For ten months the Federals have laid siege to Petersburg, facing off against Confederate General Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia. The trenches are all that separate Union forces from the Confederate capital of Richmond, with the siege lines now stretching northward some 25 miles to the edge of Richmond. Defending Confederate forces are so thinned as to place Richmond in great danger.
Today in the Battle of White Oak Road the Confederates at Petersburg, desperately needing to break the siege, make what proves to be a final offensive against Union forces. The fighting is fierce and initially the Rebels gain the advantage, only to be driven back by the end of the day.
The stage is now set for the breaking of the siege, but not in a way the Confederates are hoping.
The soldiers of the South, although near to losing the long-fought war, are, according to Southern Baptist missionaries, winning a great spiritual battle. Indicative is one missionary’s report from South Carolina:
A very fine state of feeling exists in almost every command I have visited. The congregations are large and attentive, and manifest considerable interest in religion. I feel greatly encouraged in my work, and only regret that I cannot respond more fully to the constant and earnest appeals that come up from every quarter for more preaching.
The disconnect between battlefield reality and religious revivals in Confederate army camps could hardly be more stark. At the greatest hour of desperation for the Confederacy, the lone remaining hope for white Southerners appears to be spiritual victory.