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8th Vermont Infantry

More Blessed To Give Then To Receive!

Rev. Isaac Blake was a preacher, of the "Second Advent" persuasion, in northeastern Vermont, and had reached nearly three-score, when the war broke out. Having preached the duty of sustaining the government by arms, he enforced his teachings by his example, and at the age of 58 years enlisted, at Derby, in company B, of the Eighth Vermont. He was not much of a shooter, but he could play the fife, so he went to the war as a fifer. His age and earnestness and faith distinguished him, not less than his music, among the men of the regiment. Before the regiment left the State, it was paraded, once cold December Sunday, at Brattleboro, to receive some orders. No chaplain had been as yet appointed. Colonel Thomas remarked to some of the captains that he wished they had a chaplain to offer a prayer. Captain Child thereupon said he had a minister in his company, and Fifer Blake was sent for, and was asked by the colonel to make a prayer, with the injection to "make it short, but to put in all the powder he had a mind to." Father Blake prayed and few who heard it ever forgot the prayer. When in subsequent months and years the regiment was without a chaplain Father Blake not only conducted religious services, but officiated in care of the sick and other duties commonly performed by chaplains, drawing of course only a private's pay. After his appointment, as chaplain of the Third Louisiana U. S. C. T. (later designated the 75th U.S.C.I.), he served eight months, and then resigned in June, 1863, in consequence of impaired healthy, and returned to Vermont, where he lived to be upwards of 80 years old. He was a man of marked character, and many of his good deeds and speeches are treasured by his comrades. It is related of him that after his appointment as chaplain his regiment was under fire one day from a Confederate battery to which the Union guns made no reply, till Father Blake went to the captain of a battery and told him he thought this was one of the times when it was "more blessed to given then to receive!" The batterymen took the hint, and with a cheer for the old chaplain, soon silenced the opposing artillery.

Source: George G. Benedict, "Vermont in the Civil War," (Burlington, The Free Press Association), ii:137-8.