Baptists and the American Civil War: August 2, 1864

confederate_mapConfederate cavalry forces, following the raid upon Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, are attempting to retreat to safety across the Potomac River, a dividing line between North and South. Today they engage Federal troops at Old Town, Maryland and, across the river, Spring Run, West Virginia. Confederate officials hope the raids in the North will create more unrest among Northern opponents of the war.

Meanwhile, the true locus of the war is in the trenches around Petersburg and Atlanta. Here the war will be decided, and the odds do not favor the Confederacy.

Currently, Union General William T. Sherman is dug in mere miles from the key Southern city and determined to wear out Confederate defenders.

As Sherman later recalls in his memoirs:

The month of August opened hot and sultry, but our position before Atlanta was healthy, with ample supply of wood, water, and provisions. The troops had become habituated to the slow and steady progress of the siege; the skirmish-lines were held close up to the enemy, were covered by rifle-trenches or logs, and kept up a continuous clatter of musketry. The mainlines were held farther back, adapted to the shape of the ground, with muskets loaded and stacked for instant use. The field-batteries were in select positions, covered by handsome parapets, and occasional shots from them gave life and animation to the scene. The men loitered about the trenches carelessly, or busied themselves in constructing ingenious huts out of the abundant timber, and seemed as snug, comfortable, and happy, as though they were at home.

Jasper Newton Millsaps (1829-1905), a Baptist layman and Tennessee native and living near Daisy in Sequatchie County, traveled to Kentucky to enlist on February 25, 1862 as a private in the 5th Tennessee Voluntary Infantry.

Fighting in numerous battles in the years to come, he is now entrenched in Marietta, suffering from the hot weather that Sherman describes. Today Millsaps writes his wife, Phoebe, reporting that all is well.

I have saw more from the time I saw you up to the present than I could rite in a day. I have saw a hard time and had to face more danger than I ever did in all my life before. But the Lord has brought me safe so far and hope he will hereafter.

Millsaps survives the war, remains in Tennessee, helps raise twelve children and is ordained as a Baptist minister on June 3, 1876 at Union Church Baptist Church near Soddy. Millsaps also helps establish the Mowbray Baptist Church and the First Baptist Church of Daisy.

Sources: Atlanta Campaign (link) and (link); William T. Sherman, The Personal Memoirs Of General William T. Sherman, New York: D. Appleton, 1891, p. 96 (link); John Wilson, “Millsaps Was Union Soldier in Major Battles of the Civil War” (link)