Baptists and the American Civil War: February 9, 1864

Jefferson DavisDespite the reversal of fortunes in the Confederacy, Southern Baptist leaders remain firm in their support of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

For his part, Davis often couches the war against the United States as a holy war, as he does yet again today in an address to soldiers via General Orders No. 19.

Davis’s optimistic words in General Order No. 19 belie the current perilous nature of the Confederacy and, despite the confidence of Baptist leaders of the South, are met with puzzlement by many who are rightfully worried about the future of their young nation.

Is the Confederate president really as confident of victory as he seemingly voices today? Is he aware that his nation is coming apart? Is he becoming detached from reality?

Soldiers of the Armies of the Confederate States!

In the long and bloody war in which your country is engaged, you have achieved many noble triumphs. You have won glorious victories over vastly more numerous hosts. You have cheerfully borne privations and toil to which you were unused. You have readily submitted to restraints upon your individual will, that the citizen might better perform his duty to the State as a soldier. To all these you have lately added another triumph, the noblest of human conquests–a victory over yourselves.

As the time drew near when you who first entered the service might well have been expected to claim relief from your arduous labors and restoration to the endearments of home, you have heeded only the call of your suffering country. Again you come to tender your service for the public defence–a free offering which only such patriotism as yours could make–a triumph worthy of you and of the cause to which you are devoted.

I would in vain attempt adequately to exdress [express] the emotions with which I received the testimonials of confidence and regard which you have recently addressed to me. To some of those first received, separate acknowledgements were returned. But it is now apparent that a like generous enthusiasm pervades the whole army, and that the only exception to such magnanimous tender will be of those who, having originally entered for the war, can not display anew their zeal in the public service. It is, therefore, deemed appropriate, and, it is hoped, will be equally acceptable, to make a general acknowledgement, instead of successive special responses. Would that it were possible to render my thanks to you in person, and in the name of our common country, as well as in my own, while pressing the hand of each war worn veteran, to recognize his title to our love, gratitude and admiration.

Soldiers! By your will (for you and the people are but one) I have been placed in a position which debars me from sharing your dangers, your sufferings and your privations in the field. With pride and affection my heart has accompanied you in every march; with solicitude it has sought to minister to you[r] every want, with exultation it has marked your every heroic achievement.–Yet never in the toilsome march, nor in the weary watch, nor in the desperate assault, have you rendered a service so decisive in results as in this last display of the highest qualities of devotion and self sacrifice which can adorn the character of the warrior patriot.

Already the pulse of the whole people beats in union with yours. Already they compare your spontaneous and unanimous offer of your lives, for the defence of your country, with the halting and reluctant service of the mercenaries who are purchased by the enemy at the price of higher bounties than hitherto have been known in war. Animated by this contrast, they exhibit cheerful confidence and more resolute bearing.–Even the murmurs of the weak and timid, who shrink from the trials which make stronger and firmer your noble natures, are shamed into silence by the spectacle which you present.–Your brave battle cry will ring loud and clear through the land of the enemy, as well as our own; will silence the van glorious boastings of their corrupt partisans and their pensioned press; and will do justice to the calumny by which they seek to persuade a deluded people that you are ready to purchase dishonorable safety by degrading submission.

Soldiers! The coming spring campaign will open under auspices well calculated to sustain your hopes. Your resolution needed nothing to fortify it. With ranks replenished under the influence of your example, and by the aid of your representatives, who give earnest of your purpose to add, by legislation, largely to your strength, you may welcome the invader with a confidence justified by the memory of past victories. On the other hand, debt, taxation, repetition of heavy drafts, dissensions, occasioned by the strife for power, by the pursuit of the spoils of office, by the thirst for the plunder of the public treasury, and, above all, the consciousness of a bad cou[r]se, must tell with fearful force upon the overstrained energies of the enemy. His campaign in 1864 must from the exhaustion of his resources both in men and money, be far less formidable than those of the last two years, when unimpaired means were used with boundless prodigality, and with results which are suggested by the mention of glorious names of Shiloh and Perryville, and Murfreesboro’ and Chickamauga, and the Chickahominy, and Manassas, and Fredericksburg and Chancelorsville.

Soldiers! Assured success awaits us in our holy struggle for liberty and independence, and for the preservations of all that renders life desirable to honorable men. When that success shall be reached, to you, your country’s hope and pride, under Divine Providence, will it be due. The fruits of that success will not be reaped by you alone, but your children and your children’s children in long generations to come, will enjoy blessings derived from you that will preserve your memory ever-living in their hearts.

Citizen-defenders of the homes, the liberties and the altars of the Confederacy!–That the God whom we all humbly worship may shield you with his Fatherly care, and preserve you for safe return to the peaceful enjoyment of your friends and the association of those you most love, is the earnest prayer of your Commander in Chief.

Jefferson Davis
Richmond, 9th Feb., 1864.

If the Confederate president is to be believed, victory is ripe for the picking.

Davis’ address is quickly published in the February 13 edition of the North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder.

Sources: Address of Jefferson Davis to the Soldiers of the Armies of the Confederate States, February 9, 1864, War of the Rebellion, Vol. XXXII, Part II, p. 711; published in Biblical Recorder, February 13, 1864 (link)