May 3, 2012

Rev. F. W. Conrad's Civil War

Location: 31 S Duke St, Lancaster, PA 17602, USA
Rev. F. W. Conrad
(Trinity Archives)
Considering the short list of distinguished pastors until 1861 whose time in the pulpit of Trinity Lutheran Church could be counted in decades, Pastor F. W. Conrad's mere two years as Gottlob Krotel's successor seem like a hiccup in the church's chronology.  Through his actions, preaching, and lectures, Conrad would, however, play an important role connecting the congregation to the war, most uniquely through an October 1862 aid mission to the Antietam battlefield on behalf of the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster. 

Born in 1816 in Pine Grove, Schuylkill County, Conrad represented a very different type of Lutheran than what Trinity Lutheran Church was used to.  Specifically, as a student of Samuel Simon Schmucker at Gettysburg Seminary, Conrad fit into the tradition of "American Lutheranism" that emphasized personal piety, union with other Christian denominations, revivals, and abolitionism more than the "Old Lutherans," who advocated a stricter and more explicit adherence to the Lutheran Confessions. 

Patriotism and abolitionism heavily flavored Conrad's wartime sermons, and he tended to make conservative Democrats wherever he preached very unhappy.  In an 1870 historical sketch of Trinity, the Intelligencer recounted Conrad's pastorate,
Rev. Frederick W. Conrad, a political stump orator from Dayton, Ohio, followed Dr. Krotel, preaching his first sermon in March 1862.  His penchant for preaching political sermons, a la Beecher, and driving fast horses, a la Bonner, soon disgusted the greater portion of his congregation, and would have disgusted all of them, had it not been for the angry passions stirred up by the great rebellion.  At the end of he war, finding that his vocation was gone, he resigned and left town, greatly to the relief of the congregation, and our citizens generally.  [1/12/1870]

Our knowledge of Conrad's attitudes on the war comes from:
His Thanksgiving 1863 sermon presents pretty standard rhetoric espousing America's virtues as "extraordinary blessings":
  1. "the Age in which we live" 
  2. "the Country which we inhabit" 
  3. "the Government under which we dwell"
  4. "the Gifts of his Providence"
  5. "the religious privileges we enjoy"

    The sermon concludes with a pretty high view of the consequences of America's fall:
    To what, I ask, shall her fall be likened? but to that of Lucifer, the Son of Morning, from the towering heights of heaven, down to the unfathomable depths of hell; and as he fell not alone, but corrupted and involved in his fall, millions of other angelic beings, so too will America not fall alone, but influence and involve in her ruin the nations of the earth, and the fall of America will be the fall of the World.
    Moving from word to deed, Conrad picked up where his predecessor Pastor Krotel left off in his work with the Patriot Daughters.  When the Rebels invaded Maryland--resulting in the bloody Battle of Antietam was fought--Conrad, who had connections having served a parish in the area, was one of four men to escort a large shipment of donations to hospitals and the Lancaster companies in the Pennsylvania Reserves.  I published Conrad's very interesting account in a post last August, and you can read it here.  Here's an excerpt:
    We now made a reconnoisance of the battlefield, and then proceeded direct to the camp of the Reserves. We soon overtook our wagon which stalled at a steep hill. We first detailed a squad of soldiers, to make up the deficiency of our animal force, but finding their pushing unavailing, we found our forlorn hope in two little mules. They seemed to realize that much was expected from them, and they carried the load up the hill in gallant style. By this time the Lancaster boys found out who were about, and what was coming. The wagon was at once besieged, the portion allotted to the Reserves unloaded in double quick style, greetings were exchanged, questions asked and answered, messages delivered, loved ones remembered, and general joy prevailed. On being told that what we brought was not half of what was sent, two wagons were dispatched to bring on what had been left at Harrisburg and Hagerstown, and on Thursday morning they returned with all of it.
    Tombstone of Pvt. Josiah A. H. Lutz
    East Petersburg Mennonite Cemetery
    One of those soldiers whom Conrad would have likely met was recent enlistee Josiah A. H. Lutz of Company B, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves.  In one of the sadder stories the war produced, the sixteen year-old Lutz, whose parents were dead and who enlisted to support his younger sister financially, was wounded in the hip in the Pennsylvania Reserves' charge at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.  He died on December 22 in a Washington hospital, and his cousin retrieved the body for burial.  Pastor Conrad records performing the burial service at the East Petersburg Mennonite Cemetery.  (Credit: Research by Gary Hawbaker.) 

    After the Battle of Gettysburg, Conrad naturally led efforts to raise money to support the battle-damaged Gettysburg Seminary and College.  A committee from Trinity Lutheran Church collected $299.75.

    In early 1864, possibly with a split among Lutherans on the horizon, "American Lutheran"-leaning Conrad left "Old Lutheran"-leaning Trinity for a congregation in Chambersburg, although Conrad did leave on fairly good terms with certification by Trinity's vestry that he adhered to the Lutheran Confessions in his teaching.  During the Confederate raid on the city, Conrad's house was intentionally targeted and ransacked.  He continued to anger conservative Democrats there, and even earned a lengthy tirade entitled "Desecration of the Pulpit" in the Valley Spirit on November 16, 1864, which can be viewed at the linked page as part of the Valley of the Shadow project.    

    • Biography in American Lutheran Biographies (p. 144)
    • George Heiges' 1979 LCHS Journal history of Trinity Lutheran Church
    • I also have saved images of a letter sold on Ebay a couple years ago written by Conrad to his brother-in-law at the beginning of the war.

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