Baptists and the American Civil War: September 19, 1864

Map of Virginia 1860sToday’s main battlefield action takes place in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

In what is known as the Third Battle of Winchester (or the Battle of Opequon), in fierce fighting Union General Philip Sheridan‘s forces prevail over those of Confederate General Jubal Early.

Reflecting the desperation on the part of the Confederates to find some way to turn the tide of a war gone terribly bad, the battle is the bloodiest ever fought in the Shenandoah Valley. Some 5,000 of Sheridan’s 39,000 soldiers are killed, wounded or missing. Yet Sheridan’s lose of 12 percent of his men pales in comparison to the 25% loss of Early’s forces.

A soldier from the 12th Connecticut later recounted how “the Rebel dead lay thickly in the fields beyond, and were piled upon each other in the yard of a large stone mansion [Hackwood] … A ghastly row of gray-clad corpses lay along a wall, behind which some Rebel brigade had evidently found shelter; and the fields and hillsides as far as Winchester were dotted with the fallen.”

Today’s Union victory signals the beginning of Federal dominance in the Shenandoah Valley. Early suffers subsequent defeats as the fortunes of the Confederacy sink ever lower.

Meanwhile, near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Baptists of the Dover Baptist Association convene this day. Army missionary activity and support of soldiers’ orphans are on their minds.

The annual meeting of this body was brought to a close on Thursday at Berea, sixteen miles west of the city. It includes all the Baptist churches in Richmond and in several of the surrounding counties, and has a membership of sixteen thousand. Nine of the churches are in this city, and contain seven thousand communicants. Rev. F. McCarthy preached the opening sermon. Rev. J. B. Solomon was elected Moderator; Rev. W. H. Fonerden, Clerk; and Dr. G. B. Steel, Treasurer.

Rev. A. E. Dickinson, Rev. W. F. Broadus and W. Sands spoke in behalf of educating the children of deceased and disabled soldiers. Twenty-five hundred dollars in money was raised, while several persons assumed each to educate an orphan.

Rev. Mr. Dickinson raised seven hundred dollars in cash and subscriptions for the Colportage Board, to be used in sending the Religious Herald to the army.

Sermons were delivered by Revs. R. H. Land, W. F. Broadus, J. F. Kiser, W. H. Williams and A. E. Dickinson. The session was very pleasant and the hospitality of the Berea people unbounded.

The Association adjourned to meet a year hence at Dover, Goochland county–Rev. M. Winston to preach the opening sermon and Dr. J. L. Burrows his alternate. Rev. Dr. Ryland was appointed to write the circular letter.

Sources: Third Battle of Winchester (link); Battle of Olequon (link); “Dover Baptist Association,” Richmond Daily Dispatch, September 19, 1864 (link)