The Project Gutenberg eBook of James Sherman Kimball

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Title: James Sherman Kimball

A sketch

Author: James William Kimball

Release date: March 9, 2023 [eBook #70253]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: The American Tract Society, 1865

Credits: The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


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By J. W. K.

Decorative image

Instituted 1814.

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[Pg 3]


Childhood 5
At School 12
In College 27
Farm Life 38
Delegate of the Christian Commission 43

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Can a father, his heart yearning with unspeakable tenderness over a child worthy of all the love he inspired, tell the story of that child wisely, fairly, profitably? Let me try: for to me it seems full of the sweetest lessons our Lord could bestow on parents and on children. Perhaps a ray of heavenly light from his life may fall pleasantly upon some[Pg 6] path,—a somber and rugged path, perchance,—bringing assurance that in God’s time “the rough ways shall be made smooth,” and “light arise in the darkness.”

James was received at his birth as a loan from the Lord, and was then, and thenceforward, consecrated unconditionally to him, to serve in whatever capacity he should be best pleased to employ him. God gave him a most affectionate, and home-loving disposition. He was the sturdy friend and helper of the little ones, and in his earliest letter written to his parents, before he was eight, he said, “I wish to live, with God’s consent, to see you in a good old age;[Pg 7] and I wish to live to support you in your old age.”

He began life as other boys begin it, with great delight in hardy sports, and a fair interest in study. He was unselfish, frank, and fearless. Having no inclination to be unkind to others, it seemed never to occur to him that others could be unkind to him. Secure in this unconscious panoply, he was welcome everywhere, and made friends before he thought of doing so.

At fourteen he began to realize the want of the new life,—the life from above, which our Lord pointed out to Nicodemus. For a time he was much perplexed to discern the[Pg 8] signs and tokens of this life. It is not given to every one at once to find an open road straight before him. It was not given to James. He found it true that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” He had at first little or no spiritual discernment. The light came, as morning light comes, in like circumstances, gradually, and struggling through clouds. It was indeed a long morning, and the omens for the coming day were equivocal. Faith waited for the evening and the morning to become the first day. In the best time the sky became clear, the sun warm, and it marched grandly on towards its meridian. A light[Pg 9] breeze of favoring influence did much to dispel the clouds. It was thus: he went down one evening to the prayer-meeting of the young men of the Christian Association. One of them whispered the inquiry, “Are you a Christian?” “That is what I don’t know, but would like to know,” was the answer. “Why not ask prayers that you may?” It had not occurred to him. He rose and asked at once. The clouds melted.

On the following Sabbath evening he went down to the seamen’s meeting—a very favorite meeting with our young converts—and told the hardy and sympathizing sailors what God had done for him. From that hour[Pg 10] he stood committed to a hearty coöperation in every Christian endeavor to diffuse light, love, and kindness. Knowing well that no man can “freely give” who does not freely and constantly receive from the fountain of spiritual truth, he gave himself assiduously to the study of the Bible, to much meditation and prayer. He did not divest himself of a healthy interest in all good reading, but loved a superior book, in almost any department of thought, and loved that book best which led him most directly to the reason of things. “I have been reading,” he said, “‘Locke on the Understanding;’ just the book, I believe, I wanted. You know I[Pg 11] was in some perplexity when at home, and tried to make Dr. — understand what it was, but did not succeed very well. This essay of Locke’s seems to meet my case exactly. I seemed to be in search of first principles; something to base my reflections upon. Locke supplies that want; shows me what is self-evident; what is capable of demonstration, and what must be settled by a balance of probabilities.”

[Pg 12]


