Baptists and the American Civil War: October 19, 1863

Thomas J. "Stonewall" JacksonDuring this season of Confederate discontent, as white Southerners cast about for signs of hope and inspiration, heroes are desperately needed. Confederate General Robert E. Lee‘s heroic boldness and bravery command much respect, yet the bitter and costly defeat at Gettysburg in July has tarnished his image.

Oh for the glory days of Manassas! Either battle, for the South had won both.

In the collective memory of the white Confederacy, the heroic stature of one man–a man whose military bravery and genius ensured Southern victories in both battles of Manassas and other military engagements during the first two years of the war–is rising all the more in the midst of the present darkness.

The late Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, now deceased for a long five months due to an unfortunate battlefield injury, is rapidly becoming the first saint of the Southern nation. Would the South be winning the war if Stonewall had not met an untimely death? Many believe so.

A short, illustrative story in this week’s North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder evidences the hallowed place that the general–who attended a Baptist church in his youth and whose Christian faith had been evident among his men–holds in the hearts and minds of many white Southern Christians.

Previous to the first battle of Manassas, when the troops under the command of Stonewall Jackson had made a forced march, on halting at night, they fell on the ground exhausted and faint. The hour arrived for setting the watch for the night. The officer of the day went to the general’s tent, and said, “General, the men are all wearied, and there is not one but is asleep. Shall I wake them?” “No!” said the noble Jackson, “let them sleep, and I will watch the camp to night.” And all night long he rode round that lonely camp, the only one lone sentinel for that brave, but weary and silent host of Virginia heroes. And when glorious morning broke the soldiers woke refreshed, and ready for action, all unconscious of the noble vigils kept over their slumber.

Even in death, Stonewall keeps watch, his spirit hovering over a troubled nation.

Source: “So Christ Watches for His Warriors,” Biblical Recorder, October 21, 1863 (link)