in his cabin home. He learned them almost by heart. About all of his messages and public addresses delivered while he was President, contained some quotation from the Holy Scriptures.