For Christians, burial is not the disposal of a thing. It is caring for a person. In burial, we’re reminded that the body is not a shell, a husk tossed aside by the “real” person, the soul within. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6–8; Phil. 1:23), but the body that remains still belongs to someone, someone we love, someone who will reclaim it one day.
Our father Abraham did not “dispose” of the “container” previously occupied by his loved one. Moses tells us that “Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan” (Gen. 23:19, emphasis mine). His burial of his wife, returning her to the dust from which she came, honored our foremother, in precise distinction from the shamefulness with which our God views the leaving of bodies to decompose publicly (Is. 5:25).
The Gospel of John tells us that “Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days” (John 11:17). The Holy Spirit chose to identify this body as Lazarus, communicating continuity with the very same person Jesus had loved before and would love again.
After the crucifixion of Jesus, the Gospels present us with an example of devotion to Jesus in the way the women—and Joseph of Arimathea—minister to him, anointing him with spices, specifically anointing, Mark tells us, him and not just “his remains” (Mark 16:1), and wrapping him in a shroud. Why is Mary Magdalene so grieved when she finds the tomb to be empty? It is not that she doubts that a stolen body can be resurrected by God on the last day. It is instead that she sees violence done to the body of Jesus as violence done to him, dishonor done to his body as dishonor to him. When Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener, she tells him she is despondent because they “have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:13). This body was, at least in some sense, still her Lord, and it mattered what someone had done to it. Jesus and the angelic beings never correct the devoted women. They simply ponder why they seek the living among the dead.
Moore, Russell D., “Grave Signs,” Touchstone Magazine, January/February, 2007.
The great Valley of Virginia was before us in all its beauty. Fields of wheat spread far and wide, interspersed with woodlands, bright in their robes of tender green. Wherever appropriate sites existed, quaint old mills, with turning wheels, were busily grinding the previous year’s harvest; and grove and eminence showed comfortable homesteads. The soft vernal influence shed a languid grace over the scene. The theatre of war in this region was from Staunton to the Potomac, one hundred and twenty miles, with an average width of some twenty-five miles; and the Blue Ridge and Alleghanies bounded it east and west. Drained by the Shenandoah with its numerous affluents, the surface was nowhere flat, but a succession of graceful swells, occasionally rising into abrupt hills. Resting on limestone, the soil was productive, especially of wheat, and the underlying rock furnished abundant metal for the construction of roads. Railway communication was limited to the Virginia Central, which entered the Valley by a tunnel east of Staunton and passed westward through that town; to the Manassas Gap, which traversed the Blue Ridge at the pass of that name and ended at Strasburg; and to the Winchester and Harper’s Ferry, thirty miles long. The first extended to Richmond by Charlottesville and Gordonsville, crossing at the former place the line from Washington and Alexandria to Lynchburg; the second connected Strasburg and Front Royal, in the Valley, with the same line at Manassas Junction; and the last united with the Baltimore and Ohio at Harper’s Ferry. Frequent passes or gaps in the mountains, through which wagon roads had been constructed, afforded easy access from east and west; and pikes were excellent, though unmetaled roads became heavy after rains.
But the glory of the Valley is Massanutten. Rising abruptly from the plain near Harrisonburg, twenty-five miles north of Staunton, this lovely mountain extends fifty miles, and as suddenly ends near Strasburg. Parallel with the Blue Ridge, and of equal height, its sharp peaks have a bolder and more picturesque aspect, while the abruptness of its slopes gives the appearance of greater altitude. Midway of Massanutten, a gap with good road affords communication between Newmarket and Luray. The eastern or Luray valley, much narrower than the one west of Massanutten, is drained by the east branch of the Shenandoah, which is joined at Front Royal, near the northern end of the mountain, by its western affluent, whence the united waters flow north, at the base of the Blue Ridge, to meet the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry.
