The Catholic Password

April 9, 2015

On the day of the famous battle of Bull-Run, General Smith, who commanded the army of the South, arrived along with his division too late to know what was the password. He foresaw that if he advanced without it he would be fired upon by his own army, and if he remained where he was he would most likely be attacked by the enemy. Seeing the danger he was in, both from friend and foe, he came in front of the division, and asked if there was any man amongst them who would volunteer to sacrifice his life for the salvation of the rest.

General Edmund Kirby Smith, general of he Confederate States Army.

General Edmund Kirby Smith, general of he Confederate States Army.

A young man immediately came forward and said he would do it.

“Do you know what will happen to you?” said the general.

“Yes, general,” he replied.

“You will be shot.”

“I know it,” he answered.

Then the general wrote these words on a piece of paper: “Send me the countersign: General Smith,” and gave the paper to the heroic soldier. He knew that as soon as they had shot him they would search him, and finding the paper, would carry it to General Beauregard.

When the young soldier received his message, he departed amidst the cheers of his comrades, who admired his bravery. He was a good Catholic, and on the way he prepared himself to die as became a Christian by acts of contrition and by recommending his soul to God.

American Civil War SoldiersWhen he reached the outposts of the army he heard the cry, “Who goes there?”

“A friend,” he replied.

“Give the countersign,” they cried.

He went forward towards them without saying a word. In an instant all the guns were raised to fire upon him. Thinking that his last hour had come, he stood, and, raising up his hand, made the sign of the cross. Immediately every gun was lowered, and the soldier was told to pass.

It happened that the sign of the Cross was the countersign that Beauregard had that morning appointed, as he himself was a good Catholic, and so, by using it, the pious soldier escaped death.


The Catechism In Examples Vol. III By the Rev. D. Chisholm Pg. 144-146.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 469

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