Weak eyes compelled him to leave the Latin School for a farm in Michigan. Not gaining all the relief desired, he then went for a year into a store, and thence proceeded to finish his preparation for college at a military school; from which he wrote, “You can’t do me a greater favor than to write me on religious topics. I have no religious society here, and, strange as it may seem, my interest in religion has increased daily since[Pg 13] I came. My confidence in Christ is becoming stronger and stronger. I was firmly convinced, before I came here, that he would deliver me from evil, and I am more and more persuaded of it. I can’t tell you how much religious happiness I have got from the very worldliness of the school influences. Place a plant in a hot-house till it has had the opportunity to become delicate; then expose it to the chilling winds of heaven: and if it can straighten up and resist them, you know that there is a real healthy, independent life in it. That is the feeling I have had here. I am getting on nicely, and like the school better every day, and have[Pg 14] come to the conclusion that they are a very nice set of fellows, after all. It takes a great while to get acquainted though; I find that I have been on trial all this time. They have now about concluded to trust me; so I find them much more agreeable. You would be surprised to hear several of the hardest fellows in school, who scarcely ever stop swearing, tell me that they would be glad to change places with me. Several have said so, and that entirely of their own accord, introducing the subject themselves. My chum told me that ‘I had a great many advantages;’—in having taken a decided stand as a Christian, he meant. He[Pg 15] told me that he had sat up in our room, with his legs out of the window, looking down to the ground, and thinking, to use his own language, ‘how soon he would be in hell if he dropped out.’ He added, that once, in a skirmish in Western Virginia, the bullets were flying pretty thick, and he thought that he was going to die, and that he would recognize his Maker in death, if he had not in life; and he ran over ‘Now I lay me,’ in his mind. I have heard him confess that he did not know the Lord’s Prayer. Think what a life he must have led since he was twelve years old, when he ran away from home, and went down the Mississippi as far as[Pg 16] New Orleans in the position of assistant bar-keeper. ‘But then,’ said he, ‘you know I hate to be called pious.’ I wonder how many souls have been lost through that fear!

“‘You think I’m a pretty hard case—don’t you, fellows?’ said another, to a little collection of boys yesterday morning. ‘I might be reformed, now, I tell you.’ They asked me whether I thought it was necessary for a man to be religious? I said I thought we were made for religion, and felt unsatisfied all the time without it.

“‘Now that’s so,’ said one; ‘I feel that way all the time myself.’ And another said, ‘Not all the time;’[Pg 17] which implied some assent. And yet they were all of them, perhaps, swearing away as much as ever in three minutes.

“All this only proves that a good many are walking into the net with their eyes open.

“I have felt since I have been here that I should be proud to give my life to the spreading of Christ’s kingdom, even as a missionary, or in whatever way he might see fit. I never read my Bible with half the interest I now feel in it. Nor did I know how it was adapted to every possible situation. I don’t know at all what is before me in life, but I have no doubt that if God intends[Pg 18] me to grow up to man’s estate, he will give me some situation in which I may honor him, and love and benefit my fellow-men. I have conned your letter over carefully, and feel it in my bones. I am convinced, as grandfather wrote me, that the Christian gentleman ‘is the highest style of man, notwithstanding the sneers of the profane and the ungodly.’ I hope that I could never be happy living without some worthy object; and I can conceive of nothing, as an object in life, more glorious and desirable than ‘conducting timid pilgrims through the perils of the wilderness to the promised land.’[Pg 19] You quote a couplet which is often in my mind:

‘The love of Jesus—what it is
None but his loved ones know.’”

A classmate writes of him as follows:

