Editor's note: Some letters sent to Rev. J. William Jones, a Confederate Baptist chaplain who wrote Christ in the Camp (or, Religion in the Confederate Army), are included in an Appendix in that work. Some selected lettters from the Baptist chaplains describing their experiences in the war, are posted here. They are given in the order Mr. Jones used in his book.
The following men sent letters: George F. Bagby, John R. Bagby, R. W. Cridlin, W. L. Curry, Harvey Hatcher, John J. Hyman, A. A. Marshall, T. H. Pritchard, and J. J. D. Renfroe. - Jim Duvall
Letters from Baptist Chaplains of the Civil War
[From Rev. R. W. Cridlin, Baptist, Chaplain Thirty-eighth Virginia.]
" Chesterfield, March 22, 1867.
"Dear Brother Jones: Before going into details, allow me to state that I was appointed chaplain of the Thirty-eighth Virginia Infantry June 9, 1863, and remained with it to the surrender.
"(1.) I know very little about the early history of my regiment. We had a history of our regiment (and also one of our brigade) written, but have heard nothing of it since the close of the war. This regiment was composed of men from Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg counties, Virginia. It started from Danville in the spring of 1861, under the command of Colonel E. C. Edmunds. It was connected with several brigades. When I joined it, it was attached to Armistead's Brigade, Pickett's Division, First Corps, and it continued in this position to the surrender, under different commanders. General Armistead was killed at Gettysburg. Our next general was Barton; then George H. Steuart, of Maryland, who remained with it till the surrender. I knew very little about the other regiments — viz., Ninth, Fourteenth, Fifty-third and Fifty-seventh. The Rev. Mr. Crocker, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was at one time chaplain of the Fourteenth; Rev. Mr. Joiner, Methodist Episcopal Church, chaplain of the Fifty-seventh; Rev. W. S. Penick of the Fifty-third, afterwards Brother P. H. Fontaine; Rev. J. W. Walkup, of Rockbridge county, Virginia, was chaplain of the Ninth, afterwards Rev. George W. Easter, of the Episcopal Church. The Rev. Mr. Cosby, now of Petersburg, Virginia (Episcopal), was the first chaplain of the Thirty-eighth Regiment. He remained a short while. Then a Rev. Mr. Colton, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was appointed, who remained two or three months, I am unable to state how many sermons I preached or prayer-meetings held, Bible-classes conducted, tracts distributed. I have no record and I can't trust my memory. We had a flourishing Brigade Young Men's Christian Association, and when in camp had our Sabbath-schools and Bible-classes. I know I distributed thousands of tracts, and I have reason to believe much good was done. Just here allow me to relate a little incident illustrating the good effects of tracts. While carrying around these little messengers of love, I entered a tent and found two young men engaged in a game of cards. At first they seemed ashamed, then they braced up their failing courage (if courage it was) and continued the game. I kindly asked 'if I could take a hand.' Waiting for my turn, I first threw down 'Evils of Gaming;' then 'Mother's Parting Words to her Soldier Boy.' I found that the game was mine. At the sight of the word' mother,' the tears rolled down their cheeks as they both exclaimed: 'Parson, I will never play cards again!'
"(2.) My first protracted effort was made soon after the battle of Gettysburg, near Orange Court House. In this meeting God was with us and His people were revived and more than a hundred converted. Brother A. Broaddus baptized twenty for me while there. My next meeting (of much interest) was in the fall of 1864, in which about sixty were turned from ' darkness to light.' I don't remember any remarkable conversions, or that any means were employed beyond the ordinary means of grace.
"(3.) Most of those who professed were steadfast in their love and devotion to Christ and His cause. Many of them died in the 'triumphs of faith.'
"(4.) Our first colonel, Colonel Edmunds, was, I think, a member of the Episcopal Church. His influence was very beneficial to his command. I know nothing of his last moments, as he was killed on the field of Gettysburg. Our next colonel was the young yet brave and accomplished gentleman and officer, James Cabell, of Danville. Colonel Cabell was not a member of any Church, but told me a few days before his death 'that he felt prepared.' He was killed near Drewry's Bluff, May 10, 1864, leaving a young bride and many dear ones to mourn their loss. Colonel George Griggs, of Pittsylvania, was our next colonel. He was a member of the Baptist Church. He was ever ready to aid me in my meetings, and was not ashamed to exhort his men publicly to enlist under the banner of Christ. His life was spared and he has resumed his place at home, where I hope he may be long spared to labor for Christ. Among my most valuable assistants was Captain J. T. Averett. Captain John A. Herndon, Captain Jennings, Captain Grubbs, Lieutenant Gardner and others were true soldiers of Jesus.
