Baptists and the American Civil War: September 27, 1864

confederate_mapThe Baptist brothers Frank and Jesse James are up to no good again today, a mere three days after bushwhacking Federal forces in Fayette, Missouri. Today, they and their band of guerrillas, led by Bloody Bill Anderson, attack Centralia, Missouri, killing unarmed Union soldiers and taking their scalps.

Meanwhile, Union troops are advancing through Florida and today attack the city of Marrianna in the northwest portion of the state. A bloody and frenzied battle ensues, with Federal forces pitted against Confederate home guards. At one point when the two sides are at a stalemate, a bayonet charge by the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops swings momentum back to the Union. By the end of the day, the Federals emerge victorious, with both sides sustaining heavy losses. Some 25% of all the men of Marianna are killed, wounded or captured.

While battles are waged on the margins of the Confederacy, the siege of Petersburg continues and Shermans in Atlanta plots his next moves. Against this backdrop Georgia Baptists, reading this week’s Georgia Baptist Christian Index (published in Macon, some 80 miles south of Union-occupied Atlanta), are reminded by editor Samuel Boykin that Yankees are the most evil people ever to have existed in the history of the world. Stand firm and fight in this dark hour, white Southerners are encouraged, and hold firm to the belief that the Confederacy will yet win the war, thus perpetuating the God-given “rights” of whites to hold blacks in bondage.

Days sweep by and our Confederacy still lifts a defiant head, and boldly confronts her vile invaders–men who, regardless of all law, human and divine–devoid of every high and noble instinct–seek to overwhelm us with ruin and deprive us of all the rights for which they profess to be fighting, and which they pretend to esteem more highly than life, or treasure, or national existence.

We doubt it, in all history, rulers more unscrupulous, more regardless of human life and human rights, more blood thirsty, more coldly selfish and heartlessly cruel, ever sat at the helm of State and controlled mighty national issues, than those now lording if over the Yankee nation, and invading the territory of equal and sovereign sister States. Never, in the history of civilized nations have measures so base, cruel, tyrannical, and inhuman been adopted, as have been pursued by the generals of our enemies, who have been so successful as to penetrate our country; and for this reason, if for no other, we cannot–we will not–believe that the Almighty will give final success to their arms. So that, while their fiendish cruelties should steel our hearts and nerve our arms to deeps of highest emprise–they should excite faith within us to believe that God will yet enable us to triumph against such injustice, such heaven-daring impiety and such outrageous oppression; and this faith, exciting to heroic daring, will waft us on over this sea of blood and calamity, to the happy and glorious port of national safety and independence. We have no words that can adequately express our sentiments of Sherman’s conduct in depopulating the city of Atlanta, and, regardless of suffering and sorrow, depriving thousands of poor, feeble, sick, infirm and helpless people of home and the means of subsistence. Rightly regarded, it is enough to fix any wavering heart in undying resistance to Yankee domination; for it portrays that devilish malignity which would utterly ruin our land and exterminate our people rather than see the old union broken up. It manifests a degree of heartless cruelty and inhuman selfishness that no proud people ever should succumb to or permit to triumph. Behold our fate, if conquered! Deprived of all, imprisoned, expatriated–without rights, without hopes–beyond the pale of mercy–such of us as refuse to bow to Yankee dominion, would become homeless vagabonds upon the earth–too miserable for tears even, receiving only the contempt and degrading disregard of our brutal conquerors.

Talk about re-union in a national government with a people aiming to inflict all these woes upon us, and who, already, have heaped upon us such indignities and miseries as should excite our everlasting scorn and undying resistance!

And, yet, in full view of all this–with the tender mercies of those who know not the meaning of mercy, hanging over us as a dark and threatening cloud, some of our people are ready to become faint-hearted, as though all was lost. Shame upon them! Sham upon them, as to distrust those gallant veterans who still, undismayed, stand between us and subjugation.

No, fellow-citizens, the present may seem dark; but it is an Eden of light, compared to what we would be called upon to endure, if conquered–an event which cannot take place, under the blessing of God, if we but remain true to ourselves.

The time will come when what now appears as misfortune, will appear a blessing in disguise. Let us hope on, fight, pray on–and God will yet give us victory….

Soon all will be well.

Sources: “The Life and Times of Jesse James,” Public Broadcasting Corporation (link); “Kearney History,” Jesse James Festival (link); “The Saga of Dingus & Buck, The Beginning of the Legend of Frank and Jesse James” (link); see also Ted P. Yeatman, Frank and Jesse James: The Story Behind the Legend, Nashville: Cumberland House Publishing, 2000 (link); “Frank James,” Wikipedia (link); “Frank James,” History Net (link); Battle of Marrianna (link) and (link); “Notes on the Times,” Christian Index, September 23, 1864