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Men of God in military service predates even the organized army of the United States for, even in the early years, chaplains served those who went in harm's way on an unpaid, volunteer basis.  When General George Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in 1775, he found fifteen chaplains already serving among his 23 regiments.  On July 29, 1775 the Continental Congress recognized the important role of the Army chaplain, authorizing one chaplain for each regiment and granting them payment equal to the salary of a captain.

Four months later on November 28, 1775 the role of the Navy chaplain was established in the second article of Navy regulations.  It read:  "The commanders of the ships of the Thirteen United Colonies are to take care that divine service be performed twice a day on board, and a sermon preached on Sundays, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent." 

It was during the War with Mexico that Catholic Priests joined their Protestant and Jewish counterparts.  Chaplains of all three faiths served during the Civil War.  On March 8, 1862 the USS Cumberland was rammed and sunk at Newport News, VA claiming the life of Navy Chaplain John Lenhart, the first Chaplain to die in service to God, Country and fellow man. 

Four Army chaplains earned Medals of Honor during the Civil War.  Most were officially assigned as chaplains, though it was not unusual for a line officer of the regiment to be elected as chaplain.  Such was the case with James Hill, a former Baptist minister who joined the 21st Iowa Infantry.  Though unanimously elected Regimental Chaplain on August 4, 1863, he continued to lead his troops in battle and became known as the "fighting chaplain".  Two Army chaplains received their Nation's highest honor for carrying wounded soldiers from the battlefield, a  fourth was honored when he voluntarily took up arms to defend his comrades.

Courtesy of www.HomeOfHeroes.com

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