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Chapter 22: spring of 1864.

The preparations on both sides in the early spring of 1864 gave promise of a year of great battles. After the repeated failures of six successive Federal Generals to take Richmond, General Grant was appointed to the command of all the Federal armies, and he fixed his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac. General Lee confronted him with the Army of Northern Virginia. At Dalton, Ga.. was General Johnston with an admirably equipped army, and opposed to him were the gathering thousands of Federals led against him by Gen. Sherman in the memorable campaign that ended with the capture of Atlanta.

At other places the opposing powers brought smaller armies to confront each other. There were few in the South that did not feel that this year's work must decide the great questions at issue. The Confederate government made another call for men, embracing those between seventeen and eighteen and forty-five and fifty. The strictest measures were adopted for the purpose of securing the service of every available man. All absentees were recalled to the ranks, and the different armies brought up to the last degree of strength. The year 1864 was to witness the battles of the giants.

But in the midst of all this preparation for the hideous work of blood the revival rather increased than decreased in power. The deep and solemn conviction that great events were impending turned the thoughts of the people to God. From the Confederate Congress came a call to humiliation, fasting, and prayer. The people in the armies and at home were urged to call upon God, [364] “That he would so inspire our armies and their leaders with wisdom, courage, and perseverance, and so manifest himself in the greatness of his goodness and the majesty of his power, that we may be safely and successfully led through the war to which we are being subjected, to the attainment of an honorable peace; so that while we enjoy the blessings of a free and happy government we may ascribe to him the honor and the glory of our prosperity and independence.”

The Southern people strove to maintain a calm trust in God in the presence of their great danger. Even in beleaguered Charleston, while shells were screaming in the air and falling in the streets and houses, the people met in the churches and devoutly worshiped. They had encouragement to pray. For it really seemed that the shield of God's protection was over the city. An eyewitness says:

Probably five thousand howling missiles of death have fallen with dreadful crash in and near the city, and all that at a cost immediately of about five lives. And amid it all the people of God, Sabbath after Sabbath, have assembled at their places of worship, and thus, rising above all the commotion of war, hold communion with Him who rides on the whirlwind, who tempers the winds to the shorn lamb, the infinite God reconciled through Christ to a sinful world.

From the armies that knew how each passing day brought them nearer to death the reports were most cheering.

“It does one's heart good,” writes a chaplain, “to be at some of our Chaplain and Missionary Associations and hear the reports come up from the various regiments and brigades of the wonderful revival in the army.”

Another says: “The awakening has been very extensive. Strong men bow themselves, and the man hardened by three years of war and the corrupting influences [365] of the camps comes to the altar of prayer and ‘mourns his follies past,’ praying God for pardon.”

“We have,” says another, “two hundred volumes of religious books which are let out to the regiment upon rules adopted by our Sunday Schools.”

Among the most touching scenes were the sacramental occasions in the army. At such times all denominational lines were forgotten, and Christians of all the Churches knelt together and received the emblems of a Saviour's love.

Rev. A. G. Haygood describes such a scene in the Army of Tennessee:

We invited all of God's children to join with us in this holy feast. As hundreds joined in that oft-used hymn-

That doleful night before his death,
The Lamb for sinners slain,
Did, almost with his dying breath,
This solemn feast ordain,

many Christians wept, and sinners looked seriously and wonderingly on. It was so unlike the rude scenes of war. I shall never forget, and I shall always feel it, when I remember how these rough-bearded, war-worn, and battle-scarred veterans of three years fierce conflict crowded around the log — the rude altar improvised for the occasion — to celebrate the death of their gracious and adorable Redeemer. Three-fourths of the communicants-and they were from the various denominations represented in the command — were in tears.

