Baptists and the American Civil War: August 7, 1862

Civil War States MapDefeated in their attempt to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, the United States is all the more determined to emancipate African slaves and limit white freedoms in the South–so charges a Baptist editorial this week.

Our enemies foiled in their plans of subjugation and disappointed in their expectations of easy conquest, like a wounded beast are phrenzied with rage, and are pursuing towards us a course of brutality and inhumanity such as the world has not witnessed since the war of the French Revolution. Indeed, it is only the most vindictive portion of even those bloody contests that can be placed in the scale with the conduct of our foes.

The defeat of McClellan has caused them to shake off all restraint, to throw aside even the little regard for decency and humanity which they had previously manifested, and to adopt a line of policy which is revolting to every citizen and christian people, and is destined to cover them with infamy to the end of time.

The government has unblushingly avowed the policy of emancipation and arming the slaves, and has issued instructions to the Generals of the army which place the citizens within the lines completely at the mercy of corrupt and devilish soldiery.–The Generals have not been slow to carry out the instructions given them. They are arming and drilling the slaves to fight against their masters, and are endeavoring to add to the miseries of this unhappy conflict, the untold horrors of servile war. General Pope has issued orders, (and they will be speedily be followed by all the others,) requiring the section of country in which the army is quartered, to support it. Whatever they need is to be furnished by the citizens without regard to their own wishes. Whatever destruction of property can be covered by the spacious cloak of military necessity is to be made promptly. No guards are to be granted private citizens to protect their property from a soldiery, dangerous before, but tenfold more so under the license which these orders give.

Already our own citizens, who are abiding within the enemy’s lines, are beginning to reap the bitter fruits of this policy. They are robbed and plundered of everything that can tempt the cupidity of these mercenary wretches; the slaves are carried off in great numbers; provisions of every kind are appropriated or destroyed; the quiet precincts of home are invaded, the women insulted and the men carried off to prison. Preachers are seized and cast into confinement because they will not swear fealty to the despotic government of the United States; citizens are dragged from their homes and held as hostages for the safety of the invaders and in some instances have suffered death. But Pope has inaugurated a movement in Fredericksburg which throws all his other acts of brutality and unblushing tyranny into the shade. He had declared that all citizens must take the oath or be banished. But few of them will take the oath and they will be driven out, leaving their families in the hands of the enemy and if they should fall back at mercy of the negroes.

Those things are occurring in the West, in Virginia, in the eastern portion of North Carolina, and wherever the enemy have possession of the country; and they are only a foretaste of what would be, were they to meet with final and complete success. Such a scene of fiendish exultation, of indiscriminate plunder, slaughter, devastation and misery has not been witnessed since the world began. We fear that they are only a faint shadowing forth of what the invaded sections or our country, much as they have endured, are yet to suffer.

We have said that the course of these men has no parrallel in the history of modern warfare since the French revolution.–When Wellington was putting down the rebellion in India, he restrained his men from plundering the inhabitants of the country through which he passed and of the captured towns. He never failed to inflict summary and severe punishment on the offenders and in several instances hung them publicly.–He pursued the same policy during his celebrated career in Spain, and thus made friends for himself and his army everywhere. The same line of policy was adopted by our Generals in Mexico. A traveler visiting that country after the withdrawal of our troops, heard the name of General Taylor everywhere spoken with affection. Said a gentlemen as he was leaving: “If you see Gen. Taylor, tell him that the Mexicans all honor him. He has never given up their houses to plunder; he has helped their suffering and wounded; he is humane as he is brave, and they can never feel enmity towards him.” Alas there will be none to pronounce benedictions on the invaders of our country, the boasted champions of civilization and humanity. Wherever they have gone, they will be remembered with loathing, to the next generation.

We deeply sympathize with those of our countrymen whom the fortunes of war have thrown into the hands of the enemy and we rejoice to know that our government is meeting the emergency promptly and firmly, and is taking measures to secure them against outrage and murder. Retaliation is a dreadful alternative but it is sometimes necessary. We are pained to think of the dreadful alternative, which the barbarity of our enemies may force on us; but we must meet the issue painful as it may be. They are showing more plainly every day that the only choice left us is to conquer in this war. The let us be prepared for any emergency. Let us continue to maintain the character and position of Christian men, restoring to retaliation reluctantly, and only so far as many be necessary for our own protection; let us press the war with more vigor, and looking to God, who has led us thus far, drive the invader back to his own home. This is the surest road to success; and if we pursue it, we shall have nothing in our own conduct, to regret when this eventful drama shall have closed. Let us be true to our selves, true to God who made us, and who will at last judge us, and we have nothing to fear. When independence shall crown our efforts, and peace return to bless us, the historian as he comes to make up his record of this stormy period, will accord us the character of christian patriots and heroes.

Under the pen of this Baptist, history is rewritten so that white Southerners are now receiving the most brutal treatment of any persons in history. Rarely if ever do Southern Baptists leaders consider that the brutality of human slavery, now outlawed in almost all of the Western world, is a monstrous sin that has rightly stirred the moral indignation and garnered the wrath of many in the United States.

Source: “The Barbarity of Our Enemies,” Biblical Recorder, August 6, 1862 (link)