previous next

Chapter 17: spring of 1863.

Let us turn again to the armies of the West and Southwest.

On the coast the Federal fleets closely blockaded all the ports, and made demonstrations at the most important points. On the Mississippi, Port Hudson and Vicksburg were fiercely assailed, with serious damage to the Federals and with little loss to the Confederates. In Tennessee, Gen. Van Dorn greatly annoyed the Northern Generals by his swift and sudden movements against their forces in the neighborhood of Columbia, Franklin, and other places. The main army lay encamped at various points between Chattanooga and Murfreesboro, ready for any movement that might be necessary to checkmate the Federals. General J. E. Johnston assumed personal command of all our forces in that quarter, and established his headquarters at Tullahoma.

Rev. S. M. Cherry, one of the most devoted chaplains in the army, gives an account of the revival at this period in McCown's division, to which he was attached as chaplain of the 2d Georgia battalion. For ten weeks they encamped on the same spot freed from all the toil of war except guard duty. In the midst of their ease, the long roll late one afternoon called them to arms. In a few moments the whole command was pressing to the front. “While riding on,” says Mr. Cherry, “I met with Rev. Dr. Bunting, chaplain of the Texas Rangers, who kindly consented to preach for us. We found General Ector's Texas brigade, and Colonel Vance's brigade, of North Carolina and Georgia troops, concentrated in a glade of rough rocks and gloomy cedars. Both commanders [266] are official Church-members, and never object to preaching even on the outpost. Soon one thousand of our soldiers were grouped about the spot selected for Sabbath morning service. It was a grand sight to behold such a vast assemblage, seated upon the rugged rocks, to listen eagerly to the words of life. These were the heroic soldiers, once led in the far West by the ill-fated Ben. McCullough, in the battles of Missouri, and they have since distinguished themselves at Farmington, near Corinth, Richmond, Ky., and Murfreesboro, Tenn. Gallant sons of the Lone Star State are seated with the soldiers from the Empire and Old North States, who fought bravely beside them in the late bloody conflict of Murfreesboro. While all listened so attentively, I could but contrast the scene with the bloody charge made by the same men when the gallant General Rains fell upon a spot very similar to our preaching place. The theme of the preacher was: ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,’ and strong were his arguments and earnest his appeals to impress indelibly upon their hearts the truths of his sermon.”

The great want of missionaries and chaplains was earnestly deplored by the godly officers and men, and a call was sent from nearly every division in the army for more laborers. At the regular meeting of the chaplains in General Polk's corps the self-denying ministers, who shared the rough life of the camp with the gallant men, resolved to make up what they lacked in numbers by increased devotion to their work and a deeper earnestness of soul in their lives and labors. “We must have a revival in our hearts if we would have it spread among the soldiers.” These were right words, and the revival that followed told that they had not been spoken in vain.

In response to the “MacEDONIANdonian cry” from the army measures were adopted by the Churches for supplying them with preachers. At the meeting of the Bishops and Board of Missions of the M. E. Church, South, held [267] in April at Macon, Ga., the wants of the army were seriously considered. After the presentation and advocacy of the plan of Army Missions by Rev. Dr. A. L. P. Green, Dr. J. B. McFerrin, and Dr. E. W. Sehon, the meeting appointed a committee to take into consideration the spiritual wants of the army of the Confederate States, and to report a plan by which the M. E. Church, South, through the agency of its Missionary Board, might, in some measure, supply those wants. The President, Bishop Early, appointed the following ministers as the committee: Bishop Pierce, Drs. McFerrin, Summers, Sellon, Green, L. M. Lee, Myers, and Revs. R. J. Harp and W. W. Bennett. In response to the report of the committee the Mission Board adopted the following plan:

Whereas information has reached this Board with regard to the destitution of ministerial service in the army of the Confederate States, and believing it to be the duty of the Church to supply as far as possible this deficiency: Therefore,

1. Resolved, That the Board of Managers of the Missionary Society of the M. E. Church, South, establish a branch of its operations in the army of the Confederate States of America, to be called the Army Mission.

2. Resolved, That the Bishops be and are hereby authorized and requested to appoint such general missionaries to the various departments of the army as in their judgment the demand requires and the funds of the Society may justify: Provided that they shall not appoint more than one general missionary to each army corps.

