The Clergyman

Lieutenant Colonel Rev. C. S. Bullock
237th (New Brunswick Americans) BattalionBullock

Just to fight on until at last is ended
The war with all its horrors and its pain—
To see triumphant that which I defended
And find in loss the truer greater gain
To know that men still count that death is better
Than life, if lived on suppliant’s bended knee
And give their all to snap the bounds that fetter
Then smile at Death because their souls are free

(Bullock, The Rotarian, Dec 1942, 59)

Reverend Charles Seymour Bullock was an American Unitarian minister in the Ottawa Church of Our Father at the outbreak of the First World War. Born in Cold Spring, New York on 13 February 1867, Bullock had been a chaplain in the First Illinois Cavalry during the Spanish-American War. In 1912, he accepted a position with the Unitarian Church in Ottawa. An admirer of Canada, Bullock, strongly supported the war effort against Germany, becoming involved in fundraising and recruitment.

In 1915, Bullock appealed to his friend, Minister of the Militia Sam Hughes, for the creation of an American volunteer brigade within the Canadian Expeditionary Force. A characteristically enthusiastic Hughes authorized the 97th Battalion, dubbed the American Legion to recruit American citizens in Canada and Canadian citizens living in the United States. Originally a chaplain with the 97th under Lieutenant Colonel Wade Jolly, in May 1916, Bullock was appointed commanding officer of the 237th Battalion, the fifth unit of the American Legion.


The image of an American clergyman in a Canadian uniform supporting Britain in a European war struck the New York Times as a symbol of the “blending of nationalities and beliefs into the one great purpose.” While the United States remained neutral, prominent Republicans such as former presidents Taft and Roosevelt endorsed Bullock’s initiative. Using his “magnetic powers” of recruitment, the pastor-commander reminded his countrymen “that in our Civil War forty-eight thousand Canadians, fought for the North.”

Due to the seeming eagerness of volunteers, The Outlook magazine speculated in 1916 that Bullock’s plan would result in “an American division under an American general!” However, due to political concerns within both the Borden Government and the Wilson Administration, the American units were amalgamated before being broken up in England. Bullock was allowed to go overseas as an honorary chaplain where he warned troops against “social vice” and memorialized the American war dead.

When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, Bullock hoped to gather all of his fellow citizens serving with Canadian battalions into one division under the American banner. After the war, he returned to the Midwestern United States as a lecturer on conservative political and moral causes through the Rotary Club.

Although in 1938 he had doubted whether there would be another European war, by 1942 Bullock called for the destruction of Hitler and Nazism. Writing from a veterans’ hospital in Illinois, the seventy-four year old Bullock penned the above poem in support of what he considered the continuation of the first war against German militarism. He died shortly thereafter.

Digitized Service File (LAC):

Image: “Flag handed to Queen Mary by Lt-Col Charles Seymour Bullock.” LAC, MIKAN no. 3365335

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