"General Steuart and his assistant adjutant-general, Captain Darden, were members of the Episcopal Church. Colonel Phillips, of the Ninth, was a man of more than ordinary talent, and he did all he could for Christ.
"(5.) It was fully and satisfactorily proved in our regiment that true 'soldiers of the Cross' made the best soldiers for their country.
"(6.) I don't remember but some four or five who told me that they would devote the rest of their time to the ministry. Captain J. A. Herndon, of Pittsylvania, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, expected to do so. Brother W. A. Morefield, of Halifax; Brother Hodges, Methodist Episcopal; Brother C. Penick, Episcopal Church; Brother C. F. James (Captain Company F, Eighth Virginia), of London, whom I baptized, is now at Richmond College preparing himself for the ministry. No doubt many others will decide to 'go and do likewise.' God grant it.
"(7.) I baptized about forty. I was not ordained till December, 1863. I think I can safely put the whole number of conversions in the brigade at 500, as other chaplains had gracious revivals, and have reason to infer they had many conversions.
"My dear brother, you have my best wishes and prayers in your arduous work. We need such a book. I think it will do much good.. If I can serve you in any way, I am at your service. May the Lord bless us at an early date with such refreshing showers of grace as we enjoyed in Orange in 1863.
"Yours in Christian love, "R. W. Cridlin.
"Chesterfield Court House, Virginia." =================
[From Rev. George F. Bagby, Baptist, Chaplain Fortieth Virginia, and Army Evangelist.]
"Elizaville, Kentucky, March 13, 1867.
"My Dear Brother: I enlisted as a private soldier in Company A, Fortieth Virginia, May, 1861. Labored thus, preaching every Sunday, holding prayer-meetings every evening in different commands, and distributing tracts. Soon began to see fruits; several professed conversion, without any extra efforts in way of protracted meetings. Was commissioned chaplain Fortieth Virginia, July 19, and continued to labor as above until March, 1862. Resigned chaplaincy, and soon accepted an appointment as colporter in Wise's Brigade. Held a protracted meeting with one of the commands, afterward of Fourth Virginia, Colonel Goode. Several, say four or five, professed conversion, and several others were revived and reclaimed to the cause. In 1863, I forget what month, together with Brother A. Broaddus and Brother W. E. Wiatt, one of the most faithful men I ever knew, chaplain of the regiment, commenced meeting in Twenty-sixth Virginia. This meeting was exceedingly interesting from first. The work of grace commenced and continued more than a month without abatement. No undue excitement, and nothing extraordinary connected with meeting except that the hardest cases seemed to be reached, and one professed infidel, a sprightly young man, professed conversion. The number who professed conversion at this meeting, including the number who professed subsequently — the revival influence continued several months — probably reached 200. Every company of this regiment was in the habit of holding a prayer-meeting every night after the meeting. I never knew one of these young converts to refuse to pray when called on publicly. After this meeting, held another with a battalion at Chaffin's Bluff; as result of this meeting from twenty to thirty professed conversion.
" When this brigade was sent to South Carolina I went to Army of Northern Virginia. The results, etc., of my labors there you know something of.
"In December, 1863,1 followed the brigade (Wise's) to South Carolina; labored much among the troops there, scattered as they were in isolated camps from Charleston to Pocataligo and beyond, a distance of twenty-five or thirty miles. About this time scarcely ever preached a sermon without immediate fruit. Preached to a detached company, said to be very wicked, about eighty in number, about seventy-five present at service. Directly after sermon one of the officers came forward and made an open profession of conversion. About this time visited James Island; commenced a meeting in a deserted Presbyterian meeting-house. Congregation, at first small, gradually grew, and before meeting closed, which lasted one month, soldiers might be seen running an hour before time for service from regiments a mile off in order to obtain seats in the house. About one hundred professed conversion here. The converts belonged mostly to Colquitt's Brigade, which afterward did such good service at Olustee, Florida, and subsequently around Petersburg with Army of Northern Virginia.
"I was then called from my army labors to raise money for Colportage Board. During my labors as agent met with an incident which may prove interesting. While laboring among soldiers about Matthias's Point, in beginning of struggle, was much discouraged by impression which was very prevalent — 'chaplains were, if not nuisances, at least, supernumeraries.' But preached on. Upon visiting a certain village in South Carolina, 1863, received a letter from an unknown lady asking that I would call on her, alleging a special reason. I was sick, so my lady friend called on me and said: 'A devoted friend of mine left home for the army, very wicked; accidentally heard a Mr. Bagby preach near Matthias's Point, in Virginia. This sermon led him to consider his eternal interests, which resulted in bis conversion, and he fell a few days after in the first battle of Manassas.' She wept profusely, while I united my tears of gratitude with hers.