The inhabitants of this favored region were worthy of their inheritance. The north and south were peopled by scions of old colonial families, and the proud names of the “Old Dominion” abounded. In the central counties of Rockingham and Shenandoah were many descendants of German settlers. These were thrifty, substantial farmers, and, like their kinsmen of Pennsylvania, expressed their opulence in huge barns and fat cattle. The devotion of all to the Southern cause was wonderful. Jackson, a Valley man by reason of his residence at Lexington, south of Staunton, was their hero and idol. The women sent husbands, sons, lovers, to battle as cheerfully as to marriage feasts. No oppression, no destitution could abate their zeal. Upon a march I was accosted by two elderly sisters, who told me they had secreted a large quantity of bacon in a well on their estate, hard by. Federals had been in possession of the country, and, fearing the indiscretion of their slaves, they had done the work at night with their own hands, and now desired to give the meat to their people. Wives and daughters of millers, whose husbands and brothers were in arms, worked the mills night and day to furnish flour to their soldiers. To the last, women would go distances to carry the modicum of food between themselves and starvation to a suffering Confederate. Should the sons of Virginia ever commit dishonorable acts, grim indeed will be their reception on the further shores of Styx. They can expect no recognition from the mothers who bore them.
— Lieutenant-General Richard Taylor, Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1879.
We stand to-day, dear brethren, in the midst of circumstances of great doubt and anxiety, with provocations tending to kindle the bitterest and most vehement passions, and with the line of duty in many instances difficult to trace, and difficult to follow, even when traced. Never did we stand more in need of right counsels, deliberate and conscientious reflection, earnest purpose to do our duty, and heartfelt dependence on God our Saviour, for guidance and strength to enable us for its performance.
We stand to-day, face to face with civil war, a calamity, which, unless the experience and universal testimony of mankind deceive us, is direr and more to be deprecated than foreign war, than famine, than pestilence, than any other form of public evil. The cloud we have all been so long watching, which we have seen, day by day, and month by month, enlarging its skirts, and gathering blackness, is now beginning to burst upon us.
It seems to me that no one but an Atheist, or an Epicurean, can doubt that it is God who rides in this storm, and will direct the whirlwind, and that He now calls upon us to look to Him, to consider our ways and our doings, to remember the offences by which we have heretofore provoked Him, and to determine on the conduct we will hereafter pursue towards Him, toward our fellowmen, and towards ourselves.
I feel that we have some solid grounds of encouragement to hope for His favour. This Commonwealth, with whose fortunes our own are linked, cannot be said to have had any hand in causing, or precipitating the issue before us. She has sought, till the last moment, to avert it, and she his incurred censure by these efforts. But when compelled to elect between furnishing troops to subdue her nearest neighbors and kindred, and to open her Territory for the passage of armies marshalled to accomplish that odious, unauthorized and unhallowed object, or to refuse to aid, and to seek to hinder such attempts, she chose the part which affection, and interest and duty seems manifestly, and beyond all reasonable question, to require. What she has done, and is about to do, she does, as an old writer finely says in such a case, “willingly, but with an unwilling mind,” as an imperative, but painful duty. Such is the temper, we may be well assured, in which it best pleases God, that strife of any sort, especially strife of this sort, should be entered on.
There is another consideration from which I derive great comfort, and which is certain to give comfort to all who receive it. It is that whatever we may think of some of the earlier steps in these disputes, yet as to the present questions between the North and the South, we can calmly, conscientiously, and, I think, conclusively, to all impartial men, maintain before God and man that now at least we of the South are in the right. For we are on the defensive, we ask only to be let alone. That old Union to which we were all at one time so deeply attached, is now dissolved. It cannot be, at this time, amicably reconstructed. No one proposes it shall be done–no one supposes it can be done. Shall there then be a voluntary and friendly separation, or an attempt at subjugation? This is really the question before the people, lately known as the people of the United States. How strange that there should be any doubt as to the answer! That men should hesitate which to prefer, a peaceful separation of those who cannot agree, or civil war, with all its horrors, and all its uncertain issues! We ask the former–those so lately our brethren demand the latter. Should they insist on this, and should they succeed in this detestable strife to the very height of their hopes, it would be worse than a barren victory. It would be a victory that would cost the conquerors not only material prosperity, but the very principles of government on which society with them, as with us, rests.
