Chapter 12: progress of the work in 1864-65.There were some peculiar difficulties in the way of our work during the period embraced in this chapter. The severe weather of the winter and early spring made outdoor services rarely possible, and the skies had scarcely begun to smile upon us when General Grant crossed the Rapidan. Lee at once advanced and attacked him, and there ensued the death-grapple from ‘the Wilderness’ to Petersburg, when we marched or fought, or were busy entrenching nearly every day. And then followed the siege of Petersburg and defence of Richmond, when our little army (reduced at last to 33,000 men to guard forty miles of entrenchments) was on starvation rations, and was yet forced to do an amount of marching, fighting, digging and watching that would have exhausted much sooner any other troops of which history gives any account, and all of which was very decidedly unfavorable to religious services, or any evangelical work among the soldiers. And yet the good work went graciously on, there were precious seasons along the line of the Rapidan up to the very opening of the campaign. Many were converted on the march, in the trenches, on the battle-field, in the hospital—and the Richmond and Petersburg lines, despite their scenes of carnage and blood, were made glorious by the presence of Christ in the trenches. I remember that the very day on which our line was broken below Petersburg, necessitating the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg, and that sad march which terminated at Appomattox Court House, I had an appointment to preach and to baptize at the very point at which the lines were broken, and had been laboring there for some days in one of the most interesting revivals which I witnessed. Indeed, the revivals along the forty miles of Confederate entrenchments, where there were about sixty chapels, during the winter of 1864—65 were as general and as powerful as any we  had at all, and only ceased when the army was disbanded. Really they did not cease then, for in the great revivals with which our Churches in Virginia and the South were blessed during the summer and autumn of 1865 a very large proportion of the converts were from among our returned soldiers. I witnessed myself a large number of professions of conversion among them, and in the meetings in which I preached (acting as an independent evangelist from the mountains to the seaboard after I had ‘laid by’ the corn and threshed the wheat, for I took off my coat and went into the field to work on my return from the army), I always found our returned soldiers the most tender and impressible part of the congregations. Not as claiming by any means any special activity or special success, but merely as illustrating how God helped us in our labors, and blessed our poor efforts during this period, I give the following report of one of the missionaries for the year beginning October I, 1863, and ending September 30, 1864. It may be proper to say that on October I, 1864, I accepted an appointment from the Virginia Baptist Sunday-school and Publication Board as missionary-chaplain to A. P. Hill's Corps, and that this report only embraces my labors for the year named:
But, having made this general statement of the work during this period, I must now give some of the details. The extracts which follow from army letters and newspaper reports will show at the same time the religious status of the army and the spirit of our workers and of the soldiers:
There is a company in one of our Virginia regiments which numbers eighty men, all of whom, except ten, are now connected with some evangelical denomination. Bible-classes have been formed, embracing the entire company, and the little handful who are yet “out of Christ” give manifest tokens of deep religious impressions. ‘There is a Bible-class in every company of Doles's Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia.’
It is due to the denomination which, as a member of it, I claimed the right to censure in the above letter for failure to send their proportion of chaplains to the army to say that they, in some measure at least, redeemed themselves by taking the lead in colportage work, and in employing a large number of army missionaries and evangelists. The Domestic Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention had at work at this period seventy-eight missionaries to the soldiers, and supplemented the salaries of eleven chaplains, while the Virginia Baptist Publication Board had in its employ over 100 colporters and army evangelists, and other State boards of the denomination were doing similar work. We have seen that the Presbyterian Board appointed eighty missionaries, including some of their ablest men. Rev. Dr. Bennett in his ‘Great Revival,’ gives the following as to the appointments of the great denomination with which he is connected, and which fully redeemed its well-known reputation for missionary zeal by its ‘abundant labors’ in this great harvest-field:
The earnest purpose of the home Churches to promote the army revival was manifested by the number of ministers sent among the soldiers. We give a list of those who are sent by the Mission Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church South: Besides these, and others probably whose names have escaped us, the Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church South emulated other Churches in sending forth laborers into the great harvest. Rev. Dr. Myers, of the Southern Christian Advocate, in noticing these facts, says:Revs. Leo. Rosserand J. C. Granberry in the Army of Northern Virginia; J. B. McFerrin, C. W. Miller, W. Mooney, B. P. Ransom, and W. Burr in the Army of Tennessee; J. S. Lane and E. B. Duncan in the Department of Florida; J. J. Wheat and H. J. Harris in Mississippi; W. C. Johnson to General S. D. Lee's Corps, North Mississippi; J. J. Hutchinson to army about Mobile; and beyond the Mississippi river, J. C. Keener to Louisiana troops, and B. T. Kavanaugh and E. M. Marvin to Missouri and Arkansas troops.
