Baptists and the American Civil War: March 21, 1863

revivals_confederatesRichmond’s Daily Dispatch today carries a story about the growing revival in Confederate army camps in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia. Baptists and others are reaping the benefits of the spirit’s movement.  John L. Burrows is the pastor of Richmond’s prominent First Baptist Church. In addition to pastoring, during the war Burrows ministers diligently to Virginia’s soldiers, both within and without Richmond.

On Sunday morning, in passing the Episcopal church, in which the religious exercises that, for the past three weeks, have excited so much interest in this community, are held, I saw a large crowd of soldiers, with some citizens and ladies, issue from the church and pass along Hanover street towards the battle field. I followed them and witnessed a strange sight, and one which does not often meet the eyes in times like these. There is a stream of water flowing in the rear of the town, which, being obstructed, has overflowed is banks, and inundated the valley through which it washes the western border of the graveyard in which so many of our gallant soldiers lie side by side, situate of the diseases contracted twelve months since on the Potomac. Around this running water a large crowd had gathered, and the swelling notes of an appropriate hymn broke the stillness of this quiet Sabbath morning, as an anthem of praise ascended from a thousand manly voices. The Rev. Dr. Burrows, Rev. Mr. Cowling, and Mr. Ow were present, and officiated in services — and there, upon the very border of the battle-field, with the frowning batteries of the Confederates in front, the graves of our gallant dead around, the songs of joy and praise borne upon the air in incense of tribute and adoration to the God of Battles, the ordinance of baptism, by immersion, was administered to twenty-three members of Gen. Barks brigades. It was a strange and solemn spectacle, and impressed deeply all who gazed upon it — the time, the place, the circumstances, were all impressive. A few months before the decant tread of our insolent invaders fresh from their dastardly work of pillage and destruction, pressed this very soil.–The arm of the Almighty was bared for our defence. He gave our Generals wisdom. He moved the arms of our soldiers in this righteous cause, and there the lifeless carcasses of our enemies lay thickly around the spot, and now the spirit of devotion has descended in mercy upon our camps, and the harvest of the Lord is gathered here, from among the bravest of our noble soldiery, and the song of praise, the incense of an humble adoration, returns to, Heaven from the very field which God has blessed us with so a deliverance. It was a fit return for all His mercies — a worthy tribute to His honor and His glory — a signal instance of His presence and His blessing. May the God of battle ever manifest His power and His goodness thus, and dwell among us until the end.

Returning from the field to the church (riddled as it is with the balls of the enemy) the same ordinance was administered, “by pouring,” upon eighteen other members of the brigade, Rev. Mr. Owens officiating, and the Rev. Dr. Burrows delivered an eloquent and impressive section to a crowded and attentive audience.

There is manifestly a serious and earnest interest in the subject of religion excited among the soldiers of this brigade, and the reverend gentlemen are indefatigable in their labors, which have been crowned with great success.

Sources: “From Fredericksburg,” Daily Dispatch, March 21, 1863 (link); image (link)