“My heart is too full for utterance, and yet I feel I must let you know what he was to me, and how he was everywhere a blessing. I first knew him at the military school. I had been there a year longer than he, and the first day he came I met him. Cheerful, frank, and sincere, the hearts of all went out to him at once, and there in school, the only Christian, the only unprofane man, he was universally esteemed and respected.[Pg 20] And yet among scoffers he was never afraid of the offense of the cross. Boldly and manfully he upheld it all alone. Speaking to others on the subject of religion was a thing which, as he often told me, came hard to him, and yet for that reason he was all the more active in doing it. He set out to speak with every individual member of the school on the subject of his soul’s salvation; and I believe he accomplished it. I know that he set many to thinking as they had never thought before, and, I have no doubt, sowed much seed which will hereafter spring up and bear fruit to the honor and glory of that Master he was so diligent in serving. Among[Pg 21] the many, I was as openly a scoffer as any. One day, however, I can never forget; for from it I date the beginning of a new and higher life. It was the last Wednesday in May, 1862. He asked me to walk with him, as we had often done on holidays before. We had gone some little distance and turned a corner on the road; he turned to me abruptly, and asked, ‘B., why are you not a Christian?’ My mouth was stopped. I tried to make excuses; but no, nothing could I say. I had pious parents, who had brought me up to fear God, who had prayed for me night and morning, and who had often pointed out to me the way of[Pg 22] salvation and my duty. Yet how far was I from God! What excuses could I make? James gave me no rest until I would promise him to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow him for life. After a long struggle, I did promise him; and he prayed with me then, and often afterward; fixing it upon my mind that the Bible and prayer were the only helps I should use. During the vacation that followed, before we went to college, he wrote, encouraging me to hold on in the course which I had begun. We roomed together, you know, at college. It was a different atmosphere from that at the school; but James was always the[Pg 23] same,—the most active in prayer-meetings, and ever ready to talk with and advise the hesitating. During the winter there was a revival in our class, and I could mention the names of several whom he was instrumental in turning from darkness to light. Ever on the watch for opportunities of doing good, of speaking a word in season, he never lost one. As a room-mate, he was the best of friends,—always willing to do, in the kindest way, that hardest of Christian duties: he would point out faults in me, and tell me where I came short of doing right; and this in no spirit of fault-finding, but from pure Christian love. Had he lived a long life, I could[Pg 24] never half repay him for the good he has done me in this way. He made friends everywhere. He loved every one, and how could they help loving him? I assisted him in maintaining some prayer-meetings among the poor of the place; and he won their hearts completely. Every Sabbath noon he went to read and pray with them, and after he left they were never tired of hearing about him. The Bible was almost his only book at some periods, when his eyes were very weak: I never saw a more diligent student of the Holy Book. It was in truth a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. Amid the bustle and turmoil of school, he alone found time and opportunity[Pg 25] to read it. No one who has not been at the military school can understand the difficulties in the way of private devotion there. And yet he overcame them all; and many, many a time has he spoken in our class prayer-meetings of the necessity of strict devotion to our Bibles and closets,—duties which students are apt to neglect. Last September I spent a few days with him at Hadley; and a little card he gave me then has been my constant companion since. Many a time have I taken comfort from it, and hope to many times yet. On it was printed, ‘If you want to be miserable, look within. If you want to be distracted, look[Pg 26] around. If you want to be happy, look to Christ.’ How faithfully did he look to Christ! And Christ has now taken him to live with Him.”

[Pg 27]


The transition from school to college was very pleasant to him. “I am having a grand time,” he wrote; “heaps of pleasant occupation; just enough work in getting my lessons to make it interesting, and manly fellows to associate with, who have some experience of life, in place of those narrow-minded little scatter-wits of —— School memory. Up here you hear the question, How can he write? or, Is he a deep man? Is he a solid scholar, or a mere dig?[Pg 28] Is he a fellow of principle? etc., etc., instead of, Is he handsome? Does he dress well? How much money has he? or, Will he stand treat? My mind has a chance to get well waked up.”

By nature he was full of energy; and full occupation was essential to his happiness.

In his Bible he had pasted the following extract from Sir Fowell Buxton: “The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between men, between the feeble and the powerful, the great and the insignificant, is energy,—invincible determination; a purpose once fixed, and then ‘death or victory.’ That[Pg 29] quality will do anything that can be done in this world; and no talents, no circumstances, no opportunities, will make a two-legged creature a man without it.”

Into his endeavors to get the full benefit of out-door exercise he carried this energy, while on the Hudson River, and also at Williamstown. He delighted in the scenery among our mountains, and often went on rambles of five, ten, and sometimes twenty miles or more. He was a close observer of nature, and often indulged in lively descriptions of what he saw.

Never was a son or brother more affectionately eager to return to his[Pg 30] beloved ones at home; but after a week or ten days’ solace in their society, such was the inexorable demand of big nature for some useful employment, that he could not bring himself to remain without it. In December, 1862, his first college vacation, he offered his services to the Christian Commission, and was sent to the Army of the Potomac, in which he labored, at Camp Convalescent, and at Falmouth, acceptably and heartily, for nearly six weeks.

