Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"If Thine Enemy Hunger"

From: edinborough.com

Laboring on the field, in connection with Mrs. Harris and the Commission, was Rev. Geo. Duffield, Jr., who spent a large part of his time in looking especially after the Confederate wounded in our hands:

"Oh, come, mister, and see them in the cow-stable," said a poor woman whom the neighbors called "the faithful creature;" "they are some of them worse off than these." Sure enough, it was even so. There they were, not any worse wounded or more utterly helpless and destitute of decent clothing, -- for in these respects all were upon a common level. But there was at least this difference in favor of those in the wagon-shed; theirs was comparatively clean dirt. In the cow-stable the filthy water of the dung-heap had dammed up and backed in upon them, saturating straw, blankets, and everything else within its reach. There was still another and more painful difference. On account of the water most of the scanty hay had floated away, and left the poor sufferers lying upon the bare rails, sometimes without so much as the thickness of a single blanket between their emaciated bodies and the sharp, knotty wood. And these men were the elite of the Southern army, -- lawyers, planters, men of wealth, intelligence and refinement, -- some of them, as I was afterwards informed, had been Ruling Elders in the Presbyterian Church, and members of its General Assemblies.

At first the distribution of the bread was in solemn silence, reminding me strangely enough of distributing on a communion-day the emblems of Christ's body and blood, as well as of the command, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink." But misery soon found a tongue. The first man who spoke to me was from Georgia, apparently about twenty-five years of age, and whose language and whole bearing impressed me with the belief that he had known what home and generous hospitality were. In the course of a twenty years' ministry -- ten of it in the city of Philadelphia, in times of cholera and famine, in the most obscure alleys, in the court within the court, in the Penitentiary, in the incurable wards of the Blockley Almshouse Hospital, in Bedlam -- I have often looked, on sad and despairing faces; but never, in any man who yet retained reason, on such a face of blank hopelessness as this.

"O sir," said he, with an accent of agony that thrilled me through and through, "much as I thank you for this bread, which is the first mouthful of anything I could eat since I was wounded, I would rather do without it and starve outright, than remain any longer in my present position. Just look at me; I am shot through the lungs and spine, and cannot move myself a hair's breadth, and here I am bent across this rail as if on a rack, -- not a handful of hay, or even the thickness of a blanket under me. I shall die if I do not gain relief --immediate relief, sir, -- from this insupportable torture."

To help the wretched sufferer was no very easy matter; on one aide, almost touching him, was a man who had his right leg off; on the other, one who had lost his left; and any one who, in passing through a hospital, has ever touched the blanket of such a man and, heard his piteous exclamations, will be careful ever after how he does so again. Finding at length a resting place for my feet, one on each side of him, and reaching over to the trough for support, I managed, with one of his arms round my neck, partially to raise him up, and was beginning to push a little hay under him, when a feeble, pettish voice exclaimed: "Don't you steal my hay;" answered by the man on the other side in a similar tone--

"And don't you steal any of mine."

A bale of such hay could not have been bought with all the gold, in California. With great difficulty I gathered up the little portion properly belonging to him, and added some of the reeking straw, adjusting his blanket so as to envelop his whole body. With an air of inexpressible satisfaction he laid himself back in his new position, and a gleam of hope once more lit up his face, as if the sun should dawn at midnight. Seizing my hand with passionate gratitude, he was about to cover it with kisses.

"No, sir," said I, pushing back his head with gentle violence, "If you have any thanks to give for so small a favor, give it to God and not to me."

In an instant he took me at my word. His short, but earnest ejaculatory prayer for himself I could not help taking up for all his suffering comrades. The Master prayed for His enemies, "Father, forgive them." Why should not I, a poor sinner myself, offer similar petition for mine?
These men, although in such sad plight, were outspoken in expressing their attachment to the South. Indeed the ministry of kindness, while it affected the political tendencies of the privates, touched the officers much less.

Image: George Duffield served as a Christian Commission delegate at Gettysburg. He had a long, distinguished career as a minister and later as a Regent of the University of Michigan. He might be best-known for his poem based on the last words of Rev. Dudley Tyng of Philadelphia: "Stand Up! Stand Up for Jesus! Ye Soldiers of the Cross!"


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