Baptists and the American Civil War: September 26, 1863

A Civil War Era Baptist Church

A Civil War Era Bapist Church

Today Georgia’s Sarepta Baptist Association meets in annual session, gathering at Millstone Church in Oglethorpe County to pray and preach and lift each other in the face of sober news trickling down to them after the battle of Chickamauga. Although Confederate forces won the battle, the rebels lost more soldiers than did the invaders, and the federals remain firmly entrenched on the Georgia border in the Tennessee city of Chattanooga.

Among the committees reporting in the three day session is one on the State of the Country with Asa Chandler as chair and James Nicholas Coile and D. D. Johnson as committee members.

Honored and respected, Chandler likely gives the report with his usual meekness, modesty, and pastoral approach though his words confirm a gritty, unshrinking assurance in the rightness and the eventual triumph of the Confederacy over the threatening blue-coated soldiers moving into the home state.

In performing the duty assigned them, your Committee would be profoundly impressed with a sense of the magnitude of the struggle in which, at this time, our country is engaged. Our brave soldiers are in the field, and for the last several days, have been engaged in the deadly conflict with our invaders on the northern frontier of our beloved Georgia. We learn, from the most authentic news received, that the formidable hosts of the enemy are being driven back with great loss and that there is a prospect of this utter discomfiture and total defeat, for which we should thank God, and take courage. While it is true that our enemies are numerous and strong, and the cloud of war has recently been most dark and threatening yet we believe our cause is just, and our confidence is in the God of battles, who has said, ‘the battle is not to the strong.’ In the main we have great confidence in the ability and wisdom of our leaders, and in the unflinching valor of our troops, but above all, we trust in the righteous God, who is acquainted with the egregious wrongs we have suffered, and the repeated indignities attempted to be heaped upon us by our cruel enemies. Let us remember Him who hath said, vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” We have many grounds of encouragement, In the midst of our trials; a Heavenly influence has, to a great extent pervaded our armies; many of our soldiers have become pious in the camps, and have enlisted under the banner of the Cross; thus strengthening the hearts and hands of those originally devoted christians, who at the beginning of the conflict went forth to meet the foe, in defence of our dearest rights. In the history of wars which have desolated the earth, we know of no instance recorded of any army that has been so signally blessed with gracious revivals of religion and that have been of distinguished for fervent piety as ours of the Confederate States. Let our united prayers continually arise to God, that His work of reformation may continue until wickedness shall be banished from our military camps. And while we look in earnest to God and thank Him for His former blessings, in crowning our arms with repeated victories, we would admonish all our people at home to rally to the standard of our imperiled country, and let the fire of pure patriotism consume our selfishness and extinguish extortion, that bane of our liberties, and auxiliary to our foes. Let our people but be united and virtuous, and enduring, and courageous, and let them give their hearty co-operation to our authorities, sacrificing ease, and laying their abundant means upon the altar of their country, with pure trust in God’s gracious benediction and through our blessed Saviour, and we shall doubtless, in the end, be crowned with victory, peace and independence.

Resolved, therefore, That this body suspend the order of business, and spend some time in humble prayer for our country.

Sources: Minutes of the Sixty-Fourth Anniversary of the Sarepta Baptist Association, Convened with the Millstone Church, Oglethorpe County, Ga., On the 26th, 27th and 28th of September, 1863; summary of Battle of Chickamauga (link)

Note: This entry is co-authored with Arlette Copeland of Mercer University’s Jack Tarver Library’s Special Collections.