Author Archives: Daryl Densford

A Day in the Life of a Confederate Chaplain

In 2017, historian M. Todd Cathey wrote an engaging book about the life and Civil War experiences of James H. McNeilly who served as a chaplain in the Tennessee Infantry Volunteers for a substantial part of the Civil War. However, nearly a century earlier, Chaplain McNeilly personally shared some of his experiences as a Confederate chaplain for the readers of a turn-of-the-century publication, Confederate Chaplain. In it’s November 1918 edition, McNeilly wrote about his ministry in the life-and-death drama of the war between the States.

A Day in the Life of a Confederate Chaplain

by James H. McNeilly, Chaplain, 49th Tennessee Infantry Volunteers

“It was my custom during the siege of Atlanta to take a couple of hours about midday, when there was a lull in the firing, to go back to the field infirmary, where our wounded were cared for and sent to the hospitals in the country south of us. I looked after our wounded, took note of their condition and of the hospital to which they were sent, wrote letters for them, and provided such little conveniences as they might need. We had at the infirmary a little Irishman named Billy, who was about five feet tall, with shoulders three feet across and arms and legs like solid posts of oak. He was the best and kindest nurse I ever saw, and there is no telling how many lives he saved. Billy always saved dinner for the parson and went with me on my rounds. He had one weakness. He wouldn’t take a drop from the medical supplies, but sometimes he would get a brand of stuff we called pinetop whisky and would become not drunk, but very talkative and effusive in his kindness.

“One day we had a little ‘scrimmage,’ as Billy called it, in which half a dozen or more were wounded. We captured some prisoners, among them a boy eighteen years old, a handsome youth, whose leg was shattered. He was the son of a widow from Oswego, N. Y. As he lay along with our wounded men, awaiting his turn on the operating table. I gave him some morphine to relieve his pain and asked him if I could do anything for him. He said he wished above all things that his mother might know of his condition…

Continue reading “A Day in the life of a Confederate Chaplain” here…

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Chaplain Stephen Meany of the Fighting 69th

“The night before he was shot and left for dead, Father Meany blessed the flag of the 1st Battalion of the Old 69th Regiment. For aboard the blacked-out transport ‘New York’s Own’ were moving in for the Battle of Makin Atoll–to add the 60th ring to their battle standard…”

So begins the “comic book” story of Chaplain Stephen Meany and his ministry to the famous 69th Infantry Regiment. Published in 1944, the July-September issue included Chaplain Meany’s story during the Battle of Makin Atoll. Here is that story:

Read Chaplain Meany’s story here…

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Have We Won?

In 1945 Chaplain Corpening encouraged his readers to not allow their initial good intentions for personal improvement to fall by the wayside during war, but rather that they should begin the “real victory march” and be the men that will make their friends and family proud. It is a message that our men and women in uniform today still need to hear. Chaplain Corpening was the chaplain at the Army Air Force Engineer Command in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in 1945. The organization published a weekly newsletter called Engineerful which included a “Chaplain’s Chat” section where Chaplain Corpening’s plea appeared in the 19 August 1945 issue.

Have We Won?

by Chaplain Corpeneing

“For a number of years before our present emergency, I was Chaplain in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Among the camps that I had were five World War 1 veteran companies. While many of these men had been temporarily caught in a bad depression, a rather high per cent were men who could not hold a job in private industry because they were periodic or habitual drinkers. If a man helps to win the war and then loses his own life of usefulness to his family and community by his lack of self control, has he won?

“Many a man came overseas with a resolution in his heart to break certain harmful habits or to begin a new kind of life entirely based on the life and example of Jesus, but for some reason he has done neither. Has he won?

“Many a man now says to himself, ‘When I get back, I intend to begin all over again.’ Will he? Maybe so. He will be sure to have the nerve to do it–if he begins now.

“The war that we have been fighting was for the purpose of guaranteeing certain freedom and opportunities to our loved ones as well as to the nations of the world. Have we won if we permit our own weaknesses to deprive them of opportunities or to make them ashamed of our language or conduct instead of being able to hold their heads high and point with pride toward us as their sons, husbands, or dads?

“Let’s begin a real victory march now, not one that will make our friends and loved ones ashamed, and that will fill our own souls with disgust.

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Curate Becomes an Army Chaplain

IMG_20190502_181112605-pic2-70“When he changes his black cloth for khaki, the parson goes for a fortnight’s course to prepare himself spiritually for his mission, learn the customs of the army and the elements of drill” begins an interesting article about a British minister’s transformation for civilian clergy to military chaplain in 1942.

