Friday, September 21, 2012

Ambrose Bierce in the Civil War

In another thread there was a question about whether the "Founding Fathers" were Christian. I argued that the Founding "generation" was predominately Christian and that the "Fathers probably were as well."

An argument I didn't use but thought about was that Civil War soldiers "seemed" predominately Christian, and if they were that surely weakens the hopes of those who assert that the Founding Fathers were predominately unbelievers. For the colonists to be believers and their Revolutionary War descendants to be unbelievers only to have their Civil War descendents be believers again, defies common sense (IMHO).

I don't know where the statement "there are no atheists in foxholes" originated, but if you were a Union soldier, for example, under General Hazen and about to be asked to charge Confederate emplacements at Pickett's Mill, you might embrace whatever beliefs you held. And if you are a lukewarm Christian you might for the rest of the day increase the temperature.

My impression of Ambrose Bierce had been that he was probably a non-believer, and yet he enlisted and re-enlisted to fight in the Civil War. He was in a great number of battles and had great contempt for skulkers and cowards. I have been reading his Ambrose Bierce's Civil War and think now I may have been wrong about him: The following is the last paragraph from "A Little of Chickamauga":

"To those of us who have survived the attacks of both Bragg and Time, and who keep in memory the dear dead comrades whom we left upon that fateful field, the place means much. May it mean something less to the younger men whose tents are now pitched where, with bended heads and clasped hands, God's great angels stood invisible among the heroes in blue and the heroes in gray, sleeping their last sleep in the woods of Chickamauga."

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