Baptists and the American Civil War: February 4, 1863

Civil War Hospital

Civil War Hospital

Letters from soldiers and army missionaries are published weekly in North Carolina Baptists’ Biblical Recorder. The letters serve to keep readers informed of life in the Confederate camps and hospitals. Missives that report good news are especially welcome. Even letters that criticize the sins so abundant in the army camps, or tell of death and sickness, typically allow that the work of Southern Baptist army missionaries and colporteurs is yielding changed lives.

This week army missionary S. Whitson reports good news of his work in an army hospital converted from a church building and located near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. As is the case with many letters from other missionaries afield, Whitson briefly describes the setting of the place, a touch that many mothers and sisters of soldier sons and husbands appreciate, as it opens a small visual window into the lives of their loved ones far away in a strange land. In addition, Whitson glowingly describes the wonderful matron of the hospital, offering a glimpse into a key role–nurse to wounded soldiers–that many Confederate women occupy during the war.

Dear Bro. Hufham:–Last week I visited the Ridge Hospital, which is about nine miles from Richmond. It is a church, fitted up as a hospital and is kept in good order by Mrs. Duval who lives within a mile of the place. She is a lady of great industry and kindness of heart, and is untiring in her efforts to make the sick and wounded soldiers comfortable. To this statement, I am sure every one who has been placed under her care will bear cheerful testimony.

On my arrival at this place I found it had been much neglected, both by the colporters and missionaries; but brother Duval with other brethren, residing in the neighborhood, has held prayer meetings here occasionally; and it is hoped, to the lasting good of many souls.

I gave each of the patients a pocket-bible and some tracts; held one-prayer meeting; preached one sermon; and received one candidate for baptism. By this time, and to the astonishment of us all, the small pox developed itself on one of our patients, or rather, nurses. The night I preached there I stood within a few feet of him and his face was then covered with pustules. As this was the first case which had made its appearance here, the whole neighborhood became alarmed. I had to stop with brother Duval, who has a large family, both white and colored, and it became necessary for me to suspend my labors in the hospital. On the next Sabbath (the 4th in January,) preached in a school house near by, baptized the candidate already mentioned, and returned to this city on the following Tuesday.

It is thought that this case of small pox will break up the Ridge Hospital. The patient’s name is John Allen. He is a member of the Baptist church, and his father, W. H. Allen, lives within fifteen miles of Raleigh.

There is much more that I might say but I will forebear. You shall hear from me again next week. I must here acknowledge the receipt of $8.50 for Army Missions, given by the soldiers at Sydney; also $60.00 contributed by friends in Transylvania County, N.C., before I left home.

Your brother in Christ,

S. Whitson
Richmond Va., Jan. 28th 1863

Source: Biblical Recorder, February 4, 1863 (link)