Baptists and the American Civil War: July 14, 1864

Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi Map 1861Today in the Battle of Tupelo in Lee County, Mississippi, Union General Major General A. J. Smith, commanding some 14,000 men, is attacked by Confederate Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee wielding a force of some 8,000. The Rebel attack, however, is largely uncoordinated, allowing Smith and his forces to easily repel the enemy. Within a few hours, the Confederates are in retreat. Smith, short on rations, chooses not to pursue.

The Battle of Tupelo is a Union victory, although Smith’s objective of destroying Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command has not been realized. Nonetheless, the Federals have caused much damage to the enemy to the west of Atlanta, in the process securing Sherman‘s supply lines and enabling the Atlanta Campaign to continue.

The Union campaign against Atlanta is one of two great, long-running campaigns currently under way, the other being the effort to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital. Atlanta is by now in dire straits, with the Federals entrenched on the city’s outskirts. Richmond, too, is nervous, as the armies of Ulysses S. Grant are a mere ten miles distant besieging the strategic city of Petersburg.

The crisis in the Confederacy is great enough that many realize that it will take an extraordinary and united effort on the part of all white Southerners to reverse battlefield losses and achieve victory over the United States. This week’s North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder addresses this very theme.

This great crisis has witnessed many an act of unrecorded heroism, of if recorded at all, limited to the knowledge of intimate friends. Every battlefield has its utterances of defiant valor, its acts of patient endurance and sublime self-sacrifice. C. A. Durham of North Carolina, at the moment that he fell mortally wounded, had in his pocket a furlough for fifteen days, to attend the wedding of a kinsman. He had declined leaving. A battle was imminent. Drewery’s Bluff was threatened. Armed enemies were marching towards it. He turned his back upon “the beauty and the chivalry” that were to grace the festive occasion, and fixed his face towards the foe, “Every man is needed,” he said, “the country can spare none.” And so he stayed and fought and died. Would that the mantle of this young patriot could fall upon the hale, hearty laggards and cowards, who are hopping in the ball room, when they ought to be double quicking in the field.

In the struggle against Satan and his legions, all Christians are needed. Every one, however feeble, may do his part. None is too insignificant to be counted in the estimate of the general result. The water tank is as necessary for the railroad as the locomotive, and the humble track is not less a part of the arrangement than the engine that thunders over its rails. The fireman performs a part not to be despised by the engineer. All and every part contribute to the grand result. Let every Christian feel that he, individually, is needed, and let him come up to the work.

Sources: Battle of Tupelo (link) and (link); “All Needed,” Biblical Recorder, July 13, 1864 (link)