Baptists and the American Civil War: October 27, 1864

Map of Virginia 1860sToday in the Virginia near Petersburg, Union forces set to gain control of the Bodyton Plank Road, in an effort to cut off the South Side Railroad, a rail line critical to the supplying of Petersburg.

Over the course of the two day engagement, the Federals manage to wrest control of the roadway from the Rebels, but in so doing the seemingly-victorious Union contingent is left in a rather exposed position on the western extremity of the Union lines besieging Petersburg. Rather than risk being defeated in a counterattack, th Federals retreat to safety, returning control of the Bodyton Plank Road to the Confederates.

Afterwards, the larger bulk of the two armies, feeling the chill winds of late fall and knowing harsh winter weather is not far distant, begin preparing to settle down into winter camps. No more engagements of any significance take place in the vicinity of Petersburg this year.

Meanwhile, Southern Baptist newspapers this week contain commentary concerning military prisoners. The North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder, quoting from the Christian Observer, complains of the savageness of the enemy.

We quote from the Richmond Christian Observer: “Four or five hundred sick prisoners were brought to this city from Northern prisons for exchange last Thursday, in a condition which proclaims the savage inhumanity of the enemy. We learn from them that their feed was sour bread and meat–which aggregated their diseases. When through neglect they were reduced too low to be restored to health, they were set here to be restored to die. Twelve of them, we understand, died on board the boat between Fortress Monroe and this city; and thirty more were numbered with the dead within three days after their arrival. One of them who had been accused of theft had been made deaf, dumb and blind by strangulation–having been hung by the neck till he became insensibled. His tormentors then spared his life, that it might prolong his misery?”

The South Carolina Confederate Baptist chimes in in praise of the hardiness of Confederate prisoners.

It is said that among the fifty thousand Federal prisoners, who are kept among us, by the obstinate inhumanity of their own government, many of them have sunk into insanity caused by home-sickness. The unfortunate victims dream of home, and awake from sleep only to babble or rave over its lost delights. The Confederate prisoner is more firm and self-reliant; and perhaps the noble cause in which he is engaged, nerves his spirit for successful endurance. Our soldiers are a far more superior class of men, possessed of more manliness; and a great many of them are blessed with the supports of religion. This last circumstance, probably, constitutes the essential difference between the two classes of prisoners of war. Religious influences have been so general among us, that even the ungodly have imbibed enough of their power, to lead them, when in misfortune, to the true source of consolation.

Sources: Battle of Boydton Plank Road (link) and (link), including image; “Inhumanity to Prisoners,” Biblical Recorder, October 26, 1864 (link); “Nostalgia,” Confederate Baptist, October 26, 1864