Baptists and the American Civil War: February 5, 1865

Civil War States MapIn the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, Virginia that begins this day, Union forces fail to cut off several Confederate supply routes during the Siege of Petersburg.

The fighting goes on for three days in a pitched battle, after which the two sides settle back down into their former positions. The Federals, however, do manage to force the Rebels to further stretch their thinning defensive lines.

Meanwhile, Sherman’s army, still in the vicinity of Robertville, South Carolina, destroys more surrounding plantations and other buildings.The local Baptist church lies in charred ruins.

White Southern Baptists continue searching for any reason, other than slavery, that God may be allowing the Northern enemy to brutally punish the Confederacy. This week’s Virginia Baptist Religious Herald points to a paucity of Sabbath observances in the South.

“The right observance of the Sabbath is one of the corner stones of a nation’s prosperity and essential to its well-being,” a Herald commentary intones.

Such words would have been soundly rejected by earlier generations of Baptists who were wholly committed to the separation of church and state. Christian nationalism, however, is now the de facto ideology of many Southern Baptists who are convinced that the Confederacy is God’s chosen nation.

And if Southerners will simply become more faithful in attending Sunday services, God will surely grant swift victory to his suffering nation.

Sources: Battle of Hatcher’s Run (link); Mark H. Dunkelman, Marching Through Georgia and the Carolinas with the 154th New York (link); “The Pineland, Black Swamp Plantation Summer House,” National Register of Historic Places (link); “Sabbath Observance,” Religious Herald, February 2, 1865