Back to Virginia
Back to Alexandria
Lunarpages.com Web Hosting
Hillsborough Recorder

Hillsborough Recorder

August 21, 1861

Page 4


It has been published already how Rev. J. T. Leftwich, of Alexandria, Va., had his Church closed against him for a time, by the invaders who, alas! still tyrannize in that city.  The circumstances having been misrepresented, the following was written in correction.  It was published in the Washington Star, accompanied by a very course and vulgar criticism, characteristic, however, of its source:

W. D. WALLACH, Esq.—Sir: I find in the last issue of the Star two letters from your correspondents, whose reports of the occurrences of last Sabbath contain mis-statements, which I trust, your love of fairness will afford me the use of your columns to correct.  I shall endeavor to give you merely the pith of the matter:  In my second prayer last Sabbath morning adverting to public affairs, I implored, as has been my wont, that God would avert impending calamities and restore to our people the blessings of prosperity and peace; but that if He had ordained judgment, and not mercy, and the sections now in hostile array should meet in the shock of battle, He would, if consistent with truth and right, give the victory to our arms.  At the close of the service I was waited upon by an officer, who courteously invited me to go over and see Col. Hentzleman.  Upon arriving at that officer’s headquarters, he told me that he had learned that I had been “preaching and praying secession.”  I answered that as regarded my preaching, I was studiously avoiding any allusion to our national complications, but that I had prayed for the success of the Southern arms.  He said that such proceedings would not be allowed—that if I prayed at all, I should not pray for the South, but should pray for the success of the United States forces.  I asked him if I should understand that I was to be denied the liberty of prayer, to which he replied that I should, unless I prayed for the success of the United States.  I told him as this would conflict with my convictions of right, I should never consent to do so.  He then declared that I should then be deprived of the use of my pulpit, and the doors of the church should be closed.  I answered that he had the power, and could exercise it, but that at the appointed time I should proceed to the church, and, if permitted to preach, conduct the services as before.  When in the evening the sexton went to light the building, preparatory to worship, he was stopped by a guard stationed at the door, who told him that he had instructions to prevent our occupying the church that evening.

At a quarter past eight, however, half an hour after the usual time for opening the church, and a quarter of an hour after the congregation should have been seated and the services commenced, the Provost Marshal called at my house and very kindly informed me that the prohibition had been withdrawn, and that I could proceed with the services.  But as it was then half an hour after the time, and the sexton had disappeared, and especially, as the crowd around the church had become too excited for a profitable participation in the services, I determined, after consultation with my elders, that there should be no preaching that night.  Thus, sir, for the first time, perhaps, in the history of the Government, a house of worship has been closed by armed men, against an unoffending people, because their minister chose to exercise in his own pulpit the inalienable liberty of prayer.

It remains to be seen whether this act will be sanctioned as one of the necessities of war.  Is it not time for all men to pause and consider whither we are drifting, when conscience is required to about face at the bidding of the military, and our very prayers are guided heavenward by the point of the bayonet?

As to the alleged division of sentiment, in my church, all that I shall say is, that, unless the signs are strangely deceptive, my prayers carry weekly to God the earnest and honest desires of a united and devoted people.  If there be more than one supporter of the administration in my congregation, I am yet to learn his name.  I am not alone in this kind of offence, if offence it can be called.  As I look at these hills, now whitened with tents, I feel assured that beyond them there is scarcely a brook side on which some Jacob is wrestling for the results which I have invoked, and in all those sweeping ranges scarcely a mountain from which good men, with eyes wrapt as were Moses’s upon Nebo, are not fondly beholding visions of success.


Pastor of the 2d Presbyterian Church

Alexandria, Virginia

[Transcribed by Sharon Strout]


North Carolina
South Carolina

Site News





Book Reviews


Research Notes

Free Site Ring from BravenetFree Site Ring from BravenetFree Site Ring from BravenetFree Site Ring from BravenetFree Site Ring from Bravenet