"I think, as near as I can judge, that about 400 professed conversion in connection with my labors during the war. So far as I have been able to ascertain, these converts have been among the most faithful among our church-members. Very few have been the cases of backsliding which have come under my observation; indeed, I can recall not one, thank God.
"I have written very roughly and hurriedly; if the above facts will help you I shall be glad. I love you, my dear brother, above all, because you are a faithful laborer in our Master's vineyard. Hope to see you in Memphis. It must, indeed, be a privilege to be near our illustrious general-in-chief. Say to him, if you choose, that a poor Baptist preacher in Kentucky remembers him gratefully and prays for him frequently.
"If I can assist you further with your book call on me. I am truly glad you have thought of this book. It is much needed.
"Yours very sincerely and affectionately, "G. F. Bagby."
[From Rev. Harvey Hatcher, Baptist, Army Evangelist.]
"293 Hollins Street, Baltimore, Maryland, April 8, 1867.
"Brother Jones: Your request in the Herald for all who preached to the men composing the Army of Northern Virginia to send a detailed account of their labors to you has been noticed, but I thought that my labors were too meagre to deserve a part in your history. After thinking over the matter, I decided to send a few items, which you can use as you deem proper. In May, 1863, I went to the Huguenot Springs (convalescent) Hospital, located in Powhatan county, Virginia, and aided the chaplain, Geo. W. Hyde, for three weeks in a series of meetings. About thirty men professed faith in Christ. I baptized some six or eight. Rev. D. B. Winfree, of Chesterfield, preached five times in the meeting. In June, 1864, by the request of Brother Hyde, I aided him again at the same place for two weeks. Our meeting was suddenly closed by a large number of men coming to the hospital and occupying the chapel. About twenty professed to have a hope in the Gospel. Hyde baptized six or eight while I was there and some after I left.
"In November, 1864, I conducted a meeting of great interest and power near the Howlett House, in a chapel built by the Twenty-eighth and Nineteenth Virginia Regiments, of Pickett's Division. It lasted two weeks and about thirty professed faith, some of whom were killed soon thereafter.
"Good order always prevailed, and the best attention always given to the word preached. I labored in a meeting at Dover Baptist Church, Goochland county, in the fall of 1863, where many from the hospital attended and some were converted, but I forget the number. From there I went to Leigh Street Baptist, Richmond, and aided Rev. J. B. Solomon, where there was considerable interest, confined almost to the soldiers from the surrounding hospitals. Some professed conversion, but I took no note of it and can't give the particulars. I send these items for your inspection, though I doubt their worth for your use.
"God bless you all in Old Virginia. "Yours fraternally, "Harvey Hatcher." =============
[ From Rev. John R. Bagby, Baptist, Lieutenant Powhatan Artillery]
"Powhatan County, Virginia, April, 1867.
"Dear Brother Jones: I am glad you have undertaken so noble a work, and am only sorry that I can contribute so little towards it. In giving information like this, I do not know where to begin nor what to say after I have commenced.
"The Powhatan Artillery, of which I was a member, was, in the beginning of the war, a component part of what was known as First Regiment, Virginia Artillery, ,and afterwards in the command of Colonel J. T. Brown, and finally, after his death, in Hardaway's Battalion of Artillery.
"The first winter of the war, then, you perceive, we were under the Rev. General Pendleton, whose character you know. He preached nearly every Sunday to us during that winter, in a chapel we erected. The services were beneficial in taking the minds of the men back to their old home churches. I think about sixty per cent of the officers of the regiment were religious at that time, and some of them deeply pious. I might mention the Rev. J. D. Powel, of my company, who had prayers at morning and evening roll-calls, and one or two prayer-meetings during the week, when in camp. He left the army in spring of 1862. Also, my captain, W. J. Dance, had prayers often in his own tent, and engaged publicly in Divine services. His example for good was wonderful with his own men. He maintained his Christian character throughout the war. There was Captain Kirkpatrick, of Lynchburg, too, a noble Christian man, who exerted a happy influence. But I can't specify further. Among the men, there were some devoted men whose religion shone brightly. I might name George W. Baily, of my company, Gilliam, of Amherst Battery, etc. We had no revival during that winter.