The religion of the soldier was of the best type. Rev. C. W. Miller says:

My observation is that the religion of the army approximates more nearly that of the primitive days of Christianity than anything which I have witnessed in the halcyon days of peace. The soldier's situation is peculiarly favorable to the growth of a benevolent, unselfish, [366] and primitive piety. Political storms disturb not the calm of his soul. His musket is his platform. The ‘love of gaina finds no fostering facilities. Necessity has taught him to be ’ content with his wages'-eleven dollars per month. Sectarian strife and pulpit gladiators no longer warp and embitter the great current of his heart. And thus, freed from these former hindrances, he cultivates that religion which teaches the heart to love God with all the mind, soul, and body, and his neighbor as himself.

The work at Dalton while the army lay there was :lmost without a parallel. In the coldest and darkest nights of winter the rude chapels were crowded, and at the call for penitents hundreds would bow down in sorrow and tears.

Dr. McFerrin was a tower of strength. He won his way to the hearts of the soldiers by his candor and kindness, and had the blessed privilege of leading thousands to Christ. I-e was ably supported by other missionaries and by the chaplains, and under their combined efforts such a revival flame was kindled as is seldom seen in this sinful world. Dalton was the spiritual birthplace of thousands. Many are in heaven. Some still rejoice and labor on the earth. “Come to the army,” shouted a missionary to his brethren, “for the harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few.”

The religious enthusiasm of our soldiers did not fail to impress the more sober-minded and reflecting among our opponents.

A Southern chaplain, who remained with our wounded men after the battle of Gettysburg, wrote to a paper at home an account of a sermon he heard from a Federal chaplain, in which he contrasted the religious spirit of the two armies.

“One Sabbath afternoon,” he says,

soon after the battle it became necessary for me to go to Gettysburg, and, passing through one of the principal streets, I saw [367] a little group of people in one corner of an open square engaged in public worship. Approaching the spot, I soon found myself in the midst of an assemblage of thirty or forty persons, mostly women and soldiers, engaged in divine worship, while around them was a throng in busy conversation about the events of the day as unconcerned in their manner as if no religious services were being held. The minister had commenced his sermon, and I did not learn the text; but the subject was the recognition of God's providence, and the sense of dependence upon him essential to national success. He had already spoken of the utter want in the mind of the Northern people of this feeling of dependence upon God, and of their constant failure to take any steps to secure his favor. He was speaking, as I approached, of the gross irreligion and unblushing wickedness of the Northern army; and, in order to make the impression deeper, he drew an eloquent contrast between the spirit of the Northern army and that which he supposed to actuate the army of the South.

The Southern army, said lie, is one which, from its commanding Generals to its lowest privates, is pervaded with the sense of dependence upon God. The highest councils of its military leaders are opened with prayer for t is divine guidance and benediction. Every battle is planned and every campaign conducted in the spirit of prayer. More than this: Every soldier is taught to feel that the cause in which he contends is one that God approves, that if he is faithful to God his Almighty arm will protect, and his infinite strength ensure success. Thus believing that God's eye of approval is upon him, that God's arm of protection is thrown around him, and that God's banner of love is over him, the Southern soldier enters the field of battle nerved with a power of endurance and a fearlessness of death which nothing else can give.

You may call this, said the speaker, fanaticism, enthusiasm, [368] or what you will; but remember, you are fighting an enemy that comes from the closet to the battlefield. that comes from its knees in prayer to engage in deadly strife, that comes in the belief that its battles are the battles of Jehovah, that his smile is resting upon its banners and will ensure success. With what indomitable strength, said lie, does such a conviction, whether true or false, endue men? What power it has to make every man a hero, and every hero if need be a martyr! How can we hope for success, contending against such an army, even though our cause is just, while we ignore our dependence upon God, deny ourselves communion with him, and thus lose our great source of strength?

I do not care to follow the speaker further. It was with mingled emotions of sorrow and gratitude that I listened to him-sorrow to think that our army should fall so far short of the ideal presented by the speaker-gratitude because I felt that in many respects the picture was true.

