Today I saw Lincoln at the movie theater. I’m not going to go into the movie review business (but I liked it). For some reason that made me remember seeing a story referencing a Massachusetts soldier who, having been saved from injury or death by his pocket New Testament, wrote the President about it and in turn received a new one signed by Lincoln himself. The story went on to say that the soldier, Charles Merrill, did not survive the war.
A quick search on the Internet brings up many, many stories of soldiers being saved by a pocket Bible. The 17th CVI had it’s own story involving an Irish immigrant in Company B.
John Collins was a married laborer from Stamford who enlisted at the age of 28. Collins, unlike Merrill, survived his other wounds suffered at Gettysburg and died in 1897 at the age of 64. He is buried in Darien, CT.
Among the personal possessions that belonged to soldiers of the 17th that I actually own is a pocket New Testament. It is one of many that were issued to members of Company C in 1862. It is undoubtedly similar in size to Roman Catholic Prayer Book mentioned in this story about John Collins of Company B. It is a small volume in size, but in addition to being a big source of comfort to many a soldier it was, for John Collins at least, 199 pages big enough to give him another 34 years of life.