Baptists and the American Civil War: October 18, 1863

Frying Pan Baptist Church, Virginia, photo by Debbie Robison

Frying Pan Baptist Church, Virginia, photo by Debbie Robison

This weekend in Virginia, Confederate forces, led by Major General J.E.B. Stuart, engage the U.S. Sixth Army Corps near Frying Pan Baptist Church in the larger vicinity of Bull Run, site of two earlier major battles. The military activity is nothing new for the little church, which, due to the meeting house’s location on a road used by troops of both sides, has previously witnessed several military clashes. In this particular minor skirmish, the Union repels the Confederates–with few if any casualties on either side–while the retreating rebels feel the satisfaction of having scouted out federal strength in the area.

Meanwhile, Private Samuel McKetterick of Company B, Allston’s Company First Battalion South Carolina Sharpshooters, like many other Confederate soldiers, keeps a diary in which he speaks often of God. A Presbyterian, McKetterick follows a trajectory of many religious soldiers in participating in church and revival services of other denominations and multi-denominations. His diary speaks of various denominations, including Baptists.

McKetterick’s company is charged with defending Confederate positions along South Carolina’s coast. Today he writes his wife Mary, speaking of the war, discussing home front family life, and mentioning a revival meeting involving Baptists. As in many Civil War letters written by soldiers, the various themes are woven into a narrative that is both intimate and impersonal, the collective effect illustrating the tapestry of concerns and thoughts on the minds of soldiers missing family and home.

Charleston Barracks Oct. 18th 1863

Dear Mary

Another beautiful Sabbath has dawned upon me in good health. I have just returned from the Hospital from seeing J. Hammett I do not believe he is much better I fear he is in a dangerous condition. Yet I hope he will recover I am getting on finely here I have no heavy duty to do I get to sleep every night and that you know suits my disposition very well. There are no officer of the day required here consequently I am not exposed. You wish to know where to sow Wheat I want you to sow the field above Mr. Fowler’s or the big field I think you would do well to hall and scatter manure over the poorest places of it they can tell the poor places by the small stalks. The piece on the left of the lain will be enough to sow in Rye. If any Body will rent the field next to Mattox let them have it. Try and get you sown in the right way you must try and get a god sower.

You want to know what to do in Rose’s courtship. I suppose you had as well het her marry as it seems she can get no other chance I enquired of Clark Sloan he said to try and find out his character and if is bad banish him at once and if not do as you think best. But if they marry just plainly tell him that Rage (Rose) marries but one of Dr. Hutson’s boy that they are not to come and if they do he must quite himself you must be Boss among them yourself. I omitted in the proper place to tell you that I received your letter of the 12 and 13 inst. I need not here repeat the pleasure it always gives me to hear from one whom I love above all worldly and I fear above Heavenly objects. This beautiful Sabbath and all the show noises and turmult of a large city cannot dispel you from me mind. Your pleasant company your lovely form haunts my vision which I hope one day to realize. Our meeting is going on five joined the church on Friday night 2 the Methodist and 3 Baptist I intent to go this evening or tonight or both. I answered Brother Adam’s letter I received on yesterday from John Anderson he is improving and all the family are well his letter was rather in answer one I had sent to his Mother. I sent one in last week to Uncle Adam and one I wrote on yesterday to Mr. Ashmore. Tell my old friend Teague and Burditt they have forsaken me perhaps they have good reason for so doing give them my best love and all other inquiring friends I hope to receive some tokens of love from you on Tuesday by Thackston and Kellett Kiss My dear children for me and remember me at a throne of Grace and write often to your loving husband.

Samuel McKittrick

Sources: Debbie Robison, “Frying Pan Baptist Meeting House” (link); The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Volume LI, Washington: 1897, pp. 1105ff (link); Harriet Bey Mesic, Cobb’s Legion Cavalry: A History and Roster of the Ninth Georgia Volunteers in the Civil War, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Publishers, 2009, pp. 96 (link); Diary of Private Samuel McKetterick, October 18, 1863 (link)