June 17: Bingham Finley Junkin

A Presbyterian Soldier In Service to  His Country

In these posts on Presbyterian History, Wayne Sparkman and I have written several posts on the remarkable Junkin family of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. They were Covenanters, and later members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. When a church of the latter denomination was not found where they lived, they joined the closest Presbyterian church of any stripe.  Stalwart patriots in peace time and war time, two Junkins fought in the Revolutionary War as well as in the War of 1812.

Now we come to the third generation of patriotic Junkins who fought in the Civil War, on both the Union and Confederate sides. Two Junkin brothers on the Union side were killed, one at Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862 and another at Spotsylvania, Virginia in 1864. Our post today deals with Bingham Findley Junkin, who enlisted in Mercer County, Pennsylvania on February 27, 1864. He entered as a private in a company of fellow Covenanters and Presbyterians known as the One Hundredth Pennsylvania “Roundheads” Regiment. Even though he only fought in the closing battles of the war, he wrote a remarkable diary, which reveals the kind of  Christian Presbyterian he was.

First, it was obvious that Bingham Findlay Junkin believed that the Bible was God’s Word, and occupied his waking hours in study, reading, and meditation. On Sunday, March 13, 1864, Bingham wrote, “. . . I spent the day as much as circumstances would permit in reading my Bible and thinking upon its many precious promises.” On another Sabbath, April 3, he wrote, “I make it a rule to read a portion of scripture every day, although I cannot have any set time; have to be guided by circumstances in a great measure, but always try if possible to read a chapter just before going to sleep.” It is clear that the Bible was the constant companion of this Civil War soldier and not just something to put into his pocket as a mere good luck charm.

The Sabbath was God’s time to worship by attending joint services, to listen to the Word of God as proclaimed by the Army chaplains, and to pray with others of like precious faith. Towards that end, it is clear that Bingham Junkin wanted the Sabbath to be observed rightly, not filling it with activities which took away from this religious day. On more than one occasion, such as April 10, 1864, Junkin wrote “We had dress parade at five o’clock, 30 minutes, something I think is entirely out of place, to thus desecrate the Sabbath.” Further, “I have and will continue to speak against (Sabbath parades), for I think it is very wrong to ask God’s blessing on our army and then willfully disobey him is a mockery. Can we expect a blessing?” On another Sabbath, April 17th, he wrote, “No dress parade today. This is as it should be, there is not the least shadow of excuse for our armies parading on the Sabbath, when lying in camp.” He worshiped the God of his fathers and mentioned that several times, appreciating the Word preached and the prayer meetings which were held.

Bingham Junkin had a firm grasp of God’s sovereignty. On Sunday, April 3, 1864, the Union soldier wrote an entry which acknowledged that “God rules; and that he doeth all things well. Oh how comforting the thought that we have such a God to go to, and make all our wants known unto him.” Another entry on March 25th reads, “Oh, how much grace the Christian soldier needs and how comforting the thought that God reigns everywhere.”

He was forever praising and acknowledging the providence of God, in granting him many examples of Fatherly care over him. On March 27, after hearing two sermons from two chaplains, he wrote, “Oh, how pleasant when separated from the endearment of home to enjoy such privileges. How good God is to provide for the instruction and comfort of his people under every circumstances.” On March 29, he penned, “How good in the Lord to all those that put their trust in him.  He is ever nigh to them that call upon him.” Or April 3, “Oh how comforting the thought that we have such a God to go to; and make all our wants known unto him.” His diary entry for May 6th has a sentence which indicates he was in actual battle when he wrote “through the goodness of God I was spared for which I feel thankful.” And again, May 15, “The Lord has been very gracious to me in preserving my health and sparing my life.” Or May 25, he “shot at and was shot at by the Rebs but by the infinite mercy of God my life was spared, altho the bullets frequently came near me, but in God alone is our help to be found.” On June 3 are found the words “The Lord alone can protect and preserve life and may he enable us all to be thankful for his care over us.”

It was at Petersburg on this day, June 17, that God allowed Bingham Junkin to be wounded in the right thigh, which shattered his hip bone. After medical care at home and in hospitals, he returned to the front and was discharged from there when Lee surrendered on July 8, 1865.

He returned to his wife, Mary Duff and his four children. In the rest of his life, he would father another four children, though one son would die three years after his birth.   Bingham Junkin himself died on May 15, 1911 at age 78.

Words to Live By:
It is a remarkable diary which can be found on the Web and available for you to read. [Click here.]. It speaks of a patriotic Covenanter who saw God’s hand in peace time and in war time. In return, Bingham Findlay Junkin blessed the God of his fathers, thus by his example giving all of our readers the exhortation to acknowledge God’s hand in everything. As Solomon put it in Proverbs 3:5, 6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NASB)

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