Civil War Chaplain
CIVIL WAR CHAPLAIN
MARYNIAK: (portrayal) "God's power brothers and sisters is most complete when your
needs are the greatest."
Since the mid-1980s Buffalo, New York's Ben Maryniak has portrayed the Civil War
Chaplain.. here from a sermon from Henry Clay Trumbull, with the Union's 9th Connecticut
MARYNIAK: (portrayal) "Never fear the thorns which beset its trap- thy shoes shall
be iron and brass."
Civil War chaplian's oversaw a one thousand soldier regiment, handling all religious
denominations. Although their primary duties were conducting Sunday services and burying
the dead., Maryniak says the chaplian's role evolved into a kind of social director for
MARYNIAK: They were the men who were there to help the soldiers be better soldiers by
touching their hearts. And if they were worth their salt they took care of the mail- they
were usually the regimental post master. They took care of keeping track of the men who
were left behind in hospitals and so forth because there was nothing in the army or a
civilan volunteer that did that.
Maryniak has researched the history of the Civil War chaplain, for the Union side.
Over 22 hundred men of god served for the North. 14 died in battle. Three received the
Medal of Honor. And at least three to four hundred died of disease. Soldiers were a
god-fearing lot for the most part though Sunday service attendance would rise as battle
days got closer.
MARYNIAK: In the spring especially the services were better attended because that meant
the army was getting ready to move. At that time, of the 1860s, they didn't have nearly
as many explanations for life. We had high rates of death. Of the 633 thousand men who
died in the Civil War.. for every one who died in a battle two died of measles or chicken
pox or some other disease. So there was nothing standing between you and the great beyond
and religion was taken a lot more serious. Everybody knew realistically that they could
be "crossing the river".
MARYNIAK: (portrayal)"The true question of the day is whether we are ready?"
Portraying a second sargeant for the 10th Louisiana company C, Jim Marshall, says
it's not mandatory but all soldiers are encouraged to show up at church on Sunday.
MARSHALL: We pray for them if they don't. Some fellas always have an excuse. I know some
of our fellows play cards, and play dice and they drink. But before we go into battle
they scatter anything that would any way, shape or form involve a sin. Because if it ever
got back to the families that they had fallen in to the sins that often happen they know
of the hardship that would befall their family. But if they die nobly and bravely, not
only are their sins forgiven and they'll go to heaven, but also their family will get the
honor that they deserve.
Chaplains had to earn the respect of their men and only then might be able to exert
religious influence. Many clergymen had established congregations back home and couldn't
stand army life for long periods of time. Maryniak's research revealed that at least one
hundred died within two years after leaving the war. Some Civil War sermons were published
in newspapers and exist today through library and internet sources.
MARYNIAK: The sermons on both sides were very patriotic at the beginning. And as they
shifted towards the end when the regiments are being whittled down.. and business is more
grim, you leave the patriotism behind and it's more of a feeding or teaching sermon..
getting men squared away with their creator and calming them down.
Civil War chaplain reinactor Ben Maryniak at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.
ill Flynn, WXXI 1370.