Baptists and the American Civil War: June 4, 1864

Confederate States MapIn the Atlanta Campaign today, Union cavalry under General William T. Sherman are currently entrenched at Allatoona Pass, west of Atlanta. Here they control a railroad that provides access to supplies and troop reinforcements. On the morrow Sherman withdraws his soldiers from Dallas and begins moving them to Allatoona Pass in order to ascertain control of the critical juncture. Once again, Confederate General Joe Johnston is forced to shadow the federals from a distance in order to prevent the enemy from outflanking him toward Atlanta.

In Virginia, the Union and Confederate armies both cease large scale attacks and settle down into trench warfare characterized by sharpshooters and artillery shells. For nine days the standoff continues. The weather is hot and the conditions in the trenches are dusty and miserable. Food and water runs short; medical services are largely unavailable. Grant finally relents on the 12th of the month, withdrawing his forces and marching across the James River in an effort to reach Petersburg.

Thus the Confederates win the Battle of Cold Harbor, a victory that will prove to be Robert E. Lee‘s last. Grant, however, continues his relentless drive to capture Richmond.

Meanwhile, some Georgia Baptists are reading an editorial in the Christian Index that speaks of prayers for the Confederacy.

.…In this city [Macon, Ga.], there has been kept up for a few weeks past a daily union prayer meeting for the country. So deeply have the christians of this city been impressed with our dependence upon the God of battles for the success of our arms, that they have sent a press telegram to the christians all over the Confederacy to unite with them at 5 o’clock every afternoon in prayer for the Divine blessing to rest upon our arms. Earnest unceasing, agonizing prayer should be made to Him who has promised to hear his own elect, who cry unto Him day and night.

Prayer has been heard and answered, let it encourage us to continue to supplicate the throne. “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you.”

The Lord Almighty alone can give us victory, and he alone can make our victories prove blessings to our country. Let us confess and forsake our sins, and turn to the Lord with all our hearts. Then we can say in pious faith, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusteth in Him, and I am helped, therefore my heart rejoiceth, and with my song, I will praise him.”

Pious many white Baptists of the South may be, but thus far they they are not confessing their most prominent sin, that of black slavery over which the war is being so bitterly fought. Few, if any, have considered that at this juncture in American history, blacks (who are also praying to God day and night), rather than whites, might be God’s “elect.”

Sources: Battle of Cold Harbor (link) and (link) and (link); Atlanta Campaign (link) and (link); “Notes on the Times,” Christian Index, June 3, 1864