Extract from a sermon delivered by the Rt. Rev. Thomas Atkinson, (Protestant) Bishop of North Carolina, at St. James Church, Wilmington, 6 May 1861 (Fifth Sunday after Easter).
During my voyage home in the China, I had an opportunity of discussing with many intelligent Northern gentlemen all that I had seen in my Southern travels. We did so in a very amicable spirit, and I think they rendered justice to my wish to explain to them without exaggeration the state of feeling amongst their enemies. Although these Northerners belonged to quite the upper classes, and were not likely to be led blindly by the absurd nonsense of the sensation press at New York, yet their ignorance of the state of the case in the South was very great.
The recent successes had given them the impression that the last card of the South was played. Charleston was about to fall; Mobile, Savannah and Wilmington would quickly follow; Lee’s army they thought, was a disheartened, disorganized mob; Bragg’s army in a still worse condition, fleeing before Rosecrans, who would carry every thing before him. They felt confident that the fall of the Mississippian fortresses would prevent communication from one bank to the other, and that the great river would soon be open to peaceful commerce.
All these illusions have since been dispelled, but they probably still cling to the idea of the great exhaustion of the Southern personnel.
But this difficulty of recruiting the Southern armies is not so great as is generally supposed. As I have already stated, no Confederate soldier is given his discharge from the army, however badly he may be wounded; but he is employed at such labor in the public service as he may be capable of performing, and his place in the ranks is taken by a sound man hitherto exempted. The slightly wounded are cured as quickly as possible, and are sent back at once to their regiments. The women take care of this. The number actually killed, or who die of their wounds, are the only total losses to the State, and these form but a small proportion of the enormous butcher’s bills which seem at first so very appalling.
I myself remember, with General Polk’s corps, a fine-looking man who had had both his hands blown off at the wrists by unskilful artillery-practice in one of the early battles. A currycomb and brush were fitted into his stumps, and he was engaged in grooming artillery-horses with considerable skill. This man was called an hostler; and, as the war drags on, the number of these handless hostlers will increase. By degrees the clerks at the offices, the orderlies, the railway and post-office officials, aud the stage-drivers, will be composed of maimed and mutilated soldiers. The number of exempted persons all over the South is still very large, and the can easily be exchanged for worn veterans. Besides this fund to draw upon, a calculation is made of the number of boys who arrive each year at the fighting age. These are all “panting for the rifle,” but have been latterly wisely forbidden the ranks until they are fit to undergo the hardships of a military life. By these means, it is the opinion of the Confederates that they can keep their armies recruited up to their present strength for several years; and, if the worst comes to the worst, they can always fall back upon their negroes as the last resort; but I do not think they contemplate such a necessity as likely to arise for a considerable time.
With respect to the supply of arms, cannon, powder, and military stores, the Confederates are under no alarm whatever. Augusta furnishes more than sufficient gunpowder; Atlanta, copper caps, &c. The Tredegar works at Richmond, and other foundries, cast more cannon than is wanted; and the Federal generals have always hitherto proved themselves the most indefatigable purveyors of artillery to the Confederate Government, for even in those actions which they claim as drawn battles or as victories, such as Corinth, Murfreesborough, and Gettysburg, they have never failed to make over cannon to the Southerners without exacting any in return.
My Northern friends on board the China spoke much and earnestly about the determination of the North to crush out the Rebellion at any sacrifice. But they did not show any disposition to fight themselves in this cause, although many of them would have made most eligible recruits; and if they had been Southerners, their female relations would have made them enter the army whether their inclinations led them that way or not.
