Baptists and the American Civil War: December 7, 1864

Mary Beckley Bristow

Mary Beckly Bristow

En route to Nashville, the Confederate Army of the Tennessee engages Union troops at Murfreesboro, losing yet again. The 200 Confederate casualties are minor, yet the Confederacy can ill-afford any soldier losses at this point.

Undaunted, General John Bell Hood is determined to continue forward and seize Union-controlled Nashville.

Today’s South Carolina Confederate Baptist newspaper assures the South’s defenders that “No name has prouder preeminence than that of Confederate soldier … All honor him … the church prays that he might be a true soldier of Jesus Christ.”

Another commentary notes that soldiers must be reinforced by the sacrifices of home front citizens as Sherman‘s army is near South Carolina, and will presumably invade the state once he captures Savannah.

The present is pregnant with great events. The enemy is upon us; and the crisis demands the entire resources of the commonwealth. Let every man gird himself for the approaching conflict. The State summons her sons to her side. Her safety is imperiled. A host approaches. Flushed with victory and confident of success, they tread our native soil, and threaten our spoilation and ruin. It becomes us to meet them, in the spirit of men and patriots, prepared to sacrifice everything upon the altar of our country.

What we most need is a general awakening to the importance of the crisis. Selfishness is too prevalent. Every man is looking after his own farm or merchandise. He is unwilling to destroy it, and therefore, leaves it to the possessions and enjoyment of the enemy. No army can subsist among us, except from our own supplies. Burn all the provender, drive away all the cattle, consume everything, which cannot be removed, and he will perish for want of subsistence. But, if our people, influenced by cupidity–by the hope of saving something for themselves–await his arrival, and trust to his tender mercies, they will find themselves impoverished, and the foe fattening on their spoils Better that everything should be destroyed, rather than fall into his hands, contribute to his support, and thus aid the conquest of the country. Now is the time for self-sacrifice, for heroic devotion. Let every citizen of South Carolina consider the State first of all, and bend all his efforts, and whatever personal sacrifice, towards the demolition of the invader. If we are equal to the crisis, victory and safety are ours; if we fail, imagination cannot picture the horrible results.

Better to starve to death, in short, than to be conquered by the abolitionist North.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, Confederate sympathizer and Baptist laywoman Mary Beckley Bristow writes of Confederate glories past and implores God to destroy the enemy.

This is my deceased father’s birthday. He was born the seventh day of December, 1770. [He] often spoke of having three sevens in the date of his birth and [of] having a number so often spoken of in the scriptures. He passed away to the Christ world some nine years ago, the tenth day of last October, but I often think of his birthday. The place of his birth, Culpeper County, Virginia, is wasted and destroyed by contending armies. Bristow Station, near which the lamented Jackson fought some of his hardest battles, no doubt took its name from some of my Father’s relatives. I believe it was reading of these battles in the life of General Stonewall Jackson today that reminded me of my Father. [I] have so often in early life heard him describe the scenes of his childhood, boyhood, and youth in Culpeper. Jackson was doubtless a great and good man, but the Lord that has an undisputed right to govern all things gave him to and took him from his country and possesses all powers to raise another to fill his place. Have mercy on our guilty nation, O Lord, and with Thy strong arm drive the invaders of our soil back to their own and give us peace once more, if it be Thy will. I ask in the name of Jesus.

Sources: Third Battle of Murfreesboro (link); “The Soldier” and “The Times,” Confederate Baptist, December 7, 1864; Mary Bristow Diary, December 7, 1864 (link)