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[308]

Chapter 19: summer of 1863.

After the great victory of Chancellorsville, the Confederate army lay along the south side of the Rappahannock, watching the movements of the Federals, who held the opposite side of that river.

But few military movements of importance were undertaken for some weeks, and this period of repose and re-organization was well-improved by the zealous Christian workers in the army.

The fervor of the revival was even greater after the battle than before; in almost every regiment the reports of chaplains and colporteurs were most encouraging.

Rev. W. E. Jones, chaplain of the 22d Georgia regiment, wrote:

The Lord is in our midst. Ever since the last great victory God has been pouring out upon this regiment his Spirit, almost without measure, and many have been converted, and forty-five have joined different branches of the Church, and there is a host of mourning souls. They rush to the altar by scores. The work is prospering throughout our entire army. I earnestly call upon all God's people, and especially upon parents, wives, and sisters, to pray for the salvation of these precious souls.

A private soldier, lamenting that there was no chaplain to his battalion, said:

We have prayer-meetings every night, and God never fails to meet with us. Now, I know we are not dependent upon instruments of power for carrying on a work of this kind. On the contrary, very often the weakest are chosen.

[309]

In the 52d North Carolina regiment the work was glorious. Rev. J. Mi. Cline, the chaplain, said:

God has blessed our regiment with a most glorious revival of religion. God has indeed been with us. During the last ten days fifty-six have joined the Church, and thirty-three have been soundly converted. The Lord has done great things for us. Lions have been changed to lambs. I never witnessed such a glorious revival before. The Church is greatly revived, and built up in the most holy faith. On last Sabbath I administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to one hundred and fifteen communicants. God was with us, and we had a refreshing season from the presence of the Lord. The revival is still progressing.

Upon the earnest labors of Rev. J. O. A. Cook, chaplain of the 2d Georgia battalion, God sent his blessing. A young convert of that command, writing to a ,comrade, said:

Last Saturday night I commenced the work in good earnest, with the determination to pursue the object in view until I found the ‘peace that passeth understanding.’ On Sunday morning I was wholly convinced that my heart had been changed. Now I would not exchange my condition with that of the mightiest monarch. I would not sway the sceptre, in sin, in preference to being a subject of religion. The revival spreads. The Spirit of God is truly at work in the hearts of nearly all of the members of our little battalion. Soon I hope we will have the reputation of being a battalion of soldiers of Christ. We have a bright prospect ahead. Our prayer-meetings are larger, and a deeper interest pervades the minds of all.

Another earnest worker wrote: “It would rejoice your heart if you could visit the Pine Grove near our camp, and listen to the many voices here and there as they supplicate for the forgiveness of sin, for the regenerating blood of Jesus Christ to wash and purge their hearts [310] from all guilt; and perhaps as you walked farther on you would stumble on a party of three or four, who had sought some secluded spot to converse upon the all-engrossing subject. The attendance upon our meeting, both at the Grove and at the camp, is increasing. Those at the Grove have become regular class meetings, and remind me so much of our little class-room as I listen to the experience of those who have lately found pardon for all their sins. Since the day of fasting and prayer, for the purpose of entreating God to carry on the good work, there has been a visible increase in the number of penitents at the altar. To-night there could not have been less than fifty. J. A. was gloriously converted this morning. A few had assembled at the Grove merely for conversation on religious subjects and an exchange of views. lie was among the number, and while thus engaged he suddenly left and went into the woods. In a short time he came back with outstretched arms and beaming countenance, threw himself in O.'s arms, with the expression, ‘I am so happy.’ You can imagine what a holy influence it had upon those who were there. Since I have been writing G. las come in and told me that three glorious conversions have taken place in the Spaulding Grays, and a few moments ago C. also told. me that F. B. was powerfully converted in the woods since the meeting. Is not this glorious news? Oh! how thankful we ought to be to our Heavenly Father for his great ‘loving kindness and mercy to the children of men.’ I never saw more zealous workers in the cause of Christ than C. and J. C. They are full of the Spirit, and can talk and think of nothing else.”

The work went on not only in the camps and along the rear lines, but even in the trenches on the very edge of battle. “On Sunday evening,” writes a soldier from near Fredericksburg, “we had a very interesting little meeting in the trenches. It began with some of the battalion singing. One by one the different regiments [311] collected around and joined in. Soon it was turned into a prayer-meeting, and it proved to be one of the most interesting scenes I had witnessed for a long time.”

