Baptists and the American Civil War: August 27, 1863

revivals_confederatesAn editorial in this week’s Georgia Baptist Christian Index compares “Religion North and South,” turning to the alleged witness of a Union chaplain to prove that Confederate soldiers are more righteous than their northern counterparts.

The London Times, in its remarks upon the late judicious address put forth to the christians of the world, by about one hundred ministers of the various denominations at Richmond, states that the studied effort of the Northern press has been to create the impression that all the religion of America was at the North, while none existed at the South; but, (the Times goes on to assert) testimony is afforded and evidence is given that far more of true religion exists at the South and among her armies, than among the fanatical and puritanical masses of the North.

And the piety of many of our general officers and soldiers; the exertions of the people to evangelize the army; the revivals in the army itself; the dissemination of religious reading among our troops, all go to prove the fact that more genuine religion exists among our people, than among the Yankees. The testimony of our enemies themselves go to substantiate the same statement. A Federal chaplain, writing from Kentucky, says:

“It is my confident belief that the soldiers of the rebellious Confederacy are better supplied with Bibles than our own. This may be owing in part to the free and easy way they have of picking up loose things that come in their way–‘confiscating them,’ I believe it is called. They may, in this way, have laid violent hands upon property of the American Bible Society. But their supplies are not all obtained in that way. Soon after the commencement of our civil troubles, a large edition of the New Testament, intended expressly for soldiers, was published at Nashville, and extensively circulated among them. And the Rev. Mr. Talbot, who, though a loyal man, was allowed to run at large at the time, informs me that, during the occupancy of Columbus by the rebels, one could not pass along the streets without seeing large numbers of them attentively reading their Bibles. They did not appear to be afraid or ashamed to do so, and therein afforded to our soldiers an example for imitation. For, either from a want of the Book, or of a disposition to use it, Bible-reading is not a noticeable characteristic of our army. I wish it were. Were it not that ‘comparisons are odious,’ and that I might incur the charge of having rebel sympathies from some who do not know me, I would further state that, in the opinion of ‘reliable information,’ profanity is much less common among the soldiers of the “Confederacy” than it is among our own.”

These words take place against the backdrop of an ongoing debate in the Southern Baptist press over the righteousness–or lack of righteousness–within the Confederate Army. Regardless, many Baptists of the South embrace widespread reports of army revivals.

Source: “Religion North and South,” Christian Index, August 28, 1863