"The spring of 1862 was a new era in our history. We left General Pendleton, and were attached to Colonel J. T. Brown's Artillery, where I suppose there might have been about fifty per cent, of religious men among the officers, and something over this among the men. Colonel Brown favored religion and encouraged chaplains, tracts, prayer-meetings, etc. But, coupled with him, we find the indomitable L. M. Coleman, whose whole weight was on the side of Christ, who often sent for
me to talk of plans for religious services, etc. He lived a monument of God's grace, and died rejoicing in the faith. This was an active campaign with us, but we kept up religious services as well as possible. All who were really pious before held their ground, but the chaff was sifted out. That winter we were in Caroline county — had no chapel, but had meetings occasionally — grew rather lukewarm. In next campaign was the memorable Pennsylvania disaster, and after our return to the Valley we set more regularly to work for Christ, and later in the season on this side of the mountains we held nightly meetings conducted by officers and men, which grew in interest till all became more or less under its influence, and many a one dates his conversion to that period. Those were happy times, and long to be remembered. Old Blue Run Church will not soon be forgotten. Some of those men you had the pleasure of immersing in Orange county. These men held out well and went to work for Christ and, when they came home, united with the Church. Among the prominent workers in these meetings were the noble men of Rockbridge Battery, some of the Howitzers, and some of my own men, the most prominent of whom was George W. Baily. Many a telling exhortation and prayer were made by officers and men of our battalion.
"The winter following was one of remarkable interest in our battalion. We erected a commodious chapel near Frederick's Hall, had a regular series of services, formed a Young Men's Christian Association, which worked mosl delightfully. All the religious men of the battalion were gathered in, and latent energies called forth, and influences exerted, which had a most salutary effect upon the general tone Ind character of our men. Many religious papers were circulated, and thousands of tracts were scattered. During this winter Dr. Burrows, Dr. Read and many others favored us with visits.
"In the next and closing campaign of the war we were found most of the time in the trenches, yet not forgetful of our obligations to God. Many a prayer-meeting did we hold in hearing of the enemy, and many a soul was made to rejoice. Here we lost George W. Baily (died of disease), in Richmond Hospital, in full assurance of faith. He was as promising a young minister as I ever saw; devoted to the work, and longing to get into the harness. His labors in the army will never be known till eternity reveals them. The men all had implicit confidence in his piety, and his burning appeals were well received. He was a noble Christian soldier and a bright intellect. Colonel Hardaway, our last commander, was a Christian man and a gentleman of high order. He was an advocate of religious services, and humane in his treatment.
"We lost many good men during the war, and we hope they were sustained by their religion. I can't recall any very striking facts in connection with the religious interest of our men, and as I did not keep any diary, I have to depend on memory altogether. I suppose during the war our command averaged about fifty per cent of religious men, and out of these at least forty per cent held on to their religion, and were worthy examples to those around them; and of those who came home safely, all have, I believe, been more useful Christians than they were ante bellum. The restraining and constraining influence of the religious portion of our command upon the rest was untold. There was a moral tone given to our command, which, I suppose, but few others enjoyed. This was a constant thing, not much fluctuation in this power for good. My constant employment, when I could get them, was to scatter tracts, Testaments, hymn-books, etc. These were always joyously received, and I hope did much good. You know something of my labors, hence I desist further statements. I wish I had time to deal more in particulars, but can't. I have hurriedly scratched off these facts, which you can use as you think best. May the Lord bless you.
" Your brother, etc., "J. R. Bagby." =============
[ From Rev. Dr. T. H. Pritchard, Baptist, Army Evangelist.]
"Petersburg, Virginia, April 4, 1867.
"Dear Brother Jones: In common with all who love the cause of Christ, and are devoted to the late Confederacy, I feel a profound interest in, your proposed work on the religious history of the Army of Northern Virginia. I was in the army so short a time that I did not imagine my personal experience would be of service to you. It is true that I never enjoyed the work of preaching the Gospel so much in my life, and that my labors were not without some fruit. I baptized fifty odd soldiers, most of them while the army was lying around Orange Court House in the Fall of 1863; but I should not have written you at all on the subject had not a friend suggested that I should give you an incident of my experience while preaching to Gordon's and Wright's Brigades, camped under Clark's Mountain to watch the fords of the Rapidan.
"You remember that Mr. Andrew Broaddus and myself were at the house of old Brother Brown, and while there the Lord was pleased to bless our efforts to the conversion of some forty or fifty men, most of them in Gordon's Brigade. At that meeting Colonel John Hill Lamar, who commanded the Sixty-first Georgia Regiment, and was killed at Monocacy, Maryland, was converted. But it was not that which I sat down to tell you.