3. Resolved, That each general missionary appointed by the Bishops shall travel through the department assigned him, preach to the soldiers, visit those of them who are sick and wounded, and report to the Bishop having charge of his department the condition and wants of the army, and suggest proper persons to be engaged as laborers in the field. [268]

4. Resolved, That the general missionaries shall cooperate with the Confederate States Bible Society, the various organizations in the several Annual Conferences, and the editors and publishers of religious journals in the Confederate States, in the circulation of the Holy Scriptures and a general religious literature through the army.

The other denominations adopted similar measures, and soon many of the leading ministers of the South entered upon the missionary work in the armies with a zeal truly apostolic, and with a success that cannot be fully known until the last day.

The news that they were to have more preachers in the army was hailed with joy by the soldiers. A writer from Kershaw's brigade wrote: “We are having good times in our brigade now-preaching twice a week and three times on Sunday. We have only two preachers, a Baptist and a Presbyterian-both good-but if we had more preachers, I think we would have a great revival. I never saw men so anxious to hear preaching. They crowd around the preaching place two or three hours before the preacher gets there.” When the missionaries entered the army they found the fields white already to the harvest.

Perhaps the most unlikely place for a revival at this period was Vicksburg and its vicinity; and yet, even there, while closely pressed by heavy Federal forces, our soldiers were deeply pondering the question of salvation. The Rev. P. A. Johnston, chaplain of the 38th Mississippi Volunteers, wrote of a revival at Snyder's Bluff:

The Lord is at work among us. His stately steppings are often heard and his presence felt to the comfort of our souls. We have had for the past week very interesting prayer-meetings. They were well-attended and the very highest interest manifested. Souls are hungry for the “ bread of life.” [269]

Often in these prayer-meetings there are from twelve to twenty mourners. There have already been two or three conversions, and four have joined the Church. Sinners are being awakened, mourners comforted, and the Christian established in. the faith. The camp is a rough, hard life. But, sir, I feel fully compensated for every privation and hardship I have been subjected to.

And now, one word to state a very important fact. The partitions are well-nigh broken down that have heretofore kept Christians so far apart. We know each other here only as Christian brethren travelling to a better world. Our meeting is still progressing. Pray for us.

There was scarcely a command in any part of the field that did not call for the gospel. Rev. J. W. Turner, writing from Savannah, Georgia, says: “ ‘Our people seem to have deserted us,’ was the language of a sick soldier in one of the hospitals in this city. He was a member of the 25th Georgia regiment, which has been encamped near this place for nearly eighteen months.” The Baptists had given fruitful attention to this part of the field, as they did indeed with self-sacrificing zeal to every portion of the army. “There are three Baptist ministers,” says Mr. Johnston, “acting as general chaplains, colporteurs, &c., within and around this city. They are giving their whole time to the distribution of Testaments, tracts, and Baptist periodicals, and to the preaching of the word.” But few of any other denomination were laboring at this time in this portion of the army.

Of the forces stationed at Cumberland Gap, Rev. A. M. Jones, chaplain of the 55th Georgia, writes: “Having no house of worship, and the weather being very inclement and unpleasant, I have done very little preaching, but am endeavoring to do all the good I can by visiting the sick and procuring religious reading for the soldiers. Yesterday morning the mail brought us one hundred copies of the Southern Christian Advocate, which [270] gives about ten to each company. With joy they were received, and with pleasure distributed among the soldiers. Walking through the regiment five minutes after this time, you might have seen, in almost every cabin and street, men deeply interested, poring over this silent messenger of intelligence and truth.” Many a nail was fastened in a sure place by these messengers of truth sent by multiplied thousands into all the camps.

Some of the sermons preached by the leading ministers of the Churches were so memorable as never to be forgotten by those who heard or read them. The Rev. Dr. J. C. Stiles, of the Presbyterian Church, delivered a sermon on “National Rectitude,” which was replete with the noblest sentiments and delivered with all the force and fire of his patriotic heart. Speaking of the vices which stood in the pathway of the Confederacy to a free nationality, he seized those who fattened upon their country's grief, and held them up to the gaze of the world. Of the speculator he exclaimed:

Miserable man! How could he escape the all-pervading, generous patriotism of the day, and incarcerate his soul in such a cell of enormous degradation! The process is simple. His avaricious heart discovered that in our country the regular supply of merchantable commodities, which always keeps down the price, was cut off by the war, while the consumption of the same was as steady and undiminished as ever. Consequently, a steadily-increasing demand must as steadily augment the price. Let him then monopolize a large portion of necessary goods at their present value and hold over; ere long he must receive one, two, five, ten hundred per cent. upon his money, and ultimately make his fortune. Just there the man anchored his heart, his whole heart. This crisis of his country! What a nick of time for accumulation! How soon he must become a man of fortune, of enormous fortune! And, oh, the luxuries, and the power, and the pride, and the fame, and the rest of [271] magnificent possessions! Over and over again he turns the absorbing subject in his thoughts in ever new and more enchanting lights-until he has churned up an egregious yearning of the bowels after filthy lucre. Nothing else does he see, or feel, or live for.

