Therefore were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 NKJV
General William Dorsey Pender commanded a Brigade in A. P. Hill’s Division of the Army of Northern Virginia, and for five weeks led one of the most celebrated commands, the famous “Light Division.” He was wounded in the upper left leg by shrapnel late in the afternoon, Thursday, July 2, 1863, when he ventured to the right of his line at Gettysburg to get a glimpse of the battle and to determine the reason his men were not engaged. July 18, 1863, Pender would succumb to that wound and Lee would later say concerning the colossal Gettysburg battle and Pender, ” . . . and we should have succeeded had Pender lived.” Pender was only 29!
Today, his remains lie in Calvary Cemetery, Tarboro, North Carolina, while these words cover him, “Patriot by Nature, Soldier by Training, Christian by Faith.” But Dorsey Pender had not always been a Christian.
Pender did not seem to hold to the typical Southern precept that slavery was a social good. He read Stowe’s anti-slavery book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” stating he and Mrs. Stowe nearly agreed on the slavery subject.
Religion had made no entrance into the young officer’s life, but that was to change with his marriage, February 3, 1859, to the love of his life, Mary Frances (Fanny) Shepperd. He would be stirred by the devotion of his wife.
He would struggle with the “working out” of his new found faith and most often would be disappointed because of his failure. Such waning would nag him until he was formally baptized into the Episcopalian Church. Though he continued to battle with the “flesh,” he steadily read the Bible and attended regular services and profusely read Christian literature.
The most important step he took in securing his Christian Faith was the constant letter writing he kept with his devout wife, Fanny, who he, if not consciously then quietly acknowledged, was his Christian superior. She encouraged him to be baptized.
Pender invited his regiment, the 6th North Carolina, to be present in order to enrich the unbelievers among the ranks. Following the regular Sunday morning service, October 6, 1861, the men of the regiment, observed Pender’s confession and baptism. Though he would live only for another twenty months and twelve days, he would diligently strive to be a firm example of his saving faith in Jesus Christ and that effort would be observed by all, officers and soldiers alike.
Before his final breath, William Dorsey Pender, instructed his doctor to tell his wife, “. . . that I do not fear to die. I can confidently resign my soul to God, trusting in the atonement of Jesus Christ. My only regret is to leave her and our two children. I have always tried to do my duty in every sphere in which Providence has placed me.”
Christians today can take renewed courage from the life of one so young and so dedicated in his faith to also do their duty in every area in which God has placed them.
God, my heavenly father, help me faithfully to daily walk in the newness of life I live in Christ so others may see you in me and desire to know you in a real and living way!
Pioneers, day-after-day, live out the new life in Christ, dutifully.
-Dennis L. Kutzner