The influence of many leading officers of the Confederate army was fully in favor of the revival. In a letter from Gen. Johnston's army, Rev. J. J. Hutchinson describes a most pleasing scene. he says:

Ten days ago Gen. Pendleton, a hero of Manassas memory, preached to the soldiers at Dalton. General Johnston and very many other officers were present. On the same day Major-General Stewart, who is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, assisted in this brigade in the administration of the sacrament of the Lord's supper. On the same day I preached to Gen. Finley's brigade, where the General and his staff were present, and where he united audibly with our prayers. Gen. Cleburne, the hero of many battle-fields, treated me with much attention and kindness-had a place prepared for preaching in the centre of his division, where himself and most of his officers were present, and where I was assisted by Brigadier-General Lowry, who sat in the pulpit with me [369] and closed the services of the hour with prayer. I partook of the hospitality of Gen. L. at dinner, and spent several delightful hours in profitable religious conversation. The General is a Baptist preacher, and, like the commander of the division, is a hero of many well-fought battle-fields. He takes great interest in the soldiers' religious welfare, often preaches to them, and feels that the ministry is still his high and holy calling. I wish I had the space to give you more of his interesting life's history, and to speak of this noble and pious officer as he deserves.

The same missionary says: “Never have I seen such a field for preaching the gospel and inculcating religious truth as tie Confederate army now presents; ‘ the fields are white unto the harvest.’ ”

In many of the hospitals the revival was deep and powerful. The conversion of the sick soldiers and the happy deaths often witnessed made a deep impression on the minds of unbelievers. At one of the large hospitals in Tennessee the following scene was witnessed. At the close of a sermon a call was made for penitents. Among others that came forward and bowed in prayer was i\ surgeon. At the close of the service he took the chaplain by the hand and said:

I am a great sinner! I have a pious-mother-was brought up in the lap of the Church-studied my profession in N- , travelled and studied in Europe-came home and entered the army a skeptic and scoffer of religion.

“But,” said he,

I see such a difference between the death of the believer and the unbeliever, the question has forced itself upon my mind, What makes the difference? I took from my trunk the Bible my mother gave me five years ago, making me promise to read it, which, in the excitement of worldly pleasures, I had wholly neglected. The sight of that heavenly book, just as it was when she gave it to me, with the remembrance of her [370] parting kiss, her parting tear, her parting prayer, brought a little fountain of tears from my eyes and a prayer from my swelling heart.

I read it and found the answer to the question, What makes the difference? in that beautiful text, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” I came here to-night resolved to accept, publicly, the invitation of the gospel which, for two days and nights, you have so earnestly urged upon this congregation. Oh, that I had submitted my stubborn heart to God years ago! I thank God that I am spared to bear testimony here tonight that Christ is able and willing to save the chief of sinners.

“Oh,” said he, as his eyes filled with tears of joy, “that my dear mother knew that her prodigal son had returned to his Saviour! But she shall know as soon as a letter can reach her. Oh, that I could have told the congregation to-night what a great sinner I am and what a great Saviour I have found.”

“Well,” said the chaplain, “with your permission I will give a statement of the cause of your awakening, and the state of your feelings of joy and gratitude tonight.”

The history of his case was given with thrilling effect.

There are gleams of light amidst the dark scenes of war. The devotion of the Southern people generally to the cause for which we battled for four years, and their cheerfulness in dividing almost the last loaf with the soldiers, are worthy of permanent record. Rev. Wm. H. Stewart, of Thomas' (Georgia) brigade, pays a well-merited tribute to the people of the Valley of Virginia who felt the heavy hand of war:

Let me say something about the affectionate liberality of these Valley Virginians toward our dear soldiers. They have had Jackson's army quartered here, and Shields' and Fremont's. They have had sheep, hogs, cows, horses, and negroes, stolen, and their timber destroyed; and yet their love of country and care for soldiers [371] is unabated. Still they give their milk and butter and lodging, and even board in some instances, to the soldiers free of charge. Some-of them are known to practice self-denial that they may have more to spare to the soldiers. The dear brother and sister Peel, with whom I board, give freely at all times of the day, and often at night prepare supper for hungry soldiers. And now I'm about to leave, they say that they have not charged a Confederate soldier for anything to eat since the war began, and they are sure they will not begin with me.

