Caring for soldiers and freedmen

Presbyterian chaplains: Robert L. Dabney

  • John W. Alvord
  • Robert F. Bunting
  • Benjamin W. Chidlaw
  • Dr. Robert Lewis Dabney
  • Isaac W. Handy
  • Robert W. Landis

"…The signal of divine worship is the rattle of the drum, the soldier's substitute for the bell, and they come from every side to the meeting-place,…rough-bearded men, bronzed and weather-beaten… Then follows the sermon, short and informal, but swallowed with solemn and eager faces. It is evident that many hearts are busy with thoughts of home… Not a few tears are wiped from those bronzed and bearded faces; but they are not unmanly tears; our enemies will find…that the love for homes and households…will make every one of these men as a lion in the day of battle…"

Robert Lewis Dabney describing the scene at a camp near Manassas Junction, Virginia, to the Central Presbyterian, 13 June 1861, in Thomas Cary Johnson, The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney. (Richmond, Va.: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, [1903]), 236-237.

An outspoken and active supporter of Southern rights and institutions, Dr. Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898), professor at Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia, began his involvement in the war in 1861 as a Confederate chaplain to the Eighteenth Virginia Volunteers. Called an "Ironside Presbyterian parson," his abilities as a chaplain drew the attention of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who recruited him in April 1862 to serve as his Chief-of-Staff, a combatant position he held for six months before suffering exhaustion. Dabney penned the first published biography of General Jackson at the request of Jackson's widow.