Genealogy research uncovers hidden heroes for local author

by Susan Moses

North Texas Catholic

2/2/2018

Cover image of "Chaplains of the Revolutionary War" by Jack Crowder

“Chaplains of the Revolutionary War” by Jack Darrell Crowder. McFarland & Company (Jefferson, North Carolina, 2017). 184 pp., $35.00

In researching his personal genealogy, Jack Crowder, a retired teacher and administrator at St. Andrew Catholic School and Nolan Catholic High School, discovered about 50 relatives who fought in the Revolutionary War. He did not expect to find something more: material for his book Chaplains of the Revolutionary War.

Crowder was impressed with the “unsurpassed bravery” of the chaplains and the significant impact they wielded in their communities and in the war. The St. Andrew parishioner explained, “I want to make sure these stories are preserved, not forgotten.”

The author compiled tales of about 90 “rebel pastors” gathered from letters, diaries, government records, and town histories that date back to the early 1800s.

Crowder said when army recruiters wanted to enlist men, they first sought the support of the town chaplain because they were influential and respected by the locals. From the pulpit, chaplains supported the cause of liberty by encouraging the men that the war was righteous according to the Old Testament.

The pastors often spurred more than their congregation into action during the American Revolution. For example, Virginia’s Rev. Peter Muhlenberg concluded his Jan. 21, 1776 sermon saying, “There is a time to preach and a time to fight. And now is the time to fight.” Then, Crowder wrote, “he removed his black robe to reveal the uniform of a Revolutionary Army officer.” By that evening, nearly 300 townsmen followed him to war, forming the 8th Virginia Regiment.

When chaplains went to war, they played an important role in bolstering morale, holding prayer services, and even fighting at times. Crowder respects William Emerson, the first American army chaplain, who encouraged the timid, uncertain soldiers to stand their ground, saying, “Your cause is just and God will bless you.” Emerson was probably the first chaplain to die while in service.

Crowder continued, “I admire these men for their courage, bravery, and dedication to their faith. They were certain the cause was just, and they were willing to sacrifice everything for it.”

When he was researching and writing the book, Crowder said he had “so much respect” for the subjects that he “couldn’t get away” from the work, often working long days.

The book concludes with an appendix giving short biographies of about 180 other “black-robed American warriors.” Crowder realizes that many ministers may have been lost to history, but Chaplains of the Revolutionary War will safeguard the heroics of its subjects.

In researching his personal genealogy, Jack Crowder, a retired teacher and administrator at St. Andrew Catholic School and Nolan Catholic High School, discovered about 50 relatives who fought in the Revolutionary War. He did not expect to find something more: material for his book Chaplains of the Revolutionary War.

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