Baptists and the American Civil War: January 14, 1862

North Carolina FlagThis week’s North Carolina Biblical Recorder publishes a letter from a correspondent in the 1st Regiment of N. C. State Troops, identified as J. H. F. The correspondence echoes what many other Baptists in the Confederate army are saying: the South’s soldiers, by and large, are far from being Christian men.

I am alone in my tent, and meditating upon the uncertainty and instability of all human governments. But a short time ago, America boasted that she had the best government on earth, and that the experiment of self-government by the people had been made, and was now fully realized. Doubtless, as a people, we had become too vain-glorious, and Providence in his mercy and wisdom, has suffered us to see our own weakness and imperfection in this disastrous and unnatural war. We, of the South, ought to see God’s hand in it, and notwithstanding the many brilliant victories we have already won, unless we acknowledge our great ingratitude, and humble ourselves before Him, we can not expect a final triumph over our enemies. “The nation that humbleth itself shall be exalted.” These reflections follow from witnessing daily the great amount of wickedness in our camps. I had heard of the immorality in a campaign line before as being very great, but not the half has been told. Profanity, both among the officers and privates, seems to be the ruling passion. I think I have heard more cursing in one day in camp than I have for many years together before the war.

Intemperance and gambling come in for their share, and are participated in to an alarming extent. Our army regulations have attached penalties, and forbidden all such offenses, but they are utterly ignored. How we can hope to prosper with the severest denunciations of the Bible upon these popular vices, seems to me to be presuming too largely upon God’s goodness! The history of the Israelites, (God’s favored-people) should teach us a lesson to shun the rocks on which they split.

We have no Chaplain to our Regiment. I have not heard a sermon in camp for several months — men sicken and die without any spiritual counsel. Vice in every form, the most hideous, stalks abroad without warning. Deplorable, indeed, is the moral condition of our brave soldiery! Can not something be done to check these evils, worse than the war itself? I am afraid our army is fast tending to demoralization. I am no complainer, not do I mean to reflect upon any individual, but these great evils should claim the attention of those in authority, and be remedied, if possible…

Source: J. H. F., “Army Correspondence,” Biblical Recorder, January 15, 1862 (link)