Thursday, April 12, 2018

Booknotes: Combat Chaplain

New Arrival:
Combat Chaplain: The Life and Civil War Experiences of Rev. James H. McNeilly
  by M. Todd Cathey (Mercer UP, 2017).

"Born 9 June 1838, James H. McNeilly grew up near Charlotte in Dickson County, Tennessee. At age thirteen, McNeilly was sworn in as deputy circuit court clerk of Dickson County. Raised in a devout Presbyterian home, he received his undergraduate degree from Jackson College in Columbia, Tennessee. Just as the Civil War broke out, he had earned his Doctor of Divinity from Danville Theological Seminary at Danville, Kentucky." As McNeilly's biographer M. Todd Cathey shows in his latest book Combat Chaplain: The Life and Civil War Experiences of Rev. James H. McNeilly, the Tennessean traveled back to his home state in the summer of 1861 and enlisted in the Confederate army that fall.

In September 1862 McNeilly was appointed regimental chaplain of the 49th Tennessee. The book describes his frontline experiences with the regiment from Port Hudson through the harrowing retreat from Nashville. After a furlough, McNeilly served out the rest of the war as post chaplain in Tuscaloosa, where he ultimately surrendered and was paroled. Active in veteran affairs after the war, McNeilly was also a prolific chronicler of his wartime experiences, authoring a great number of articles for Confederate Veteran magazine and the Nashville Banner newspaper. Lacking any surviving or known existing collection of McNeilly personal papers (at least I didn't see any in my quick skim through the bibliography), the published reminiscences were undoubtedly Cathey's chief resource for information written in his subject's own hand.

More from the description: "This book shows the connections between personal faith, the everyday life of the chaplain, and his deep relationship with the men to whom he ministered on a daily basis as he shared privation, hardship, humor, and combat as one of them."

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