"At the close of our meeting a few of us went down to the river at a ford near Brother Brown's — I don't remember the name of it — and I baptized some eighteen men in the Rapidan, in the presence of the enemy's pickets. Several of them sat on a fence in full view of us, and within range, with their guns across their laps, and witnessed the ceremony. I don't know that you will find any place in your book for the anecdote; but as the historian should collect many facts, and from them disseminate the truth and spirit of the times, I send it.
"Our people remember you with affection, and would be glad to see you in our pulpit again.
" With much regard, I am your brother in Christ, "T. H. Pritchard." =============
[ From Rev. W. L. Curry, Baptist, Chaplain Fiftieth Georgia Regiment.]
" Near Milford, Georgia, March 20, 1867.
"Dear Brother Jones: . . . I was appointed chaplain of Fiftieth Georgia about September 1, 1862, just as we were entering upon the first Maryland campaign. For several months the army was in such constant motion that little could be done besides occasional preaching.
"Soon after the Fredericksburg battle, December 13, we went into winter-quarters. I then commenced pastoral work — visiting among the tents, holding prayer-meetings, etc. I commenced a sunrise prayer-meeting, which was attended, of course, only by the more earnest of the brethren, who were quite few in number, and kept it up for many weeks. I continued efforts of this kind — preaching, too, quite often for some six months, without any visible fruits of my labors. But about the expiration of this period, I could see serious faces in our little congregations, and we had new attendants at our sunrise meeting, and some who would hardly speak to the chaplain before would now make their way to his tent to inquire what they were to do to be saved. Oh, you can imagine what overflowings of joy I experienced at these tokens of the Divine presence. It was almost the 'first fruits' of all my feeble efforts in the cause of the Master. The number of inquirers increasing, I instituted inquiry-meetings, which were held at same place as the sunrise meeting. Perhaps I should have stated that this place was a certain tree some two or three hundred yards from the camp. We would open the inquiry-meeting with singing and prayer, and while the brethren would keep this up, I would take the anxious out to converse with them. It was not long before I had the privilege of leading a number of noble young fellows into thr water, and among them one who afterwards was head and shoulders above all the others in zeal for the cause, in power for usefulness, and in humble, sincere piety. This was Brother Timothy Stallions, who, at his conversion, did not know his letters, though a man of family. He commenced to study, and in a few months, notwithstanding the hindrances and disadvantages of a soldier's life, he was able to read the Bible quite readily, which he often did in our meetings, adding also frequently pointed and earnest remarks. He soon had a name in the whole brigade for courage and piety, which he bore untarnished throughout the war. He is still living, and when I last heard from him was preaching Jesus in his same quiet way — by his devout walk and his fervent exhortations.
"The interest I mentioned above continued almost unabated for some six or eight months. It was a very quiet work, but permanent in its effects. Of course, our regular meetings were broken up when the army left winter-quarters. But all through the summer of 1863 I had the pleasure of baptizing a few at nearly every place where we remained any length of time, beside testifying to the conversion of others who united with other denominations.
"Our corps (Longstreet's) was ordered to Tennessee, you remember, in the fall of 1863, when till late in the winter we were marching and fighting almost without intermission. In the spring of 1864 the work commenced afresh. When I entered my regiment, and for some time afterward, there was no other chaplain present with the, brigade, and I had brigade services. This arrangement was continued after the appointment of other chaplains. At Gordonsville, Virginia, in the spring of 1864, our brigade was blessed with a considerable refreshing — about thirty from the different regiments making profession within two weeks. The most of these
were baptized at one time, just in front of Dr. Quarles's house, in a beautiful stream that runs by it. The occasion was quite a touching one. The appointment for the baptizing having been circulated, the citizens of the vicinity were present, and among them quite a collection of ladies. Dr. Quarles's female school turned out. The ladies joined in the singing, and the bare sound of female voices brought tears to many a soldier's eye.
"When we left Gordonsville, which we did on the 4th of May, we plunged at once into the severest campaign of the war. The army lived in the trenches, as you know, all that summer. My brigade enjoyed several seasons of respite; that is, they would be relieved from the fatigue and danger of the front line, and would be kept in reserve in the rear. One of these seasons was protracted more than six weeks, during which time we held from three to five meetings a day. It was a precious season. The men were relieved from all duty, even guard-duty and cooking, so that we had nothing to do but hold meetings. A prayer-meeting at sunrise, an inquiry-meeting at 8, preaching at 11, a prayer-meeting at 4 for the success of our (Confederate) cause, preaching again at night, was the usual programme of the day. Our prayer and inquiry-meetings were held under a large, sweet-gum tree, about two hundred yards from the camp. We usually had from fifty to seventy-five brethren at these, not one of whom refused to lead in prayer, and not a few would interest us with remarks and exhortations. The preaching was done in the bivouac (we had no tents except such as the men carried on their backs). The religious interest of the brigade seemed more general than I had ever seen it before. I have looked around over the whole camp during preaching, and failed to see a single loiterer. Some forty or fifty made profession at this time, and I baptized them, or rather the most of them, in a pond, the only one in the vicinity, where we were exposed to the fire of the enemy; but not one of us was hurt on such occasions, though the bullets whistled most unpleasantly around and in the midst. Brother Campbell, of the Tenth Georgia, was my efficient co-laborer.