To continue reading this fascinating article, click here…

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WW1 Chaplain’s Letters from France

Letters from Chaplain Malcom Slicer Taylor

by Chaplain (Major) Daryl Densford

Love, dolls, ministry, eggs and mother. Just a few of the topics Chaplain Taylor discussed with his wife in letters from France just days after the end of World War One.

Chaplain Malcom S. Taylor was a First Lieutenant, serving at the II Corps Headquarters (along with three other chaplains) in France. I do not know much about Chaplain Taylor except from a few documents and the few postal covers and letters to his wife that I have found. From those letters I discovered that he was from Berryville, Virginia (or at least his wife was there during his deployment) and was in France when the war ended, departing Hoboken, NJ for France on the Agamemnon on 16 October 1918, returning on the La Touraine from Le Havre, departing on 9 February 1919 and arriving just 10 days later in New York, NY. However, when he wrote these letters, he wasn’t expecting to be home until May 15, though “without anything at all definite to go on”. While he doesn’t use his wife’s name in his letters, the ship manifest from his voyage to France gives here name as Agnes.

In his letters I see a man who loved his wife and children very much, talking about day-to-day family business (including a pay raise he was expecting) as well as gifts for the children and his love for all of them. His letters also reveal a chaplain who was concerned with effectively ministering to his Soldiers as well as being a blessing to the innocent victims of war.

Below are transcriptions of Chaplain Taylor’s letters to his wife in November and December 1918, followed by pictures of some of the postal covers that he also mailed letters to her in from France. Notice that the first letter was written just 13 days after the war ended, on November 24, 1918!

Read the letters from Chaplain Taylor to his wife here…

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From War to Making a Better World

As troops sailed home from the fighting of WW2, transport ships published “newspapers” to pass on information and help pass the time of the travelers. The S.S. Marine Cardinal published White Caps for those she was taking home. Here’s the “Chaplain’s Corner” from the 2 January 1946 issue, urging the war-weary troops to make the world a better place as they return home.

“After a great convention had left a certain city, a man passing by the convention hall, saw a delegate’s badge in the gutter. ‘The show was over’; this was the aftermath. And now that the war has ended, what will be its aftermath——a badge in the gutter or war’s destructive energies turned to constructive use:

“The answer lies with the millions who like yourselves are returning home. You can make the world just about what you want it to be if you do not toss aside the idealism, cooperation, and comrades which led our forces onto victory.”

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Here’s a scan of the original article (author’s collection).

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Author unknown, White Caps, 2 January 1946 (author’s collection).

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A Toast to the Chaplain (an ode to coffee)

Chaplains and coffee are intimately linked, especially during deployments when they provide donated coffee for their service members. The following article from a 1971 Leatherneck Magazine reminds us of Chaplain George Jones and his introduction of coffee to the Navy in 1842, as well as the enormous amount of coffee Marines drank in 1971.

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“Instead of toasting a chaplain during the anniversary month of the Navy, we should probably petition the Navy Department to set aside one day during which time American servicemen could pay tribute to Navy Chaplain George Jones.

“‘What did he do?’ you ask.

“WHAT DID HE DO? He introduced the serving of coffee in the United States Navy, that’s what he did! That was 129 years ago, in 1842.

“Consider; how many heavies would lose their balance without a cup of coffee in their right hand? Consider also; if you think your first sergeant is mean in the morning before his first cup of coffee, what the hell would he be like around 1530 if the Marine Corps didn’t have coffee?

“How important is coffee to a Marine? Miss Ritamae Bouchard of the Food Service Branch at Headquarters Marine Corps figures that Marines drink nearly two and a quarter million gallons of coffee a year. That’s 36,095,445 cups!

“Last year the average American consumed a little more than 14 pounds of coffee. It cost us one billion, 140 million dollars to import that coffee.

“More simply, knowing that there are 16,660 gallons of coffee to a ton, and also knowing that the Marine Corps drinks over two million gallons, we find that the Corps rinks over 120 tons of coffee each year!

“Do you understand how much coffee that is?

“Assuming that the average Marine continues drinking coffee as he has over the past two years, in another 666 years and 243 days, Marines would have consumed enough of the fluid to float the largest aircraft carrier in the world, the USS John F. Kennedy!

