This week in Christian history: Missionary who was confidant to FDR, Gandhi dies; 2K killed in battle

Battle of Turnhout – Jan. 24, 1597

The Battle of Turnhout
A 17th-century illustration of the 1597 battle of Turnhout |

This week marks the anniversary of a major battle in the Dutch War for Independence, which is believed by some to have inspired the creation of the hymn “We Gather Together.”

Also known as the Eighty Years’ War, the conflict involved what are now known as the Low Countries gradually gaining independence from the Kingdom of Spain.

The conflict had a religious element, as Spain was a Roman Catholic country while the Netherlands had a large Protestant population.

The battle itself involved a Spanish garrison at Turnhout led by Count de Varas being defeated by Dutch forces led by Prince Maurice, partly because the latter made better use of firearms.

“The result was utterly lopsided,” recounted the Christian History Institute. “Two thousand Spanish died, including Varas, and Maurice’s army captured another five hundred. The Dutch side lost only ten killed and about a hundred wounded.”

While some believe the battle inspired the hymn, the institute notes that the text was published 29 years later. 

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