All Ways Escaped

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, February 15, 2015 0 comments

by Michael Homula

John F. Chase was saved at Gettysburg. More than once.

Born in Chelsea, Maine, John Chase enlisted as a private in Company B of the 3rd Maine Infantry in early June of 1861. One of the first men to enlist, he was a young, energetic and strapping Maine farm boy of almost 200 pounds. Transferred to the 5th Maine Artillery in November 1861, Chase’s first claim to fame occurred at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863.

With the rest of his battery either dead or wounded, Chase (along with another soldier) continued to fire his cannon under a sustained barrage by the forces of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and then, under a withering fire, wheeled the artillery piece off the field to keep it from the enemy. He also returned to rescue a mortally wounded officer. Shortly after the battle the rescued officer died, but he had written a recommendation for John Chase to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

The 5th Maine Artillery would reform in May and June of 1863, and Chase and his comrades in arms found themselves in Gettysburg those fateful days of July 1863. After the carnage he witnessed at Chancellorsville, Chase must have wrestled and wondered why he alone had survived unhurt from that bloody day. He surely grieved over the loss of so many friends. Like many who would survive bloody battles, Chase probably even felt guilty over why he had survived when some many of his friends had not. In the early morning hours of July 2, 1863, witnesses saw John Chase bow to his knees and cry out to God in repentance, asking for peace and beseeching God to save him through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

Later that same day, Chase and the 5th Maine Battery found themselves defending Cemetery Hill. He and the other brave men worked the guns at a place called Steven’s Knoll, very close to the spot where he had prayed just hours earlier. While they poured a murderous fire into the flank of Avery’s Brigade of North Carolinians, a Confederate artillery shell exploded near Chase. The blast took off his right arm, destroyed his left eye, and sent forty-eight pieces of shrapnel into his body.

Unconscious and presumed dead, Chase was carried to the rear and left for dead where he remained for nearly two days. His body was eventually loaded onto a wagon along with many others to be buried. The wagon driver heard him moan, pulled him out from among the dead bodies, gave him a drink of water, and left him on the roadside to die. Discovered by a surgeon, Chase was brought to a hospital where doctors observed his terrible wounds and a fatal infection. It was declared that he wouldn’t live and he was once again laid in a field to die alone.

Reverend Sloan, a United States Christian Commission delegate, discovered Chase and began to nurse him. He was too fragile to be moved, so Sloan built a small shelter over him, baptized him in that spot and tended to him for three months. By that time the strapping 200 pound farm boy from Maine was a mere 87 pounds. He recovered enough to be transported to a more permanent hospital, where he eventually returned to health and was discharged from the Union Army on November 25, 1863.

Having lost his right arm with which he wrote, he would later write left handed about his experience at Gettysburg:

“I lost my right arm near the shoulder, and left eye, and have forty other scars upon my brest and shouldr caused by peaces of fragments of a Spharical case shot, at the battle of Gettersburg, july the seccond 1863. I have been in the rebbels hand a number of times, and like a true yankee all ways escaped before carryed of too the prison pens.” You can view a photo of his letter at this link.

Like most enlisted men of his day from rural America, John Chase was not well educated and this is obvious in his writing. In his words he says perhaps even more than he knows. He escaped from much more than being taken prisoner by the Rebels. Using the term “...all ways escaped….” instead of the grammatically correct “always escaped”, he reveals (most likely unintentionally) a much deeper and eternal escape. When he committed his life to Christ on Steven’s Knoll, Chase escaped being taken prisoner to his sin. He escaped eternal death and eternal separation from God. Yes, Chase in ALL WAYS escaped.

Chase is believed to be the most wounded soldier to survive the Civil War and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1888 for his “extraordinary heroism” at Chancellorsville. Notably, he would also became a preacher, traveling the country and showing his "48 for each star of the Union".

Chase was a hero. There is little doubt of this fact. However, his saving faith in Christ, his escape from sin, and what he did to share the truth of salvation makes him a hero for Christians. He was "saved" at Gettysburg more than once. Enduring his wounds and the loss of friends on the battlefields of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, he never quit. He never quite on his friends. He never quit on his country. And, having been saved by Jesus, he never quite on God. The "peace that passes all understanding" allowed him to become a hero for God by spending his life telling others about "being saved" at Gettysburg.

NOTE: The pictures above show a wounded John Chase along with him and other veterans of the 5th Maine at the dedication of their monument on Steven's Knoll. Chase is on the left of the group.