The Military Chaplain
a service in
Old Testament often refers to priests accompanying troops into battle.
"And it shall be when ye are come nigh unto the battle," states the Pentateuch,
Deuteronomy 20:2-4, "that the priest shall approach and speak unto the
people." Another well-known example is found in Joshua 6:2-5. In this
passage, seven priests, each carrying a ram's horn, march around the walls of
For the Romans the presence of a priest before each battle was vital. Sacred animals had to be killed ritually. Then, their livers were removed and read by the priests for favorable or unfavorable omens. In Imperial Rome the priests proclaimed war upon the advice of the Senate. Thus every war declared was both just and holy.
fourth century legend held that a pagan Roman soldier called Martin of Tours
encountered a beggar shivering from the cold and gave him part of his military
cloak. That night he had a vision of Christ dressed in the cloak. As a result,
Martin was converted to Christianity. He devoted his life to the church, and
after his death was canonized. Martin of Tours later became the patron saint of
St. Martin's Day activities, Breitenbrunn, Germany
modern chaplaincy's roots are essentially medieval Catholic in origin. The
Council of Ratisbon (742 CE, modern-day
the last and greatest of the colonial conflicts, the French and Indian War,
some thirty-one chaplains served: "Nearly half were from
The want of a chaplain does, I humbly conceive, reflect dishonor upon the regiment, as all other officers are allowed. The gentlemen of the corps are sensible to this, and did propose to support one at their private expense. But I think it would have a more graceful appearance were he appointed as others are.
George Washington assumed command of the Continental Army at
The Honorable Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a Chaplain to each Regiment, with the pay of Thirty-Three Dollars and one third dollars pr month - The Colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains accordingly; persons of good Characters and exemplary lives - To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger -The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavor so to live, and act as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.
signed, George Washington
Since that time, U.S. Military
Chaplains have served honorably in every war and major combat engagement in
Compiled by William J. Hourihan, Ph.D.
photograph of a religious service
services for the 45th Infantry Division,
to the first
The Army Chaplaincy is the oldest of the American military
chaplaincies, and predated the Declaration of
The Army Chaplain Corps comprises the largest military chaplaincy in the world. As of January 2002, there were 1280 active duty chaplains, 557 USAR/AGR chaplains and 599 ARNG chaplains on duty. Assisting these 2,436 chaplains were 2,550 chaplain assistants in the active and reserve components.
Chaplains have traditionally provided noteworthy leadership for
the government and for their religious denominations after their military
service. One chaplain, Andrew
Hunter, who served in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812, became
one of the founders of the U.S. Naval Academy; another, Abraham Baldwin, was a
signer of the Constitution of the
Army Chaplain (
Almost fourteen per cent of all Army chaplains since the Civil War have received battlefield decorations. More than 25,000 chaplains have served since 1775 in 36 wars and 242 major combat engagements. From 1861 though 1975, six were awarded the Medal of Honor. More than 3,400 other chaplains received combat decorations including 27 Distinguished Service Crosses, 44 Silver Stars, 67 Legions of Merit, 719 Bronze Stars, and 109 Purple Hearts.
Facts about the Army Chaplaincy ,
W. Brinsfield (Ph.D.), Chaplain (
Establishment of the Chaplaincy
Establishment clause is two-fold:
-no establishment of religion
-no prohibition of free exercise
Madison, author of first amendment, supported paid military chaplains while he was serving in the House of Representatives and when he held the office of President. In 1983, Chief Justice Warren Berger (in MARSH v. CHAMBERS, 463 U.S. 783) said, “Historical evidence sheds light not only on what the draftsmen intended the Establishment Clause to mean, but also on how they thought that Clause applied to the practice authorized by the First Congress - their actions reveal their intent. It can hardly be thought that in the same week Members of the First Congress voted to appoint and to pay a chaplain for each House (22 Sept 1789) and also voted to approve the draft of the First Amendment for submission to the states (25 Sept 1789), they intended the Establishment Clause of the Amendment to forbid what they had just declared acceptable.”
Civilian clergy cannot do what chaplains do and cannot be forced into
combat. This was tried in
The Four Chaplains
It was the evening of
"Valor is a gift," Carl Sandburg once said. "Those having it never know for sure whether they have it until the test comes.”
Stamp commemorating the Four Chaplains Life Preserver from the Dorchester
The first authorized insignia for chaplains (13 Feb. 1880 to 5 May 1888) was the shepherd's crook of embroidered frosted silver bullion in center of black velvet shoulder straps as stated in General Order Number 10. This would either be appropriate on the frock coat or undress uniform. In 1898, the crook was replaced with a plain Latin cross of silver on dark-blue shoulder straps.
Note: While I make every effort to produce an error-free document, errors occasionally creep in. I would appreciate you bringing any to my attention so that I may make the necessary corrections.