|Chaplain P Franklin Jones to YMCA
August 21, 1861
American Missionary Association
Camp Butler, Newport News, VA, August 21, 1861
To the Young Men’s Christian Association of the City of New York:
Dear Brethren:-- While engaged in the great work of pointing our soldiers to the cross of Christ, I cannot feel that I am
limited to that sphere alone, and cannot therefore content myself with simply attending to the peculiar duties of my
position. I see, and when I see, cannot but feel, that this war has opened a wide and effectual door of usefulness
among a people who have hitherto been shut out from the blessings and benefits of our Christian sympathies. I refer
to the slave population of Virginia, and more especially to those who have been forsaken by their masters, or who
have fled from them and sought refuge from the oppressor’s bonds within our lines. Of these there are now large
numbers in and about Fort Monroe. Among them are many pious souls; but they are, in this distracted state of things,
without any one to watch over them, or to give them religious instruction. Destitute and desolate as they are, they are
endeavoring among themselves to keep up religious meetings on the Sabbath; and a more affecting and touching
sight was scarcely ever presented to the eye of the philanthropic and benevolent Christian, than an assemblage of
these poor houseless and homeless sons of Africa, stretching out their imploring hands to God, amidst the desolation
of these fearful times. Their condition is one that demands the attention and sympathy of the Christian world: and
those who have prayed that the bonds of the slave might be broken and that the oppressed might go free, can not fail
to see God’s hand in the work of answering their prayers, and should be ready to say, Amen—ready with the seeds of
truth to enter the field and sow, that they may reap.
A good and faithful missionary might be sustained among those in and around Fortress Monroe, at a small expense,
and a more interesting field of missionary work was never opened to the Christian public. Let the gospel follow in the
wake of this revolution and the home-bred heathen of this land will soon be beyond the need of our sympathies.
Should we not meet them with the gospel and welcome them to its blessings as their chains drop from their hands?
Should not that be the first that we should give them as they emerge from their bondage, and begin to feel the
obligations of personal liberty and manhood. Our army has nothing to do with liberating them, nothing to do with their
return to bondage. God is liberating them by weakening the strength of the arm that has held them in bondage; and it
is the duty of the philanthropist and Christian to notice this fact and to recognize God’s hand in it. They will be free
notwithstanding our army, for there is no one to hold them, unless the army of the North is transformed into an army of
slaveholders. Can that ever be? Is it ever likely to be? Would God for a moment permit it to be?
You will pardon me for presenting this subject for your consideration. I could not do less, and do what seems to me to
be a solemn duty. May God lead every lover of humanity to cast about him and see what his duty is, and to be on the
watch, lest he should let an opportunity to become a worker together with God in these eventful times pass unnoticed
Truly yours in the love of Christ,
P. Franklin Jones
Chaplain 1st Reg’t N. Y. S. Vol.