Behold that great, hungry shark of the ocean! In the wake of the great ship he has scented the flesh and blood of the bait, and have it he will. He reaches the bullock's head, but teeth, bones, and horns are in his way. What cares he? Unchecked for an instant, he opens his prodigious jaws, and down go teeth, bones, horns, and all. So exactly with our great land-shark. The shining bait before him he will seize and nothing, nothing shall prevent him. But see! Self-respect and social standing and decency — they all lie in his way. If either of them survives, that fortune is not his. Nay! he cannot commence his hoarding. Mark the speculator! He halts not an instant, but forthwith extends his voracious mouth and crushes and devours them all, and drives on his fell pursuit.

Wretched man! his fearful work of crushing human weal and heaven's law magnifies upon him at every move. Nothing now short of the most audacious and inhuman spirit can nerve him to another step. For if the fraternity which he leads is still determined to press on their scheme of unprincipled, heartless. reckless, acquisition-ever rising prices, and ever falling and failing currency, must, ere long, embarrass every fiscal measure of the legislator, cripple every wheel of the government, cut off supplies from every national agent, enfeeble every movement of the army, convulse the masses with dread anxiety about their daily bread, crowd the mansions of the rich with the cries of the famishing poor, and wake up the darkest apprehensions touching the ultimate issues of the country's struggle. But what of all this? It is nothing, nothing to the speculator. His whole heart is immovably fixed. [272]

There is no deed of darkness which the soul of the accomplished speculator is not primed and charged to accomplish. That miserable man! At such a time as this! Yes, at such a time as this, he can feed and fatten upon the tasked sinews of the government, upon the struggling liberties of the people, upon the scanty wages of the soldier, upon the failing morsels of the poor, upon the last solace of the sick, the wounded, and the bereaved, and feel nothing. He can ponder all the brutal, crushing cruelties of Northern subjugation, and dwell upon all the swelling, bursting, maddening endurances, endurances of the Southern captive, and yet feel nothing. The spirit of the South; that most beautiful, genial, admirable element of our national heritage — that Southern spirit, so brave, generous, proud, and independent-he can look forth into the future and see that spirit, that noble spirit, by most unholy persecution, crushed out of the people and lying a cold corpse over all these hills and valleys where once it lived so vigorous and happy an existence; yes, and feel nothing. Oh, yes! That fellowman! He can gaze upon all this heart-rending spectacle and feel nothing, nothing but the splendors of that fortune he sucks out of the last drop of his country's blood. The love of money-oh, the love of money! Well saith Scripture, It is the root of all evil. Look out, speculator! Yet a little while, and that love of money shall pierce thee through with many sorrows and drown thy soul in perdition and destruction!

The venerable Bishop James 0. Andrew, of the M. E. Church, South, in an address to the ministers and members of his denomination, said:

These should be days of self-denial. Who can think of making parties and feasting on rich dainties, when thousands of gallant men, away from all their loved ones, are scarcely able to get the plainest food, and are enduring it all patiently, that we may be defended in the enjoyment of home and liberty; and when thousands of [273] the loved ones, whom they have left at home, have scarcely bread to eat and clothes to wear? Is there not something heartless in the music of ball-rooms and theatres and in wine and brandy parties, when hostile fleets and armies are hovering around our cities and our whole sea-coast, threatening to carry devastation into all the land? Verily, the voice of confession and prayer would suit us better.

I see that our President has again issued a proclamation calling on all the people to repair to the house of God, to fast, and humble and afflict our souls before him, beseeching him to forgive our individual and national sins, and to send us deliverance from the mighty fleets and armies which are marshalled against us and threaten to destroy us and devour our inheritance. I trust that all the people will obey the summons, and that on that day the confessions, thanksgivings, and supplications, of the whole people will go up with acceptance to the throne of the divine grace.