In the 14th South Carolina regiment a Christian Association was formed for the purpose, as the Constitution declared, of being “helpers of each other's joy” in Christ, and “laborers together with God” in the promotion of his cause. We covenant together with each other and with Christ to strive to grow in grace ourselves, to use all means in our power to promote the growth of grace in each other, and to be instrumental in bringing others to a saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus; in short, to realize and act out in our lives the truth that “we are not our own,” but “are bought with a price,” and are therefore bound “to glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits, which are God's.” Of this Association Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph N. Brown was President; Lieutenant R. 13. Watson and Adjutant W. P. Ready, Vice-Presidents; and Captain H. P. Griffith, Secretary and Treasurer.

The soldiers in the West were as fully blessed with the spirit of revival as their comrades in the East. Vicksburg and other points on the Mississippi were sorely pressed by the Federals, and there was much marching, counter-marching, and fighting on the field and in trenches, but still the work of God went on with unusual power.

In response to the urgent demand for more laborers in this great field, the different Churches sent forth all earnest workers that could be spared from the home work.

Rev. Messrs. McFerrin, Petway, and Ransom, of the M. E. Church, South, went to the help of Gen. Bragg's army; Messrs. Thweat and Harrington, of the same Church, to the army in Mississippi; while Bishop Pierce, Dr. A. L. P. Green, and Rev. J. E. Evans, went to Gen. Lee's army in Virginia. Rev. Dr. Kavanaugh was sent [312] to the army of General Price, and Rev. Mr. Marvin (now Bishop) was directed by Bishop Pierce to take position as missionary with any army corps west of the Mississippi. The work of these ministers, with that of other zealous men from sister Churches, gave a great impulse to the revival. In Colonel Colquitt's 46th Georgia regiment, camped near Vernon, Miss., the work was powerful, and great numbers were converted. “Last night,” says Rev. T. C. Stanley, “there were about eighty presented themselves for prayer, kneeling upon the ground. The Christian heart could not but be touched while witnessing such a scene. We were under the tall spreading oaks of the forest, and the moon bathing all with its gentle beams, typical of the Spirit that was in mercy sent down from above, enveloping us as with a garment of love, cheering the heart of the Christian and comforting many a poor penitent.”

In the ordeal through which Vicksburg passed before the siege closed, the feeling of dependence on God was very marked among the suffering soldiers. We take the following from a chaplain's journal, kept during the siege:

Our case is desperate. I hope in God. There is much turning to him now, to recount his promises, and to claim his protection. There is no difficulty now in having religious conversation. Everybody is ready for it. ... A bright Sabbath morning; but its stillness is broken by the harsh and startling detonations of the engines of destruction. I sigh for the sweet, undisturbed sanctuary. “As the hart,” etc. Read a sermon to a small company of gentlemen to-day. Got on somewhat of a Sunday feeling. We sit up till a late hour every night, discussing the situation, etc. ... A furious fire was poured upon us this morning at 3 o'clock from the batteries beyond the trenches. One shot struck a hospital near me and killed one man; the others were frightened, and cried out most piteously. [313] Nothing that I have met is more harrowing to my feelings than scenes like this. Tried to observe to-day as the Sabbath by acts of piety and works of charity.

In the army of General Bragg the revival went on despite the sufferings of the troops in their retrogade movement to the vicinity of Chattanooga. Rev. W. H. Browning, writing to the Southern Christian Advocate of the work of grace, says:

I am truly gratified to state to you that the religious interest in this army, though abated to some extent by the retrogade movement to this place, has again revived, and there is now a general spirit of revival manifest in every part of this army. In this brigade we have been holding meetings each night for more than two weeks. There are generally from thirty to fifty penitents at the altar each night, and about forty conversions. In most of the brigades in this division they are holding similar meetings. Indeed, the same may be said of the entire army.

The most careless observer can but notice the marked change that has taken place in the regiments. Instead of oaths, jests, and blackguard songs, we now have the songs of Zion, prayers and praises to God. True, there are yet many profane, wicked, and rude, yet the preponderance is decidedly in favor of Christianity. I verily believe that the morals of the army are now far in advance of those of the country. And instead of the army being the school of vice, as was once supposed, and really was, it is now the place where God is adored, and where many learn to revere the name of Jesus. Many backsliders have recently been reclaimed-the lukewarm have been aroused, and sinners have been converted. Will not our families and friends at home awake to the importance of a deeper work among themselves? This is a time that calls for universal humiliation and prayer.

In addition to these extracts we can only give brief, [314] but expressive, records from other parts of the army. Rev. R. G. Porter, chaplain of the 10th Mississippi regiment, Bragg's army, says:

It makes my very soul happy to witness the manifestations of God's saving power as seen here in the army — from ten to forty at the altar of prayer-have preaching every day when not hindered by the men being called off.