“(Just why anyone would desire to float the carrier in coffee is something I’m sure I don’t know, but you read it first in Leatherneck!)

“General Raymond G. Davis, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, is a coffee drinker, preferring a small amount of milk with a saccharine tablet. He is probably one of the few Marines who doesn’t have his own inscribed or decorated coffee cups, using whatever clean cup is available at the time.

“(Pfc Pierce Philip’s cup bears no descriptive phrases, either. He swiped it from the mess hall. Pierce likes four lumps of sugar, a half cup of Pream and two tablespoons of water. He doesn’t like coffee.)

“So, Marine, as you pour yourself a cup of coffee during the month of October, raise your cup in a toast to Chaplain Jones. The ironic twist of his claim to fame is the fact that the chaplain drank tea!”

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by Tom Bartlett, Leatherneck Magazine, October 1971, pg. 12 (author’s collection).

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Scan of the page the above article came from (author’s collection).

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Remembering Women Chaplains

March being Women’s History Month in the United States, it is fitting to remember the history of women in the chaplaincies of the Navy, Air Force, and Army:

Lt. J.G. Florence Dianna Pohlman, first female chaplain in the DoD to be commissioned, July 2, 1973. Click on the picture to see more about the history of women chaplains in the Navy.

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Chaplain (Maj Gen) Roy M. Terry, Chief of Chaplains, administering the oath of office to the Air Force’s first woman chaplain, Lorraine K. Potter, at Bolling AFB, DC on September 27, 1973. Click on the picture to read more about the history of women chaplains in the Air Force.

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Reverend Alice M. Henderson, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, became the first woman to officially serve in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in July 1974. Click on the picture to read more about the history of women in the Army Chaplain Corps.

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The Chaplains Corps (for the Marines)

This an interesting article from a 1952 Leatherneck magazine which reflects on the history and passion of Navy chaplains serving with the Marines:

“Faith is a mighty important word to a Marine faced with the reality of combat. Military training and confidence in his weapon and in his fellow Marines help on the physical side. But a fourth aid is just as important to many–the presence of an old friend and confidant, the Navy chaplain.

“Romp and stomp for the padres by a Marine drill instructor”

“Chaplains have been providing front line spiritual guidance and solace ever since there has been a Navy–ever since Edward Brooks received his commission as a chaplain in 1777. Since the Marine Corps has no chaplain corps of its own, its personnel have always been included within the Navy chaplains’ ministry.

“The earliest discovered reference to any extensive work by Navy chaplains directly for Marines appeared in a letter of December 4, 1862, in which Chaplain C. S. Stewart wrote to a friend describing his activities with the Marines at the New York Navy Yard Hospital.

Click here to continue reading this article (about 1300 more words)…

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2018: The Chaplain Kit in Review

2018-Website-Page-View-Map2018 has been an amazing year for The Chaplain Kit. The website had nearly 80,000 page views compared to about 43,000 in 2017. Of those 80,000 views, over 56,000 came from the U.S. while nearly 3,000 came from the UK, over 1,300 from Canada, over 1,000 from France, nearly 1,000 from Germany with several hundred each (in order of views) from Australia, Philipines, South Korea, Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Poland, Romania, Ireland, Indonesia, Russian, Brazil, Ukraine, Kuwait and the European Union. Fewer than one hundred each came from 130 other countries.

AP I VNM IRAQ THROUGH VIETNAM

Of the pages viewers went to, Prayers had the most views with nearly 10,000 followed by Chaplain Kits (1,474), Chaplain Corps Prints (1,111) and Chaplain Uniforms (1,016). Stories that were viewed were led by “Chaplain” John McCain (1,168), Truce in the Forest: The Story of a World War II Christmas Eve Truce Between German & American Soldiers During the Battle of the Bulge (1,602), One Chaplain’s Near-Encounter with General (Ret.) James Mattis (669) and I Walked to the Gallows with the Nazi Chiefs (648).

Referers to The Chaplain Kit website were topped by Facebook, primarily through The Chaplain Kit’s Facebook page (which is about to reach 700 page likes) followed by the WordPress Android app, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, WordPress Viewer, Operation Where We Are, Linkedin, Chaplains International, Norwich University and a number of search engines.

In the past five years, The Chaplain Kit has come to include a greater variety of chaplain history and ministry resources, growing from 2014 when The Chaplain Kit had only 2,234 views with most of those being of simple pages showing chaplain kits.

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