Baptists and the American Civil War: February 15, 1865

South Carolina Civil War MapToday in South Carolina’s Lexington County just south of Columbia, the Battle of Conagree Creek takes place.

Beginning at 7:30 a.m., the contest pits a portion of the remainder of the Confederate’s Army of the Tennessee against the Union’s Army of the Tennessee, part of the forces of General William T. Sherman. Rebel defenders attempt to thwart, or at least slow, the advance of the Federals to the state’s capital city.

Fighting from behind an earthen berm constructed by slaves for this very purpose, the Confederates hold off the enemy until early afternoon. With advancing Union forces flanking the Rebels by early afternoon, the Confederates withdraw, hoping to re-engage the Federals again before they reach Columbia.

Growing panic in Columbia, however, attests to a lack of confidence in the capabilities of the Confederate army.

Meanwhile, today’s North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder decries the lack of Confederate army chaplains.

An able and earnest minister, who has been laboring among the Confederate soldiers from the beginning of the war, says, in closing his report for 1864. “To have been permitted to preach the Gospel to do many thousands of our soldiers, to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded, and to pray for the dying, whose friends were far away, has been the greatest privilege of my life. I pray God to give me grace and strength to toil on in this service until my life, or the war, shall end.”

This breathes the true spirit of the gospel. If we had more of it among our people and preachers, would there be so many regiments and brigades in our armies with out chaplains or missionaries;-so many that have heard no sermon for six or twelve months? The preachers could not stay at home, living in comparative ease and comfort, preaching weekly to small congregations while in the army they could have hundreds, thousands of eager hearers every day; hearers who have sacrificed so much for their country; have endured hardships, and privations, disease and suffering; have encountered danger and death in every form; whose ranks are being thinned every hour by sickness and the shafts of the enemy. The preachers could not stay away from them; or if they could, their people would not let them.

Do not the teachings of the gospel require, would not the spirit of Christ impel the minister to go where his servants are most needed? And nowhere within our borders can a field of labor be found, so extensive, so inviting as our armies. The appeals which come up from the soldiers; the testimony of those who go to preach to them; the gracious revivals with which they have been visited during the progress of the war, all teach this. How could it lie waste for want of laborers if our people and our preachers felt the full force of the example and precepts of their Redeemer? It could not. Let us hope that many will speedily catch the spirit of him whose language we have quoted above, and go forth to proclaim the glorious gospel of the blessed God to those gallant, self-sacrificing spirits who are standing as a wall of adamant between us and certain destruction.

Is the biblical Gospel really on the side of the defenders of human bondage?

Even at this late date in the war, at least in the pages of the Baptist press, white Southern Baptists have evidenced no possibility that they might be enemies of the very Gospel of Christ to which they so readily and fervently lay verbal claim.

Sources: Battle of Conagree Creek (link); Joey Holleman, “Study pinpoints peak of Civil War Battle of Congaree Creek,” The State, October 15, 2014 (link); “If We Had More of Them,” Biblical Recorder, February 15, 1865 (link)