From Camp Convalescent he wrote: “I have now made fair trial of camp-life, and find it, in some respects, inferior to home-life. Nevertheless, we make ourselves pretty comfortable.[Pg 31] We go round camp in the day-time, distributing and talking with the men: also in the hospitals we read and pray with the soldiers. We have a prayer-meeting in our tent every morning at half-past nine. It is a very pleasant meeting; our tent is quite filled—twenty men or more. The men here are well off for food, clothing, and fuel, but they want some one to look after their souls.”

From Falmouth he wrote: “I am leading a queer life. Last night I slept in a car on some hay. I am well, but not accomplishing all I should like to; in fact, it would take a month or a year to learn this business. It requires business faculty,[Pg 32] knowledge of men, a warm heart, or rather warm love for Christ, and for telling others about him. Mere machine labor don’t tell on souls. I feel as if I needed more of Christ in my own heart to be useful in a high degree to others. We have been doing what we could for the poor fellows leaving in the cars; that is, the wounded, who are sent off by hundreds every day for Washington.”

Returning to Camp Convalescent, he wrote again: “Shall I come home? I don’t know; I am feeling my way along. I am interested, I hope much profited, by the work here. There are nine thousand men, with no one to care for their souls. The officers are[Pg 33] not unfriendly. We are getting a church tent; we have good meetings, and seem blessed. Perhaps I am taking it too easily and too comfortably.

“‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers.’ A gentleman came out to see us day before yesterday, with his wife and child. It was too dark to return to Alexandria. As Mr. E. was away, I put the gentleman and his child into Mr. E.’s cot, and his wife into my own, and left them to enjoy them. I slept in our church tent, with a board floor; some boughs and three army blankets for a bed, and a log of wood for a pillow. Practice makes perfect. I gave them[Pg 34] some breakfast, and sent them on their way rejoicing.”

Soon after this he returned to college; and through manifold trials, arising from the weakness of his eyes, endeavored to hold on in the prosecution of his studies. In September he wrote: “The freshman class is great and populous, like the cities of the Anabasis. They are no striplings, but bearded men, who have gone to church in black coats, and gone afield in overalls for ten years of their lives. Their class president is a venerable chap with huge black beard and ample proportions—one whose face seems to say, ‘I have beheld the generations of men, lo, these many[Pg 35] years.’ Nevertheless, ’66 put them through on Saturday night, causing them to sing songs and make speeches on tables which ever and anon disappeared from under them. I don’t believe in hazing; and I think our men will be unable to do more of it, because the freshmen are finding out that they are stronger than we are.”

November 11, 1863, he wrote as follows: “I have been thinking over my past life since my eyes have troubled me. As well as I can reckon, it was in the spring of 1858 they first gave out—the result of reading while recovering from a fever. I left school and went to Michigan. In the autumn I went back to school, and found[Pg 36] my eyes improved as cold weather came on, and I went on for two years. I next broke down in the spring of 1860, and went into a store. In the fall of 1861 I went to the military school, and found my eyes but little better. I have gone through ’62 and ’63 in the same way; and now I find myself looking forward to the sixth spring since the first annoyance, and what are my prospects? They are as weak as ever, and I have not averaged over two hours and a half of studying this term. Can I hope that they will be any better next spring and summer? Can I hope that they will permanently improve in college and literary life? May I not hope to[Pg 37] save my eyes by abandoning literary pursuits? I am not discouraged: I feel sufficiently buoyant; but I wish to exercise a manly judgment; above all, to please my Maker. If a sea voyage of five years would cure me, I think it would be, perhaps, advisable.”

The army, the sea, and the woods of Maine offered their several inducements. After counseling with the experienced, he decided to begin with lumbering; and, failing of advantage there, to make a second trial of farm life. He did both, employing ten months, with only partial improvement.

[Pg 38]


His months upon the farm were not permitted to be barren of spiritual results. The pastor whose ministrations he then enjoyed writes: “I yield, not unwillingly, to the impulse which prompts me, an entire stranger, to tell you that the announcement of the death of your noble son has brought sadness to many hearts in this community. It was with great pleasure that I made his acquaintance, on taking charge of this society; and I very[Pg 39] soon found that he was exerting, in a quiet way, a most useful influence among those near his own age. He was recognized among them for what he was,—for what I at once saw him,—an open-hearted, intelligent, affectionate Christian youth; a recognized leader in the weekly prayer-meeting for young people; and I was exceedingly pleased with the frank and fearless character of his piety, which was no doubtful possession with him, but an integral part of his nature. The brightness of his intellect, too, and the easy play of his fancy, expressing itself often with singular fluency, rendered him all the more interesting and useful. We[Pg 40] were all truly sorry when he left us, and I regretted him not only for his own sake, but as a helper in everything good among us, though none of us thought he was going from us to finish his course so soon.”

