Baptists and the American Civil War: February 17, 1863

North Carolina Map

Today a North Carolina army missionary, a minister working to distribute Christian literature among North Carolina’s confederate soldiers, from Goldsboro (east of Raleigh) pens a letter reminding home front North Carolinians that the future of the Confederacy lies in the hands of “our young men” in the army.

…. Remember my dear friends that nearly all our young men are in the army and that the active violent influences now at work will in a short time fix their characters for life, remember further that these men will dictate our laws, control society and give character to the country in a few years–remember too that the elements that determine a nations destiny are born and [?] in war. The causes that will mould the nature of our government are being set on foot just now. These causes and influences can not but be evil unless they are blessed by God–but we can not look for his blessings without laboring for it. It will be a blessing to us to have lived in such times as these if we do our duty, but what would be our duty in ordinary times, would scarcely tith it now. The signs of the times indicate that God is trying our love for his cause to see whether we love him or mammon more–whether ease or labor more. Let more of our ministers come to the army–they can find congregations here–and they must make self denials too. Let our people pray more, and then they will feel more interest in the soldier….

What is the daily life of these North Carolina men upon whose shoulders the future governance of a free Confederacy is envisioned? Published in this week’s North Carolina Biblical Recorder is a letter from a correspondent with the 53th N.C. Regiment. Written from “Near Kinston” (a town in the eastern portion of the state, east of Raleigh and north of Wilmington) a week earlier, the letter writer offers a first hand account of life in his regiment, as well as his views of the righteousness of the Southern cause.

Dear Bro. Hufham:–I avail myself of idle moments today to furnish you a brief sketch of our recent march from Goldsboro to this place.

About 2 o’clock A. M., on Wednesday, the 4th instant, we were aroused from our quiet slumbers, and ordered to cook rations and prepare for marching; and about 7 o’clock A. M., we left our encampment and marched to Goldsboro. There we remained shivering with cold until 3 o’clock P. M., when we set out, on foot, for Kinston. The snow which had fallen the day before, was still several inches deep, and the cold was intense, and our march was extremely laborious and disagreeable. But these things were not new to us, and we pressed on till dark, and then halted in a grove of pines, to encamp for the night. Your readers can easily imagine the comforts of our situation when I tell you that we had to rake away the snow, to make down our beds.

Early next morning, we resumed our march, and, to add to its fatigues, a steady rain set in, melting the snow and rendering the road which lay through a low, marshy country, almost impassable. But we continued to advance slowly and toilfully till 3 o’clock P. M., when we halted for the day, erected temporary shelters to protect us from the rain, and again raked away the snow with the view of making our beds, not more comfortable, but  more uncomfortable.

The rain continued without cessation; the water courses were considerably swollen, and we remained in this dreary encampment till Saturday the 7th, when we again moved forward under more favorable auspices. The snow had disappeared; the rain had ceased to fall; the sky, which had been dark and lowering, was clear and fair as the brow of beauty; and the sun shone out with unusual brilliancy and splendor. We had suffered much from cold and fatigue, but all remembrance of it seemed to be lost, and inspired by the loveliness of the scene, the men marched forward as briskly and cheerfully as if going to some gay festival. No murmuring was heard, and all seemed anxious to meet the vandal foe, whose brutality and tyranny had rendered it necessary for us to endure these privations and hardships.

We reached Kinston about sunset, and encamped in a pine grove, until the next evening, and then removed to a beautiful eminence near by. We are comfortably located now, but I can not tell how long we shall remain here, as the 53rd always has to go when there is any marching to do.

Our boys stood the journey finely, and the health of the Regiment is excellent at present. There is not a single member of Company K on the sick list.

Since our arrival here, we have heard but little from the Yankees. All seems to be quiet now, but I do not know how soon the miserable hirelings will advance in this direction. We are ready for them at any time, and are prepared to do all that men can do to save our State from the desolation, and her children from the insults and outrages, which have marked the progress of the enemy wherever he has gone.

The struggle for independence has indeed been hard. Many of the noblest sons of our country have laid themselves bleeding sacrifices on the altar of liberty, and a large portion of her fair domain has been visited with desolation, or now groans under the iron sway of the oppressor. Yet a while longer the struggle must continue, and we are prepared to wage it to the bitter end; but we earnestly hope that God will soon infuse a little reason into the minds of our enemies, and grant us the boon of peace and independence.

T. C. L.

Sources: A Colporteur, “Do We Discern the Signs of the Times?”, Biblical Recorder, February 25, 1863 (link); Biblical Recorder, February 18, 1863 (link)