The general fast on the 8th of April was observed with great solemnity by the people at home and in the army. General Lee issued the following order in his army:

General order, no. 21:

Headquarters A. N. V., March 30, 1864.
In compliance with the recommendation of the Senate and House of Representatives, his excellency, the President, has issued his proclamation calling upon the people to set apart Friday, the 8th of April, as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer.

The Commanding General invites the army to join in the observance of the day. He directs due preparation to be made in all departments to anticipate the wants of the several commands, so that it may be strictly observed. All military duties, except such as are absolutely necessary, will be suspended. The chaplains are desired to hold services in their regiments and brigades. The officers and men are requested to attend.

Soldiers, let us humble ourselves before the Lord our God, asking through Christ the forgiveness of our sins, beseeching the aid of the God of our forefathers in the defence of our homes and our liberties, thanking him for his past blessings and imploring their continuance upon our cause and our people.


Rev. S. H. Smith, writing of the observance of the day in Gordon's brigade, says:

I have no idea that ever before was there such a day realized by the present generation. Old professors of religion expressed a degree of confidence in God, of an early deliverance from this bloody revolution, that astonished themselves. Who can tell but that yesterday was the birth-day of Southern independence? Oh! if we could have ascended above the earth and looked down upon a nation upon their knees before God, confessing their sins and suing for mercy, I imagine we could have heard the shouts of the redeemed and the songs of the angels as they exclaimed, ‘ Peace on earth and good will to men.’

In Gen. Johnston's army, by general orders, all military operations were suspended that all officers and men might have an opportunity of properly observing the day. “The great stillness of the men,” says an eyewitness, “exceeded anything ever seen.” The devout officers joined heartily in these services, and some of them delivered stirring exhortations to their soldiers.

Gen. Gordon,” says Rev. P. 0. Harper, missionary, “takes an active interest in religious exercises and in the spiritual welfare of those under his charge, which, 1 am sorry to say, is not the case with all the officers in the brigade. On yesterday (fast-day) morning his brigade, or all who chose to attend, were called together by his order at sunrise for prayer in the open air. He addressed the assemblage in a sensible and feeling discourse. The scene was most affecting and impressive. The morning was clear and brilliant, and, apparently, God smiled upon the sight. The assembly, to the number of eight hundred or a thousand, bowed their knees (and I trust their hearts) before the Omnipresent and Omnipotent God. The occasion, the circumstances, and the brilliancy of the lovely spring morning, rejoicing in the God of nature and declaring his glory and goodness, [373] was well-calculated to stir to their deepest depths the souls of devout worshippers.”

This day of fasting and prayer was observed with the deeper solemnity, inasmuch as the people felt that they were on the verge of tremendous battles.

“Most of us,” said a chaplain in General Lee's army, “have made up our minds that the spring campaign here will open with the most desperate clash of arms that freedom ever cost on this continent.”

The chaplain's words were true. In front of General Lee the Federals were gathering in immense strength. At Dalton, Ga., they massed their finest Western army against Gen. Johnston. In the far Southwest General Banks had a heavy force, but he was met and driven back by the Confederates under General Kirby Smith. And now from the soldiers standing in the very front of death there came a solemn warning against the frivolities in which many engaged in our afflicted land. From the Christian Association of the First regiment of Virginia artillery an appeal was sent forth against “the gayety and pleasure-seeking” of the times. These faithful soldiers of Christ and of their country said:

We believe this war which is now desolating our land is a righteous judgment and chastisement from the hand of a just God for those various sins of which we have been and are still guilty; and we cannot believe, either from God's revealed word or from the dictates of our consciences, or from the teachings of those principles of right and justice and morality which have been implanted in our breast in the wise and merciful providence of God, that it is right or proper thus to answer God's call upon us for mourning by sounds of joy and rejoicing.