The future life was never far from his thoughts. Nearly a year before, he wrote thus: “I find myself, in my most blessed hours, looking forward with pleasure to meeting father’s parents hereafter. And, as in childhood each new friend bound us to earth, so it seems to be the order of Providence, in advancing years, to draw us by one tie and another towards heaven. I can but think that we shall find peculiar bliss in[Pg 41] meeting and associating with those loved most and best on earth. Various hints in the Bible show us that there is no loss of individuality; and if Christ’s love, as shown to us in our earthly pilgrimage, is to be our song in heaven, why may we not suppose that the love which he has shown us through the agency of our friends, will draw us closer to those friends in the world to come? I like to think that the Christian is living for eternity in his friendships, in his self-cultivation, and in his efforts for others; and that he is beginning a work, and cultivating a taste, for pleasures which shall continue to advance and to please for ever. There[Pg 42] may be music in heaven; there will be society: above all, there will be love.

“About my eyes: If I find it advisable to go into some business, shall I not do more for mankind, with God’s blessing, than I could do in the ministry with weak eyes? Still a business man can not be a student. Well, Rufus Landholm, Brother & Co. had poverty to struggle against in toiling for an education. I have weak eyes, and a chance of poverty too, perhaps, if I am many more years preparing; still, perhaps, something like their pluck will give me an education. I am resolved to try.”

Nevertheless the weak eyes would not become strong.

[Pg 43]


Convinced that the usual course of study for a profession was thus indefinitely postponed, and feeling a deep sympathy for his country and our brave soldiers, he determined to renew the offer of his services to the Christian Commission; and early in October, 1864, was sent to Louisville, Kentucky, where for four weeks he was unremitting in his labors. From Louisville he wrote: “I am having too good a time now. I find the[Pg 44] delegates splendid fellows; rough in manners, but earnest, whole-souled Christians. I hope that I may profit much by being here. My mind is in a constant flutter from seeing so many new faces and strange sights. To tell you all were impossible; but I will speak of a few things. I went first across the river to Jeffersonville, and thence a mile or two to Joe Holt’s Hospital. This is more than a thousand feet square, and is a collection of wooden barracks, on each side of a well-graded street, with board sidewalks some five feet higher than the street, all in the pink of neatness. The convalescents bask in the sunshine before the ward doors, and within[Pg 45] each ward are neat beds lining each wall: everything clean, airy, and comfortable. We found not over three hundred patients in all. We passed from man to man, giving each an Independent, or soldier’s paper, with a kind word of advice or sympathy, and found them very grateful to get them. I came home, and in the evening, went to the prison barracks, where one hundred and fifty prisoners are strewn over two rooms, so thickly that as they squat on the floor they touch each other. We had a little meeting here, in the midst of filth and ‘gray-backs,’ and found them very eager listeners. They begged us to come again. They[Pg 46] have their own prayer-meeting every evening, with their little hymn-books. Singing is a great thing. Frank, Alice, everybody, learn to sing. The first thing I heard was, ‘You can sing religion into them twice as fast as you can talk it into them. Can you start your own tunes?—it’s half.’ Singing is the rallying cry. They flock together when a tune is started. Poor creatures! it is the only pure pleasure they know, to sing the old home tunes. I think I could write twelve hours and not tell you half. I could scare you, too, by telling you how many rebels are here, and how wild work war makes. But I think we are perfectly safe here.

[Pg 47]

“I wish you could see the colored soldiers: such listeners! They seem magnetized, and hardly breathe while you address them.”