Charleston, S. C., was a point of great interest during the whole period of the war, and the fiery temper of the men who opened the fearful drama might be supposed to be unfavorable to the progress of the revival. But it was not so. Among the soldiers that lay for many weary months on the bare sands of the barren islands, and on the borders of the lagoons around that city, the work of grace went steadily forward. Christian Associations were formed, religious books, tracts, and papers were distributed, and earnest sermons preached, which resulted in most blessed scenes. In the 46th Georgia such an organization was formed, and the soldiers who united in it said: “Our object is to make it a despository for the names of members of the Church, that they may be known as such, and that thereby we may be the better enabled to watch over each other for good; that each may feel that he has something to do in teaching sinners the way of life; and that by a godly walk and [274] pious conversation he ought to honor his profession and glorify the God of his salvation.” One hundred and eighty-four Christian soldiers gave their names to the Association. Of this regiment, Rev. T. C. Stanley was then the chaplain, Lieutenant N. B. Binion was President of the Association, and W. J. Brown Secretary. These men came out not only to fight, to suffer, to die for their country, but to work for God and the truth in the midst of all the evils and corruptions of the camp.

The signs from other portions of the army in the West and Southwest were equally cheering. Along the lines in East Tennessee the revival began to spread with great power. Rev. W. B. Norris, writing from Loudon, Tenn., says:

During the month (April) there has been a deep religious interest among the soldiers here. We have had a series of meetings for about two weeks, which, we hope, resulted in much good.

The church in which we met was always crowded to the utmost, and there were always many seekers for the way of eternal life.

In the 59th Tennessee regiment there was a glorious work. Rev. S. Strick, the chaplain, says:

God is at work among our men. Many are earnestly seeking the pardon of their sins — some have been converted. Our nightly prayer-meetings are well-attended by anxious listeners, and my tent is crowded daily by deeply penitent souls. Never have I known such a state of religious feeling in our army as at this time. God's Spirit is moving the hearts of our soldiers.

From the 38th Alabama volunteers Rev. A. D. McVoy sent good tidings:

We have held nightly meetings almost uninterrupted, whenever the weather permitted, ever since last October, with large attendance, much interest, and good results. Some conversions and accessions to the Church have gladdened our hearts. While stationed in Mobile [275] we had every convenience for religious worship — a large arbor with seats and stands for fire. Since we have been transferred to Tennessee we have resumed our nightly meetings, either in quarters or upon some neighboring hill, where the shade is good, and where with logs we could construct our rude altar to God. Such a place as this has truly become a little Bethel to our souls. I never saw men more concerned about their soul's salvation. In a little gathering last night, which was greatly interrupted by rain, we had thirty to rise for prayers. The feeling seems to be deep and earnest. The members of the different Churches, who number over two hundred in my regiment, are greatly revived and aroused to duty. I have never found men listen with more profound attention to the word of God. We seem to be upon the eve of a gracious revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for which we are praying, watching, and struggling.

Rev. F. Milton Kennedy rejoiced in a great revival in the 28th North Carolina regiment:

I am having a delightful meeting in my regiment. Yesterday I administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to about one hundred communicants, and many, who have repeatedly met the shock of battle with unquailing hearts, were melted to tenderness and tears by the power of grace. Last night there were between thirty and forty penitents. Up to this time, as far as I have been able to ascertain, about fifteen have professed conversion, and upon the first invitation given to candidates for Church-membership (at the close of the communion service on yesterday), sixteen came forward. I trust the Church at home will remember the army in their prayers. There is a powerful and growing religious interest prevalent throughout large portions of this army, which only needs the impulse of a prayerful Church at home to sweep through the entire command and transform her heroic soldiery into a sacramental host.


Rev. W. T. Bennett, chaplain of the 12th Tennessee regiment, Polk's corps, wrote:

Our regiment is being greatly blessed. We meet from night to night for exhortation, instruction, and prayer. Already there have been upwards of thirty conversions. Most of them have joined the Church. There are yet a large number of inquirers. The moral tone of the regiment seems rapidly changing for the better.

Rev. T. C. Stanley, to whom we have already referred, reported favorably from the 46th Georgia regiment. More than two hundred were enrolled in the Association, and the movement was heartily seconded by the field, staff, and line officers. Colonel Colquitt, Major Spears, Quartermaster Leonard, and others, gave aid and counsel to the chaplain.