The Rev. Dr. Palmer, of New Orleans, preached with power and love, and under his word the revival deepened. Rev. C. W. Miller, army missionary, writes of the work in Georgia, Gen. D. H. Hill's corps:

Since I arrived here as missionary I have been engaged every night in religious services with the soldiers. A revival and extensive awakening have been in progress in General Bate's brigade for four weeks. Every night the altar is crowded with weeping penitents. Several have been happily converted. To me it is the most interesting sight of my life. You cannot look upon these penitent, weeping men at the altar of prayer without thinking of the bloody fields of Perryville and Murfreesboro, and the victorious veterans rolling up to heaven the shouts of triumph. Here they are. Some sending up the note of a more glorious victory-others charging through the columns of the foe to ‘take the kingdom of heaven by force.’

From James' Island, near Charleston, a pious captain of a Georgia regiment writes:

Since our chaplain came we have had a gracious revival. Many souls have been converted, and many added to the Church. And many of those who had grown cold have been revived, and we now have a warmhearted, worshiping congregation.

Even under the fire of the Federal batteries the work went on. Rev. Mr. Browning, from Chattanooga, says:

Yesterday evening, about 5 o'clock, the enemy began to throw shells across the river again, firing slowly [315] for about an hour; notwithstanding this, at the usual hour (twilight) we had a very large crowd of anxious listeners at the rude arbor the men had erected for the worship of God. A short discourse was delivered, when the penitents were invited to the altar. Fifty or sixty came forward, earnestly enquiring the way of salvation. Ten of this number were converted and enabled to “ testify of a truth” that Christ was their Saviour. The work is still extending. Each night increases the attendance, the interest, and the number of penitents.

During a ministry of a fourth of a century I have never witnessed a work so deep, so general, and so successful. It pervades all classes of the army (in this brigade), and elicits the co-operation of all denominations. We know no distinction here. Baptists, Cumberlands, Old Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists, work together, and rejoice together at the success of our cause.

Mr. B. writes again from the same place: “The glorious work of God is still progressing in this brigade. About one hundred and thirty conversions up to this time. The interest is unabated. From sixty to seventy-five penitents at the altar each night. It is wonderful that for nearly five weeks we have been enabled to continue this work, with but one night's interference from rain and one on picket. Surely the Lord has been good to us. We have been too closely confined to ascertain the state of the work in other brigades, further than that a good work is in progress in some of them, perhaps all. The chaplains of this corps have not met for several weeks. To-morrow is the regular time, but as the enemy shell the town every few days it is doubtful whether we will have a quorum.”

The spreading revival called for all the workers that could be supplied from the home work. Bishop Early, of the M. E. Church, South, appointed Rev. J. N. Andrews, of the North Carolina Conference, a missionary [316] to the soldiers in North Carolina, and the Rev. Leonidas Rosser, D. D., of the Virginia Conference, to take the place of Rev. Dr. James E. Evans, whose health had failed, in General Ewell's corps in the Army of Northern Virginia.

In midsummer of this year (1863) the people of the South were again called by the President of the Confederacy to observe a day of fasting and prayer. He issued the following proclamation:

Again do I call upon the people of the Confederacy — a people who believe that the Lord reigneth, and that his overruling Providence ordereth all things — to unite in prayer and humble submission under his chastening hand, and to beseech his favor on our suffering country.

It is meet that when trials and reverses befall us we should seek to take home to our hearts and consciences the lessons which they teach, and profit by the self-examination for which they prepare us. Had not our successes on land and sea made us self-confident and forgetful of our reliance on him; had not love of lucre eaten like a gangrene into the very heart of the land, converting too many among us into worshippers of gain and rendering them unmindful of their duty to their country, to their fellow-men, and to their God--who then will presume to complain that we have been chastened, or to despair of our just cause and the protection of our Heavenly Father?

Let us rather receive in humble thankfulness the lesson which he has taught us in our recent reverses, devoutly acknowledging that to him, and not to our own feeble arms, are due the honor and the glory of victory; that from him, in his paternal providence, come the anguish and sufferings of defeat, and that, whether in victory or defeat, our humble supplications are due at his footstool.

Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of these Confederate States, do issue this, my proclamation, setting [317] apart Friday, the 21st day of August ensuing, as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer; and I do hereby invite the people of the Confederate States to repair on that day to their respective places of public worship, and to unite in supplication for the favor and protection of that God who has hitherto conducted us safely through all the dangers that environed us.

In faith whereof I have hereunto set my hand and the seal of the Confederate States, at Richmond, this twenty-fifth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three.

Jefferson Davis.
By the President: J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of State.

The field of conflict was now full of startling events. General Lee made his grand movement into Pennsylvania, which culminated in the terrible battle of Gettysburg. From East Tennessee to Texas the different armies on both sides displayed unusual activity.