A month later he writes: “I leave this afternoon for Nashville. I hope God’s approval will sanction this change, and that it is not the result of impatient restlessness. I feel as if I had just commenced this work; and as I find the best of the delegates are increasingly fascinated with it, I hope that I shall cultivate a taste for it. It is still quite an effort to me; yet I am often interested and encouraged by tokens of feeling and gratitude in those I deal with. I find it agreeable and profitable to[Pg 48] come in contact with so many men. The delegates are coming through here all the time, and, as a rule, are wide-awake, well-educated men. Mr. —— is a perfect genius in the rough; smart, pushing, funny, and democratic in his style of speaking, writing, thinking, and walking.”

From Nashville he wrote: “I have N.’s offer of a commission in the army. I have thought and prayed over it, and concluded that I had better remain in the Christian Commission. I am already here. I know I can do good—perhaps all the good I am capable of doing; and to take a commission would be an experiment. I am inclined to think that a[Pg 49] delegate, a permanent delegate, can do as much good as a chaplain; for the chaplain is compelled to move with the army. I trust God has guided me into this decision, and shall endeavor to dismiss the subject from my mind. We have sweet music in the evening here. The delegates are very pleasant.”

Dec. 1, he wrote: “Nashville is stirring to-day; Hood within fifteen miles; cannonading quite audible. Was up from eleven last night till half-past four this morning, unloading the wounded. This morning the whole army is crowding into town.”

Dec. 7: “I think you would be interested if you went round with me[Pg 50] one day. This week I have been going across the Cumberland, to our cavalry on the other side. I take two hundred religious papers, one ream of paper, three hundred soldiers’ books, and spend all day distributing them. I have to walk two or three miles, so I dine with the boys on hard-tack and beans, and don’t get home till supper-time. Last evening I spent in teaching some little colored children to read. One of them said that Adam lived in the garden of Egypt. We hear cannon thundering day and night. The fight at Spring Hill was a terrible affair. The rebels charged three times with determined hardihood. We came near losing our[Pg 51] whole army, but finally repulsed them.”

How he performed his duties, both at Louisville and at Nashville, in barracks, hospitals, prisons, and on the field, will best be told in the words of his associates.

Says one: “He was the youngest delegate we ever had in Louisville; and we found our hearts going out to him as to a younger brother. We liked his original ways. There was something so fresh and childlike about him,—a simplicity both rare and admirable in a young man. His kindness to all was unbounded; but when a soldier came to our rooms, he would start up quickly, and wait upon him[Pg 52] as politely as though he were a king. He made the soldiers feel at home, assuring them that we all considered it a privilege to wait upon our brave defenders. Nov. 6, Sunday, I accompanied him to the ‘Taylor Barracks.’ He read Isaiah liii.; dwelling on the third and fourth verses, and repeating many times, ‘Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.’ In imagination I can see him now, standing before those colored soldiers, reading each word so distinctly, so understandingly, and they listening so attentively, drinking in every word, and looking so thankful for assurances of home and heaven. He sought to impress upon them the[Pg 53] necessity of being prepared; to make them realize that God, though invisible, was near, and willing to receive them. He urged them to be zealous for Christ, because life was uncertain. He was very earnest; the color came and went in his cheeks; and his ‘my friends’ to those boys and men can never be forgotten.” Says another: “I shall never forget that sermon. I was touched with his remark upon ‘His visage was so marred.’ He did not think it taught that Christ’s appearance was repulsive; but simply that it was wan, and wasted with his many cares and ceaseless labors. One night there was a crowd. Mr. K. despaired of full attention because[Pg 54] he could not be seen. He looked about for an elevation. He mounted a pile of boxes, and called for ‘Rally Round the Flag, Boys.’ This secured them, and he kept their attention to the end.”

