Baptists and the American Civil War: July 14, 1861

Alva B. Spencer

Alva B. Spencer, Company C 3rd Georgia Regiment

As the attention of two nations is focused upon Virginia and rumors fly about, life for some this weekend carries on in a rather normal fashion.

Julia Stanford, young member of First Baptist Church of Forsyth, Georgia, has her “type” (picture) taken, “one for Ma the other for Cousin Reuben” and entertains guests on Saturday. Today, the Sabbath, she comments:

“Went to Sabbath School [at FBC Forsyth] my class all absent but one – From thence repaired to Methodist Church – Mr. McDonnell preached – I behaved with too much levity during service.”

From Virginia, another Georgian, Confederate soldier Alva Spencer, writes a letter to his loved one, Maggie, noting that not much is yet happening in terms of fighting:

“You no doubt think that I, stationed away off here in the very centre of the war, would have a great quantity and also a great variety of news to communicate to you; but it is all a mistaken idea. It is true I hear a great deal of news; but it is hard to separate the true from the false and consequently

I write none, as I don’t wish to write you any lies … The other (day) we heard a report that there was an engagement below here in which three thousand Federal troops were slain. In a day or two it was totally contradicted. I give this only as a sample of the way in which we get all our news. It is true these reports sometimes prove to be true; but most generally they prove to be false.”

Spencer voices the pride that characterizes many southern soldiers in these opening months of the war:

“If you could see the unanimity of feeling and anxiety of the soldiers in the Confederate Army, you would not for a moment doubt the certainty of a glorious victory soon. We have ‘thrashed them out’ in every engagement so far and by the help of God will continue to do so until peace is declared … I would not be at home now to stay for any length of time for one thousand dollars.”

Nothing much may have happened yet in Virginia, but that is about to change as the horrors of war draw closer.

Sources: “The Diary of Miss Julia A. Stanford” (A copy is available in the Mercer University Georgia Baptist History Depository, Macon, Georgia); Clyde G. Wiggins, III, My Dear Friend: The Civil War Letters of Alva Benjamin Spencer, 3rd Georgia Regiment Company C (Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press, 2007), pp. 12-17 (link)