Baptists and the American Civil War: October 30, 1861

Map of Virginia 1860sBaptist newspapers of the South during the war typically carry much Civil War-related news, including troop movements, political developments, economic news, letters from soldiers, editorial commentary, and more.

Today’s Biblical Recorder of North Carolina prints the following letter, dated October 20, from a Baptist soldier, identified only as D. H. C.:

DEAR BRO. HUFHAM: – As we will have no services in camp this afternoon, I have come to the conclusion to spend an hour of the time in giving the outlines of our position in Virginia. We are encamped within one mile of Acquia Bridge. It was here that the battle was fought last Spring and the Confederates were victorious. Our encampment is on a lawn which surrounds a cottage of Revolutionary times. It has once been a beautiful place, but now everything about it bears traces of the times.

From the encampment you look across the noble Potomac towards the eastern shore. – There rides at anchor the Federal fleet …. All around our encampment are smaller batteries to protect this part of the country. The staff officers of this Regiment are considered among the most skillful and accomplished gentlemen in the Confederate army, and the soldiers under their command, who love them well are acknowledged to be one of the best drilled Regiments in the Old Dominion.

The health of the Regiment is better than could be expected, the men being accustomed to a milder climate than this, and the most of them never having been out of North Carolina before. The fogs and rains at this time of year are apt to bring on chills and fevers. There are at this time only about one hundred men of the Regiment sick; of these only 30 or 35 confined to the hospital, and there are no very dangerous cases among them. There have been but four deaths in the Regiment since we encamped here the 14th of August last. We have a large old-fashioned English cottage for a hospital which makes it very agreeable for the patients. When there are any dangerous cases they are sent off to Fredericksburg hospital, where they are attended to by the ladies of that town.

Bro. Hufham, allow me to say to you before I close this letter, that there is yet a great interest manifested among the soldiers about the salvation of their souls. We have reason to thank God that His Spirit has been with our Regiment nearly ever since we have been in Virginia, and has stirred up christians to the discharge of their duty, and has convicted and converted several sinners. I hope that He will continue His good work among us until we all shall be found to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel. – D. H. C.

D. H. C.’s focus on the health of soldiers is a common theme often found in soldier letters at large. Winter has not yet set in, and with the cold weather will come more illness and death. The war is already settling into a seasonal conflict, as troops establish winter camps and await the spring months before returning to the battlefield. Revivals in the camps also ebb and flow with the seasons, emotions – and hence spiritual decisions – often driven by the waves of mass deaths, ebullition of battlefield victories, months of idleness, and longing memories of home that characterize the war.

Source: Biblical Recorder, October 30, 1861