“From my first acquaintance,” says an Episcopal clergyman, “I was unusually well pleased with him. His frankness, cordiality, intelligence, above all, his devotion to the Christian work he had come so far to do, won the esteem of all, and even excited remark from many. His heart was full of that best of Christian graces, charity. On Friday evening, Dec. 9, he said to me, ‘Let us call on our friends at Hospital 14; but half-past[Pg 55] seven will be time enough for that, and meanwhile I’ll have a short service down in the barracks: I have not done enough to-day;’ this, though I knew he had spent the whole day in ‘the front.’ The barracks is a large, unfinished hotel, the property of the rebel Gen. Zollicoffer, with no sash in the window frames. This, of course, makes it at best a very uncomfortable place for men to live in. There are generally between one thousand and four thousand soldiers here in transit between the front and the North. James, more frequently than any other delegate, visited this place in the evening, to have services. He frequently spoke of the pleasure this[Pg 56] gave him. We were each in turn appointed to this duty; but James again and again went, whether specially assigned or not. On Saturday, the 10th, he went. He found there a sick soldier without a blanket, compelled to pass the night in a room which was open to the chilling and wintry winds. James felt well, and believed that the short walk home in the cold would not harm him as much as a long night’s exposure would the needy soldier, and at once gave the poor fellow his shawl. Sunday the 11th came, and feeling still well, he passed the day among the cavalry, several miles distant from our home, returning quite late. It was not until[Pg 57] Monday the 12th that he seemed indisposed. He kept to the sofa most of the day, and had one or two chills. It was not until Tuesday the 13th that his symptoms revealed the fearful congestive chill. He would often spend an hour after the labors of the day in my room talking over what had been said and done. When he met with earnest and anxious, but not well-established men, his custom was to insert written pledges, signed by both, usually, in their Testaments, ‘to be unceasing in their endeavors to live so as to meet in heaven.’ The Bible was constantly in his hand when in-doors, before leaving in the morning, and after the duties[Pg 58] of the day. He loved it; and his conscientious discharge of all his duties proved to all that he endeavored to live up to its precepts. On that Friday evening after his services in the barracks, as we walked toward Hospital 14, he spoke of the interesting meeting he had just had, and added, ‘Though the sermon my congregation got was a poor one, it had one good quality,—it was full of the Bible. I always try to introduce plenty of that good book, that those who will not read its pages may hear.’

“James was talented above most others. Had he lived he would have been a successful laborer in the vineyard. His efforts were very successful,[Pg 59] as long as he was spared, in the work of the Christian Commission. Let us be mindful of David’s consolation: ‘I shall go to him.’ Pardon me: I write as I feel; for I feel that I too need this comfort. In the death of this noble young man I have lost a friend—one whose example has benefited me, and whose warm spirit has enlisted my deepest regards.”

Says another clergyman: “On the 10th of December, James and one of the delegates went out of Nashville, on the left, in the front of our cavalry force, where he held a service in the open air. He took off his hat. The day was cold. The cold, as he afterwards said, affected his head. On[Pg 60] Sunday, Dec. 11th, he attended the Cumberland Hospital, and preached a most excellent and edifying discourse. His soul seemed to be entirely absorbed in the spiritual and eternal welfare of the sick and wounded soldiers. On Monday he had chills and fever. On Tuesday I nursed him most of the day, applying mustard draughts to his breasts, arms, feet, ankles, etc., as the doctor ordered; bathing his feet in hot water, and rubbing him all over to excite perspiration; but all in vain. He was delirious in the afternoon. On Wednesday he knew and named all the delegates as they came to his bed, and saluted them with, ‘God bless[Pg 61] you.’ During the 15th he was delirious all the time, preaching, praying, and distributing things to the soldiers. It was very touching to hear him in his wanderings pray for the soldiers, and then ask some one at his bedside to pronounce the benediction. When I gave him medicines, he would always say, ‘Thank you, thank you, sir.’ He did not suffer much pain; and as the end drew near he became more calm, and died quietly, peacefully, triumphantly; and we have no doubt that he will rise in the first resurrection. Of this you may rest satisfied: ‘Death loves a shining mark;’ and such talents, so early and so fully developed, seldom[Pg 62] ever bloom long on this earthly soil. They are matured for the shining ‘shores of eternal joys.’”

A chaplain of the Illinois cavalry writes from Nashville: “He seemed to have but one desire, and that was to do good to his fellow-men, and be instrumental in saving souls; and the question was in what sphere he could best accomplish this? He had had an offer of a lieutenancy in one of the regiments, and sometimes felt like accepting it; and would, if he could believe that he would be as useful to his company as a Christian, but feared that he might not be as useful to the soldiers as he could now be in the Christian Commission.”

