Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content

Sermon Illustrations

Home > Sermon Illustrations

A Good Samaritan in the Civil War

On the wall of what my grandmother called the "sitting room" of her antebellum home in South Carolina, was a constellation of family portraits—old pictures of my uncles and aunts, my cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents, a genealogy in photographs. In the very middle of the cluster, in the place of honor, was the portrait of someone I did not recognize. It was a sepia-toned, Civil War-era photograph of a striking young man dressed in the uniform of a Union army officer. Needless to say, this was very unusual—the portrait of a Yankee soldier in a place of honor on the wall of a proud South Carolina home. One day, when I was small child, I asked my grandmother, "Who is that man?"

She said, "I'll tell you when you're old enough to understand."

Years later, just before she died, she saw me in the sitting room one day, all by myself, gazing at the portrait. She came in, sat down beside me, and she finally told me the story. The man was a good man, she said, a minister, a chaplain in the Union Army. In May of 1862, after the smoke had cleared from the field of battle at Williamsburg, Virginia, this chaplain rode out onto the field on his horse to see if there were any wounded troops who had been left behind, and he came across a nineteen-year-old Confederate soldier, lying wounded and terrified in a ditch. The boy had taken a bullet that had practically severed his leg at the knee, and he was slowly bleeding to death. Feeling compassion, even for the enemy, the chaplain lifted the boy out of the ditch, put him on his horse, and took him to the Union medical tent, where a surgeon amputated his leg at the knee, bandaged him up, and stopped the bleeding, saving his life. When the boy was strong enough to travel, this chaplain got together enough money to see that he was sent home to his grateful and relieved parents in South Carolina.

This nineteen-year-old Confederate soldier grew up to be a minister himself, a teacher, a college president, and, what is most significant to me, my great-grandfather. The chaplain who rescued him and saved his life was the Rev. Joseph Twitchell, a ministerial graduate of Yale College and, after the war, a good friend of Mark Twain's and the minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut, where among his parishioners were some of Lyman Beecher's children. Joseph Twitchell and my great-grandfather, William Moffart Grier, bound together by this humane moment amid the ravages of war, remained correspondents and friends throughout the rest of their lives. No one had to preach the parable of the Good Samaritan to my Family. We had lived it.

Related Sermon Illustrations

The Beauty of One Street Person's Selfless Act

In Portland magazine, a priest at a Catholic church in Portland, Oregon, tells a story about a street person named Big Ben who came daily to the church. He writes:

One Christmas Eve ...
[Read More]

Hospital's Palestinian Christian Janitor Tries to Save Dying Israeli Soldier

In his book Jesus, the Middle-Eastern Storyteller, Gary M. Burge, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, shares a story told to him by a theology professor who once worked ...

[Read More]