May 3: Chaplain Abner Crump Hopkins

A Chaplain of the Stonewall Brigade

It was said that no danger deferred him; no sacrifices were too great for him to make.

The year was 1862. For those living in that section of Virginia now bordered as present day West Virginia, the great civil war was an imminent and daily reality of danger and disruption. It was a time of separation from family, soldiers on long distance marches, and life-threatening casualties from battle. And Stonewall Jackson always had his fair share of them.  Into this scene, Abner Crump Hopkins entered.

Born in 1835 in Powhatan County, Virginia, young Abner was educated at Hampden-Sydney College, graduating in 1855 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Whatever was used of the Holy Spirit to call him into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we do not know. But we do know that he was born again after his collegiate years.  With a call to be a minister, Abner entered Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia during the years of 1857-1860. Licensed and ordained by East Hanover and Winchester Presbyteries, he took the congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Martinsburg, Virginia. It was evidently a happy ministry until Federal troops invaded the town.  Leaving behind family and friends, Abner Hopkins was commissioned as a Confederate chaplain by the Second Virginia Infantry Regiment on May 3, 1862.

Right at the very beginning, Chaplain Hopkins made it his determination to share the suffering, marches, and perils of the men in the regiment.  Indeed he was so successful in this determination to be faithful always in his post of duty that the officers and  men of his regiment, and other units, sought him out for spiritual comfort. Opportunities to proclaim the gospel of grace came frequently from nightly prayer meetings at headquarters as well as on the Sabbath, which brought many souls into the kingdom.

On two occasions during the war, the hardships of this life and ministry produced emotional and physical breakdowns which set him apart from his military “congregation.”  But after times of rest and recovery, he always returned to the military  to further minister God’s Word. He was a part of the great “revival” which took place in the Southern army, especially during the latter part of the War.

After the close of the war, he returned to the civilian world as a pastor. His longest pastorate was in the Charleston area of West Virginia, where he was faithful in one congregation for forty-five years.  He was known all over the South, in that he served one year as the moderator of the 1903 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. He died in 1911.

Further study :
The grave site of the Rev. Abner Crump Hopkins.
His diary is preserved at the Virginia Historical Society Library. The diary contains entries describing participation of the Second Virginia Infantry Regiment in the battles of the Seven Days’, Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Bristoe Station, and 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaigns.

Also on this day :
May 3, 1895 marks the birthday of Cornelius Van Til, born this day in 1895 in the Netherlands. For more on Dr. Van Til, including a photographic retrospective, click here.

Words to Live By:   How important it is to pray now for future difficult situations in your family or work or congregation, so that you will be faithful to the Word of the Lord and His will when the time of those difficult situations arrive.

  1. Philip Pockras’s avatar

    Wonderful! Only one little quibble — Union Seminary was still in Hampden-Sidney at this time. It didn’t move to its current location in Richmond until 1898.

  2. Craig McCluskey’s avatar

    You say, “Words to Live By: How important it is to pray now for future difficult situations in your family or work or congregation, so that you will be faithful to the Word of the Lord and His will when the time of those difficult situations arrive.”

    How should this relate to Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”?

  3. archivist’s avatar

    Thanks for catching that, Philip!

  4. archivist’s avatar

    Dear Craig: As the author of this post, I see no contradiction with our Lord here in Matthew 6:34. The key word of our Savior is “anxious.” I believe that difficult times for the Christian and for that matter, for the church, are now happening and will arrive in a more severe fashion, as long as we are in this old world. We should be praying about events of the past, that God will overrule them for His glory and our good. We should definitely be praying for the present that we will in essence live in the light of our first Shorter Catechism’s words and thoughts. And we need to pray for the future that we will be faithful to Him who called us as a spiritual son or daughter. In none of them, whether past, present, or future, need we be “anxious” about them, for we know Who is in control of the past, present, and future. That is all that I intended to say in this post. Sincerely, for the faith by faith. Rev. David Myers.

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