Chaplains of the Confederacy
Rev. Moses Drury Hoge, D.D.
Faithful Pastor, Editor, Compassionate Chaplain, Devoted Supporter of his Country and Defender of the Christian Faith
"And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
by Charles A. Jennings
MOSES DRURY HOGEIn order to get an accurate picture of the life and times of the Southern people just prior to and during the War for Southern Independence, one must consider the nature of southern religion and its clergy. The institution of Southern Protestantism and the strong influence of the Christian clergy were two of the major factors that molded southern social and political values for sixty years prior to the war. While Northern Unitarianism waged its war of idealism against the South, the South waged its defensive war against Northern liberal religion in order to preserve its conservative Protestant heritage.
Of all the historical accounts of the War for Southern Independence, only a small amount deals with its religious and spiritual aspects. Yet, in some respects this war was as much a religious crusade, as it was a military campaign. "A more religious war was never waged by any nation than that now entered upon by the southern people," wrote the editor of the Richmond Dispatch in June 1861. During this trying time of national turmoil, there were many southern Christian ministers that displayed unusual courage and were a source of moral encouragement and spiritual guidance throughout the war. Moses Drury Hoge was one such noble man of God who faithfully served his fellow citizens and the cause of the Confederacy.
Moses Drury Hoge was born on September 18, 1818 in Prince Edward County, Virginia to Hampden-Sydney College Vice President Samuel Davies Hoge and his wife Elizabeth. Samuel Hoge moved his family to Athens, Ohio in 1820, but was there only six years before passing away. Moses went to live with his uncle, Drury Lacy in New Bern, NC in 1836 and entered Hampden-Sydney College in the fall. He graduated as Valedictorian of his class in 1839. After several months he then entered Union Theological Seminary in Prince Edward County as a ministerial student. In 1843 he accepted the call as assistant to the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Richmond, VA. In 1845, with the help of his denomination, Dr. Hoge became founder and pastor of Richmond's Second Presbyterian Church where he faithfully remained for fifty-four years.
Rev. Hoge soon became very active in serving not only the members of the church, but also the citizens of the city. In 1848 he established a school for girls and served as Headmaster until 1852. His denominational duties included preaching, traveling, lecturing and conducting revival services. In the late 1840's Rev. Hoge, with his friend Rep. James McDowell, was instrumental in pushing through a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow chaplains in every regiment of the army. He stated "I have thus been the humble instrument in originating an action which has resulted in the appointment of chaplains for every regiment where as before there were none". He was a man that was held in high esteem not only for his intellectual abilities, his untiring service to the people, his sincere conviction and dedication to God's Word, but his leadership qualities and was therefore offered the presidency of two southern colleges. He declined both offers in order to remain as pastor in Richmond.
Among his various endeavors, Dr. Hoge was deeply interested in politics. As an outlet for expressing his political views, he became editor of the Central Presbyterian, a religious journal with a moderate political format. As editor, Dr. Hoge often expressed his unionist feelings and his opposition to secession. He condemned the abuses of slavery and the idea of reopening the African slave trade while denouncing the extremes of northern abolitionism. Due to the North's extreme radical Republicanism and liberal interpretation of the Constitution, Dr. Hoge became a strong supporter of his home state when it seceded in early 1861.
Early on, Dr. Hoge was intensely interested in ministerial work among the soldiers in the Confederate Army. Governor John Letcher soon appointed him to the Council for Chaplains. He became a regular preacher at the Camp of Instruction in Richmond and preached to over 100,000 men during the course of the war. He soon became a favorite speaker among the soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade. Corporal James P. Smith records:
Dr. Hoge was so dedicated to the cause and the soldiers of the Confederacy that he returned to the Secretary of War $300.00 which was the amount of his pay as chaplain for six months. In addition to his other duties, Dr. Hoge served as "honorary chaplain" of the Confederate Congress at the request of Vice President Alexander H. Stephens. He opened the sessions of the Congress with prayer forty-four times, far exceeding any other minister.
On December 13, 1862 Dr. Hoge's brother William, a Presbyterian minister in Charlottesville, suggested writing a letter to the Christians of Great Britain. In it he would appeal for Bibles, Testaments, tracts and other religious publications to be distributed to the officers and soldiers of the Southern Army. Dr. Hoge was appointed by the Virginia Bible Society to visit the British and Foreign Bible Society and request a procurement of 35,000 Bibles and Testaments. This plan met with swift approval from many churchmen, Confederate Cabinet members and the Southern Presbyterian Committee of Publication.
Dr. Hoge left Richmond by train on December 23, 1862 bound for Charleston, SC. From there, the steamer upon which he was aboard, after running the Union naval blockade, took him to the West Indies. From there they set sail for England on January 14, 1863.
On February 16 Dr. Hoge met with the board of managers of the British and Foreign Bible Society and presented to them the need of the Southern Army for Bibles and Gospel literature. The Society graciously granted his request by making a free grant of 10,000 Bibles, 50,000 Testaments and 250,000 Gospels and Psalms estimated in value of $20,000. The London Tract Society also gave him $1500 worth of their publications. The first load of Bibles was sent from England that same month and arrived in Charleston in June and from there were transported to Richmond. Due to the Union naval blockade it is estimated that 75 percent of the books reached the Confederate Capital. Inspired by Dr. Hoge's mission, the American Bible Society donated more than 50,000 Bibles to the South.
Uncertain as to the safety of his return trip he wrote, "a few days will determine whether my destination will be the bottom of the sea, Richmond or some Northern Bastille". Under enemy fire, aboard the blockade-runner the "Advance" he safely arrived at Wilmington, NC on October 11, 1863. Dr. Hoge remained faithful to the cause of the Confederacy until the very end. He returned to his work as army chaplain for the remainder of the war. He continued as pastor for the next 30 years serving his parishioners and veterans by visiting and preaching at Soldier's Homes.
At 80 years of age Dr. Hoge was injured in a streetcar accident and never recovered from his injuries. He died on January 6, 1899 and was buried in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery. His biographer, Payton Hoge wrote this tribute:
"And there he sleepswith the great and heroic dead of Virginia and the Confederacy, to who he so often had paid eloquent tribute; in the soil of the Virginia he so loyally served and so devotedly loved."
Second Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Virginia
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