A War Incident
A party of Northern tourists formed part of a large company gathered on the deck of an excursion steamer that was moving slowly down the historic Potomac one beautiful evening in the summer of 1881.
A gentleman, who has since gained a national reputation as an evangelist of song, had been delighting the party with his happy rendering of many familiar hymns, the last being the sweet petition so dear to every Christian heart, “Jesus, Lover of my soul.”
The singer gave the first two verses with much feeling and a particular emphasis upon the concluding lines that thrilled every heart. A hush had fallen upon the listeners that was not broken for some seconds after the musical notes had died away.
Then a gentleman made his way from the outskirts of the crowd to the side of the singer, and accosted him with, ”Beg pardon, stranger, but were you actively engaged in the late war?”
”Yes, sir,” the man of song answered, courteously; “I fought under General Grant.”
“Well,” the first speaker continued with something like a sigh, “I did my fighting on the other side, and think, indeed am quite sure, I was very near you one bright night eighteen years ago this very month.
It was very much such a night as this. If I am not mistaken, you were on guard duty. We of the South had sharp business on hand, and you were one of the enemy. I crept near your post of duty, my murderous weapon in hand. The shadows hid me.
Your beat led you into the clear light. As you paced back and forth you were humming the tune you have just sung. I raised my gun and aimed at your heart, and I had been selected by our commander for the work because I was a sure shot. Then, out upon the night rang the words —
‘Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.’
Your prayer was answered. I couldn’t fire after that. And there was no attack made on your camp that night. I felt sure when I heard you sing this evening, that you were the man whose life I was spared from taking.”
The singer grasped the hand of the Southerner, and said, with much emotion: ”I remember the night very well, and distinctly the feeling of depression and loneliness with which I went forth to my duty.
I knew my post was one of great danger, and I was more dejected than I remember to have been at any time during the service. I paced my lonely beat, thinking of home and friends and all that life holds dear.
Then the thought of God’s care for all that He has created came to me with peculiar force. If He so cares for the sparrow, how much more for man created in His own image.
And I sang the prayer of my heart, and ceased to feel alone. How the prayer was answered I never knew until this evening. My heavenly Father thought best to keep the knowledge from me for eighteen years.
How much of His goodness to us we shall be ignorant of until it is revealed by the light of eternity!
‘Jesus, lover of my soul,’ has been a favorite hymn to me; now it will be inexpressibly dear.”
The incident given in the above sketch is a true one, and was related by a lady who was one of the party on the steamer.
Source: Henky Maetyn Kieffeb, Short Stories of Hymns
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