A Barber’s Faithful Witness

Gettysburg Statue 2006

Today marks the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg.

A friend sent me a link to a tract written by a Jewish doctor who attended the wounded and dying of that battle which raged from July 1 to July 3, 1863. It’s a very long tract, but fascinating.  The following is an excerpt from Charlie Coulson, the Drummer Boy by Dr. Max L. Rossvally, a surgeon in the United States Army. In the first part of the tract, Charlie Coulson shares his faith with the doctor as he dies from his wounds at Gettysburg.  The story continues:

For ten long years [after Gettysburg] I fought against Christ with all the hatred of an orthodox Jew until God in His mercy brought me in contact with a Christian barber, who proved himself a second instrument in my conversion to God.

At the close of the American war I was detailed as inspecting surgeon, and to take charge of the military hospital in Galveston, Texas. Returning one day from an inspecting tour, and on my way to Washington, I stopped to rest a few hours at New York. After dinner I stepped downstairs to the barber’s shop (which is attached to every hotel of note in the United States). On entering the room I was surprised to see hung around the room sixteen beautifully framed Scripture texts in different colors. Sitting down in one of the barber’s chairs I saw directly opposite to me, hanging up in a frame on the wall, this notice:


No sooner had the barber put the brush to my face than he began also to talk to me about Jesus. He spoke in such an attractive and loving manner that my prejudices were disarmed, and I listened with growing attention to what he said. All the while he was talking, “Charlie Coulson, the drummer boy,” came swelling up in my mind, although he had been dead ten years. I was so well pleased with the words and deportment of the barber that no sooner had he gotten done shaving me that I told him next to cut my hair, although when I entered the room I had no such thought or intention. All the while he was cutting my hair he kept steadily on preaching Christ to me, and telling me that although not a Jew himself, he was at one time as far away from Christ as I was then.

I listened attentively, my interest increasing with every word he said to such an extent that when he had finished cutting my hair I said, “Barber, you may now give me a shampoo;” in fact, I allowed him to do all that one in his profession could do for a gentleman at one sitting. There is, however, an end to all things, and my time being short I prepared to leave. I paid my bill, thanked the barber for his remarks, and said, “I must catch the next train.” He, however, was not yet satisfied. It was a bitter cold February day, and the ice on the ground made it somewhat dangerous to walk on the streets. It was only two minutes’ walk to the station from the hotel, and the kind barber at once offered to walk to the station with me. I accepted his offer gladly, and no sooner had we reached the street than he put his arm in mine to keep me from falling. He said but little as we were walking along the street until we arrived at our destination, but when we got to the station he broke the silence by saying: “Stranger, perhaps you do not understand why I chose to talk to you upon a subject so dear to me. When you entered my shop I saw by your face that you were a Jew.”

He still continued to talk to me about his “dear Saviour,” and said he felt it his duty, whenever he came in contact with a Jew, to try and introduce him to One whom he felt was his BEST FRIEND, both for this world and for the world to come. On looking a second time into his face, I saw tears trickling down his cheeks, and he was evidently under deep emotion. I could not understand how it was that this man, a total stranger to me, should take such a deep interest in my welfare, and also shed tears while talking to me.

I reached out my hand to bid him good-bye. He took it in both of his and gently pressed it, the tears still continuing to run down his face, and said: “Stranger, if it is any satisfaction for you to know it, if you will give me your card or name, I promise you; on the honor of a Christian man, that during the next three months I will not retire to rest at night without making mention of you by name in my prayers. And now may my Saviour follow you, trouble you, and give you no rest until you find Him, what I have found Him to be, a precious Saviour, and the Messiah you are looking for.”

I thanked him for his attention and his consideration, and after handing him my card, said [I fear rather sneeringly] “There is not much danger of my ever becoming a Christian.”

He then handed me his card, saying as he did so, “Will you please drop me a note or a letter if God should answer my prayers on your behalf. I smiled incredulously, and said, “Certainly I will,” never dreaming that within the next forty-eight hours, God in His mercy, would answer that barber’s prayer. I shook his hand heartily and said “Good-bye;” but in spite of outward appearance of unconcern, I felt he had made a deep impression on my mind, which indeed he had as the sequel will show.


  • To read the excerpt about Charlie, who first witnessed to Dr. Rossvally, read A Drummer Boy of Gettysburg.
  • The entire tract is on the internet, or in a printed version, here. Find out what happened to the good doctor within forty-eight hours after the barber shared his faith with him.
  • My words are in italics.
  • We took the photo of the statue and cannons in Gettysburg in September of 2006.

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