Gettysburg - The Vision Place of Souls

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, May 25, 2014 0 comments

by Michael Homula

(Photo: General Gouverner Warren statue on Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park)

Between 1861 and 1865, Americans made war on each other and killed each other in great numbers, if only to become the kind of country that could no longer conceive of how that was possible. What began as a bitter dispute over Union and States' Rights ended as a struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.

By the early summer of 1863, the war was not going well for President Lincoln and the North. The previous seven months saw the Confederacy win great victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Late in June, Robert E. Lee began a massive invasion of the north that would culminate in an epic battle fought amid the rolling farmlands and bountiful orchards surrounding a little town in south central Pennsylvania – Gettysburg.

The July 1-3 battle raged in places that would be forever remembered for the ferocity of the fighting – the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Ridge and the Slaughter Pen, Devil’s Den, Little Round Top and the Valley of Death. The climax was Pickett’s Charge, the South’s last final and desperate attempt to attain victory. It failed. The North had won but the losses, on both sides, were inconceivable: 56,000 casualties (wounded and missing) and nearly 10,000 dead.

The 2,400 inhabitants of Gettysburg watched and hid in horror as more than 135,000 men maimed and killed one another wholesale. When it was over, they had nearly ten times their number in wounded and dying soldiers to care for on their farms, in their barns, homes, school buildings and churches. Christians take comfort in places of worship. The church preaches a message of healing for sick souls, but the sight of one’s church filled with horribly wounded and dying men sprawled on pews and floor near and around where they worshipped would not be a normal scene. But such scenes were repeated in every church within a 25-mile radius of the battlefield and town. One church’s wood floor was so badly blood-stained it had to be replaced.

There were countless numbers of heroic acts during the battle and aftermath. There were similar acts of Christian kindness in caring for the wounded and numerous displays of mercy for the dying. Christians on both sides would live out their faith in ways we can hardly imagine today.

In those first few days after the battle there were no large kitchens to prepare and provide food to feed the thousands of deprived and ravished men. Andrew Cross, of the United States Christian Commission, arrived Sunday the 5th of July with only two boxes of hard tack when he stopped at Cemetery Ridge. He wrote, "Think of two boxes of soda crackers in a hospital of over 3,000 wounded men who had not anything to eat for three days… It was all we had. The scarcity of everything was exceedingly great, no army provisions of any kind having yet come, and the men having been without food in many cases for three days." What he really needed was a multiplication of loaves and fishes.

Captain James J. Griffiths of the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry was mortally wounded. He was an aid to General Oliver Otis Howard (known as the Christian General and later founder of Howard University). After being wounded, Griffiths was taken to a private residence in Gettysburg where his friend and commander, Howard, visited him one last time. One eyewitness commented on the scene: "…the General passed in to the side of the dying man (Griffiths). The two had loved each other as brothers. Howard clasped the Captain in his arms, kissed him and burst into tears. Recovering his self-possession, the Christian General took from his pocket a testament and read to the dying Captain a portion of the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John… The General then knelt down and offered up a fervent impressive prayer. Arising from his knees, he again kissed the dying man, saying, 'We shall meet in heaven.'" Griffiths died July 10th.

Many of the men in both armies professed, worshipped, and served the same God of the Bible. They had an enormous faith that enabled them to do extraordinary things. Same God. Same country. Different dreams.

The United States is in what church historians have labeled the 'post-modern Christian era.' Christianity is under attack, some say on the decline, and even more say that those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior do not put action to their faith. In our culture, it is no longer "in" to be Christian. People are as hungry for God today as they were one hundred fifty years ago – though they do not know only God can quench their appetite. The church – meaning the body of Christ – must not run from our present culture. Today’s disciple of Christ must present not a watered-down gospel, but a direct, vibrant and lovingly pure message of redemption in Christ alone.

At Gettysburg in November of 1863, President Lincoln tried to put into words what was happening to his beloved country. He said perhaps more than he knew – the war was about a "new birth of freedom." As God intervened in America's bloody past to bring a new birth of freedom, washing us of the sin of slavery. Let us pray He breaks upon America once more, using His sons and daughters who profess Christ as Lord and Savior, with a renewed commitment seek out His presence and be salt and light in the world in which we live.

At Gettysburg, stories like those above are numerous and contain valuable lessons for Christians today. The Biblical Truth at Gettysburg blog posts, forthcoming studies, and one-of-a-kind retreats will explore the lives and extraordinary actions of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the days leading up to, during, and after the epic battle. In their deeds, some of them having given “the last full measure of devotion,” we will find ourselves challenged to live out our faith in a more actionable and effective way.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was the Colonel of the 20th Maine at Gettysburg. We we will discuss him and his men much in the coming months. At the dedication of Maine Monuments on October 3, 1888 he said:

“In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision place of souls… generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a Mighty Presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”