"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Monday, July 25, 2016

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg

"A Time to Pray and a Time to Fight"

This 2008 statue of John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg by Gary Casteel stands in front of the Shenandoah County Courthouse in Woodstock  Virginia. Here's Gary Casteel scupting this piece. This picture is his calling-card.

Gary Casteel
Historical Artist
Legend has it that Peter Muhlenberg preacher at both the Lutheran and Episcopal congregations in Woodstock preached a sermon from Ecclesiastes on January 23rd 1776 and finished by saying "There is a time to pray and a time to Fight, and this is the Time to Fight!" tearing off his back clerical robe to reveal  a Continental Officer's uniform and proceeding to recruit his parishioners for the Continental Army. Gary Casteel's statue shows Muhlenberg in the act of removing his clerical robe and revealing his Continental uniform.

 This story first appeared 75 years after the event in a book by a Muhlenberg descendant. Henry A. Muhlenberg told the story this way.
"[H]e said that, in the language of holy writ, there was a time for all things. a time to preach and a time to pray. but those times had passed away; and in a voice that re-echoed through the church like a trumpet blast, 'that there was a time to fight, and that time had now come'

The sermon finished, he pronounced the benediction. A breathless stillness brooded Over the congregation. Deliberately pulling off the gown, which had thus far covered his martial figure, he stood before them a girded warrior; and descending from the pulpit, ordered drums at the church door beat for recruits. Then followed a scene to which even the American Revolution, rich as it is in bright examples of the patriotic devotion of the people, affords no parallel. His audience, excited in the highest degree by the impassioned words which had fallen from his lips, flocked around him, eager to be ranked among his followers. Old men were seen bringing forward their children, wives Their husbands, and widowed mothers their sons, sending them under his paternal care to fight the battles of their country. It must have been a noble sight, and the cause thus supported could not fail." -- Henry Augustus Muhlenberg, The life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg: of the Revolutionary Army, 1848.
This illustration of Peter Muhlenberg in his Continental uniform appeared in Henry Muhlenberg's book.

Although highly suspicious and widely debunked, the story continues to capture peoples imaginations. Here Rev. William Cook tells the tale.

Peter Muhlenberg's brother Frederick had his own myth. See: The Portrait Gallery: Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg

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