Civil War Dads

 

"Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus..." II Timothy 2:3-4

 

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Civil War Bible
 

 

God Still Works Miracles!

 

For those who doubt, I present the following true story that must rank as one of the greatest "lost and found" stories of all time.

 

It is a story of faith and family, a testimony of God's providence and the perseverance and generosity of two faithful Christians living on opposite sides of the country. This is how I came into possession of the Civil War New Testament Bible (cover to the right, click to enlarge) belonging to my great-great grandfather, William Fletcher Hughey, nearly 144 years after it was given to him upon his enlistment in the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

 

On September 6, 2005, I was frantically preparing to leave for a long weekend trip with my family, trying to wrap up last minute items for my business. Early in the evening, as I was talking with a client by phone, an interesting email appeared in my Outlook inbox. The subject line read, "Matter of some urgency about William F. Hughey of Civil War." The note was very short:

 

"Are you related to William F. Hughey of Chillicothe, Ohio in the Civil War? Please direct me to a relative if you can. Thank you."

 

"Just another genealogy inquiry," I thought, "or maybe some crackpot playing a joke." But then I noticed this "crackpot" left his name (Bill) and a phone number. It was intriguing but I continued to talk with my client.

 

As I was finishing my client call about 30 minutes later, in came a second email from Bill that took my breath away.

 

"Dear Mr. Steve Braun,

I am a Born-again Christian, and also a Civil War artifacts researcher. I think that your ministry [Civil War Dads] is about to be blessed for all your great work to the kingdom of God. What if I told you that your Great-Great-Grandfather's 1861 New Testament Bible has been found! I was going to buy it, but God told me that He would rather you have it instead. Here are some pictures. (I hope I have reached the right person.) If you are strapped for cash, I would be willing to buy it for you as a gift."

 

That last sentence really got my attention. Bill indicated that he was willing to contribute as much as $200 to help buy it! That was a good thing because since starting my business full-time in 2001, I had been just barely making ends meet. There wasn't any money to spare for this Bible, no matter how much I wanted it. Bill left his full name, address, and a home phone number in California. He also included a link to the eBay auction where the Bible was for sale and attached the 5 pictures from the auction.

 

In total shock, I studied the pictures and immediately recognized the handwriting (see left, click to enlarge) of my great-great grandfather from having transcribed so much of his 1864 diary. I checked the auction on eBay and found the current bid at $45 with 5 days to go before bidding ended. This was too good to be true. All I kept thinking about was how this could be a scam, but that just didn't make sense to me. So, I did some quick research and found that generic Civil War-era Bibles typically went from $50 to $150. I had no idea what they were worth when connected with a specific, identifiable soldier.

 

I called Bill, thanked him for his generous offer, and we got to know each other a little bit. Bill had spotted the Bible on eBay and researched William Hughey's name on the internet. That led him to my Civil War Dads website and to contacting me.

 

We plotted a strategy to obtain the Bible that involved me contacting the seller by email and explaining the situation and my connection to the Bible. We were hoping for a sympathetic ear that would take the item off auction and sell it to me directly.

 

By the next afternoon, when I had reached my travel destination, I found the nearest wireless access to check my email. The seller had responded that he simply preferred that I bid on the item if I was interested in buying it. He was a shrewd seller seeking to make the most profit. So much for the sympathetic ear. Then I checked the auction and found the highest bid at $225! My heart sank and I realized this Bible was not meant to be for me. I let it go to God and took comfort in the fact that 24 hours earlier I didn't even know it existed and now I at least had 5 pictures of it.

 

But God's goodness didn't end there!

 

I called Bill and explained the situation. He was already on top of it. To my amazement, he had taken the extraordinary step of contacting the new highest bidder (LeRoy) via email. Bill told me to call this individual because they had agreed to work together to help get this Bible back in my family.

 

I could hardly believe what I was hearing.

 

LeRoy and I spoke that evening. God couldn't have chosen a more perfect person to add to this story. Here is what I learned about this young man during our conversation. LeRoy is...

  • A Christian living in Ohio

  • Married with young children

  • A Civil War reenactor, and

  • A collector of Civil War artifacts, especially Bibles.

I was shocked when LeRoy told me he expected the Bible to sell for between $500 and $600 based on his knowledge and experience. He told me not to worry, however, because he and Bill were working together and would win the auction and give the Bible to me as a gift. Amazing!

 

The auction ended on Sunday, September 11 at 2:00 p.m. Anticipating victory, I settled in front of my computer and watched anxiously as the bidding ended.

 

We lost!

 

The Bible sold to a man from North Carolina for $585, exactly $10 more than LeRoy's highest bid. You cannot imagine the letdown I had at that moment. What agony!

 

I consoled myself by calling Bill and LeRoy to thank them for their efforts. Bill remained optimistic. He told me that perhaps God wanted me to persevere and that I should contact the winner and tell him my story. "Why not," I reasoned, "what do I have to lose at this point?" Besides, if the winner ever decided to sell, I at least would like him give me a shot at it.

 

I sent an email to the winner (Brent) that afternoon, explaining everything that had happened up to that point and providing a link to my Civil War Dads website. Here was his reply:

 

"Steve,

WOW ...You really should be the owner of this bible without a question. I was buying it to keep but I might be willing to let it go if I could make a little bit on it . I do buy and sell civil war items for a living . I was rather taken with this bible because of the regiment's history. I had not researched William but it seems your site tells it all. A reasonable offer over what I paid might be workable if interested. Just advise further.

Brent"

 

That breathed life back into my hopes.

 

Now for the tricky part. Just how much was "a little bit" of profit for Brent? Would Bill and LeRoy still be willing to contribute to the cause? Would their contributions even be enough?

 

Well, the "little bit" Brent wanted was more than any of us expected but it was not unreasonable. After all, Brent had me over a barrel and could have really applied the pressure. Bill and LeRoy came through with about 60% of Brent's final price. My mother chipped in the remainder.

 

Thus, on October 5, 2005, William Hughey's Bible came home to rest with our family.

 

It traveled with William through the Civil War and eventually was in the care of my great-grandmother who left this note on a loose piece of paper inside the front cover:

 

"Father's Testament given by his mother when he enlisted in the army."

 

Where the Bible has been over the past 50-75 years is not known to us. But God knows. He brought this Bible to the attention of Bill in California, a Christian man who had a vision to reunite it with our family. Bill researched William Hughey's name and got in contact with me. Then he contacted another bidder, LeRoy, who also happened to be a Christian that shared his vision. More importantly, they teamed together and gave freely of their own resources to make it all possible. What are the odds?

 

Our family gives thanks and glory to God! And we thank Him for His servants Bill and LeRoy for their vision and generosity.

 

God indeed still works miracles!

 

   

   

 
 

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