Baptists and the American Civil War: December 23, 1864

North Carolina MapWith Savannah safely in Federal hands, the Union Navy today begins an assault upon Fort Fisher, a Confederate fort guarding the coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina.

The Battle of Fort Fisher lasts for four days. Today the Union attempts to destroy the fort’s walls by detonating a gunpowder-laden ship. This failed effort is followed by two days of shelling, with an amphibious assault planned following the long bombardment.

The coming of bad weather, however, coupled with a report of nearby Confederate replacements, leads Major General Benjamin Butler to abort the operation, resulting in a rare Confederate victory at this late date in the war.

The news of reinforcements proves untrue. Two more weeks pass before Fort Fisher is reinforced. Even so, the Union Navy, returning in January, will not be deterred the second time around.

Meanwhile, today’s Georgia Baptist Christian Index asks readers to “Pray for Our Country.”

O, how much depends on prayer at this time! East, West, North, South, there is war, war, war; fighting, bloodshed, misery, sorrow, death. Dangers encompass us on every side, and yet our people are almost prayerless, almost indifferent. In this goodly city of Macon so lately saved from each sack and conflagration, not fifteen persons can be induced to meet together and pray. To all who may read this we commend the following from the Southern Presbyterian. The Editor after a glance at the general situation, says,

“Under these circumstances, it seems to us that from one end of our country to the other, our christian people ought to be in an agony of prayer.–God give us victory. However weak our arms, however powerful our enemies, He can pour confusion and defeat on them, success and victory on us. It is with him to save by many or by few.–He has but to speak, and it will be done, and he is a God who heareth prayer.–Clouds and darkness are around about him, but mercy and truth go before his face–mercy to forgive, to pity, to help–truth to fulfill his promises, and make good every word he has spoken, to inspire, trust, and encourage hope. If He has not yet heard our prayers, let us pray more, more earnestly, more humbly, more penitently, more importunately and more believingly than we have ever prayed before. Let it be an agony of prayer–prayer that wrestles as if all depended on its issue–prayer that carries the burden of life or death–prayer that holds in question a nation saved or lost, and with that country everything that makes life dear to us,–our home, our property, our liberties, the interests of our children, our Church, the cause of truth and righteousness and religion. What does not depend on it that is sacred and precious to us as individuals or as a people? If there is any religion amongst us, if any faith, if any love for our country, if any trust in God, let it now be seen. If there is any one who believes in prayer and can pray, let him pray now, and pray as he never prayed before.–Let his unceasing cries pierce the heavens, and his faith lay hold on the arm of the Most High, and continue instant in prayer, until the Lord hears and helps.

Divine intervention, it seems, may be the only hope left for the white South. Yet if the writer is to be believed, few prayers are being said on behalf of the Confederacy.

Source: “The Fall of Fort Fisher” (link); The First Battle of Fort Fisher (link); “Prayer for our Country,” Christian Index, December 22, 1864