Called to Be Faithful to God
by Rev. David T. Myers
Oh no, another post on yet another minister, you the reader might say. But this pastor was different. Yes, he pastored two churches in the south in the eighteen hundreds. But this shepherd of souls was unique in many ways. His name? James Power Smith.
Born in New Athens, Ohio on July 4, 1837 to a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Joseph and Eliza Smith, he had the example of his father on the challenges of being a shepherd of souls. It is not surprising that he felt called to that same profession. Attending Jefferson College in 1854 – 57, (and other sources say Hampden-Sydney College), he graduated and went to Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia in 1858. However, his studies there were interrupted by the War Between the States, or Civil War. Like many other young men, this Northern boy joined the Confederate Army, and specifically the Rockbridge Artillery of the Confederate States of America, which was filled with many other theological students. He would fight in it until 1863, when he would be asked to report to a Lt. General by the name of Jackson, Thomas J Jackson, Stonewall Jackson. For the rest of that “rebellion,” as the North would call it, he would find himself as Aide-de-camp of that command, and as such involved in the important scenes of the war.
Captain Smith was present when he heard that General Jackson was mistaken in the early morning darkness in Chancellorsville, having been shot by his own Confederate troops. Captain Smith became a litter bearer seeking to get the wounded officer to neutral ground. It was a harrowing move as several litter bearer were shot. Finally, they moved slowly but surely to an ambulance and finally to a military hospital, in a tent east of the battle field. Jackson’s left arm was amputated by Dr. Hunter McGuire with the light held by James Smith. Later on May 3rd, Captain Smith accompanied the wounded Jackson twenty-five miles by wagon to Guiney’s Station, where seven days later, the great general succumbed to his wound and died.
Captain Smith remained in the Confederate corps, serving under Richard Ewell, until the end of the war. Then returned to Union Seminary to resume his preparation for the ministry. Ordained upon graduation on this day, October 13, 1866 by Montgomery Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church U.S., he served one Presbyterian Church in what is now Roanoke, Virginia, before going to the Fredericksburg, Virginia Presbyterian Church for the next 23 years. During those years, he also served as an evangelist two years for the Synod of Virginia, was editor of the Central Presbyterian newspaper for 17 years, and Stated Clerk for the Synod of Virginia from 1871 to 1920. He went to be with the Lord in 1923, becoming the last soldier of the Stonewall Brigade staff to die.
Words to Live By:
Some of our readers, including this author, may not have agreed with his choice of country in those perilous days, yet we can rejoice for the years of his shepherding of souls during his long life and ministry. After all, that will be the record remembered in heaven when eternal rewards are handed out. Let us be faithful, wherever God’s Spirit calls us, to serve our Lord and Savior.