A Miraculous Interposition of God’s Providence
by Rev. David T Myers
It reads like an adventure novel. But it was not fiction for Presbyterian minister John Hill Aughey during the opening days of the Civil War in 1861 in the state of Mississippi. His state was the second state to vote out of the United States of America, following South Carolina, to join the Confederacy. Soon joined by other Confederate states, the War Between the States made it impossible to live in support of the Union. And pastor-evangelist John Aughey was a Unionist and outspoken opponent against slavery.
John Hill Aughey was born on May 8, 1828. Educated up north, he was licensed and ordained as a Presbyterian minister, after which he moved with his wife Mary and young daughter Kate, to Tupelo, Mississippi in 1861. He was an evangelist in that state as well as the pastor of three Presbyterian congregations. But with the political situation calling for disunion by speeches and actions, he stood squarely on the side of the Union, arguing the case in the pulpits of his three congregations. Finally, he was jailed for his opposition, along with other Unionists in the state. Escaping once, he was recaptured and sentenced to death by hanging. He escaped again, two days before his scheduled death penalty, to go north for safety.
In his book Iron Furnace (available online), we read in his entry for February 1, 1863, that his escape required “the miraculous interposition of divine providence,” as our title puts it, to give success to his plans to save his life. First, there was a Confederate force of one hundred thousand soldiers stationed around the prison. Second, he was in “enemy” territory. Third, there was a large reward of one hundred thousand dollars for his capture. Fourth, the authorities had planned for the use of blood hounds to track him. And last, there was a distance of two hundred miles to the Union outpost at Reinzie. It would be a miracle for him to make it safely to Union lines. And yet, that is exactly what happened. John Hill Aughey escaped safely to Union lines.
He joined the Union Army as an Army chaplain, ministering to the spiritual needs of Union soldiers. After the Civil War, he returned to his family in Mississippi, and took up the cause of Christ in Presbyterian churches in South Carolina. He would go to be with the Lord in 1911.
Words to Live By: Our Confessional Standards reminds us in Chapter 5, section 1 that “God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things. . . .(Chapter 5, section 1). Our hero today was able to state “Amen” to that statement in his life and ministry. Take time today to recount similar evidences in your life, and give praise to God for His providential care.