Baptists and the American Civil War: March 7, 1864

confederatesoldiersThis week’s North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder publishes a recent letter from a soldier in the 22nd North Carolina Regiment.

Letters from soldiers are eagerly read by home front families who constantly search for news in the camps and from the battlefields. Baptist soldiers’ interpretations of the war, including the religious aspects of army life, offer continued hope that the Confederacy might yet emerge victorious over the abolitionist North. In keeping with this trajectory of thought, few if any letters from soldiers who oppose the war are published in Southern Baptist periodicals. Then again, perhaps soldiers opposed to the war–as many increasingly are–simply do not write for publication for fear of potential repercussions.

The letter published in this week’s Biblical Recorder suggests that the war is purging the army and, by extension, the Confederacy from sin.

Picket Camp, on Rapid Ann, Va,
February 24th, 1864

Dear Brother Hufham:–If it would be no intrusion upon your space, I ask room again for the expression of a few thoughts in your interesting columns. I have been in camp nearly three years and through the mercy of God I am yet living. Indeed I have often been made to wonder why my worthless life has been spared, while so many have been called from time, whose mental and physical qualifications for usefulness so far exceeded my own. I am opposed to much boasting of our religious attainments; for, let our moral improvements be what they may, we are yet a sinful people, unworthy of many of the blessings we enjoy. Yet I think there is much in our present prospects to cheer the souls of those who are anxiously concerned for the glorious cause of Jesus.

It is evident that the present war is a rod in the hand of God for scourging the nation; it is a means of purging us of pride and idolatry, and will continue till it accomplishes that whereunto he sent it. There must then be a change, a reformation, and those who have watched the tide of wickedness since the beginning of hostilities, have ground for the hope that our people have already done much towards humbling themselves, turning to God and seeking “his favor which is life, and his loving kindness which is better than life.” That there has been a manifest out pouring of the Holy Spirit upon our people, both at home and in the army, no one can doubt who exercises a living faith in the gospel which we profess. Marked revivals of religion have taken place in nearly every brigade in the army of northern Virginia during the past year, and many stout-hearted men who are exposed to all the perils of war, have been made to feel their need of a Saviour, and have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them. Cotemporary with this, reports have come up from all parts of the Confederacy that the Lord was manifesting his grace in the happy conversion of many precious souls. And shall we be so faithless and unbelieving as not to behold the wonderful works of God in our midst? But, christian friends, the good work is only begun; the curse is not removed, and a great work of repentance is yet to be done. A large proportion of our people yet disregard God, and, Galleo like, care for none of these things–they are yet in their sins. The inordinate love of gain, striving for worldly honor, and certainly abominable in the sight of heaven are of daily practice among us. Where are the soldiers of the cross? Let them bestir themselves to carry on the work of reformation. Where are the lukewarm christians, who barely remember that their names are recorded on the church book? Where are the backsliders, who by their actions have denied the Lord? Let every one awake to a lively sense of his, or her individual duty. This is a day of trial. The Devil is working with all his might, and christians should be vigilant too; they should come out from the wicked, and be a peculiar people, zealous of good works.–By the grace of God we may do much toward the safety and happiness of our country. The Sodomites had invoked the wrath of God upon them by wickedness; yet in answer to the earnest supplication of Abraham he would spare them, peradventure ten righteous could be found in the city. Who dare say that if Abraham had continued to plead, and have reduced the number to five or three he would not have been heard?

We would be glad if some Baptist minister would become chaplain in our brigade. The 11th and 52nd are now without chaplains, and it is sometimes necessary to seek the services of chaplains from other parts of the army to receive and baptize members into the Baptist church. Eight of the brigade were immersed in Rapidan to day by the Rev. Mr. Jones, Army Missionary.

Can’t the christian friends of the 26th  send us about ten copies of the Recorder? We seldom get it, and we appreciate it mightily.

Fraternally yours,

G.D. S.
Co. F., 26th N. C. T.

Pride, greed, worldliness: are these the extent of the sins of the Confederacy? Is the South conceivably “cursed” because of some greater sin that white Southern Christians remain unwilling to acknowledge?

Source: Biblical Recorder, March 6, 1864 (link)