May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. Genesis 31:49b NIRV
Abigail Hunt Snelling fell on her knees, thanking God for her son’s safe return. James, a graduate of West Point had been severely wounded by a cannon ball in the Mexican War and she had waited and prayer for for six weeks, with no news of his condition.
Abigail knew tragedy and triumphs of being part of a military family. Her father served in the American Revolution and she grew up at a military post in St Louis where she learned to speak French fluently. She lost both parents at age eleven and found comfort God’s promise to be a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68).
An older brother sent her to their grandfather’s for a few years until her brother Henry, a captain at Fort Detroit, moved her to live with him. She married Captain Snelling, a hero of the War of 1812, at age fifteen. Within minutes of her wedding drums beat a call to arms and her husband left for battle. For military families, the threat of war and danger is always present and plans may change in an instant.
May is military appreciation month and begins with military spouses appreciation week. Abigail was one of the first American women to be part of a family with a father, siblings, and children who served.
The Snellings moved several times and eventually Captain Snelling oversaw the building of Fort Snelling in Minnesota. There they raised their children, Abigail taught Sunday school and organized the social life for the officers. She made friends with nearby Indians and helped interpret when they had French visitors. She served her husband, family, and community faithfully. Her husband died of inflammation of the brain in 1828. As a military widow she spent years petitioning for her husband’s pension and opened doors for other widows to receive benefits.
At one point the Snellings lived on Governor’s Island in New York. As a military wife and mom, our family was also stationed on Governor’s Island, close to the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of freedom, the reason our loved one serve and their families support them. Be thankful for those who serve and pray for families separated by military duty.
Lord, we are thankful for the families of service men and women. Guard their hearts and keep their loved ones safe.
Karen Whiting is an international speaker, foremer television host, and author of twenty-three books, including co-author of Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front: From the French and Indian War to the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her dad served in WW2, her husband served in the Coast Guard, and one son served in the Air Force in Iraq.
Note: More of Abigail’s story can be found in Pioneer Women of the West by Elizabeth Fries Ellit, Charles Scribner, 1856