Following the outbreak of the Civil War, a soldier of fortune by the name of Roberdeau Wheat formed a volunteer company of infantry in New Orleans, Louisiana to fight for the Confederacy. It was a company comprised of men recruited from the city docks and wharfs that ran alongside the Mississippi River. Most of the men were of Irish descent and had less than stellar records with the local law enforcement agencies of the time. They were a rough bunch of fellows, as apt to take on each other in camp as they were to fight against an enemy in battle. Because Roberdeau could not get the rank he desired from the State of Louisiana, he ended up taking his troops to Virginia and they arrived in that State just in time to take part in the first major battle of the war.
By the end of the Battle of Bull Run, they had acquired the nickname of ‘The Fighting Tigers of Louisiana’ due to their performance in one of the hottest areas of the conflict. Wheat, newly appointed to the rank of Major, was wounded in the battle and had to be carried from the field. Once the battle was over and victory had been achieved, they were sent to the Shenandoah Valley to fight in Stonewall Jackson’s army. During Jackson’s impressive valley campaign the following spring they again distinguished themselves and this more than made up for the troubles they had caused in camp during the quiet winter months beforehand. As Wheat appeared to be the only officer that could control them, in his absence they displayed a penchant for fighting amongst themselves and the other units in the army. On more than one occasion they were accused of stealing from their comrades in other units. One Confederate soldier from Virginia went on record stating that the mere sight of them (except in battle) caused both he and his fellow soldiers ‘the utmost fear’.
Later that summer, Wheat was killed in the battle of Gaines Mill. Due to their loss of numbers during the campaigns they had been a part of, the unit was disbanded and the soldiers were separated and placed into other Louisiana regiments. The ‘Fighting Tigers’ moniker, however, stuck with them and eventually all of the Louisiana troops in Virginia shared the nickname. The name lives on today in the sports programs of Louisiana State University – their teams are known today as the “Fighting Tigers of LSU”.
I know this might be a stretch for some, but I see an analogy between those miscreants from the docks and wharves of long ago and the small Christian church I find myself a part of today. We have a tendency to fight and argue with each other. We have a penchant for saying and doing the wrong things on many occasions. But we are a tight-knit group of individuals with a common purpose and goal – fighting the devil and the forces of evil that are arrayed against us on a daily basis. I’ll admit that in this battle, sometimes we are less than tigers and more often like sheep. But through faith and our trust in what God has planned for us, the battle will be won in the end.
Jesus told Peter, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Sometimes the future looks bad for our church, as with any Christian church. We encounter enemies from without and within. But we have a promise in these verses from Jesus Himself that the very gates of hell will not prevail against the church He has built. We’re also reminded that when we are at our weakest, that is when He is strongest in our lives.
Knowing this as truth, it should be easier for us as Christians to remain firm in our churches and most importantly, in our faith. We would do very well to remember that we should be more like tigers in what appears today to be the closing stages of the conflict.