Chaplains of the Confederacy

 

     

Rev. E. M. Bounds

Lawyer, Faithful Pastor, Army Chaplain, Devotional Writer, Beloved Husband-Father, Powerful Preacher and a Man of Fervent Prayer

 

"And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."

Jeremiah 3:15

by Charles A. Jennings


F or forty years immediately preceding the War for Southern Independence, the young American republic was experiencing a social and spiritual turmoil that resulted in a blood-bath that would be unequaled in its history. The nature of that national tragedy would be a deep struggle for the very life and soul of its people and would determine the direction of its political, social and spiritual destiny. Those were times that brought out the worst traits and evil deeds of some men while it demanded the courageous display of sterling character and noble deeds of others.

The whole social and cultural structure of the South was under attack from Northern literary liberals and political radicals. These self-appointed social reformers launched their repeated attacks intending to break the tenacious will of the Southern people while destroying the last stronghold of Biblical Christianity in America. It was during those dark days of political unrest and cultural turmoil that God raised up a man of deep spiritual insight, unrelenting faith and unequaled passion for the purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. E.M. Bounds was that dedicated and humble servant of God who lived his whole life to please his Savior and to serve his fellow man.

Edward McKendree Bounds was born on August 15, 1835 to Thomas J. and Hatty Bounds in Shelby County, Missouri. His father was a successful businessman and a Christian layman who was instrumental in building the First Methodist Church in Shelbyville in 1840. At the age of forty-four in the year 1849 T. J. Bounds contracted tuberculosis and died when Edward was only fourteen years old. At the funeral service young Edward began his search to know God in a more personal way.

Soon after his father's death, Edward and his elder brother Charles traveled to Mesquite Canyon in California in hopes of making a fortune in gold mining. Their excitement soon turned to hard work and disappointment as they observed the moral degradation and rugged living conditions of their fellow miners. After four unsuccessful years they left and returned to Missouri. Young Edward studied law in Hannibal, Missouri and at the age of twenty-one became the state's youngest practicing lawyer.

The revival fire of the Great Spiritual Awakening of 1857-58 had now reached northern Missouri and was soon to change Edward's life. The Methodist Episcopal Church South in La Grange sponsored a brush arbor meeting with Evangelist Smith Thomas. It was during these meetings that the Spirit of God moved mightily upon Edward's heart and he answered God's call for full-time Christian ministry. Soon afterward, he enrolled in Centenary Seminary of the M.E. Church South in Palmyra, MO. Two years later he graduated and received his ministerial preaching circuit.

"Man is looking for better methods. God is looking for better men. Men are God's methods."

-- E. M. Bounds

On May 10, 1861 Union troops captured the Missouri Arsenal at St. Louis and made prisoners of the State Guard. That afternoon Union Troops murdered twenty-eight civilians in the St. Louis Massacre. While pastoring in Brunswick, MO, Rev. Bounds officiated the funeral of a seventeen year old boy who was falsely accused and drowned by Union soldiers in the frozen Grand River. He witnessed the merciless execution of 55 non-combatants by Union troops and preached the funeral of one of the victims of the Palmyra Massacre. Witnessing these brutal atrocities and understanding the unconstitutional position of the Federal government, Rev. Bounds refused to sign the Oath of Allegiance. Considered as a spy, he was arrested along with 249 others and was imprisoned in the Jefferson Barracks at St. Louis. After enduring despicable prison conditions for a month and a half, he was ordered to leave the state and not to return. As a prisoner he was taken to Memphis on a Federal boat and then to Washington, AR to a prisoner exchange camp. After his release, he walked over 200 miles to Pinebluff where be bought a mule and continued traveling east in search of his friend, General Sterling Price. On February 7, 1863 he joined the Confederate Army and was assigned to Company B of the Third Missouri Infantry. Rev. Bounds faithfully served his fellow soldiers as chaplain. He did not hide from danger but remained at the front lines of battle. He witnessed first hand all the horrors, fear, pain, agony and death of war. Between campaigns, Chaplain Bounds would conduct religious services in local churches where many civilians and soldiers accepted the bountiful grace of the Savior and were born into the Kingdom of God.