Among the troops at Columbus, Miss., a work of much interest began, which was interrupted in its progress by their removal to Jackson. The chaplain laboring there, Rev. W. H. Smith, sent forth an earnest call to the home Churches for help. “Brethren! ministers! are you asleep? Do you not hear the cries of your countrymen calling to you from every part of the land? The soldiers feel their need of salvation, and are crying for the gospel! And will you withhold it from them? Awake! arise! gird yourselves with the whole armor of God, and come forth ‘to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.’ ”

An officer of the 5th Georgia regiment, stationed at Bridgeport, Tenn., sent back home his appeal:

Our regiment now numbers about 650, and these men have not heard a sermon in five months. What a thought! Who is to blame? The men? I think not. The officers? No. Who then? The ministry or the Christians at home. I have done all in my power to secure the services of some minister to preach for us, but have, so far, entirely failed. Our regiment is composed [277] mostly of young men, many of them, at home, members of the Church-Christians; and shall it be said that any of these have backslidden or have died, and are forever lost, for the want of proper counsel? God forbid.

Rev. S. M. Cherry made a call from the army of Tennessee:

There is much interest manifested in our corps now. The cry, ‘Come over and help us,’ is heard from the serious soldiers in several commands. The harvest truly is great and the laborers few. Revivals are reported in several brigades. Chaplains still scarce.

Rev. C. T. Quintard, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, chaplain for Polk's corps, and J. H. Bryson, of the Presbyterian Church, chaplain of Hardee's corps, in appealing to the public for aid in supplying Bibles, Testaments, and Hymn-Books to the soldiers, said:

We feel that we need only mention the fact that our brave soldiers are asking for the Word of Life in order to secure from a generous public the most liberal contributions. Who can withhold, when the sick and wounded who fill our hospitals ask for the word of God to cheer and sustain them during their days of affliction, their nights of weariness and suffering? We feel confident that there are many who will give neither grudgingly nor of necessity, but with cheerful hearts and liberal hands. The religious interests of our soldiers demand and must receive prompt attention from every lover of good order, civil liberty, and piety towards God.

These and thousands of similar appeals stirred up the home Churches to redoubled efforts on behalf of their fellow-citizens in the field. The Bishops of the M. E. Church, South, in their appeal for means for the Army Mission, said:

The moral character of the army is dear to all the people, and demands that prompt provision be made to [278] preserve and promote it. The Church has precious interests at stake, in that many of her members are found in the ranks, and need ministerial instruction, and sympathy, and influence, to counteract surrounding temptations and keep up in vigorous action their personal piety. Moreover, the exposure of our fellow-citizens, kindred, and friends, to disease and death, in a thousand forms, makes an earnest effort for their salvation a duty which admits of no delay, and calls upon us all to do what we can to meet the emergency with loving hearts and liberal hands. The Great Head of the Church has manifested his gracious will by sending his Holy Spirit in a remarkable manner to the aid of those who are laboring in this important field.

Men and brethren, help. Your country calls. Your Church implores your aid. Patriotism urges, by all the ties of citizenship and the claims of your imperilled countrymen. Piety pleads with you by the love of Christ and of souls, the sanctified hopes and affections of our immortal nature, the present duty and future glory of the Redeemer's kingdom upon earth. Let us be up and doing. Give freely, largely. Deny yourselves. Magnify the grace of God in you and toward you. Fill the treasury of the Lord, that we, your servants, for Christ's sake, may send the gospel of peace to every army of the Confederacy.

Rev. Dr. E. W. Sehon, the Missionary Secretary of this Church, travelled at large appealing to the people and collecting thousands of dollars for the Army Mission. “But one heart of patriotism,” he said, “beats is the land. All are united in a struggle for justice and right, and all are laboring to sustain our noble army. We call for the same attention to be manifested by the Churches to their spiritual wants. With all the wise provisions of the Government in the appointment of chaplains, there is still a loud call for ministerial help. Other faithful preachers should be sent to aid in the [279] great work of those already gone. On the march, in the hospital, and on the tented field-at all times and in every place-these men of God should be with our brave soldiers.”

