restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Doing One’s Duty

A Lesson from the Battle of Sharpsburg

 David Alan Black 

It was the bloodiest day of the war. Attacked by a much larger force, the army had 11,ooo men killed or wounded. One regiment that had started the day with 226 men had 42 left when night fell. The remnants of several units were pulled back to refit.

The date was September 17, 1862, and the struggle was called the Battle of Sharpsburg in the South and the Battle of Antietam in the North. General Robert E. Lee’s son Rob was an 18-year old private in the Rockbridge Artillery on that bloodiest day of battle. By one o’clock in the afternoon, many of Rob’s comrades were dead or wounded, and his unit was ordered to withdraw.

Rob’s captain, eyeing General Lee, rode over to him and asked for instructions. Rob had trailed on foot, accompanied by other young enlisted men stained with black powder and sweat. The General was dismounted, his wrists having been sprained and several of his bones having been broken due to an accident he had had with his horse Traveller.

The injured Lee took the captain’s report. Then he glanced at his battle-hardened artillerymen without recognizing his own son Rob. Lee ordered Rob’s captain to reorganize his men and ammunition and take his lone surviving cannon back into the desperate fight that was raging only a few hundred yards in the distance.

Rob later recalled:

“I went up to speak with my father. When he found out who I was, he congratulated me on being well and unhurt. I then said: ‘General, are you going to send us in again?’ ‘Yes, my son,’ he replied, with a smile; you all must do everything you can to help drive these people back.’”

Facing danger is familiar to us all, whether or not that danger ever comes to us in the form of actual combat. We are living in tempestuous times and, like the alarmed disciples in the Gospels when a mighty storm arose, we can grow panicky. But when Jesus arose the storm subsided. Only He can meet the tempests of our times, and He lives in us Christians so that we can face our storms in the authority of our God. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

Instead of alarmism and defeatism, we need to meet the crisis of our times with our Christ. No storm was ever too much for Him. We can be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might and, as a result, we can all do our duty.

I feel quite sure that after their first battles the soldiers of Lee’s army got tired of fighting. Some Christians are slow to get into action because they do not realize what time it is. They do not realize that the ends of the age have come upon them. They think they have a million years in which to finish the job. The fact is, the nations are being readied for Antichrist, the Big Lie, the final embodiment of all that is opposed to Christ. The tragic result is false Christianity, pseudo-piety, false orthodoxy.

Question: Do you love the truth or believe the lie? The man who willfully and habitually fails to do his duty, who makes excuse-making his business, has neither seen nor known God. Why are we so dull that God must chastise us until we learn in the hour of affliction what we should have discovered in the day of plenty?

April 3, 2003

David Alan Black is the editor of

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