Baptists and the American Civil War: September 8, 1861

The Southeastern United States

The Southeastern United States

Today, Sunday, the 3rd Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry seeks a suitable place on the upper North Carolina coast to construct a battery. The effort is part of larger campaign by Confederate forces to hurriedly secure their coastlines in the face of a superior Union Navy.

Alva Spencer, a Mercer University graduate, records a rather humorous incident that takes place as his regiment is scouring the North Carolina coastline:

This morning (8th) Col. Wight invited us to accompany him across Croatan Sound to the mainland, for selecting a suitable place for a battery. So soon as we landed, we played Dixie, it perhaps the first time it was ever played there. Some of the inhabitants hearing the music were so much frightened, that they even left their houses.

After walking about on the beach some little time, we went to a house not far off, and in it found an old man weighing about two hundred and fifty pounds, and an old woman who said she ‘wernt afeerd’. We then played several other tunes frightening the old man’s little dog nearly to death. When we commenced playing, the old man’s son ‘Jake’ left for parts unknown, thinking us to be Yankees …

Meanwhile, fellow Georgian Julia Stanford, a young Baptist lady from Forsyth, is having a splendid weekend. The distant war temporarily receding to the background of her mind, Standford on Saturday takes an outing in the countryside with friends:

Saw the King of day rise fling abroad his crimson coverings – All nature has quite an unusual lovely appearance. The lowing cattle the quacking geese & gobbling turkeys all to be spoke of a new language.

Up & doing About 10 o’clock we 9 of us took seats in a two horse wagon an were soon hunting Muscadines [grapes] and Chinquapins [nuts]. But ere we had gone 2 miles we decided to prolong our Journey to the High Falls & view again the grandeur of Natures Workmanship.

I have not room to detail minutely the events of today but they are graven on my memory & will ever be remembered & pleasant.

The party of nine decides to lodge away from home overnight. Sunday arrives:

Rain, rain falling we fear we shall fail to get home today. But now there is a rift in the cloud & We start soon down comes Rain – Reach town about 11 O’ck. everybody gone to Church … Went to Church tonight Mr. McDonnell preached. Quite a No. of anxious persons went up for prayer. The blessing is being dispensed – O, that all would come & drink freely for it is free to as many as will come – Come and welcome – Jesus bids you come.

Personal faith is the religious language of the South. Stanford’s emphasis on heart-felt religion is a snapshot of the faith among white Baptists that accompanies the South’s crusade to uphold God’s plan for a racially hierarchical world. True faith in the lives of individuals will translate into God’s blessings upon the South. Thus believe many white Baptists worshipping throughout the Confederacy this day.

Sources: 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. 26-27 (link); “The Diary of Miss Julia A. Stanford” (A copy is available in the Mercer University Georgia Baptist History Depository, Macon, Georgia); map image (link)