November 28: Jedidiah Hotchkiss

Make Me A Map of the Valley
by Rev. David T. Myers

hotchkissJedOur title was not just a request, but a famous order from an Army commander, Stonewall Jackson. That order was, “I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harpers Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defense in those places.” The time obviously was that of the Civil War, or War between the States, in 1862. And the Confederate soldier to whom it was directed was Jedidiah Hotchkiss.

Jed, as he was known to his friends, was born in the North, in fact, born on this day, November 28th, 1828 in Windsor, New York. His father was a farmer, but his great grandfather was the founder of Windsor, New York. Seeing the studious interests of his son, the father enrolled his son into the prestigious Windsor Academy of that city, from which he graduated at age eighteen. During this time, he was fascinated with geology and geography. After graduation, he taught school in Pennsylvania, a profession which would occupy his talents both before and after the future civil war of the nation.

In the background of all these pursuits, the Presbyterian faith of his parents became his convictions and choice of churches. He always joined the Presbyterian churches in which he was located, even after his marriage to Sarah Ann Comfort of Lanesboro, Pennsylvania in 1853. Together they moved to a farm near Churchville, Virginia, and joined there by his brother, they opened the Loch Willow Academy. The school was highly successful.  It was during this time that he taught himself map-making. It would be this career which would make him a name to be remembered.

Despite his brother’s staunch Unionism, Jed joined the Confederacy in June of 1861 by entering the Confederate Army. First serving in what is now West Virginia, he later gained a calling into the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In this  time, in which he provided vital geographic support to the major battles in Virginia, he did not leave his Christian faith behind. It was said of him that he had “a well rounded Christian character of beautiful  piety and cheerfulness.” When Jackson was shot by his own soldiers by mistake, and died several days later, Jed, upon hearing the news, remarked, “all things were ordained of God and must be accepted.”

Jed Hotchkiss transferred his map making talents to other general officers, like  Richard  Ewell and Jubal Early. He served to the end of the Confederacy, and returned to his wife in Staunton, Virginia. Reopening his school, he was involved in promoting the recovery of war ravaged Shenandoah Valley, as well as West Virginia. The latter state recognized his efforts to help the people, and especially their spiritual state,  by naming a town after him in Raleigh County.

While in Staunton, Virginia, an evangelist came to that town and held successful meetings. With many converts to Christ, Jed Hotchkiss led a small group of members in 1875 from the First Presbyterian Church  to begin what became known as the Second Presbyterian Church of Staunton.  That church still exists today.  Jedidiah Hotchkiss died in his 71st year in 1899.

Words to Live By:
While some of our readers may not have agree with his choice of allegiance to the Confederate States of America, we can all agree with his convictions of Presbyterian doctrine and government.  That stood him through many challenges and trials.  Indeed, his belief in the sovereignty of God should help us in our own lives.  Look up Romans 8:28,  memorize it, and then live it.

 

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