A gainst the advice of other chaplains, Rev. Bounds remained in Vicksburg during the siege and ministered to the suffering citizens and soldiers. As chaplain, he continued to share the grace of God with officers and privates while in the campaigns of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. He was present at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit among soldiers and citizens alike. After the death of his friend, Bishop/General Leonidas Polk, he and Chaplain Charles Quintard accompanied the body on the train to Marietta, GA to deliver it to Mrs. Polk and her daughter. Rev. Bounds later endured the battle of Atlanta and the devastating massacre at Franklin, TN where he suffered a severe forehead injury from a Union saber. After the battle of Franklin, Rev. Bounds was taken to Nashville and held in the Tennessee State Penitentiary until he pledged his allegiance to the Union on June 28, 1865. Rev. Bounds then returned to the city of Franklin and became pastor of the Methodist Church. There he had previously preached with love and tears the message of the Savior during the war. Revival fire fell among the city for weeks and 150 people made public confession of faith in Christ. He also served pastorates in Selma and Eufaula, AL and St. Louis, MO, while continuing to hold evangelistic meetings. His writing and passionate preaching resulted in a close friendship with the famous evangelist, Sam Jones.

On September 19, 1876, at the age of forty-one, he was married to Emma Elizabeth Barnett. God richly blessed this marriage with three lovely children. Nine years later at the age of thirty, his beloved wife, Emmie, died on February 18, 1886. After twenty months of grief and heartache, he married Harriet A. Barnett, a cousin to his first wife. He was now fifty-two years old. The Lord again blessed them with four children, but tragedy struck when Rev. Bound's son Edward became sick and died. Then his son Charles, by his second wife, died at one year and eight days old.

On June 7, 1890 Rev. Bounds assumed his new duty as Assistant Editor of the M.E. Church South official publication, the Christian Advocate. By this time many members wanted the National Conference to take a strong stand against worldliness. Due to his beliefs on strict holiness standards and his position favoring the role of evangelists in the church, Bounds resigned his position four years later. He quietly left the Christian Advocate, refusing any retirement pay and moved his family to Washington, GA. Rev. Bounds had been like a weeping prophet to his Methodist Church whose leadership was now bent on compromise and profit. His invitations for ministry had stopped and he was now rejected by the National Conference. He then began to receive invitations for ministry from outside his Methodist Church. Wherever he preached the throngs gathered, the heavenly fire descended and hundreds found themselves under conviction of sin and confessing their new-found faith in Jesus Christ.

Among the many honorable Christian traits of this Godly saint was his sincere humility. He never sought praise for any service rendered even when it was rightly deserved. When Southern University of Greensboro, AL desired to confer on him an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree, he kindly turned down this special honor with deep conviction and gratitude. For the last nineteen years of his life, E.M. Bounds gave himself to intercessory prayer. He was deeply burdened because of the backslidden condition of his Church, the lukewarmness of ministers, the moral decay of his nation and for the lost condition of his fellow-countrymen. He spent a minimum of three to four hours each morning in fervent prayer, prostrate before the throne of heaven. He truly communed with his God in close fellowship and deep conviction. As a result of his life of fervent prayer, he wrote eight books including his famous "Preacher and Prayer". The earthly journey of this beloved saint of God came to an end on August 24, 1913, at his home in Washington GA at the age of seventy-eight. He then joined the heavenly throng of the "Church Triumphant"!

"Revivals are among the charter rights of the Church...a revival means a heartbroken pastor. A revival means a church on its knees confessing its sins - the sins of the individual and of the Church - confessing the sins of the times and of the community."

E.M. Bounds


Page courtesy of Truth in History Ministries




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