Study war no more

Good morning, Friends! Thank you all for coming to worship today. I know it’s been kind of overcast today, and many people were looking forward to sunshine for the holiday weekend. So thank you for being here today.

As you all probably know, Memorial Day began as a day of remembrance for all those people we lost in the Civil War. I still remember, when I was a boy, there were quite a few sons of Civil War veterans who were still alive in my town.

It was a very solemn day, with lunch at the little country church, and a procession up to the cemetery. Someone would read Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, and then the children would go and spread armfuls of lilacs on all the veterans’ graves.

I want to start this morning with a reading from Isaiah. It was a vision Isaiah had, and it summed up the hopes that people had, that war would never come again to our land.

In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains;
It will be exalted above the hills,
And all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”

The law will go out from Mount Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
The Lord will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Isaiah 2:2-4

Springfield had a very hard time during the Civil War. Quakers were strongly against the war. We had opposed slavery for over 85 years, and suffered because of our opposition.

Quakers had also been opposed to military service for more than 200 years, or paying taxes to support the war.

Many of our men fled to the North at the start of the war. Many of them never came back to North Carolina again. Other men from our meeting were forced to do alternative service, making salt down at Wilmington.

The salt flats were incredibly hot and incredibly harsh. Men died there. An older member, John Milton Tomlinson, was a doctor, and spent part of the war ministering to the men down at Wilmington.

The whole South suffered, because the Union blockaded all the ports of the South, to try and starve the South economically. Commerce and manufactured goods came to a halt.

One of our members, Allen U. Tomlinson, owned a large tannery, making hides into leather. He was clerk of the meeting, and strongly opposed to the war. But the meeting was caught in a hard place.

He didn’t want to, but he made a deal with the Confederate government. He would use his tannery to make boots for the Confederate Army. And in return, he could get a draft exemption for any Quaker man who would make at least three pairs of boots a day.

Now, a lot of the men from Springfield had never made a boot in their entire life. But Allen Tomlinson organized it so that his experienced men worked overtime to make extra boots to fill up the quota, while the new guys learned what to do.
We survived. But we still suffered.

Before the war, many of the schools in this area were Quaker schools. They were run by local Quaker meetings, for their own children and were usually open to children from the neighborhood.

During the war, nearly all of the schools were taken over by the military. Some were used for storage. Many were destroyed. Guilford College stayed open, but tuition was paid in corn and salted meat, if tuition was paid at all. No repairs could be made, and by the end of the war the roof on the college was falling in.

The army confiscated most of the iron tools and implements, to be melted down for cannon. When the armies passed through, they took all the animals, too. People were left to starve, and get along any way we could.

I’ve looked through the records of the cemetery here at Springfield, and there are basically no veterans of the Civil War buried here.

There’s one exception. One person, who served in the Confederate Army. His name was Rufus King.

He was born near Chapel Hill in 1843, and he was drafted when he was only 19 years old. He had never gone to school and couldn’t read. He knew nothing of what the war was about, or why he’d been drafted.

The captain of his company got sick, and Rufus was told to take care of him. There was no nursing care available. Captain Jennings was sent home, with Rufus to take care of him.

On the way home, it was discovered that the captain had yellow fever, which most people don’t know much about today. It was a deadly disease, terribly infectious, and most people died from it.

Rufus and his captain were forced to ride in a corner of a freight car, because everyone was so afraid of it. The captain died at Durham on the way home, and Rufus had to arrange for a coffin and take his captain the last part of the way home in a cart, because no one would come near the two of them.

With his captain dead and buried, Rufus had nobody to give him orders, so he just went home. He went to a Methodist revival and got converted. And then the army came looking for him again.

Rufus was deeply troubled about going back into the army. He didn’t think it was right to kill anyone, and he prayed and fasted for three days a week for several weeks. He didn’t believe in slavery, and he thought that fighting was wrong.

The army started for Gettysburg, and the army decided that Rufus would be a better nurse than a soldier, so he was assigned to care for the wounded.

At the battle of Gettysburg, his regiment started with 900 men. When the battle was over, there were only 300 left, and all the officers had been killed.

His lieutenant was mortally wounded, and Rufus asked him what he should do. The lieutenant told him, “Rufus, pray for me!”

Rufus was still a very new Christian, and he had never prayed out loud before in his life.

But he knelt down and prayed, with bullets flying all around him. There were other wounded soldiers lying nearby, and many of them crawled over to listen. All night long, Rufus stayed up bringing water to the wounded and dying.

The battle continued the next day, and Rufus heard the roar of cannons and guns being fired, and the bands playing music to encourage the soldiers in battle. He later said that he couldn’t stand to listen to a band ever again.

Rufus was captured at the end of the battle, and spent a year as a prisoner of war, nursing wounded soldiers. As you probably know, prisoners weren’t fed very well, and he almost starved. He was eventually exchanged for a group of Union prisoners, and he walked all the way home from Savannah.

There was nothing left of his home, and he crossed the Union lines and surrendered. He promised not to fight again, and he was allowed to travel to Indiana to look for work. He was homeless and starving, and one night he crawled into a hay stack, and prayed all night for God to guide him.

He was taken in by a Quaker family, who cared for him like a son and gave him work. He lived with the Quaker family in Indiana for two years.

They took him to meeting for worship, and the young people of the meeting took an interest in Rufus and taught him to read. His heart was full, and he soon began to speak during open worship about the love of God that he’d experienced himself.

He spent a number of years as a traveling preacher, always sharing a simple message about the love of God in Jesus Christ.

He eventually returned here to North Carolina and became a member of Springfield, where he found a new interest. He helped to start an orphanage, which was located off South Main Street, where the Peppermill Restaurant used to be.

The orphanage started in 1892, and Quakers from all over North Carolina donated to it. Rufus was appointed to go out and collect the donations.

Rufus turned out to be a terrific fund raiser. One time, he was at a Quaker home where they had three young pigs. He asked for one to take back to the orphanage.

When he started to leave with the pig, he turned back to the farmer and said, “This little pig will die of loneliness unless thee lets me take one of the others for company.”

After receiving the second pig, he turned again to the farmer and this time he said, “The poor little pig that’s left will surely grow weak and thin missing its two companions. Thee must let me take it also.” And so he came back to Springfield with three pigs for the orphanage.

Rufus King loved the children at the orphanage and wanted them to have every advantage. One of the orphans remembered how Rufus would say, “Come sit on poor old Rufus’ lap who has to beg for you.”

Rufus King is a dramatic story, but it’s only one of many stories about how the Civil War affected Springfield.

If you look in your bulletin today, you’ll see another. I think that it helps to explain a part of our meeting life in a way we may not be aware of.

Five years after the war ended, people at Springfield were starting to get their lives back together again. Allen Jay and the Baltimore Association had brought tremendous help – rebuilding schools, training teachers, helping farms.

People were slowly getting back on their feet, and the wounds of war were still fresh, but starting to heal.

We organized a big meal in a nearby field. We set up a huge table, 250 feet long, of boards and sawhorses.

Every 50 feet there was a bower or arch over the table, with a rope fence all around it to keep the crowd back. Over a thousand people came to Springfield that day.

Instead of starvation, there was the beginning of prosperity. Every family had brought something. People said they had never seen anything so beautiful.

Just five years before, an army had been camped out in that very same spot. 12,000 soldiers, the last part of the Confederate army to lay down their arms.

Now there was peace, and new life, and hope again. I think that part of why people at Springfield enjoy our meals so much, comes from that day of celebration and peace.

They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

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