An unfolding battle in eastern Kentucky commands the attention of many Baptists south and north. Baptists fight on both sides of the conflict, while Baptists on the eastern Kentucky home-front await with anxiety-tinged anticipation and prayer.
The Battle of Mill Springs marks the high water mark of a Confederate offensive campaign in a hotly-contested region. As the battle commences, Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston commands all CSA forces from Arkansas to the Cumberland Gap. Confederate forces are stretched thin, and Union Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas seeks to take advantage of this weakness. Confederate forces, weary from marching and hampered by the winter weather, are routed by Union forces.
Although the losses are small (39 Union soldiers killed, 125 Confederate deaths), the victory is the first major Union victory of the war. News of the victory is heralded in the northern press, lifting the spirits of a weary, worried nation.
In the weeks coming, the Baptist presses North and South discuss the battle. While Baptists of the North rejoice, for Southern Baptists the Confederate defeat occasions increasing words of caution as dark clouds appear on the horizon of an otherwise confident South.
Sources: “The Battle of Mill Springs” and image (link); “Battle of Mill Springs,” National Park Service (link)