Baptists and the American Civil War: March 28, 1862

North Carolina MapRecent battlefield reversals and Union advancements in Tennessee and along the Confederate coast are ample fodder for sober assessments of the Southern war effort. Enthusiasm for the war effort is dampened in the minds of some, but many others are more determined than ever to defeat the invaders. White Southern Baptist elites take it upon themselves to rally the public and prepare for a drawn out war, as illustrated by an editorial in this week’s edition of North Carolina Baptists’ Biblical Recorder.

The condition of the Confederate States has never been more hopeful or cheering than it is at the present. So far from being crushed by the recent disasters, the people have rebounded after the shock, and, though the enemy has not relaxed his efforts or his determination to subdue us, subjugation is to day, more distant and hopeless than ever. No true patriot can have failed to notice with conscious joy and pride, the indications and developments of the last few weeks.–Everywhere, there has been a manifestation of that spirit, which, with the blessing of God, will render us invincible by any force our enemies can bring against us. Among the cheering indications to which we have referred we notice the following:

1. Unabated confidence in the final triumph of our cause.

The disasters, which have befallen our arms, and the want of skill and efficiency on the part of our authorities, by which these disasters have been cause,–or at any rate, rendered more serious, have been generally deplored, but who has been discouraged or felt disposed to give up? A few faint hearts, or here and there a traitor in disguise. The great body of the people, are to day, as sanguine of success, as confident of the final result of this struggle, as they were in the beginning. This is seen in mingling with them at their homes and in their public gatherings, and in the tone of the press both religious and secular. There are the same abiding confidence in the sacredness and justice of our cause, which led us to take up arms; the same trust in a righteous and merciful God and the same calm but joyous anticipations. Nor are these views and feelings groundless or unreasonable. It is not the confidence of one who is ignorant of the dangers which environ him, and who is therefore unprepared for them, and destined to the humiliation of ultimate defeat.

2. There is a firm conviction of the necessity of prompt and vigorous action and a stern determination to make any sacrifices or undergo any privations which the common weal may demand.

However secure, many Southern men may have felt, at the outset, all now see that we are threatened by dangers serious and startling, and so imminent that they can be averted only by the greatest energy and the wisest precaution. Whatever contemptible notions of the courage and strength of our adversaries, may at first have been entertained, have been removed by a little experience. A few campaigns and humiliating defeats have scattered to the winds all such opinions, as “the Yankees won’t fight,” “we can whip them against odds of five to one,” &c. The fact has at length come to light, that the enemy is strong in numbers and resources, not contemptible in courage, and terribly in earnest in his determination to conquer the South, and that if he is foiled, it must be by bravery, vigilance, activity and skill, superior to his own.

The hope of European interference, too is “gone, glimmering, the wonder of an hour.” No one expects the blockade to be raised by England or France, and few look with any great degree of interest, for the latest news from those countries.

There is firm conviction that the South must rely on the patriotism of her own sons, aided by that Providence, which decides the destinies of both men and nations. Seeing herself, thus alone in the conflict there has been no trembling or cowering in the presence of her enemy. The whole nation has been aroused into fresh activity. The apathy which, a short time since, was so general, and so deeply lamented by all discerning men is gone, and vigilance and energy have taken its place. The government seems to be aware of its danger and to be preparing to meet it. The Soldiers whose term of service was expiring, are re-enlisting for the war. Volunteering is going on very rapidly. In North Carolina alone, we learn, that one hundred companies have been tendered to the authorities within a few days and ready to be mustered into the service. And we may confidently hope that, whatever deficiency there may have been in the numerical strength of our armies will soon be met, and that the enemy will be confronted by a force fully equal to their own.

We may add to this, the cheerfulness with which the people make any sacrifices necessary for the public good. Those who have been driven from their homes, with the loss of their property, bear it nobly, for the sake of the great cause, and those who are in danger, express the determination to destroy everything which could give aid and comfort to the enemy rather than let it fall into his hands.

3. There is a manifest determination, in the public mind, to correct some serious evils which have heretofore been a source of embarrassment and danger to the Southern cause. Corruption in high places, the appointment of incompetent and inefficient men, and the retention of them in their places for mere party purposes meet a stern rebuke at the hands of a people jealous of their honor and aware of their danger. Intemperance like a dreadful epidemic was spreading throughout the army, unfitting officers and men alike for their duties; and the distillers, with a fiendish disregard of the claims of humanity, were threatening to bring starvation to the country. These evils too have been checked in such a manner as to lead to the hope that they will no more seriously embarrass us. They will not, if the spirit of the authorities and of the people remains unchanged.

4. The last and most cheering indication that we shall mention here, is a returning of our obligations to God and of our dependence on Him.

Without this, all our hopes would be vain and our efforts futile. While the Christians of the South or any considerable portion of them retain a lively sense of their duty to God, seek his favor and manifest firm reliance on Him, we shall not despair though our arms be beaten and our soil be overrun. We shall look on it as temporary chastening of the Lord to be followed by a speedy manifestation of His power on our behalf. On the other hand, we should regard it as the greatest calamity that could befal us, were recklessness or even indifference to His favor, to become general among the people. A tendency to this state of mind was clearly observable soon after the battle of Manassas, and continued until the recent reverses to our arms. Now, however, there is a returning sense of our obligations and a manifestation of that earnest, prayerful spirit which marked the earlier stages of this unhappy conflict. Let it continue to increase both, in degree and extent, and the blessings of Heaven and the sunshine of victory will follow in its track.

Such appear to us to be among the most hopeful of the signs of the times. There are others but we will not mention them.–These indicate the spirit and purposes of the people, and on them depends our ultimate success. WE hope that this spirit will become more strong and wide-spread in its influence as the months or years of this bloody struggle, pass slowly and painfully away; that reverses will not damp our ardor or chill our hopes, or success elevate us into vain confidence in our own strength, and consequent forgetfulness of God; that no one will shrink from any necessary labors or sacrifices and that each one will work on and hope on until the glorious end, victory, independence and peace, shall come to crown our country and reward her sons for their arduous toils, patient sufferings and ceaseless vigils.

Source: “Cheering,” Biblical Recorder, March 26, 1862 (link)