The action of other Churches was equally prompt and efficient. The Baptist Board of Domestic Missions set the sister Churches a noble example. At the General Convention, twenty-six missionaries were reported as laborers in the army-one in Florida; two in Alabama and North Carolina, respectively; three in South Carolina; four in Mississippi, Georgia, and Virginia, respectively; and six in Tennessee-and the Board determined to increase the number to the extent of men and means offering. These missionaries moved from camp to camp, and sometimes accompanied the troops on long marches, conversing with the men, distributing tracts, Testaments, religious papers, holding meetings for prayer and exhortation, and preaching as they found it convenient.

One feature of this army work deserves special notice. The aim of the laborers seemed to be to lead the soldiers to Christ, not to make them sectarians. It was alleged that the Baptist Tract Society was circulating tracts in the army teaching the peculiar tenets of that Church on the subject of baptism. This charge the Religious Herald, of Richmond, Va., one of the leading papers of that denomination, unqualifiedly denied, and declared that since the war opened their Board had not published a line bearing directly or indirectly on the question of baptism. A similar rumor prevailed concerning the Methodists issuing tracts teaching their views contra on the same question, but this was found to be untrue. Over-zealous men of both Churches might, on their own responsibility, have circulated old tracts bearing on these mooted subjects, but the publications of this class printed during the war avoided disputed points and taught the great cardinal doctrines and duties of religion. [280]

The great concern of the people at home for the salvation of their fellow-countrymen in the armies soon bore fruit. In the army of Tennessee there was a glorious work, which embraced hundreds and thousands in its influence. The Rev. F. S. Petway, chaplain of the 44th Tennessee regiment, Johnson's brigade, Cleburn's division, in connection with other ministers, reported a wonderful revival in that celebrated command:

In the latter part of March,

he says,

Chaplain Taylor, of the 23d Tennessee regiment, commenced a series of meetings at Tullahoma, assisted by Rev. A. W. Smith, of the 25th, and myself, which continued for several weeks, until temporarily interrupted by military movements. These meetings have resulted in much spiritual benefit to professed Christians, while about one hundred and five souls have embraced Christ as their Saviour.

In General Wood's brigade a meeting of great interest has for several weeks been under the supervision of Rev. F. A. Kimball, chaplain of the 16th Alabama, assisted mainly by Colonel Reed, Chief of Provost Marshal Department, in Hardee's corps, and Col. Lowery, cf the 45th and 32d Mississippi, the result of which has been one hundred conversions. In the same brigade, Chaplain Otkin, of Col. Lowery's regiment, has been conducting religious services, which, from the best information received, has been productive of great good in restoring many wanderers to their former enjoyments and inducting about forty-five souls into the kingdom of Christ.

In General Polk's brigade, Bro. Davis, of the 1st Arkansas, and Quarles, of the 45th Tennessee, have been laboring with commendable zeal and success in their respective commands, with occasional assistance from Chaplains Smith and Taylor, and as the fruit of their labors God has converted about seventy souls.

In General Lidell's Arkansas brigade, which is destitute [281] of a chaplain, a meeting was commenced five weeks since by Bro. Anderson, preacher in charge of Bedford Circuit, but who, in consequence of affliction, was forced to retire in the very incipiency of an encouraging revival. The charge of the meeting devolved on me, and with the efficient aid of Bros. Taylor, Smith. and Stevenson (the latter of whom is a supernumerary member of the Tennessee Conference), it has continued up to the present time, without any abatement of the interest. Each night crowds of penitents throng the altar for prayer, averaging from eighty-five to one hundred, and the number of conversions, according to the most correct estimate, will not fall below one hundred and forty.

The whole number converted at these meetings was four hundred and seventy-eight, while hundreds more, who had yielded to the vices and temptations of the camp, found the joy of salvation restored to their souls. Under the preaching of Rev. S. M. Cherry, in McCown's division, the conversions in two regiments reached one hundred and forty. In the brigades of Gens. Stuart and Wright, the revival was powerful and many were converted. “In these revivals,” says Mr. Petway,

two encouraging facts are made manifest. We see officers, from colonels of regiments down to captains, lieutenants, and sergeants, giving their counsels and mingling their tears, songs, and prayers, with those of the private soldier, and a good number of those who are thus engaged have recently been made partakers of God's converting grace. Another fact worthy of notice consists in the marked attention and deep solemnity of the vast crowds to whom we preach.

