Baptists and the American Civil War: January 20, 1865

Civil War States MapToday begins the second phase of Union General William T. Sherman‘s march through the South.

One month ago Sherman and his Federals completed phase one, the March to the Sea, by taking Savannah. While the capture of the Georgia port city was important psychologically, politically and economically, the city also provides a base of operations from which to invade the state that started the war — South Carolina.

Now the four Federal corps under Sherman, following ample rest during their weeks in Savannah, begin moving out of the city and toward South Carolina. Accompanying the soldiers is Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrickā€™s cavalry. Soldiers and cavalry alike are determined to punish the state that served as the seat of Southern secession. Charleston, the city where the first shots of the war were fired, is uppermost on the minds of some. Lincoln and Sherman, however, consider Columbia, the state’s capital city and a remaining transportation hub in the Deep South, to be the more important target.

Meanwhile, this week’s edition of the Virginia Baptist Religious Herald examines the “State of the Country” in the Confederacy, offering much optimism amidst the national gloom.

If a feeling of despondency with regard to the issue of the struggle for Southern independence, has gone abroad among our people, we do not share it. There is no sufficient reason for this gloom, that we can see. Recent occurrences, indeed, wear an adverse aspect. But not every darkening of the horizon gives presage of approaching night. When an eclipse withdraws the light of the sun from us, do we weakly conclude that his beams are quenched forever? is not the ebb of the tide, in fact, a prophecy of its flow?

The depression of the public mind, so far as it exists, admits of easy solution. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” The [?] of unfounded expectations is followed by apprehensions equally unfounded. Those who indulged the baseless persuasion that the past year would bring us peace and independence, evoke from the reverses to Southern arms of late, visions of subjugation, rather through the reaction of disappointed feeling, than from the calm, dispassionate of judgment. The “unsubstantial fabric” of sanguine hopes crumbles away under their gaze, and they mistake its ruins for the breaking up of a great people, and the overthrow of a righteous cause. As for ourselves, we wrote and published, twelve months ago, that “we looked for no maternal improvement in the aspect of public affairs, during the short space of the year on which” we were entering; and now, that the fiery purgation of prolonged national calamity confirms this view, we look on the state of things at present, without the dejection incident to “deferred hope,” and are therefore able to rate the blows dealt against our cause, during the last few weeks, at their true value—as, by no means, decisive of our future—as even less auspicious than certain similar events of prior occurrences. The pendulum does not swing to the extreme of causeless despondency, because it had not swung before to the extreme of causeless confidence; and the language employed in January, 1864, serves still as a fit expression of our mood of feeling: “Our persuasion of eventual triumph is not shaken in the least: ‘we see, or think we see’—how far ahead, let a wise and merciful Providence determine—the sunshine of a sure and glorious success.”

Let the followers of Jesus among us but be true to Him—‘quitting themselves like men,’ in their appropriate spheres—confessing the national desert of sorer punishment than has yet been visited on us—returning from declension to the ways of a more earnest and diligent righteousness—seeking at the throne of grace the gift of a resolute, indomitable spirit, and laboring to hearten the people at large by the words of cheer which faith inspires—let this be done, and the storm-cloud which seems to be thickening over our heads shall break away, and we shall walk in the light of peace.

Source: “The State of the Country,” Religious Herald, January 19, 1865