They urged their friends at home to join them “in seeking to do what we can to avoid receiving the afflictions of God's hand with an improper spirit, or engaging in any frivolities or pleasures, even though some of [374] them may be innocent in ordinary times, which may in any way serve to turn our hearts from a proper spirit of humility before God, or from a proper sympathy for the mourning ones of the land, or from that proper feeling of sorrow and gravity which belongs to a people so deeply afflicted.”

“And to this end,” said they, “we ask all professed followers of Christ, and all who pray to the God of nations, whether they have engaged, or may engage or not, in these things which we condemn, that they join us in special prayers, both public and private, to our Lord and Redeemer, that he will so incline our hearts to see his will that we may be of one mind and spirit in this matter, and that he will so direct and guide us that we may do the things which are right in his holy sight.”

These were noble words from the Christian men of our army who stood at the very hour they were written on the borders of that dreary Wilderness over which the storm of battle soon burst in all its power.

In the lovely month of May General Grant began his movement towards Richmond. He crossed the Rappahannock at Ely's and Germana fords. Gen. Lee sent two corps of his army under Ewell and Hill to oppose him. The Federals assaulted these with desperate valor, but were repulsed. The battle was renewed the next day, May 6th, and for a while the Federals had the advantage, but the lost ground was soon recovered by the Confederates and the original lines restored. “Every advance,” said General Lee in his report of this day's bloody work, “thanks to a merciful God, has been repulsed.”

In these fights Gen. John M. Jones and Gen. Jenkins were killed, and Generals Longstreet, Stafford, and Pegram were wounded, besides many other officers of lower grade and a vast number of private soldiers. Among the leading officers lost by the Federals was Gen. Wadsworth. [375]

At the same time that this bloody work was going on in Virginia the like scenes were enacted in Georgia. Here the movement was towards Richmond, there towards Atlanta. General Sherman made a determined effort to flank Gen. Johnston by a movement on Resaca; but the sagacious Confederate silently moved the mass of his army, and the Federals found more work on hand than they were able to do.

To aid Grant in his movement from the line of the Rappahannock a heavy Federal force was concentrated on James river between Richmond and Petersburg, which was held in check by Gen. Beauregard, who had come up from Charleston, S. C.

Gen. Banks was at the head of a large Federal army in Louisiana, but he was almost as unfortunate there as lie had been in the Valley of Virginia earlier in the war.

The battles between Lee and Grant in the Wilderness and at Spottsylvania Courthouse, between the 4th and 13th of May, were the fiercest ever seen on this continent. The battle of the 12th was the most terrible of all. The Federals began the attack before daybreak, and overwhelmed and captured a large portion of Gen. Edward Johnson's division. But this gain only aroused the Confederates to greater efforts. Nine hours the battle raged. The fire of the artillery was an unbroken roar; and, to add to the awful scene, a thunder-storm burst over the field and flashed its lightnings through the sulphurous clouds that hung over the combatants. At some points along the lines the men fought each other at musket-length across the breastworks. The Federals in line, from six to ten deep, would come boldly up to our works only to be swept down by the iron hail poured into their very breasts. From daybreak until two o'clock this work of death went on. The limit of endurance had been reached. The Federals, exhausted and shattered, withdrew beyond the reach of Confederate bullets. It is said that many prisoners taken, both officers [376] and men, were drunk. We know not if this be true, but if it be, how awful the responsibility of those who dealt out ardent spirits to these soldiers, and then marched them like beeves to the shambles.

After this battle Gen. Lee issued a general order in which, after enumerating the success that had attended our arms at different places, he said of the men who had fought under his own eye:

The heroic valor of this army, with the blessing of Almighty God, has thus far checked the advance of the principal army of the enemy and inflicted upon it heavy loss. The eyes and hearts of your countrymen are turned to you with confidence and their prayers attend you in your gallant struggle.

