Baptists and the American Civil War: September 27, 1861

Southern Baptists continue ramping up efforts to support the spiritual life of Confederate Army soldiers. Today’s Richmond Times Dispatch reports on the latest soldier publication being promoted by the Baptist Colportage Board of the Baptist General Association of Virginia:

Rev. A. E. Dickinson, General Superintendent of Baptist Colportage in Virginia, has presented us with a little volume of ‘”Hymns for the Camp,”’ which has just been issued by the Colportage Board for distribution among our soldiers. The collection is an excellent one, embracing as it does some fifty hymns, nearly all of which are as familiar as household words everywhere, and calculated to awaken the most pleasing association of ideas and feeling in the minds and hearts of those for whose use they are intended. This is a most praiseworthy work in which Mr. D, and his associates are engaged, and many a lonely mother, many a wife, and many a sister, will read of their efforts in this good cause with warm-emotions of gratitude.

Alfred Elijah Dickinson, born in 1830 in Orange County, Virginia, had previously pastored the First Baptist Church of Charlottesville. After nine years at the Colportage Board, Dickinson returns to pastoring, leading the Leigh Street Baptist Church Baptist Church in Richmond during the later war years, after which he becomes the editor of Virginia Baptists’ Religious Herald newspaper.

The Hymns for the Camp book proves quite popular, undergoing a second printing in 1862. The volume is dedicated to the brave soldiers defending the Confederate homeland:


GOD grant that every one who shall read or sing these hymns may join that great multitude, that glorious choir, that shall at last surround the throne on high, and there ascribe “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and might, unto our God forever and ever.”

In the second half of the war, religious revivals become increasingly common in the Confederate Army, with hymns serving as a staple of religious services, reminding soldiers of their families and churches on the home front and offering comfort in the face of the constant threat of death.

Sources: Richmond Times Dispatch, September 27, 1861 (link); see Hymns for the Camp, 2nd edition, online transcription by UNC Chapel Hill, including image (link)