"I have but few of my army acquaintances near me now. It will always be pleasant for me to testify to their piety and devotion in the army.
"If the above can be of any service whatever to you, you may be assured you aje welcome to it, and I send it with strong regret that I could not serve you more efficiently.
"I am sorry I have had to write this in a hurry. As well as I remember, over a hundred made profession of religion in the brigade after I entered it, who continued steadfast during the war and so far as I have heard from them are pious yet.
"Your brother, "W. L. Curry." =============
[ From Rev. J. J. Hyman, Baptist, Chaplain Forty-ninth Georgia Regiment. ]
" I left my home on the l0th day of March, 1862; joined the Forty-ninth Georgia Regiment as a private soldier on the 1st day of May. I was commissioned chaplain of the Forty-ninth Georgia Regiment. The battles around Richmond prevented us from having regular Divine service. After the battles were over, the Forty-ninth Georgia Regiment was attached to General J. R. Anderson's Brigade, afterwards General E. L. Thomas's. At this time I was the only chaplain in the brigade (four regiments). I, being young, knew but little about the duties of a chaplain, but was willing to do anything in my Master's cause. Being in the command of General Jackson, we had but little time for religious service during the whole of 1862. On the 16th of December, 1862, we went into quarters at Camp Gregg, six miles south of Fredericksburg, Virginia, where I opened regular night service; sometimes in the open air, at other times (when weather was bad) in tents. Congregations were yery good; often I have seen large numbers leave the door of the tent, being unable
to get in, when the snow was all over the ground. Finding that we had gone into winter-quarters, I commenced preaching regularly three times a week to each regiment in the brigade. About the 1st of February, 1863, the good Lord poured out His Spirit upon us; hundreds were seeking the Lord for pardon of sins; almost daily there were some going down into the water, being buried with Christ in baptism. At this time our brigade was so scattered that I had to preach to each regiment separately; the interest was so great that I preached for weeks from four to six times in a day. Just as I was about to break down, Brother E. B. Barrett came from Georgia as a missionary and gave me much assistance. He joined himself to the Forty-fifth Georgia Regiment as chaplain, and at once entered upon the faithful discharge of his duties; about the same time Brother A. W. Moore came on as chaplain of the Fourteenth Georgia Regiment. The battle of Chancellorsville broke into our service for a few days; when we went back into camp Brother Moore left for Georgia, leaving Brother Barrett and myself in the brigade. We preached night and day, baptizing daily in a pool we prepared for the purpose. In the month of May, 1863, I divided my labors with Thomas's and Wright's Georgia Brigades. I baptized during the month fifteen in Forty-ninth Georgia and sixty-five in Wright's Brigade. The day that the army was ordered to march on the Pennsylvania campaign, yes, while the regiments were being ordered to fall in, I was baptizing near Wright's Brigade. Baptized forty-eight, all in twenty minutes. At another time, near the same place, Brother Marshall and I baptized twenty-six. The long-roll being beat, we left our pleasant camp; was in active campaign until about the 1st of August, when we camped near Orange Court House. Here again we met in Christ's name and He met with us. Never before have I seen the like; often we would meet to worship, having only the dim candle-light; hundreds would be there. When an invitation was given for prayers there would come so many I knew not what to do with them. At this time Brother Barrett was at home, but Brother Moore was present. I did all of the preaching that I could. At this time kept my command supplied with tracts, papers, etc. In August and September I spent some time with General Walker's Virginia Brigade, where souls were being converted. On one occasion, in August, 1863, I went down to Rapidan river with Brother Anderson, chaplain in General Walker's Virginia Brigade, to baptize. We met about 2,000 soldiers, besides many citizens. He (Brother Anderson) went down into the water and baptized twelve. After he came out I opened service in our usual way by singing and prayer. Such music I never before heard. It sounded as though the heavenly host had come down to take part in our earthly worship. I went down into the water and baptized twenty-three. This state of feeling continued with but little change until about the 1st of December, 1863, at which time Thomas's Brigade was ordered to the Valley, below Staunton, Virginia, where we were in active campaign during the whole of winter. While in the Valley, Brother J. H. Taylor became chaplain of Thirty-fifth Georgia Regiment; Brother Moore resigned as chaplain of Fourteenth Georgia Regiment. About the 1st of April, 1864, we left the Valley and returned to Orange Court House. Just as we had arranged for and were having