Today tiny Lebanon Baptist Church in Crawford County, Georgia, convenes in a business meeting and grapples with war, death and God’s will. Anguished over the loss of a solider member and his father, the congregation issues a statement “in memory of our deceased Brethren O. M. McAfee & A. J. McAfee.” In the midst of the mourning, church members offer a common defense of the righteousness of the South’s slave-based culture, affirming the war as a fight for the “liberty” and “independence” of white citizens:
“Whereas it hath been the pleasure of the alwise dispenser of events, to cut down by the relentless hand of death, away from home & most of his family connexion, in the service of his country at Yorktown, Va. on the 11th of Sept. 1861 our much beloved brother & esteemed friend Owen M. McAfee, aged 25 years, in prime of life & at an hour, when the energies of his mind were absorbed in the cause of Liberty & Independence of his country & the protection of helpless & defenseless women & children of the same.
And, whereas the God of the universe hath, also, seen fit to remove from our midst our much beloved brother A. J. McAfee, the father of our deceased Bro. O. M. McAfee, immediately after his return from a visit to the grave of his son; &, also, to visit a surviving son, at the time sick, in camp, at Yorktown, on the 3rd October 1861 – a visit it would seem, designed by a kind Providence to take a last farewell of his son & other dear relatives encamped at that place, aged 49 years.
Bro A. J. McAfee, an acting deacon of Lebanon Church, was kind & benevolent in all the relations of life: &, his was an exemplary walk both to the Christian & to the world. He was unassuming, but prompt in the discharge of the various duties of life. he was moral & neighbourly; an affectionate father & kind devoted husband; enjoying the confidence & esteem of all his associates.
It is with pain that we contemplate the loss of these, our Blessed Brethren – a loss which we can hardly realize in our feelings to be true. But while we much regret their loss to us, we feel assured that it is their eternal gain. That were for a very short time separated in this life: but, soon again to be reunited on the other side of the cold Jordan of death where their sainted spirits join in praises to God & to the Lamb; &, where parting will be no more.
Resolved, that we solemnly deplore the loss we have sustained in the death of these much esteemed Brethren. That in this dispensation of an alwise Providence, this church has sustained a severe loss & the community two high minded, honorable & much esteemed citizens.”
Sources: Minutes, Lebanon Baptist Church, Crawford County, Georgia (available in Mercer University’s Jack Tarver Library, Special Collections, Macon, Georgia); photo of Civil War dead (link)