1863 - A Drafted Clergyman.; HE DETERMINES TO SHOULDER THE MUSKET.
Rev. W.J. POTTER, Unitarian clergyman, in New-Bedford, Mass., was among the drafted in that town, and on the Sunday succeeding the day when he was drawn, preached a sermon declaring his intention to go. The discourse was founded on Second Timothy, Iv., 6: "Make full of thy ministry." Mr. POTTEY defended the Conscription act at length, and in conclusion gave the following as the considerations, which had induced him to determine to go:
"First, the value of the moral element in an army, is to be considered, and alongside of this, the moral effect of men leaving positions of usefulness and comfort and honor to enter the army. If our cause is the inst and sacred cause that most of us believe it to be, then no man among us is too good, or stands in toe high a position, to give himself to it or for it, in whatever way the country may call for his services. And the better and more enlightened the men are who go to make up the army, the purer and higher becomes the cause, and the more it becomes linked with the truest and holiest interests of the country, and the more elevated and earnest becomes the patriotism of the country. Moreover, this war has proved, if it was not proved before, that it is not bad men, or rough men, or always men of the stoutest bodies, that make the best soldiers, but that character, earnestness, faith, serve in an army as everywhere else. Not the low population of our cities brought up to fighting, but youths delicately nurtured in wealthy and refined homes, and polished with the culture of colleges, have done some of the best service as soldiers in this war. Other things being equal, the truer a man is in character, the better soldier will he make. And when other things are not equal, solidity of character and a heart in the cause will often more than make up for deficiency of bodily strength.
Secondly, men who might choose the alternative of staying at home ought to consider their duties toward those who, on account of their circumstances, must accept the alternative of going. The great complaint against the draft has been, that the rich and cultivated -- those who can easily command $300 -- would remain at home, while the poorer class would be obliged to go. Now every one, if possible, ought to so act that there shall be left no show of justice in this complaint. Every drafted man who is not kept at home by very important considerations -- every one who might stay at home, but can go -- ought to go for this reason, if no other, -- the encouragement and support of those who must go. Let it be seen that this draft is fair thing, and that we mean to abide by it fairly; and that it is a democratic thing, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the man who labors with his hands and the man who labors with his brains, as they all have an equal interest in the country's preservation, so all standing side by side and shoulder to shoulder to shoulder in its defence.
Thirdly, and finally, in some respects the most important consideration of all -- what is most needed now for outing an effectual end to this rebellion with all its causes and consequences, is a general uprising of the people to the support of the Government -- to the support of it against not only rebellion in the South, but against secret treason and open violence at home. Let the people of all classes not merely show submission, but respond with alacrity to this draft, each one going to his place in the army as to a post of solemn duty, and not only would the war soon come to an end, but the stability of republican institutions would be insured forever. The spectacle of a great people, including all classes, thus rising cheerfully and harmoniously together to meet the demands of a draft -- saying to one another, our sons and brothers who could volunteer in this holy cause have gone, and we have now cast lots to see who shall go to stand by their sides or to defend their graves, and we, to whom the lots have fallen, now come ready in hand and heart for the service to which our country calls us - such a spectacle would be a grander exhibition than was that first uprising of the people at the outset of the war, and an army so formed would be nobler in its invincible determination than ever an army of volunteers. God grant that I could be one in such an army! God grant, and the patriotic hearts of this community grant, that there may be many to stand with me! Could such an army spring up, I doubt if it would ever have to march out of the loyal States; for it would be recognized as the army of the invincible fates - as the host of Heaven's retributive justice; and rebellion, violence, treason, oppression, lawless rage, and every foul wrong of war that now devastates our land, would shrink from before it into the darkness of annihilation; and law, liberty and peace would be established in triumph, and forever over a ruined country.
The New York Times
New York, New York
August 12, 1863
Visit New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA
Discover the people who lived there, the places they visited and the stories they shared.