Encouraged by the success that has been vouchsafed to us, and stimulated by the great interests that depend upon the issue, let every man resolve to endure all and brave all until, by the assistance of a just and merciful God, the enemy shall be driven back and peace secured to our country.

Continue to emulate the valor of your comrades who have fallen, and remember that it depends upon you whether they have died in vain.

It is in your power, under God, to defeat the last great effort of the enemy, establish the independence of your native land, and earn the lasting love and gratitude of your countrymen and the admiration of mankind.

In all their dangers and privations our soldiers did not lose sight of their duties to God, and on every occasion they renewed the blessed revival Scenes of more quiet days. One of the most intelligent army correspondents thus described the hardy veterans during a brief period of rest:

I rode along the lines to-day and found the men resting after their many marches and hard battles. Some were reading their well-thumbed Bibles; some were indicting letters to the loved ones at home to assure them [377] of their safety; some were sleeping-perchance dreaming of the bloody work still remaining to be done; others were enjoying the music of the Brigade bands, as they rehearsed those solemn and touching airs which the grand old masters of the art divine, in their most holy and impassioned moods, have given to the world; and others again were sitting under the trees, with their arms stacked near at hand, listening to the word of life, as preached by those faithful servants of God, the hardy, zealous, self-denying chaplains of the army. As the army thus rested-its great heart quiet, its huge arms unstrung, its fleet-feet still — I could but reflect, and wonder as I reflected, that this vast machine, this mighty giant, this great unmeasured and immeasurable power, should be so terrible in battle and yet so calm and gentle and devout in the hour of peace.

And of that noble army led by General Johnston in Georgia another writer said:

It is wonderful to see with what patience our soldiers bear up under trials and hardships. I attribute this in part to the great religious change in our army. Twelve months after this revolution commenced a more ungodly set of men could scarcely be found than the Confederate army. Now the utterance of oaths is seldom, and religious songs and expressions of gratitude to God are heard from every quarter. Our army seems to be impressed with a high sense of an overruling Providence. They have become Christian patriots and have a sacred object to accomplish — an object dearer to them than life. They have also perfect confidence in their commanders. Such an army may be temporarily overpowered by vastly superior numbers, but they never can be conquered.

In the battles of this season thousands of godly men cheerfully gave up their lives for the cause of the South. The death of Maj. James M. Campbell, of the 47th Alabama, and a minister of the Alabama Conference, M. E. Church, South, was very sad. [378]

Rev. Frank Brandon, missionary in Law's brigade, gives the account of his death:

On the morning of the 14th of May, when all was comparatively quiet around, while seated in conversation with Maj. Cary, of the 44th Alabama regiment, a sharpshooter spied his head, which was not entirely concealed by our breastworks, and fired the fatal shot that pierced his hat-band, passing through the head and killing him instantly. The shot was among the last fired by the enemy before abandoning their breastworks in front of our division.

He was a gallant officer, never shrinking from danger when duty called-cool and fearless upon the field, leading the veterans of the heroic 47th, in the hottest of the fight. Owing to the pressure of military duty, he was unable to preach as often as we wished or as he desired; but I can say, after having been intimately associated with him ever since he has been in service-messing with him most of the time — that he maintained his Christian integrity and ministerial character.

An officer of the 18th Virginia cavalry thus describes a scene in Gen. Imboden's brigade just on the eve of a fight:

Before the charge, and while we were in line, the command to dismount was given, when our noble old 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 these 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.

Rev. L. B. Payne says of the work in General Johnston's army:

Since my last report, which was for April, we have [379] been in line of battle or on the march nearly every day. Notwithstanding we have had prayer-meetings in the breastworks several times, and I have preached some six or seven times; and, thank God! the revival still goes on. Souls have been converted every time I have had meetings during our fights. Some twenty-five have joined the Church, and thirty or more have been converted in the last month. Several have professed conversion after they were wounded and come to the infirmary.

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