The Mississippi Conference appointed one missionary and two chaplains to the army; Memphis, one missionary and six chaplains; Alabama, four missionaries and twelve chaplains; Florida, one missionary and two chaplains; Georgia, eight missionaries and eight chaplains; South Carolina, thirteen chaplains; North Carolina, two missionaries and eight chaplains; Virginia, two missionaries and twenty chaplains. Here are nineteen missionaries and seventy-one chaplains from these eight Conferences. Of course, the Conferences beyond our lines furnish a number also; but except in the case of the general missionaries, sent out by the parent board, we can give no guess even as to their numbers.The Georgia Conference determined, if possible, to furnish one missionary to each Georgia Brigade, and at the session of 1863 the work was begun by sending seven ministers: ‘R. B. Lester to Jackson's Brigade, Army of Tennessee; A. M. Thigpen to Colquitt's Brigade, near Charleston; J. W. Turner to the troops in and around Savannah, and on the coast below there; G. W. Yarbrough to Wofford's Brigade, General Longstreet's army; T. H. Stewart to Thomas's Brigade, and P. O. Harper to Gordon's Brigade, Army of Virginia; and L. B. Payne temporarily to visit the hospitals between Atlanta and Guyton C. Railroad, until a brigade is selected for him. Another, T. F. Pierce, is now in the State military service, and will receive his appointment to a brigade when his term expires.’ But, to return from this digression, I give the following extracts from letters which I wrote to the Christian Index, Macon, Georgia:
Brother Geo. F. Bagby, South Carolina, writes:
The Southern Christian Advocate judges, from intelligence from the Southern armies, that ‘the great revival,’ commenced last year, still continues. Revivals are reported in General B. R. Johnson's Brigade (a part of Longstreet's army), near Dandridge, Tennessee, in the camp church at Galveston, Texas, and in the Twenty-third Georgia Regiment, Colquitt's Brigade, near Charleston, South Carolina. ‘Of the 111 professors of religion in the Fifty-fifth North Carolina Regiment, Davis's Brigade, 3 are Lutherans, 4 Presbyterians, 8 unconnected with any Church, 32 Methodists, 64 Baptists.’
‘An entire congregation in Scales's (North Carolina) Brigade promptly knelt, a short while since, on an invitation for all Christians, and all who desired the special prayers of God's people to kneel.’
‘Captain A. W. Poindexter, Twenty-sixth Virginia Regiment, Wise's Brigade: Enclosed you will please find $101 contributed by my company (K, Twenty-sixth Virginia Infantry) for army colportage. May God bless it to the good of our soldiers! The religious feeling in our regiment is very deep. Prayer-meetings are held in every company every night, and we have reason to believe that they have done much good, and to hope that they will continue to do much. Many who, a year ago, were groping their way in darkness, are now the humble followers of the “Lamb of God.” The change in the morals of the men has been frequently remarked upon by some of the officers to me. Our chaplain, Rev. William E. Wiatt, is untiring in his efforts among us, and is constantly working for the spiritual welfare of the men. He is greatly beloved by all, and may his labors among us be blessed more abundantly, and all of us be made to rejoice by seeing all of our regiment converted to God! Pray for us, my dear brother.’
Brother J. A. Gresham, Wise's Brigade: ‘Our good meetings are still going on, with increased interest. Since their commencement, some eight or nine have professed religion—among them our captain; and others are asking the prayers of God's people. We have had no minister to aid us, except our chaplain. He has preached for us several times. He can't be with us often, on account of the scattered condition of our regiment. We have a large barn to hold our meetings in. We have three  Bible-classes, which meet every Sunday. After the school is over, we have prayer-meeting, and then again at night. We have also formed a Christian Association, which meets every Wednesday evening, at 7 o'clock. I cannot inform you of the condition of the regiment, on account of its being so scattered. There are no two companies together.’
Extracts from my letters to the Christian Index:
 The following is an extract from a letter of an officer of the Eighteenth Virginia Cavalry, Imboden's Brigade. It refers to the fight of General Imboden, before the main battle near New Market: ‘Before the charge, and while we were in line, the command to dismount was given, when our noble chaplain sang a hymn and then prayed, the whole regiment kneeling. It was a solemn and impressive sight just on the eve of battle, and God blessed our arms with victory. The chaplain prayed that if it should please God we might scatter our enemies, but oh! preserve the lives of those dear ones, and prolong them for Thy glory. Truly did God answer the prayer of the devout old man—they were scattered to the four winds, and we lost not a man.’ A writer from the Army of Northern Virginia, when the present campaign had been in progress twenty-one days, said: ‘Frequent prayer-meetings have been held in the trenches; and even on the advance skirmish line, within easy musket range of the enemy, the song of praise and the voice of supplication have been heard. Sermons have also been preached in the trenches— albeit, they have sometimes been cut short by the bursting of the shell or the whistling of the minnie.’ ‘Rev. Dr. Burrows baptized twenty-two soldiers at Chaffin's Bluff, a week or two since.’
A correspondent of the Biblical Recorder mentions a Confederate captain, who in his company, composed of volunteers and  conscripts from different section of the country, has had no man charged with stealing and no deserter since the war began— a fact due to his instruction that ‘pressing’ is stealing, and ‘running blockade’ equivalent to desertion; while, because of his discountenance of the vices of gambling, drunkenness and profanity, not one plays cards or ever gets intoxicated, and only two swear and they very seldom. When not on duty they spend their time in prayer-meetings, in singing and innocent amusements; and a large majority have become church-members.
How the memories of those days crowd upon me, as I sit in my quiet study twenty-three years after those stirring scenes. Those bright days before the opening of the campaign, when our camps were vocal with God's praises and hundreds of our brave boys were turning to the Lord—those days of constant battle, carnage, death, when Lee withstood Grant's overwhelming force from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, and from Cold Harbor to Petersburg, and left hors de combat more of ‘General Grant's people’ than he himself had—those long, weary days in forty miles of entrenchments, when the ‘men in gray’ were ‘worn away by attrition,’ and ‘the thin line was stretched until it broke’—and amid it all the precious seasons of worship, the realization of the presence and blessing of Jesus, and the assurance that God's Spirit was ever present in His convicting, converting, sanctifying power. I try to forget the ‘bitter memories of a stormy past,’ but the hallowed associations that cluster around ‘Christ in the camp,’ on the march, in the bivouac, on the battle-field, in the trenches, in the hospital, in life, in death— these linger forever, ‘a sweet savor’ in my memory. God be praised for what our eyes saw, our ears heard, and our hearts felt of His presence and power during that memorable campaign of 1864-65.