There was but little time for religious services, but on every suitable occasion they were held, and much fruit was gathered even from fields soaking in blood.

The following scene will show with what true heroism our Christian soldiers met death:

In the retreat of our army from Middle Tennessee one of the soldiers,

says Dr. W. A. Mulkey, a surgeon in the army,

was struck by an unexploded shell, the ponderous mass sweeping away his right arm and leaving open the abdominal cavity, its contents falling upon his saddle. In a moment he sank from his horse to the ground, but soon revived, and for two hours talked with as much calmness and sagacity as though he were engaged in a business transaction.

Soon several of his weeping friends gathered around him expressing their sympathy and sorrow. He thanked them for their manifestations of kindness, but told them [318] that instead of weeping for him they ought to weep over their own condition; for, sad to say, if, even among the professors of his company, there was one who lived fully up to the discharge of his Christian duties, he was not aware of it.

He said, “I know that my wound is mortal, and that in a very short time I shall be in eternity; but I die as has been my aim for years-prepared to meet my God.” After exhorting those who stood around him to live the life of Christians, he said, “Tell my wife to educate my two children and train them up in such a way as to meet me in a better world. Before she hears of my death I shall be with our little Mary in heaven.”

He then observed that in entering the army he was influenced alone by a sense of duty; that he did not regret the step he had taken; and that while dying he felt he had tried to discharge his duties both as a soldier and Christian.

Thus died an humble private in the ranks of our cavalry, in whose life were most harmoniously blended the characters of patriot, soldier, and Christian.

We are glad to record this glorious death of an humble private. It is but one out of many thousands. Those who are in highly places have their words recorded, but it is rare that the humble toilers can be heard in the rush and roar of life's battle.

The untoward events of this summer's campaign served to depress the minds of soldiers and people. After a heroic resistance Vicksburg fell.

The bloody battle of Gettysburg was followed by Gen. Lee's backward movement to Virginia. Charleston was closely invested and was shelled most vigorously. A deep gloom hung over the South. But there was no despair. The pulpit and the press spoke words of cheer to the people.

Rev. Dr. E. H. Myers, of the Southern Christian Advocate, urged all to lift their hearts to God. [319]

“ There is great necessity,” he said,

for us to cultivate our intercourse with Heaven. Our temporal condition looks none the brightest. God is trying us in a fiery furnace of war; and for the present, the battle seems to go against us. The high hopes for our country and of a speedy peace, which we entertained a few weeks since, have been in a measure disappointed, and we may be doomed to yet greater disappointment. But there is a refuge for the soul in every storm. God's peace and love, the joys and hopes of salvation, the sanctifying and comforting influences of the Holy Ghost, are not subject to human circumstances; and they may be ours amid every variety of calamity. But these are the fruits of the cultivation of personal religion; and, independent of every other consideration, the uncertainty of all other sources of comfort alone should be an inducement to us to betake ourselves to that refuge, to watch closely, pray much, believe with all our heart, and to cleave the closer to God, the louder the storm swells, and the more furiously the billows dash upon the wreck of earthly hopes.

He who, in the dark hour, feels that he grows in grace and maintains soul-communion with God, stands upon a rock. He shall never be moved.

The same writer who has told us of the scenes in Vicksburg furnishes the following sad picture of the last day of the siege:

July 4th.-When I awoke this morning an unusual stillness prevailed. No firing anywhere. Before very long hear that Vicksburg is surrendered. Went out to the field, and, with the most painful emotions, saw our brave boys stack their arms and march away. The terms are said to be favorable, paroling men and officers. Returned to town and witnessed the grand entry. Ere long the flag is raised upon the Courthouse; the guns fire a salute, and a band plays a triumphant air. My heart sank with such a “Fourth of July Celebration.” I observe the conduct of the enemy to be respectful and considerate. [320] No insolence of manner, and but little offensive taunting. They are pressing negroes, however, for their regiments, etc.

July 5th.-Awoke this morning at 3 o'clock, hurting and sore from the hardness of my bed. Remained awake thinking! thinking! thinking! Arose and got a cup of bona fide coffee. Rations are short, though we will draw to-morrow from the Federals. They are swarming like Egyptian locusts. Last night they amused themselves all around with a grand pyrotechnic exhibition. I watched their rockets of different colors and spangles, but did not enjoy the fun. Preached to the regiment this morning. We were in a sequestered cove, with many recent graves around us to remind us of our bereavement; with our spirits be clouded by the gloom of our present situation, and our hearts laboring with gratitude for our preservation through the fiery ordeal just passed; and the worship of the hour was solemn and impressive. It will mark an era doubtless in the experience of many-this “ siege of Vicksburg.”

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