A letter written to the widow of Oliver P. Rhinehart, Private, Company G, 76th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, who was wounded and died at Natchez, Mississippi, 4 Oct 1863:

Post Hospital, Natchez, Mississippi
September 28th 1865

Mrs. Rinehart
Urbana, Ills

Dear Madam,

Near Sunrise this morning a Soldier came to my door and enquired if this was the Chaplain's room and after an affirmative answer, said that Mr. Rineheart of ward B wanted to see me; that he was very low and evidently near his grave.  I was prepared to learn this from what I had witnessed before and was also led to believe that God was manifesting a purpose to render him meet for an inheritance with the Sanctified;  for Salvation had been the theme of meditation for some time previous, even when he was apparently in no immediate danger of death.

On approaching his bed, he said, "Good morning, Chaplain, I am glad to see you.  I thought of sending for you during the night, but I knew you wanted rest from your hard labor of yesterday."  To my enquiry as to the state of his mind he said "I am very weak but I want you to talk with me on religion and pray with me this morning."  "Have you hope in Christ- Can you claim him as your savior?" I asked.  He replied, "Not so clear as I wish it was.  I do feel some comfort but I see so much of sin that I am fearful I have so long neglected Christ."  "Are you truly sorry for your sins?"  "I am," said he, "but I fear it is more from dread than love."  I talked with him so far as I thought he was able to bear at the present time, that for sinners, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, he beares with preverseness and neglect.  He bore our sins in his own body on the tree, suffered for the unjust, for sinners he was made to be in sin that they might be made the righteous of God, and the fact that he was awakened to see his sins and led to pray to be delivered from them presented great ground for hope and encouragement.  I then prayed with him and left the room after a few words with one near him, who had recently found Christ precious, and another who had known his Redeemer for a longer period with the promise of seeing him soon again.

9 O'Clock A.M. went to his bed and found him very weak.  To my enquiry he replied, "Yes, I have some comfort but it is not as clear as I desire.  I hardly know how to go to God."  "If you were an insolvent debtor," I said to him, "deeply in debt and without a farthing to pay, and knew of a kind friend that had abundance and to spare, and was willing and anxious to satisfy the demand against you; would you have difficulty in knowing how to approach him and make your wants known?  Now Christ because of his great love for us gave himself for us and it was justly displeasing in the sight of God, and an aggravation of our guilt to refuse or neglect coming to him for freedom, pardon, and exceptance."  "How may I know I have been born again; what change shall I feel?", he asked.  I replied, "If we believe in Christ we have passed from death into life, and we may know we have faith by the fact that it works by love.  The affections are drawn after God because he is love and to his works because they are good and to his people because they press for the prize of the high calling of God. Faith purifies the heart!  We would be pure.  Faith overcometh the world! In it we find no pleasure because it is not conformed to the will of God but encourage enmity to him and his government and his people.  Herein, I continued, you may see the fruit of faith the evidence of its presence and power and by these you may know you are accepted in the beloved."  "I hope," he replied, "God will receive me I am very weak I cannot last long and oh! my poor wife.  She is without God.  I want to counsel her.  I told her in a letter a few days ago to prepare to meet me in heaven.  We have walked together in the ways of sin.  Together we have proven the vanity of this world.  I want her to read the Bible and pray to God."

At 8 O'Clock P.M., he said, "I cannot last long but I do not think I am afraid to die." I asked him what I should tell his wife if he should be called away.  "Tell her I die in peace, I have committed all into God's hands, I am not afraid to go."  After prayer as I placed his body in an easy position, he added, "I don't think I am afraid to die."

Sep 30th - This day he said but little, but that little was of the same character with yesterday.  On the morning of Oct 1st I called and found he did not know me nor was he concious of anything apparently.  He would occasionaly utter a part of a sentence as if to himself but nothing from which we could make any sence.  During the night previous however his attendants told me that he spent much time rejoicing and praising God for his wonderful goodness and seemed ready for his departure which was near at hand.  He had at that time the full use of his faculties and felt entirely free from any pain.  I called frequently during the day and evening but at no time found him concious.  An attendent however said that for a few minutes about 6 O'Clock this morning he was rational and talked some.

Oct 2nd, 8 O'Clock - Went to his side and was surprised to find him so much revived.  Hearing my step he turned his head and immediately said, "Good morning Chaplain.  I am glad to see you."  I playfully said that I had expected to bury him today.  "No," said he, "I shall not let you do that," and after a few words he sank away again and was no more concious.

October 4th - About 8 this morning your husband was taken away forever from this earth leaving you a widow and your children fatherless.  On the morrow he will be consigned by his comrads to the grave there to await the trump of the last day.  Thus, Madam, I have conveyed to you faithfully the last days of your husband.  For your comfort I would observe that I have great encouragement to believe he is in peace.
(There are pages missing so do not know the name of the Chaplain)

Postscript:  In his father's (Martin Rinehart) notebook is this simple entry:  We. Oct 21 1865 - Cool.  Heard Oliver was dead.

(spelling is transcribed as written)


Transcribed by Celia Snyder

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