Baptists and the American Civil War: March 27, 1863

Jefferson DavisToday the Confederacy observes a national day of fasting and prayer as appointed by president Jefferson Davis. Richmond’s Daily Dispatch writes of the day:

This day is recommended by the President to be observed as a day of fasting and prayer through out the Confederacy. We cannot doubt that, as on all former occasion of a similar character, secular business will be universally suspended and the temples of religion filed with devout worshippers. We are in the very crisis of our country’s fate and it ever there was an hour when the soul of the Christian patriot should struggle with God as did the patriarch, and the prayers of faith should besiege the throne of Heaven, it is now. The same hand which has so wonderfully protected us in the past will carry us triumphantly through the future if we place our confidence in Him and do not offend Him by ingratitude for the past nor doubts of the future.

Many (but not all) Baptist churches of the Confederacy follow the directive of President Davis, setting aside part of the day for fasting and prayer. In some instances, hymns are sung, such as the following hymn printed by the Houston Telegraph (Texas) newspaper today in observance of the fast day.

Air. – “God Save the King”
While on our guilty land,
God lays His chastening hand,
Our sins to scourge;
Father! Give us to see
How we have slighted Thee,
And by repentance flee
From ruin’s verge.

O God! we would repent,
And make acknowledgement,
Of errors past;
Pardon for all receive,
To Thee allegiance give,
And in Thy favor live,
Ever steadfast.

While war’s dread havoc reigns,
And rapine stalks our plains,
O be Thou near!
Our cruel foes restrain,
And drive them back again,
Our country’s cause maintain,
O Saviour hear!

On Thee our trust is stayed,
Thy power has been displayed
In our defence.
Still may we claim Thy care,
Thy kind protection share;
Our bleeding country spare,

God of our fathers hear;
Answer the nation’s prayer,
Which now we make;
From war grant us relief,
Bid rage of battle cease,
O give our country peace,
For Jesus’ sake!

Camp Velasco, Texas, March 15, 1863

Meanwhile, despite the grand rhetoric of the day, Southern Baptist pastors are guilty of not doing enough to support the war effort, according to one anonymous North Carolina pastor’s letter directed to Baptist editor J. D. Hufham:

Bro. Hufham:–I wish to say a few words, with reference to supplying our worthy Superintendent of Colportage with funds, to furnish Colporters and religious reading for our soldiers.

Are our pastors doing their duty? I say pastors, because, I firmly believe that the churches would do theirs, if the subject were properly presented. The people, both converted and unconverted, will give for the soldiers. I have never seen an effort made without success. Why then are not our soldiers supplied with religious instructions? Why are Bro. Cobb’s receipts of funds so meagre? Clearly because pastors do not do their duty.

Now, I will say one word, with reference to the plan, adopted by the churches, to which I preach; and I earnestly hope, that each pastor in North Carolina will adopt the same or something similar.

It would give them from fifty to one hundred dollars; from each congregation, per annum, which, if I mistake not, would abundantly supply our North Carolina Regiments with religious instruction. System, systematic effort is what we need. Here is the plan; try, brother preacher: Present the claims of Colportage for the soldiers to your churches and congregations quarterly and take up a collection, letting them know that this will be done regularly; every one will feel it a duty to contribute and you will be surprised at the results. Let us all adopt some such plan as this, and there will be no more complaints from our brave, devoted defenders, of religious neglect.

Sources: “Day of Fasting and Prayer,” Richmond Daily Dispatch, March 27, 1863 (link); “A Hymn for the Confederacy, Suitable for the National Fast-day Appointed by President Davis, on March 27, 1863,” Houston Telegraph, March 27, 1863 (link); A Pastor, “Army Colportage,” Biblical Recorder, March 25, 1863 (link)