This week in Christian history: Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, Confederate chaplains

Confederate government approves chaplains – May 3, 1861

Confederate Chaplains
Harrison's Landing, Va. Group of the Irish Brigade. Photograph from the main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862. Sitting from left to right: Captain Clooney, Eighty-eighth New York, Father Dillon, Chaplain of the Sixty-third New York, and Father Corby, Chaplain of the Eighty-eighth New York. Standing from left to right: Visiting priest and Colonel Patrick Kelly, Eighty-eighth New York. |

This week marks the anniversary of when the Confederate States of America’s congress approved a bill authorizing the appointment of chaplains to the army.

Known as Act No. 102, the measure gave the president power to appoint chaplains and set their monthly salary at $85, an amount lowered in a later amendment. The federal Congress passed a similar measure later that year in August.

While chaplains had been present in American armed forces since the Revolution, the measures passed by both the Union and Confederate governments expanded their presence and influence.

“While their numbers were relatively small compared to the more than 2.5 million soldiers who fought from 1861 to 1865, their impact, though somewhat veiled, was substantial; particularly in the South,” wrote historian Richard G. Williams, Jr.

“Over 150,000 Confederate soldiers rededicated or were baptized during the war, and actual new conversions within the Confederate Army have been estimated to be at least 100,000, with an equal or greater number in the Union Army.”   

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