The idea of disrespect among soldiers to the worship of God seems to have gained the ascendancy in the minds of those at home, than which nothing is more unfounded. While the army is composed of every variety of character, some of whom have no aspiration beyond that of card-playing and low, vulgar profanity, yet there [282] are hundreds, who, in point of intellect and high-toned morals, rank with the first men in the Southern Confederacy, and who, like the evergreen among the blasted shrubbery, shed a healthful influence around them. Could many of our fashionable city crowds be present and witness the marked respect paid by these men to the service of God, they would not only be proud of our army, but some among the elite would, perhaps, be put to the blush and acknowledge an example worthy of their imitation. And in order to remove false impressions abroad, with regard to these noble men who are suffering and sacrificing so much for the good of our country, I affirm, that, during a ministry of seventeen years, I have rarely, even in the most enlightened communities, preached to as large crowds to whose deportment during divine service so little exception could be taken; and in the assertion I will be sustained by a large majority of the chaplains. It is due to the soldiers that this fact be made public, and thus disprove a slander, so often repeated, that card-playing, profane swearing. and low vulgarity, are not unusual within a few steps of where divine service is being conducted. I have preached nearly one hundred sermons within eight months in the army, and such things have not yet fallen under my observation; and, moreover, were men even inclined thus to insult God and the ministry, the restraints of military law would soon place them beyond the possibility of repeating the act. So the charge refutes itself.

To this work Rev. Dr. J. B. McFerrin, who had been recently appointed army missionary, contributed greatly by his able and fervent sermons. He was personally known to thousands in the army of Tennessee, and his coming was like the visit of a father to his children.

The Presbyterian Church sent forth many of her ablest ministers. Rev. Dr. Waddell, Chancellor of the University of Mississippi, was appointed Superintendent of Army Missions in the West and Southwest, and he was [283] ably supported by such men as Dr. Palmer, of New Orleans, Dr. Rutherford, Dr. E. T. Baird, Rev. J. H. Bryson, and many other earnest preachers. In the army of Northern Virginia, they had Dr. B. T. Lacy, Dr. R. E. Dabney, and others, who gave a great impetus to the revival by their unwearied and successful labors. Besides the regular missionaries, the pastors of the home churches of all the denominations visited and preached to the various camps, on all occasions, when they could spare time from their charges.

The attention given to the word preached was an index to the state of mind in the army congregations. “Could you see,” said a writer from Kershaw's brigade, “the crowd that collects nightly under the large arbor prepared for the purpose, perhaps you would be surprised that, in the large concourse, not one word is spoken, not even in the outskirts of the congregation; but every man is looking intently at the minister, catching every word that falls from his lips.” Another writer from a different command: “I have never seen men listen with more profound attention to the word of God. We seem to be upon the eve of a gracious revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for which our friends at home, I trust, are offering up supplications daily.”

The men of this regiment gave $425 to enable their chaplain to supply them with Testaments, tracts, and religious papers.

Rev. T. C. Wier, referring to the religious habits of the soldiers, says: “They listen with a quiet, deferential respect to the Word, rarely witnessed in our congregations at home. In addition to preaching and prayer-meeting on the Sabbath or during the week, we have public prayers at the Sunday evening dress parade. This custom was introduced into our regiment at the suggestion of our first Colonel, Hon. Robert McLain, a New School Presbyterian preacher. There is something impressive in this Sabbath evening prayer. It is [284] a calm evening, and the men are drawn up in the order for dress parade. At the commad, ‘parade rest,’ leaning gracefully upon their arms, they come to the position of ‘rest.’ Our good Colonel then gives the command, ‘ Attention to prayer by the chaplain-heads uncovered,’ when the chaplain, facing the regiment a few feet in front of the Colonel, offers a short, appropriate prayer. Such a scene might often have been witnessed last summer, while we were pleasantly camped near Columbus, Miss. Since that time, we have marched many a weary mile, and seen much severe service in the camp and on the bloody field. Our good Colonel fell mortally wounded in the attempt to storm Corinth, and found a soldier's grave near the memorable field. His last message to absent friends was, ‘Tell them I fell in defence of a just cause.’ We have lost other men, brave and true, and passed through various changes, but we still keep up the custom of prayer at the Sabbath evening dress parade.”

Leaving now for a time the armies of the West, let us return to those noble heroes, who, in the East, felt and rejoiced in the wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which, whether in the camp, on the march, in bivouac, or on the field of battle, marked the history of the army of Northern Virginia from this time until the close of the war.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1863 AD (1)
October (1)
April (1)
March (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: