Niccolls, Samuel J. God's Hand Among the People, 1863 Chambersburg, PA Civil War Sermon

Niccolls, Samuel J. God's Hand Among the People, 1863 Chambersburg, PA Civil War Sermon

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Niccolls, Samuel J. God's Hand Among the People: A Sermon delivered on Thanksgiving Day, by Rev. Samuel J. Niccolls, at the Presbyterian Church, Thursday, November 26, 1863. Chambersburg, Pa.: Printed at the Office of the Franklin Repository, 1863. First Edition. [9143]

9 x 6 inches, no wrapper, 20 clean pp., light bump top corner. Good. Pamphlet.

Rev. Niccolls describes the 1862 Confederate raid on Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and their recent defeat at Gettysburg:

"The peace, harmony, and security granted to the domestic and social circle, are all the richer from the fact that we live so near the borders of a State, where crime, in its proper fruits has broken up families, alienated friends, and filled communities with strife and bitterness. Living on the very shore of a sea of strife we have as yet escaped the full power of its storms. True, we are not ignorant of them. We do well remember how the hordes of treason came among us. Their banners, marked with the sacred symbol of the cross, as if they had 'stolen the very livery of heaven to serve the devil in,' flaunted the breeze; their shrill yells tore our free air; outraged the sanctity of our homes; pillaged our stores and warehouses, and rioted in our abundance. Those were sad days, when our country's banner could not float over us, and we were no longer lords of our own homes...Was not our humiliation avenged when we saw their bastard banner trailed back in disastrous retreat? The very skies poured down their torrents as if to wash out every trace of their coming; the streams, as if in sympathy with us, gathered together the floods, pursued and fought against them in their courses; while the free soil went forth unwonted foliage to cover their trail, and hid the wounds they had made; so that now we have scarce a sign that they were here, save where the grass grows ranker over their graves....The valor of her [Pennsylvania's] patriotic sons has, at least, secured the renown of the past, and while Independence Hall, Valley Forge, and Gettysburg - names that mark the birth-place, the trial, and the triumph of national life - remain dear to American hearts, none of us need blush to name our native State."

One year earlier, Oct. 10-12, 1862, Chambersburg was the scene of J.E.B. Stuart's Confederate raid, in which military and other stores were captured, those that could not be carried were burnt, with the railroad depot, loaded trains, machine shops and warehouses included in the conflagration. 280 convalescing Union soldiers were captured and immediately paroled, horses were captured, as well as public officials to be used in prisoner exchanges. Stuart and his forces were able to evade capture and return to Virginia.

In November, 1863, when Rev. Niccolls preached this Thanksgiving sermon, nearby Gettysburg had been the site of the great turning point in the war the previous July. Thirty-eight miles from Gettysburg, Chambersburg was a hub for the Confederate Army, with 60,000 soldiers passing through and camping in and around the village.

Rev. Niccolls was elected chaplain of the 126th Regiment of Volunteers, secured a leave of absence from the church, and entered the Union army sometime in 1863.

Less than a year after Rev. Niccoll's sermon, July 30, 1864, Confederate troops under Generals Jubal Early and John McCausland burned the city to the ground.

Samuel Jack Niccolls (1838-1915), b. Greenfield Farm, Westmoreland Co., PA He graduated Jefferson College (1857), and was at the Western Theological Seminary (1857-1860). He was granted an honorary D.D. by Centre College (1865), and by Princeton (1896). After the war he became pastor in Saint Louis, was moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly (1872), and was a member of the Revision Committee for the Confession of Faith. He also served as President of McCormick Theological Seminary.