regular Divine service the battle-cry was again heard and we hurried off to meet the enemy. We halted not until we stopped near Petersburg, Virginia. During the months of July and August, 1864, our meetings were truly interesting, I was the only chaplain present in our brigade, preaching both night and day; I visited almost daily Scales's North Carolina Brigade, also Third and Fourth Virginia Regiments, preaching as I went, seemingly with much effect. I preached from three to five times per day all during July and August, besides baptizing almost daily. The labors of these months broke me down and I was forced to leave my command on sick furlough. From this time I was not of much service to the brigade until winter. During my absence the prayer-meetings were kept up by the private members. February, 1865, we built us a large chapel near the line of works
around Petersburg. We organized a Sabbath-school of 120 pupils. At this time religious services were truly interesting. We baptized a great many. From here we marched on the 2d of April, 1865, leaving our beautiful camp behind. We halted at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, and 'yielded to overwhelming numbers and resources.' Here I leave the field of blood (ever looking back upon many sacred spots where the Lord blessed us) with mingled grief and joy. I baptized while in the army 238 soldiers. Number professing conversion, 500. Preached about 500 sermons, besides exhortations, lectures, etc.
"Yours fraternally, " John J. Hyman." =============
[ From Rev. A. M. Marshall, Baptist, Chaplain Twelfth Georgia Regiment ]
"Eatonton, Georgia, March 22, 1867.
"Dear Brother Jones: I was, as you know, chaplain Twelfth Georgia Regiment, Doles's Brigade, but did not get my appointment until just before the battle of Sharpsburg. As soon as the army crossed back on the Virginia side, I commenced a meeting in the regiment, which increased in interest until several regiments and battalions became interested. I called to my assistance Dr. Stiles, Brother Nelson and yourself. The meeting was one of great interest, and promised to result in many conversions, but was suddenly broken up one night by the order to get ready to move. General Jackson attended this meeting several times, and remarked after hearing Dr. Stiles preach one night, that he was 'more convinced than ever, that if sinners had justice they would all be damned.'
" There was no opportunity given for persons to join the Church; but there was every reason to suppose that a number were converted. This was one of the first revivals of religion that I heard of in the army. And I learned at that meeting how to conduct services in camp. I was for a long time the only chaplain in Doles's Brigade, and on that account had a great deal to do. I never kept any account of the number of sermons I preached, nor of prayer-meetings. It was our practice to hold prayer-meetings every night when in camp, and frequently of a night when on the march. We had Bible-classes composed, I think, of men in all the regiments of the brigade — Twelfth, Fourth. Twenty-first and Forty-fourth, Georgia. I supplied these regiments as well as I could with Testaments, religious papers and tracts, but have no idea how many were distributed.
"The most remarkable revivals in this brigade were at Guinea's Station, Orange Court House, and Morton's Ford. The first was during the winter of 1862, and the others were during the summer of 1863.
"At Orange Court House we made such arrangements as would accommodate the whole brigade, and I wrote to Brother Geo. B. Taylor, who came and preached very acceptably for several days; other brothers preached frequently, and the meeting increased in interest until we moved to Morton's Ford. I think there were twenty-five or thirty conversions in the meeting. At the ford the meeting was more interesting than before. Here I was assisted by Brother A. T. Spalding, of Alabama, and W. N. Chaudoin, of Georgia. These brethren did most of the preaching, and by the aid of the Spirit they preached with power. There were forty or fifty conversions in this meeting.
"As far as I am able to judge, those who professed religion in the army are as sincere as those who professed at home. Of the officers of the Twelfth Georgia, it affords rne pleasure to speak of Colonel Willis, who always rendered me every assistance he could, and gave every encouragement to the men to attend meeting. He was one of the best officers in the army, one of the best friends I ever had, one of the most promising men I ever knew. He was killed while in command of Early's old brigade, at Bethesda Church, in June, 1864. His earnest request was,
that if he was ever wounded he wanted the surgeon to tell him his true condition. Dr. Etheridge told him that he was mortally wounded. He said: 'I am no more afraid to die than I am to fight for my country.' Lieutenant-Colonel Hardeman, Major Carson and Dr. Etheridge, were all professors of religion, and were always ready to do all they could for the cause of Christ. There were several captains and subordinate officers of whom I would like to speak if I had time.
