Wesley’s Low Opinion of Army Chaplains

As I described in Wesley and the Second Jacobite Rebellion, John Wesley found himself in the city of Newcastle in 1745, the likely target of an attack by a rebel army. Most of the English army was deployed to the continent of Europe. Only a handful of regular troops were available for the defense of England and King George II. One of the greatest dangers to the English cause, Wesley believed, was the immoral conduct of the English soldiers. On October 26, 1745, Wesley wrote the mayor of Newcastle, asking him to express his concerns with the general who commanded the English forces.

My soul has been pained day by day, even in walking the streets of Newcastle, at the senseless, shameless wickedness, the ignorant profaneness, of the poor men to whom our lives are entrusted. The continual cursing and swearing, the wanton blasphemy of the soldiers in general, must needs be a torture to the sober ear, whether of a Christian or an honest infidel. Can any that either fear God, or love their neighbor, hear this without concern? especially if they consider the interest of our country, as well as of these unhappy men themselves. For can it be expected that God should be on their side who are daily affronting Him to His face? And if God be not on their side, how little will either their number, or courage, or strength avail?

And then comes the punch in the gut for military chaplains (although Wesley never explicitly identifies them as such).

Is there no man that careth for these souls?  Doubtless there are some who ought so to do. But many of these, if I am rightly informed, receive large pay and do just nothing.


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Wesley and the Second Jacobite Rebellion

In 1745 Charles Edward Stuart arrived in Scotland from France and raised and army in order to invade England. Stuart was the Young Pretender to the thrones of England and Scotland, the grandson of James II who had been deposed by Parliament in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The military actions that took place in Scotland and England in 1745 and 1746 are known as the Second Jacobite Rebellion.

John Wesley arrived in Newcastle at about the time Stuart’s force captured Edinburgh, about 100 miles to the north. This posed a potential problem for Wesley, beyond the physical dangers and difficulties associated preaching in such an environment. One of the accusations thrown at Wesley during his ministry was that he was a secret supporter of Stuart’s cause. His journal entry for July 4, 1745 includes this quotation informing Wesley why so many people were violently opposed to him.

“Sir, I will tell you the ground of this. All the gentlemen of these parts say that you have been a long time in France and Spain and are now sent hither by the Pretender; and that these societies are to join him.”

Even before the capture of Edinburgh, people in much safer parts of England feared that these strange groups of people called “Methodists” were up to no good. They were so odd, so different from the men and women one ordinarily encountered, who knew what they were really doing?  Maybe they were secretly plotting to overthrow the government. They were, of course, doing nothing of the kind, but that didn’t stop people from reacting violently to them. Mobs attacked them, injured them and even tried to kill them.

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Loyalty from the Top Down

Manassas National Battlefield, Near Brawner Farm
Manassas National Battlefield, Near Brawner Farm

Last Sunday I walked the battlefield near Manassas, Virginia where Union and Confederate troops fought for the second time, August 28-30, 1862. Second Manassas (or Second Bull Run) was another major defeat for the Union Army of Virginia, then under the command of Major General John Pope. The Union suffered nearly 14,000 killed, wounded, missing or captured over over the three days of the battle and its army was driven from the field in a hasty retreat.

The turning point in the battle came on August 30 when five divisions under Confederate Major General James Longstreet counterattacked into flank of the Union V Corps then assaulting right flank of Stonewall Jackson’s line.

Immediately after the defeat, Pope deflected blame onto the V Corps commander, Major General Fitz John Porter, even though 1) Porter had warned Pope of a large Confederate force on his left, and 2) Pope had ordered the fatal attack against Porter’s advice, and 3) Porter’s corps executed the attack on Jackson’s line bravely, while suffering huge losses. Still, Pope insisted, it was Porter’s fault.

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Purple Heart Day

Purple HeartToday is Purple Heart Day. George Washington established the medal “for military merit” on this day (August 7) in 1782. The Purple Heart became an award for those wounded in combat in 1917.

Over 35,000 Purple Hearts have been awarded for wounds suffered in Iraq. Over 7,000 for wounds in Afghanistan.

General Douglas MacArthur once said, “The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

Lift up those who still suffer from the wounds of war, and remember that some wounds are invisible to the eye.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
– Psalm 6:2-3

Memorial Day in Normandy and Brittany

Last Memorial Day, I toured the World War II battlefields of Normandy and Brittany and visited the American military cemeteries there.

This is the Normandy American Cemetery located at Omaha Beach.

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