Saturday, May 02, 2020

How Bible saved life of 'Comrade Strickland' at Chancellorsville

This Bible, similar to the one carried by Myron Strickland at Chancellorsville, was struck
 by a bullet  at Sailor's Creek in 1865. It was auctioned in December 2012 for $15,535.
(Heritage Auctions)

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In the decades immediately after the Civil War, newspapers were peppered with stories of the war-time experiences of veterans. Some told bizarre stories, such as the removal of bullets in their bodies by sneezing or crude self-surgery. Others recalled narrow brushes with death.

(Go down this rabbit hole yourself by perusing stories on the fabulous website. Proceed with caution, however. Some veterans were prone to, ah, exaggeration.)

On April 19, 1915, a Wilkes-Barre (Pa.), newspaper published a short story about how a Bible blunted a bullet and thus saved the life of a 53rd Pennsylvania veteran Myron Strickland at the Battle of Chancellorsville in early May 1863. The private had the holy book in his left breast pocket when he was struck by Rebel lead.

Private Myron Strickland was captured at Fair Oaks, Va., in June 1862, 
and spent seven months in Confederate captivity.
(Library of Congress)
"There are few that equal and none that surpass, so far as is known,  the experience of Comrade Myron Strickland ... who holds sacred a relic, or rather 'the' relic that saved him from death ...," the story noted under an image of the grim-faced veteran with the large, bushy mustache. Strickland, who endured seven months as a POW after his capture at Fair Oaks in June 1862, served until the end of the war.

Others stories of Bibles (and even rolled-up newspapers) stopping bullets in battle have surfaced over the years -- see here, here and here -- so Comrade Strickland's story seems believable. I wonder where his Bible is today.

After the war, Strickland served as a tax assessor in Kingston, Pa., and raised young ferrets. (In 1900, he had more than 100 of the critters.) The veteran and his wife, Sylvinic, held an annual dinner for 53rd Pennsylvania comrades at their house on Ridge Avenue. She died in 1916, leaving him "awfully lonely," according to a newspaper account. Strickland died at 84 in Illinois on July 16, 1925, 62 years after his brush with death at Chancellorsville.

Here's his bullet-blunted-by-Bible account in the Wilkes-Barre Record:

Falls on the field

Remarkable incidents happened to Civil War soldiers, both on the side of the blue and on the side of the gray. There are few that equal and none that surpass, so far as is known,  the experience of Comrade Myron Strickland, 288 Ridge street, Kingston, who. holds sacred a relic, or rather "the" relic that saved him from death on the battlefield of Chancellorsville. It is a copy of the New Testament, now turning yellow with age and binding well worn, in which there is imbedded a big rifle ball. The bullet passed through one side and emerged on the other side far enough to be seen. When the ball struck the Testament, the little volume was in Comrade Strickland's blouse pocket, covering the part of the body where the heart of the soldier beat with the fierce excitement of the fray.

The force of the shot knocked the veteran down and two of his comrades, Peter Culp of Huntsville and the late William Jackson of Pittston, kneeled beside their fallen comrade, thinking surely he had been mortally wounded. To their unutterable surprise Strickland recovered quickly from the sting and shock and the three joined in silent thanksgiving. Strickland pulled the Testament from his pocket, showed it to Culp and Jackson. They examined it, and Strickland replaced his remarkable protector in his pocket and renewed the fight.

The story of Strickland and his Testament has been told in pulpit and on platforms in various states of the Union. Requests have come from all parts of this State, from New York, New Jersey, Ohio and other points, asking for the loan of the book and for an account of the incident in which it preserved the life of a Civil War fighter.

Found Testament

Strickland came into possession of the book on Friday May 1 while marching with his company to Chancellorsville. The day was hot and the overcoats of the soldiers were burdensome. They tore the garments in strips and left them lying in the fields. Strickland, while passing by, noticed the Testament, picked it up and reverently placed it in the pocket over his heart. Little did he think that his act would save him from the list of dead after that memorable fight. Friday night, Saturday and Saturday night the firing went on and on Sunday morning, May 3, 1863, the experience related happened. The battle did not end until Tuesday.

Prisoner of War

This image of Stickland's Bible appeared
the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
on Aug. 31, 1963.
For seven months he was a prisoner of war in Libby, Salisbury and Belle Island. He underwent awful hardships from hunger and lack of sanitary living conditions while in the hands of Confederate forces.

Comrade Strickland enlisted first in Company F, 53rd Pennsylvania Volunteeers on September 1, 1861 and was honorably discharged on November 6, 1864, He re-enlisted on December 22, 1864 and served until the war clouds had passed. He was honorably discharged from his second enlistment on June 30, 1865. The record of the engagements in which he participated are as follows: Yorktown, Fair Oaks, where he was taken prisoner June 1, 1862. His regiment fought at Peach Orchard, Gaines' Mill, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Antietam and Fredericksburg while he was in prison.

After his release he participated in the battle of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, Reams Station, Hatcher Run, South Side Railroad, Farmville and Appomattox.

Returns home

Upon his return home he settled in Kingston again and entered the employ of the D.L. & W Railroad Company. He then began work as a carpenter and has continued at the trade since. He was born seventy-four years ago in Norwalk, Ohio. When he was three years old he came to Huntsville with his parents to live. He is a member of the Conyngham Post and the Union Veteran Legion.

-- Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.


-- Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Record, July 10, 1900, June 2, 1916, July 21, 1925.
-- Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Evening News, April 19, 1915.

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