Spring 2002
Volume 6 Number 3
 

 

 

 


Chaplains Who Serve the US Armed Forces

For God and Country  |  Section 2: Two Extremes of Love Section 3: The Demands of Ministry  |  Section 4: Two Chains of Command Section 5: A Ministry of Diversity  |  Section 6: Chaplain History  |  Section 7: Theological Boot Camp  |  Section 8: A United Vision


Military Chaplains Part of Princeton's Earliest History

by William O. Harris

From its beginning Princeton Seminary has been graced by many military chaplains among its graduates. With shame, I must confess that they are an unresearched group in the Princeton heritage, and I begin this reflection with an appeal to all current and former military chaplains to send me their recollections.

Princeton Seminary students in 1944-45 who were on their way to serving as navy chaplains as part of the US Navy's V-12 Program

One of the founders of Princeton Seminary, the Reverend John Woodhull, while pastor of a Presbyterian church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1776, advocated from his pulpit so eloquently the cause of American independence that every male member of his congregation capable of bearing arms enlisted in the Continental Army. He went with them as their chaplain. During the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, he looked up and saw the Old Tennent Church high on a hill above the battlefield. He felt strongly that he would be called to that church, and he was. He continued as pastor there until his death in 1824. He helped to found Princeton Seminary in 1812, assisting in teaching practical theology and serving as vice president of the Board of Trustees from 1812 until his death in 1824. His son, George Woodhull, was a longtime pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton. His son, General Alfred A. Woodhull, served in the Army Medical Corps throughout his career, rising to be surgeon general. In retirement, he lived in Princeton and was a great friend to the Seminary.

One of the pioneers of the U.S. Navy chaplaincy was the Reverend Charles Stewart, Class of 1821, who spent his first five years in the ministry as a missionary in Hawaii. He then became a United States Navy chaplain, serving on board the USS Vincennes on its worldwide cruise, 1829–1830. It was the first U.S. warship to sail around the world. On this cruise, Chaplain Stewart distinguished himself by working strongly for the abolition of the practice of flogging sailors and also by his efforts in various foreign ports to prevent the exploitation of natives by American business interests. He served as a navy chaplain until his death in 1870 and is honored in the annals of the navy as a creator of the Chaplains Corps. An official historian of the navy chaplaincy, Clifford Drury, has described Stewart as one of the three “great” chaplains in the organization and development of the Chaplains Corps through the Civil War. 

Hundreds of Seminary graduates have served in the American armed forces; sadly, many of them have given their lives. “Greater love hath no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Please send your stories about military chaplains to:

Princeton Theological Seminary
Attn. Archives, Seminary Libraries
P.O. Box 111
Princeton, NJ 08542

William O. Harris is Princeton Seminary’s librarian for archives and special collections. He served as a navy chaplain for three years (1954–1956) aboard navy destroyers in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Korea and China.


For God and Country  |  Section 2: Two Extremes of Love Section 3: The Demands of Ministry  |  Section 4: Two Chains of Command Section 5: A Ministry of Diversity  |  Section 6: Chaplain History  |  Section 7: Theological Boot Camp  |  Section 8: A United Vision

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