Baptists and the American Civil War: February 26, 1862

Samuel Boykin

Samuel Boykin, Editor, Christian Index

News of the Union occupation of Nashville is filtering throughout the South, accompanied by no little alarm. Days will pass before the Baptist press is able to comment on this unfortunate turn of events for the Confederacy. At the moment, however, a currently circulating editorial by Samuel Boykin, editor of Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index, offers perspective on war setbacks:

The future is wisely to us the great unknown. The wisest finite mind does not dare to pronounce an infallible prophecy concerning it. Who can tell, except the Allwise, what is to be the fate of the young Confederacy?–Whether she is to rear a majestic head and command the respect of the proud nations of the earth, or, invaded and subjugated, she is to have her name blotted out, her fair cities depopulated and her children driven forth and scattered like a people accursed of God; who can tell? But upon every southern lip the answer is ready, “we will not be subjugated.–The iron hand of despotism may crush out every spark of life, but it will not compel us to surrender. We will fight for our independence and rights, or we and our wives and our children will die!” This is the universal sentiment; and, trusting to God, we may come out victors in the contest. But without this trust, without a proper employment of the means he has placed in our hands, the outstretched arm of Jehovah will be withdrawn, and like Pharoah’s host, we will be utterly destroyed.

We have great confidence in the bravery and unflinching valor of southern blood–in the out-gushing of enthusiasm for a righteous cause… But chiefly is our confidence in the Lord of hosts, who is on our side….

A foe, mightier than we, is arrayed against us–encompassing us by sea and land. God and southern valor only is our trust.

We have anxiously inquired of late, Are southern valor and enthusiasm overrated? Is the divine spark burning as brightly as in the beginning of the contest? Has not nine months of inactive camp life discouraged and wearied and sickened the soldier who enlisted, willing and ready to shed his life’s blood to repel the invader? If such is the unfortunate case, we deplore it, and believe that events are awaiting us that will rekindle this flame, and leave none but the aged and decrepid to protect our firesides. Let every man, he who has served the past year and others of proper age, buckle on his armor; and, panoplied with the fervent prayers and sincere God-speed of the women of the land, go forth to battle with the foe.

Oh! that every soldier could cast aside self-interest, or as Cardinal Woolsey advised Cromwell, “fling away ambition, and love himself last,” and impelled by a pure and burning patriotism show himself ready to fall a “blessed martyr.” With an army of such men, overpowering numbers, mighty armadas, nor opposing foreign powers could intimidate us.–We would soon establish an honorable peace, and be known and recognized by the whole civilized world. But, alas! for us and for our cause! We already hear of complaints in the army–men seeking popularity and easing their consciences by serving a few months, and declaring when their term of enlistment expires, they will return home.

We hear of the old Federal system of political intrigue for office and promotion reinstated in our Confederate Capital, and last and greatest calamity of all, we hear of demoralization in camp–men given up to dissipation, and no edict from the head of Government or commanding officers to suppress it–officers themselves setting the revolting example.–Will not the Almighty Leader frown upon such an army? Will he not turn his face from us and cut us off in his righteous displeasure?

Verily, when we reflect upon the momentous results which depend from this war, we think it is time these abuses were corrected.–Indeed, in the present gloomy aspect of affairs, we are forced sometimes to think that nothing but the mercy of an omnipotent God, and the ascending prayers of a nation of noble women, are to relied on to save our beloved Confederacy.

Then, let us wrestle hard until we obtain a blessing upon our bleeding land.

The Calvinistic-infused theme of God’s covenant with the Confederacy dependent upon the faithfulness of the people of God’s chosen nation will be voiced again and again in the coming years, as certainty of victory ever dims. Nashville, as such, presages darker times ahead. And yet, even if God should forsake the Confederacy, a second theme of Boykin’s will also permeate the months and years ahead: white southerners will not give up the fight.

Source: “Thoughts; for Citizens and Soldiers,” Christian Index, February 18, 1862