[Pg 63]

“His great interest in his work was revealed in his delirium: all the powers of his mind were enlisted in expostulating, warning, inviting, and urging sinners to come to Christ. He told them of Christ’s wonderful compassion, his sufferings for them, and his intercessions with the Father. 1 Timothy i. 15, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’ was one of the texts from which, with great clearness and directness, he addressed his supposed audience more frequently than from any other. He would begin with the fact that all are sinners by nature and by practice; then point out the wickedness[Pg 64] of men in rejecting their truest interest, and in violating God’s commandment; show their lost and ruined condition; closing with the encouraging truth in the text, that Christ came to save sinners. Here he would take up the sufferings of Christ for sinners, and especially for those he imagined to be present; invariably inquiring, ‘Now won’t you accept Christ, who has done so much for you?’

“Another text from which he addressed his supposed audience, was Mark ii. 9: ‘Arise, take up thy bed and walk.’ On this he would begin: ‘My friends, we are taught in the Bible that our Saviour did good to[Pg 65] the bodies of men as well as to their souls; and it is our duty to labor as he did.’

“Truly you have reason to bless God for the grace so largely bestowed on your dear son, inclining him thus to labor with all his soul for the salvation of men, and especially for soldiers, whether in the hospital or in the camp. The soldiers who formed his acquaintance esteemed him highly, as did all who knew him; the delegates of the Christian Commission, and the chaplains of the army.”

Says another: “I met yesterday a rebel soldier who had been sick in our barracks; one to whom Mr. K. had taken tea, bread, etc., etc. (often saving[Pg 66] his own for them), and told him Mr. K. had gone home to the better land of which he had told him. The tears gushed forth, and he said, ‘Has he gone? Will I never see him more? Oh! you fight us like demons, and when we are sick and prisoners, you treat us like angels.’ I told him all about his sickness, and how in his delirium he was striving to save soldiers; and that we felt that he was now with God. He replied, ‘With God’s help, I will meet him there.’”

Christian parents, accept the assurance that we need but a supreme concern to be filled with the love of Jesus, and with the knowledge of his will, to accept peacefully the postponement of[Pg 67] every plan for the education of a son; to accept what seems but a temporary occupation as life’s consummate work. If it please God to compress the usefulness of a long life into the brief span of twenty years, is not this a just occasion for triumphant ascription of praise that he has wrought in this brief life a finished work? Every day brings fresh testimony that this is his estimate who calls his disciples, and assigns to every man his work.

His classmates say: “We deeply regret his loss, as an open, decided, exemplary, high-toned, Christian young man.” And the dear friend who transmitted this expression of brotherly feeling, added, “I loved James.[Pg 68] And I think he made, during our intimate connection here, an impression on my character that will be lasting. Not long ago he wrote me at some length; and one part of that letter comes back to me with renewed force. He said, ‘I sometimes say to myself, I shall have done something for Christ, if I never live to engage in any business or profession.’ I little thought his something was so nearly done.

“It were useless for me to tell you that he was highly esteemed here, and that his walk among us was thoroughly Christian. You know him too well. Yet it may be pleasing to you to know that his influence was more than a common influence. I[Pg 69] give you the testimony of one of the sober-minded, thoughtful men of the class, who said to me the other day that he thought James had exerted more good influence in the class than any other person that ever belonged to it.

“Consolation you have—better than any I can offer.”

Yes, indeed we have—God’s consolation. And though with a bleeding heart, we can render up our trust with joy in the Lord, despite the consciousness of ten thousand short-comings in duty, and of measureless inaptitude for the noble work of training a soul for God, so there be but the consciousness: this one thing[Pg 70] have I sought for my child, and only this,—holiness in order to usefulness.

Glorious, glorious is the translation of my precious, darling boy. To thee, dear Lord, I surrender this precious one, with ten thousand thanks for the loan. From Thee I received him, with the charge and pledge, “Take this child and nourish him for me, and I will give thee wages.” I have nourished him for Thee, and for Thee alone; and here acknowledge receipt of abundant and blessed wages. My soul is ravished and leaps for joy, as I think of my wealth of wages. I have made return to Thee of my stewardship, and Thou hast accepted it. Oh the unutterable joy of having been[Pg 71] permitted—certainly in unswerving aim—to train this precious child for Thee!

Glory to God in the highest!—Amen!

Words from home, forwarded by the U.S. Christian Commission