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Religious Motivation


Lieutenant Hoyle was a professing and studious Christian. His faith was apparent in nearly every letter he wrote to his wife. The letters would confirm that he was praying for her, detail their nightly prayer and worship time in the camp, or simply quote truths from the Scriptures. Such truths include phrases like, “ I am trusting God to deliver us from this cruel war.” He constantly prayed in faith and encouraged his wife to pray in faith that this war might end, that Hoyle might be preserved from injury or death, and that Hoyle might live out his Christian faith through a long and blessed life. Hoyle even had plans to become a minister after the war ended (Girvan 2010, 84). However, Hoyle’s prayers were not merely for his own sake. Instead, they showed Hoyle’s greater motivation to fight. He claimed, “God had a design that is always to bring Him [God] glory and for the salvation of the human race. Just as our forefathers founded our nation and it was built up to exceed or at least equal the greatest nations ever and bring God glory.” (Item 532). Hoyle expressed sentiments that were expounded by ministers at the time who declared, “that history unfolded according to a divine plan with events rigidly ordered by the Almighty” (Rable 2010, 378). The war’s progression and the Confederacy’s “Lost Cause” acknowledge the Union to be a creation that was divinely inspired. A bishop in North Carolina during the war claimed, “ we must as Christians see the finger of God in it” (Rable 2010, 289). The finger of God seemed to be leading the Union to victory and progressively destroying the South. Hoyle realized that his motivation to fight extended even beyond himself and his personal faith in God to exalting and glorifying the Heavenly Father through his actions at war. Hoyle stated in one of his letters, “ He [God] created man- that His [God’s] name might be glorified.” (Item # 532) This notion of divine providence allowed Hoyle to have peace of mind while the Confederacy was losing. It also sustained Hoyle when he suffered an injury because Hoyle believed the divine will of God was going to transpire. Hoyle claimed, “ I am willing to do my part for my country, and if it is God’s will that my life should be sacrificed in the service of my country, I will die contented” (Hoyle 2010, 124). Here Lieutenant Hoyle acknowledged that if he were to die it would not only honor his fight for the Confederate nation but also his concluding sentiment that the Union, God’s appointed nation, would prevail.

This religious motivation not only directed glory to the Heavenly Father, it also shifted Hoyle’s focus. Hoyle stated that he was, “ living life for his eternal gain, living in heaven. Rather than the earthly pleasure of being with his wife.” This belief, sacrificing himself for God, allowed Lieutenant Hoyle to endure personal hardship. He was applying the verse from the Scriptures found in Matthew 6:19-20. Even Hoyle realized that all earthly things were filled with disappointments. He knew that even if he were allowed to be home with his wife, this earthly desire would inevitably bring some disappointments even with the joy he found in her presence. Hoyle knew the Lord would not forsake his Regiment or the Confederate army because “He trusted in the good Lord, knowing he would not forsake the soldiers.” (Hoyle 2010, 63, 66) He also pointed to his faith as the primary reason he was able to avoid the “evil influences” of the company’s camp life (Hoyle 2010, 64) These evil influences were expounded by having a high number of immoral men together, lack of keeping the Sabbath, exhaustion, cursing, and drinking (Hoyle 2010, 93-100). Hoyle claimed, “if it had not been for my trust and hope in God, I reckon, I should have gone crazy or done something else bad before now, but with this reliance, and trust in the Lord, I am very well content to stay here till His [God’s] own good time comes.” (2010, 139) Hoyle counteracted these evil influences that would have deterred his God-focused motivation by leaning on God’s grace. (Hoyle 2010, 64)

Religious motivation did not end with Hoyle or others’ of the erudite soldiers. For as the war continued more and more soldiers became involved in Christian fellowship. Hoyle pointed out that this was likely the result of the increased likelihood of dying the longer the war progressed. (Girvan 2010, 136-137) Lieutenant Hoyle also began preaching and teaching a Bible class. He claimed that, “God was working a great work in our [55th regiment’s] midst. The “revival” of soldiers is not merely Hoyle’s opinion of soldiers changing as the war progressed. Historian George Rable stated in his book God’s Almost Chosen People that there were “powerful revivals in the Army of Northern Virginia” as the war advanced (2010, 127). He furthered his argument by going on to claim that many Confederate soldiers claimed the identity of “Christian Soldier”. (Rable 2010, 128 -131). This specific identity ties into the soldiers’ deepened motivation to fight. A motivation beyond the ideals established by the Confederate Army, these Christian soldiers were fighting for their God.

Lieutenant Hoyle maintained his honor and fulfilled his duty fighting for the Confederate army because he knew, “ If God is for us, who can be against us.” (2010, 143) Hoyle placed a preeminent priority on submitting to God’s will, knowing God was there with him and the other soldiers. Hoyle carried his Bible in a pouch that made it easily accessible in the camp and on long marches. According to McPherson many soldiers carried Bibles with them throughout the Civil War. (1997, 63) This submission to God represented the notion that God would carry them through the war because God was supporting their fight.

Religious Motivation