Taking a short break from 10 Totally Random Facts posts and introducing another set of Historical posts I’m excited to share! I love to see how God works in the lives of ordinary people, but also in historical situations. Today, I’m gonna share one that I love, the story of Dr. Max Rossvalley, a surgeon during the War Between the States. But it starts with a boy named Charlie…
(Quotes are paraphrases)
Sometime between July 1st and July 5th of 1863, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a drummer of only 17 years of age was severely wounded during either the fighting or skirmishes of the unsuccessful Confederate campaign. Carried to the camp for medical attention, Charlie was turned over to a Jewish surgeon named Max L. Rossvalley. Not many truly trusted the man, since he had been a scout for the Confederate Army before. No one knows to this day if Rossvalley indeed defected or if he was still secretly spying on the Federals from the inside.
Charlie was in a great deal of pain but refused to take chloroform or brandy for the pain, having promised his mother never to touch anything that resembled alcohol. The nurse and Dr. Rossvalley both urged him to take the medication, but he steadfastly refused. He was to lose his arm and leg, and Dr. Rossvalley knew he would more than likely die of shock. The boy said, “If you won’t make me take anything, I won’t
make a scream, I promise.”
He spoke with a chaplain, asking him to give his Bible to his mother. Then he turned to the doctor and told him he was ready.
Rossvalley was not a Christian, and drinking was a problem he didn’t try to deal with at this point in his life. He “braced himself” for the operation and headed in to remove the boy’s appendages.
The only sound the boy made the entire time was when he took the edge of the pillow between his teeth and said, “Lord, please stand by me now!”
The boy asked to see the doctor a few days later, and though he didn’t want to talk to the boy, he went to see him. The boy told him about Jesus, witnessing to him. Rossvalley said he couldn’t believe in Jesus, because he was Jewish. Charlie Coulson replied that his best Friend (Jesus) was Jewish. Then he asked Dr. Rossvalley to stay by his side and watch him die, trusting in his Savior.
Later that day, however, the boy’s pleading to see the doctor was rewarded and Rossvalley came back to him. Charlie told him that he had to say something. He said, “While you were amputating my arm and leg, I asked the Lord to save you.” With those words, he passed into the Presence of his Savior. And Rossvalley had indeed seen him die.
Years later, Rossvalley met a barber, who witnessed to him and impressed him with the sign on his wall that said, “Please do not swear in this room.” When he arrived home, the man’s words haunted him, and he couldn’t get away from them. At last, Rossvalley gave his life to Christ, including his desire for alcohol.
His wife was furious and left the house with their two children. She told the children never to call him father and never allowed them to read his letters. His mother and family in Germany disowned him, holding a funeral for him.
But God does move in mysterious ways.
Dr. Rossvalley’s daughter read one of his letters and felt moved by his words. She confessed her disobedience to her mother but begged her to read the message. As a result, Mrs. Rossvalley and the children were saved, and the family was restored.
But the story doesn’t end there.
While traveling, he stopped at a Church and heard a woman give her testimony. She was dying but wanted everyone to know she was ready to go. She was so excited to see her Savior and her son, who had died at Gettysburg following a double amputation.
The Chaplain had sent her a letter and his bible and informed her of his witnessing to his Jewish doctor.
Rossvalley stood and finished the story. “I am that Jewish Doctor that your son prayed for. And his Savior is now my Savior.”
What are the chances of such a thing occurring? Pretty big when God is at work. Mrs. Coulson gave Dr. Rossvalley Charlie’s letter and Bible, which he carried with him until his death.
Have a blessed day!
Christian. American. Southern. Author.