I do not mention this difference of spirit by way of making any odious comparisons between North and South in this respect, because I feel sure that these Northern gentlemen would emulate the example of their enemy if they could foresee any danger of a Southern Butler exercising his infamous sway over Philadelphia, or of a Confederate Milroy ruling with intolerable despotism in Boston, by withholding the necessaries of life from helpless women with one hand, whilst tendering them with the other a hated and absurd oath of allegiance to a detested Government.
But the mass of respectable Northerners, though they may be willing to pay, do not very naturally feel themselves called upon to give their blood in a war of aggression, ambition, and conquest.– For this war is essentially a war of conquest. If ever a nation did wage such a war, the North is now engaged, with a determination worthy of a more hopeful cause, in endeavoring to conquer the South; but the more I think of all that I have seen in the Confederate States of the devotion of the whole population, the more I feel inclined to say with General Polk–“How can you subjugate such a people as this?” and even supposing that their extermination were a feasible plan, as some Northerners have suggested, I never can believe that in the nineteenth century the civilized world will be condemned to witness the destruction of such a gallant race.
— Diary of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States (1864), Postscript.
Give him my affectionate regards, and tell him to make haste and get well, and come back to me as soon as he can. He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.
HDQRS. ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
May 11, 1863.
With deep grief, the commanding general announces to the army the death of Lieutenant General T. J. Jackson, who expired on the 10th instant, at 3.15 p.m. The daring, skill, and energy of this great and good soldier, by the decree of an all-wise Providence, are now lost to us. But while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit still lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and our strength. Let his name be a watchword to his corps, who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our beloved country.
R. E. LEE,
Briollaic a bhí ann; bhí na tóibhí sleo
ag gírleáil ’s ag gimleáil ar an taof.
B’an-chuama go deo na borragóibh
is bhí na rádaí miseacha ag braíomh.
Fainic an Gheabairleog, a mhic!
na gialla géara, greim na gcrúb!
Fainic an Gumailéan is teith
ó Bhandarsnap na bhfriúch!
Thóg sé bórpalchlaíomh ’na ghlac
is lorg i bhfad an manann-namhaid.
Faoin gcniogaidchrann a dhein sé reast
is mhachnaigh seal san áit.
Is é ’na sheasamh faoi ufmhidheamhain,
bhuifleáil an Gheabairleog an treo,
trín tulach-choill—ba lasta a súil—
is í ag plobaireacht insa ród.
’Aon ’dó, ’aon ’dó, trí fhéith, trí fheoil
do ghearr a bhórpalchlaíomh slis! sleais!
Thit an beithíoch marbh; do thóg sé a cheann,
is go frábhógach rith sé ar ais.
Ar mharaigh tú mar sin an Gheabairleog?
Gabh i leith chúm anall a mhic mo bhéibh!
Nach fraoibiúil an lá! Hurú! Hurá!
a dúirt sé le scliogar a scléip.
Briollaic a bhí ann; bhí na tóibhí sleo
ag gírleáil ’s ag gimleáil ar an taof.
B’an-chuama go deo na borragóibh
is bhí na rádaí miseacha ag braíomh.
— translated by Nicholas Williams.
Quarundam Ecclesiarum consuetudinis est etiam Draconem deferre primis duobus diebus ante Crucem, & Vexillum, cum longa, & inflata cauda: tertio vero die post Crucem, & Vexilla, cum cauda depressa. Hic est Diabolus, qui nos per tria tempora, ante legem, sub lege, sub gratia fallit, aut fallere cupit. In primis duobus erat quasi Dominus Orbis, ideoque Princeps, vel Deus Mundi vocatur, inde est quod in primis duobus diebus, cum inflata cauda procedit, in tempore vero gratiæ per Christum victus fuit, nec audet regnare patenter, sed homines seducit latenter. Inde est quod in ultimo die sequitur cum cauda depressa.
Ordo Officiorum Ecclesiae Senensis, 222.