Facing the Battle (September 10, 1777)

The following sermon was delivered the evening before the Battle of Brandywine, by the Reverend Jacob Troute. His listeners included General Washington, General Wayne, other army officers and "a large portion of the American soldiers."


Soldiers and Countrymen—

We have met this evening perhaps for the last time. We have shared the toils of the march, the peril of the fight, and the dismay of the retreat, alike. We have endured the cold and hunger, the contumely of the internal foe, and the scourge of the foreign oppressor. We have sat night after night by the camp-fire, we have together heard the roll of the reveille which calls us to duty, or the beat of the tattoo which gave the signal for the hardy sleep of the soldier, with the earth for his bed and the knapsack for his pillow.

And now, soldiers and brethren, we have met in this peaceful valley, on the eve of battle, in the sunlight that to-morrow morn will glimmer on the scenes of blood. We have met amid the whitening tents of our encampments; in the time of terror and gloom we have gathered together. God grant that it may not be for the last time....

It is a solemn moment! ...  Let the desolate plain, the blood-sodden valley, the burned farmhouses, blackening in the sun, the sacked village and the ravaged town, answer; let the withered bones of the butchered farmer, strewed along the fields of his homestead, answer; let the starving mother, with her babe clinging to the withered breast that can afford no sustenance, let her answer—with the death-rattle mingling with the murmuring tones that marked the last moment of her life; let the mother and the babe answer.

It was but a day past, and our land slept in the quiet of peace. War was not here. Fraud and woe and want dwelt not among us. From the eternal solitude of the green woods arose the blue smoke of the settler’s cabin, and golden fields of corn looked from amid the waste of the wilderness, and the glad music of human voices awoke the silence of the forest.

Now, God of mercy, behold the change. Under the shadow of a pretext, under the sanctity of the name of God, invoking the Redeemer to their aid, do these foreign hirelings slay our people.  They throng our towns, they darken our plains, and now they encompass our posts on the lonely plain of Chadd’s Ford....

 Think me not vain when I tell you that, beyond the cloud that now enshrouds us, I see gathering thick and fast the darker cloud and thicker storm of Divine retribution. They may conquer to-morrow. Might and wrong may prevail, and we may be driven from the field; but the hour of God’s own vengeance will come!...

Soldiers, I look around upon your familiar faces with strange interest! To-morrow morning we go forth to the battle—for need I tell you that your unworthy minister will march with you, invoking the blessing of God’s aid in the fight?—we will march forth to the battle. Need I exhort you to fight the good fight—to fight for your homesteads, for your wives and your children?...

And in the hour of battle, when all around is darkness, lit by the lurid cannon-glare and the piercing musket-flash, when the wounded strew the ground and the dead litter your path, then remember, soldiers, that God is with you. The eternal God fights for you; he rides on the battle-cloud, he sweeps onward with the march of a hurricane charge. God, the awful and infinite, fights for you, and you will triumph....

And now, brethren and soldiers, I bid you all farewell. Many of us will fall in the battle of tomorrow, and in the memory of all will ever rest and linger the quiet scene of this autumnal eve....

When we meet again, may the shadows of twilight be flung over the peaceful land. God in heaven grant it! Let us pray.

-- From The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States

by Benjamin F. Morris (American Vision, Inc, 2007), pp. 260-263)


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