Baptists and the American Civil War: January 15, 1864

Samuel Boykin

Samuel Boykin, Editor, Christian Index

The harsh winter weather prevents any notable military developments this month, providing ample time for vocal Confederate loyalists on the home front to put pen to paper in an effort to encourage a diminished Confederate Army and revive the sagging morale of Confederate citizens.

Evidencing unwavering confidence in the Confederacy, Christian Index editor James Boykin seems determined to rally Baptists of the South to victory against the North in this new year.

In today’s Index Boykin’s editorial, although bearing the unassuming title of “Notes on the Times,” is a fiery call to arms and wholesale resistance. Gone is a clear confidence in God’s Providence alone as sufficient for Confederate victory over the tyrannical United States. Rather, God is a “helper” alongside the strong arms, commitment and will of eight million white Southerners who are determined to fight for their freedom. God’s yet-chosen people will emerge victorious because white Southerners will, of their own free will and volition and bravery, refuse to allow the North to destroy their Confederacy.

Boykin’s call to victory begins with a sobering acknowledgment of reality before soaring to the lofty rhetoric of future victory.

The rain, snow, and ice of the past few weeks have bound the dogs of war. From the Potomac to the Mississippi all is quiet, except an occasional rocking of the cradle of the rebellion.

But this rest will be broken by the warm sunshine of Spring, and then again will begin the dreadful work of war. The contending parties are busy with preparations, the one to push the tide of invasion still farther South, the other, to resist that tide and perchance to turn it back and overwhelm the invader.

It is said to be the plan of Gen. Grant, who is now the Yankee hero, to march one army a hundred thousand strong from East Tennessee into Virgina, by way of Abingdon and Lynchburg. The object of this is, to take Richmond in the rear and force Gen. Lee to fall back and leave, that long sought city in the hands of the enemy. Another army equalily strong, is to march on Atlanta which, it is thought, will be yielded without much resistance. Thence the conquerors are to proceed to Macon and Augusta, and having taken these places, Charleston and Savannah will fall as a matter of course. To accomplish this programme by the 4th of July next, for that is the precise day when the job is to be completed, the enemy are collecting supplies, and strengthening their armies by every means in their power. It is said that almost all the troops whose term of service is about expiring are re-enlisting under the large bounties that are paid them, and that many are being added to to their ranks by draft, and conscription. Not much difficulty is found in inducing men to enter and to remain in the Yankee army now because the heavy reverses we have sustained within the past year, leads them to believe that the rebellion is nearly crushed out. In view of all these things it behooves us to be up and doing. The winter is rapidly gliding away. Spring will soon be upon us, and with it our enemies will come in all their power flushed with success and confident of their ability to destroy or subjugate us. Arrangements must be made to meet and drive them back. But we would not begin the work in a panic. Let it be done with calm courage which sees and feels the danger and yet prepares to meet it with coolness and deliberation. We deprecate the policy of putting boys and old men into the field. Our case has not yet become so desperate as to require so extreme a measure as that. There are soldiers enough now who belong to the army to drive back the Yankees in dismay, if they can only be put in their proper places. We want measures adopted to remedy the evils which have beset the discipline of the army. Measures that will gather up skulkers and deserters, that will diminish the number of details or substitute them, as far as practicable, with disabled soldiers and exempts; and that will keep men in their places during the season of active campaigning. We want measures that will secure the railroad transportation of the Confederacy from destruction; that will increase its facilities, and give the people at home a fair proportion of its advantages, and not allow the government to monopolize the whole. In addition to these legal measures, there must be a general awakening of the people to the dangers which threaten them.–Freedom from Yankee rule must be the soul-absorbing thought, the grand object against which all our efforts of body and of mind must be concentrated. The fires of patriotism which burned so brightly in 1861-’62, must be rekindled, and fresh resolves inspire every heart to achieve independence or to pour out the last drop of blood in the attempt. God being our helper, subjugation will be a thing impossible. Eight million of people struggling for liberty, can not be subdued so long as they choose to resist. With the resources at our command, the extent of territory we occupy, the valor of our troops in the field, and the devotion of old men, boys and women at home, we can not be conquered as long as we are determined to be free….

Largely correct in his evaluation of the military strategy of the United States in 1864 and in his assessment of how the Confederate Army will resist the southward push of the Union Army, Boykin’s unwavering confidence in ultimate victory is increasingly less visible among his fellow white Southerners.

Many, in fact, having resigned themselves to a victory by the United States, are attracted to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln‘s recent offer of amnesty. Better to surrender and retain life and sustenance, rather than risk losing all, is the reasoning of many.

Thus while Boykin is publicly counting on the loyalty of white Southerners to the Confederacy, Lincoln is quietly hopeful that enough are now wavering so as to begin drawing the war to a close. Neither is entirely right or wrong at this moment, but a trajectory is emerging in which only one will prove to be ultimately correct in his assessment of the war’s outcome.

Source: “Notes on the Times,” Christian Index, January 15, 1864