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 By the Rev. Edward L. Watson The religion of Abraham Lincoln is so much in debate that I feel called upon to give the following narrative of an event of which little seems to be known—and which is of real importance in understanding the man. He has been called an infidel—an unbeliever of varying degrees of blatancy. That he was a Christian in the real sense of the term is plain from his life. That he was converted during a Methodist revival seems not to be a matter of common report. The personal element of this narrative is necessary to unfold the story. In 1894 I was appointed to the pastorate of the Hennepin Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, Minneapolis, Minn., by Bishop Cyrus D. Foss, being transferred from Frederick, Md., a charge in Baltimore Conference. It was in October that we entered the parsonage, which was a double house, the other half being rented by the trustees. Shortly after our occupancy of the church house William B. Jacquess moved into the rented half of the property, and through this fact I became acquainted with Col. James F. Jacquess, his brother. At this time Colonel Jacquess was an old man of eighty years or more, of commanding presence and wearing a long beard which was as white as snow. His title grew out of the fact of his being the commanding officer of the Seventy-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry, known as the Preacher Regiment. Its name was given through the publication in the Cincinnati Commercial in September, 1862, of the roster of its officers:
Colonel—Rev. James F. Jacquess, D.D., late president of Quincy College.
Lieutenant-Colonel—Rev. Benjamin F. Northcott.
Major—Rev. William A. Presson.
Captains—Company B, Rev. W. B. M. Colt; Company C, Rev. P. McNutt; Company F, Rev. George W. Montgomery;[Pg 310] Company H, Rev. James I. Davidson; Company I, Rev. Peter Wallace; Company K, Rev. R. H. Laughlin.
Six or seven of the twenty lieutenants were also licensed Methodist preachers. Henry A. Castle, sergeant-major, was the author of the article and a son-in-law, if I mistake not, of Colonel Jacquess.
The history of this regiment is in brief, as follows: It was organized at the instance of Governor Dick Yates, under Colonel Jacquess, in August, 1862, at Camp Butler, in Illinois, and became part of General Buell's army. It fought nobly at Perryville, and in every battle in which the Army of the Cumberland was engaged, from October, 1862, to the rout of Hood's army at Nashville. Its dead were found at Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, where Colonel Jacquess won especial distinction, and in the succession of battles from Chattanooga to the fall of Atlanta. It was frequently complimented by the commanding generals and was unsurpassed in bravery and endurance. It left the State one of the largest, and returned one of the smallest, having lost two-thirds of its men in its three years' service.
Colonel Jacquess was its only colonel and came home disabled by wounds received at Chickamauga, where two horses were shot under him. He refused to the last (1897) to receive a pension, until in his extreme old age, at the urgent request of the Society of the Survivors of the Seventy-third Illinois, he allowed it to be applied for. He pathetically said: "My grandfathers were Revolutionary soldiers and you could get up a row if you mentioned pensions. My father and my uncles were in the War of 1812, and would take none. I had hoped not to receive one—but I am unable now to do anything, and it has been my desire, and not the fault of the government, that I have never received a pension." These words were spoken in 1897—and not long afterward Colonel Jacquess went to his reward.
Toward the end of the war President Lincoln sent Colonel Jacquess as a secret emissary to arrange for peace and the settlement of the slave question, so as to avert further shedding of blood. His adventures in this role are of thrilling interest. The foregoing is told to show the quality of the man whom it was my privilege to meet in 1896, when he was in extreme old age. The honors conferred upon him by President Lincoln and[Pg 311] the confidence reposed in him grew out of events which preceded the war. This was no other than the conversion of Mr. Lincoln under the ministry of the Rev. James F. Jacquess, at Springfield, Ill., in the year 1839. The Rev. James F. Jacquess was stationed at this new town—then of but a few thousand inhabitants—in 1839, when Lincoln met him during a series of revival services conducted in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Lincoln had but recently come to the town—having removed from New Salem, which was in a decadent state. As a member of the Legislature, Lincoln had been a chief agent in establishing the State capital at Springfield, and though in debt and exceedingly poor, he hoped to find friends and practice in the growing town. He was then thirty years of age and had had few advantages of any sort. It was on a certain night, when the pastor preached from the text, "Ye must be born again," that Lincoln was in attendance and was greatly interested. After the service he came round to the little parsonage, and like another Nicodemus, asked, &q............
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