LIFE CHANGING INVENTORY
COLORFUL & INFORMATIVE LISTINGS
This book is the biography of Confederate General Alexander P. Stewart, who holds the distinction of being the only American Civil War General to later convert to the JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. Stewart joins President Dwight Eisenhower and U.S. Army General William P. Hall as the only three West Point educated American Generals who were either reared (Eisenhower) as JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES or converted later in life (Stewart and Hall).
General Stewart's baptism into the WatchTower religion was reported in the October 1, 1905 issue of the "Zion's Watch Tower" magazine:
We had a warm welcome at St. Louis, too, and the attendance was excellent, notwithstanding the fact that we did not get the announcement into the WATCH TOWER, and hence but few came from nearby towns. The morning session was in the "Christian Church" edifice. The topic was "Consecration," and following it nine symbolized full consecration by water baptism. Among the number was Brother Alexander Stewart, well known throughout the South for the active and prominent part he took in the war of the Rebellion, as the leader of "Stewart's Cavalry." General Stewart is of advanced years, but clear of intellect. He has been a "soldier of the Cross" for some time, and deeply interested in "Present Truth" for several years. He expected to be symbolically baptized at the time of the Chattanooga Convention, but was prevented by ill health. After leaving the water Brother Stewart was heard to express great satisfaction at having thus outwardly confessed his blessed Lord and his full devotion to Him and His cause. Brother Stewart already had joined the army of the Lord, but by this act of public confession he, so to speak, donned his regimentals and joined the forces "on the firing line." May he loyal prove and true to the end of the way, and with all the faithful receive the crown of life which fadeth not away. How sectional lines, race and party prejudices and all the distinctions of wealth and fame gradually fade from the minds of those who become by God's grace and truth members prospective of the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people, called for a purpose, even to show forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light! With this erstwhile warrior, but more recently college president and later U.S. Commissioner, none others of the nine were of the same rank or education, yet they all were on the same level of divine mercy through Christ -- justified and sanctified through the grace of our Lord. The assorted company well illustrated the Apostle's words, "Not many great, not many wise, not many learned, hath God chosen." One of these nine was a child of twelve years, a very unusual sight with us. Child though she was she gave good evidence of a clear appreciation of what she did, so that we could not question her acceptability with the Lord. We could not help a mental reflection on how extremes meet in the family of God -- in the body of Christ. The tall man, full of years and ripe in the learning of this world, and the little girl, on the threshold of life every way, had both heard the voice of Jesus say, Come unto me and have your sins forgiven, and find rest for your souls and find eternal life. "All of the Lord's followers meet on this common level. "All ye are brethren," "One is your Master, even Christ." Some may have almost envied the great man, but we doubt not he almost envied the little child, who, starting thus early to follow the footsteps of Jesus, had apparently reached nearly the same point at the same time by the shorter journey. "They that seek me early shall find me" -- the more easily. Nevertheless, the General's learning and influence may be turned to the greater advantage if wisely used in the service of our King. May he, may we all, prove faithful to the cause of him who loved us and bought us with his precious blood."
After graduating from West Point, Stewart eventually resigned from the U.S. Army to pursue a career as a college professor in Tennessee. With the start of the American Civil War, Stewart joined the Confederacy, and served in its Army of Tennessee from 1861 to 1865. Stewart quickly rose in rank from Major at the start of the War to Lieutenant General at War's end. Stewart was known as "Old Straight" due to his steadfastness, calm manner, and confident leadership. (Its a small, small world. Nearly everyday, this author walks along a street on which General Stewart and his Army once marched. This author also had visited multiple battlefields on which General Stewart and his Army fought prior to this author knowing about Stewart's WatchTower background. This author's Great-Great-Grandfather fought against General Stewart and his Army on those battlefields.)
After the Civil War, Stewart participated in many public and private endeavors, including serving as Chancellor of the University of Mississippi for twelve years. Late in his life, Stewart was attracted to the teachings of Charles Taze Russell, who taught that Jesus Christ had secretly returned in 1874, and that the Battle of Armageddon would usher in the Millennium in October 1914. Stewart was baptized into the Watch Tower religion in 1905; probably by Charles Taze Russell himself.
General Stewart often spent winters in Biloxi, Mississippi, which had become a mecca for Confederate veterans after the war. In 1906 (after his baptism), Stewart moved to Biloxi permanently, where he died in August 1908 at the age of 87. Stewart's family in St. Louis wanted the General buried there, so a large entourage of Confederate veterans from Biloxi escorted Stewart's corpse to St. Louis.
Charles Taze Russell absented himself for two days from the middle of the annual WatchTower Convention in Ohio so that he could quickly travel to St. Louis and preside over General Stewart's Funeral. There, Charles Taze Russell and the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" provided a military funeral and burial befitting Stewart, who was the "ranking Confederate survivor" at the time of his death. At the head of the casket was a Cross of white astors, Japanese lillies and tube-roses, which was the gift of the Alexander P. Stewart Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at Chattanooga. Spread across the casket was a Confederate battle flag, which was the gift of the St. Louis branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Beside the bier was a palm spray sent by the St. Louis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, while at the foot was a wreath of white astors and tube-roses, which was the gift of the St. Louis Masonic Lodge. A palm spray was also sent by the St. Louis Chapter of the Confederate Veterans. Charles Taze Russell, a long-time intimate friend of Stewart, told of his character, his services in Tennessee, his native state, and as an educator, and of his religious faith:
"The best compliment I ever heard of General Stewart was by one of his colleagues on the Chickamauga National Park Commission, who called him the first gentleman of the south -- gentleman in the true sense of the term. ... I am happy to say that I knew the General well as a Christian, that the same courage and honesty that won for him the title of 'Old Straight' accompanied his religious life."
After the sermon and prayer by Russell, members of the United Confederate Veterans passed before the casket and formed a double line, between which the casket was borne to the hearst. A similar military ceremony was conducted at the gravesite as Stewart's casket was borne from the hearse to graveside.
General Stewart's Biloxi home eventually became a historic landmark, which recently had been converted into a Bed & Breakfast renamed the Santini-Stewart House. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and registered with the Civil War Preservation Trust. Unfortunately, it was located directly on Beach Blvd in Biloxi, and it was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Given the fact that Charles Taze Russell felt that preaching General Stewart's funeral was sufficiently important for him to miss two days of the 1908 Watch Tower Convention, I was almost certain that General Stewart's life as a JW would be further discussed in one of the Watch Tower Society's history books, or at least presented as an "experience" in a later book, magazine, yearbook, or something. However, I can't seem to locate such. Maybe someone can help me out with a citation. I'm also curious whether, given all the publicity about JWs helping to rebuild all the homes and Kingdom Halls destroyed by Katrina, whether they will also help the former owners of General Stewart's home to rebuild this lost piece of Watch Tower history.
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