On May 3, 1861, the southern Congress passed a bill stating: “There shall be appointed by the President Chaplains to serve the armies of the Confederate States during the existing war.”
Reverend A.C. Hopkins was commissioned as a chaplain for the confederate army exactly a year later. On May 16, 1862, he led the troops in a day of fasting and prayer. He led services through the Seven Day’s Battle, but was severely wounded and was carried away to recover. When he returned after ten days to the front, all his buddies had been killed, and he fell into a deep depression. He retreated and started raising money for Gospel literature to spread in destroyed cities. Also, prayer meetings were held three times daily. Reverend Hopkins remained in service until the end of the war.
Abner C. Hopkins was born October 24, 1835 in Powhatan County. He went to seminary and became a very popular Presbyterian minister.
While serving in the Stonewall Brigade as chaplain, he announced a chapel service for those who use profanity. The service was so well attended; several had to stand outside in the rain during it.
After the War Between the States, he took the pulpit of a church in Charleston, West Virginia.
He died on December 4, 1911 in Charleston, after 55 years of ministry.
Chaplains in the confederate army held no rank at all. They were, however, given one-half the pay of a first lieutenant. The Union Army chaplains were given the rank of captain, carried the insignia, sword and pistol, and were paid a captain’s pay.
Each regiment in the confederate army was assigned a chaplain. Volunteer regiments were allowed to choose their own.
Many chaplains were called “fighting chaplains” because they fought as well as ministered. A noted example is Brigadier General William N. Pendleton. He was a chaplain and General Lee’s chief of artillery. Another is Isaac Tayler Tichenor. He amazed the soldiers with his sharp-shooting skills, and rallied his men in the battle of Shiloh.
A normal chaplain’s duties consisted of counseling the soldiers, writing to the families of soldiers, settling arguments or fights between troops, burying the dead and taking care of the wounded. They held services whenever possible, but were often interrupted by rain or troop movement.
Morgan, R.J. On This Day. electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997. May 3.
Linda Cunningham Fluharty. Biographies of West Virginia Confederate Soldiers. From Confederate Military History, edited by Gen. Clement A. Evans, 1899.
Lt. Todd Hollins Chaplain, United States Army, Rebel Preachers: Confederate Chaplains in the Civil War
RootsWeb.com website carried a copy of the death announcement that appeared in the Confederate Magazine.