" I am yours, etc., A. M. Marshall." =============
[ From Rev. Dr. Renfroe, Baptist, Chaplain Tenth Alabama Regiment. ]
"Talladega, Alabama, January 31, 1867.
"Dear Brother Jones: In attempting to give you some account of the religious character of Wilcox's old brigade, in the army of Northern Virginia, I find that I am entirely dependent upon my memory. I loaned my 'notes' of events to a brother, who now informs me that he cannot lay his hand on them, having mislaid them.
"The Tenth Alabama was the regiment of which I was chaplain. The brigade was composed of the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Fourteenth Alabama Regiments. I reckon this brigade comprised as noble a body of men as ever served in any army. I reached my post of duty while the army was in winter-quarters at Fredericksburg, in the early part of the year 1863. There were then three other chaplains in that brigade, but they were all then absent but one. Very little preaching had been done in the brigade up to that time. Many Christian soldiers and other good-disposed men told me that I could do no good in preaching to soldiers, but all seemed glad to welcome me among them. I was acquainted with a large number of the regiment before the war. The first Sabbath after I got there I preached twice, and from that time until I left them, I had a large attendance upon worship, and as good order in my congregations as I ever had at home. About that time the Rev. Mr. Bell, of Greenville, Alabama, visited the Eighth, which had no chaplain. He and I preached daily for two weeks. He baptized a Mr. Lee, of Marion, Alabama, the first profession that I saw in the army; though there were many men in the brigade who were Christians before they went to the army, and who maintained their religion. The chaplains of the brigade soon returned. We built arbors, and preached regularly to large and attentive congregations — on through the spring this continued — only interrupted by the battle of Chancellorsville. Then came the campaign to Gettysburg. I preached thirteen sermons on that campaign, but not more than half of them to our own brigade. I preached several sermons in line of battle. After we returned to the south side of the Potomac, at Bunker's Hill, we had several sermons in the brigade. Two of the chaplains (Mr. Rains, of the Fourteenth, and Mr. Whilten, of the Ninth) remained at Gettysburg with the wounded. Up to this time I saw but few signs of the good work — I saw no evidences of revival — I heard of no conversions in our brigade. Then we fell back to Orange Court House. There we at once established arbors — one in the Fourteenth, one in the Tenth, and began to preach. Rev. Mr. Johnson, chaplain of the Eleventh, and Mr. Cumbie, Lieutenant in the Fourteenth, did the preaching at the Fourteenth's preaching place. Their labors were blessed, and many were converted. At the preaching place of the Tenth I did the preaching for the most part. This lasted for about six weeks, in which time I was visited and aided by Rev. A. E. Dickinson, of Richmond, who preached for me a week; then by Rev. J. B. F. Mays, of Alabama, who preached nearly a week for me. God greatly blessed our efforts. I have stood at that place at night and on Sabbaths and preached, as it seemed to me, to a solid acre of men. I think I have seen as many as five or six hundred men, in one way and another, manifest at one time a desire
to be prayed for. I have never seen such a time before or since. There were as many evidences of genuine penitence as I ever noticed at home — yes, more. Almost every day there would be a dozen conversions, and there were in the six weeks in the brigade, not less than five hundred who professed conversion. Not all of our brigade, for there was a battalion of artillery camped near us, and other brigades, who attended our preaching, many of whom professed religion. We estimated the conversions then at five hundred and fifty. I baptized about one hundred, Brother Cumbie about fifty, and most of the others joined the Methodists. This work, as you know, prevailed nearly all through the army. But it was partially interrupted by the fall campaign, when we drove Meade back to Bull Run. But the army returned from that campaign to Orange, went into winter-quarters and spent the winter there. Part of this winter I was at home on furlough. But prayer-meetings, Bible-classes and preaching were successfully kept up through the winter. And the revival also, in a less degree, continued. The Young Men's Christian Association was largely attended, many went to exhorting, and a great many prayed in public, some of whom were greatly gifted. A most interesting feature was the large number who would retire after the evening 'roll-call' in groups, to pray. Walk out from camp at that hour in any direction and you would find them, two, three, half-dozen and a dozen, in a place, all bowed in the dark, earnestly praying for themselves and the conversion of their comrades; they nearly always took some unconverted ones with them.
"Through the awful campaign of 1864 there were very limited opportunities to preach to this brigade. It was almost constantly under fire or on the march. From the Wilderness to Petersburg and around Petersburg, this was the case. Though I preached to them as often as I could, yet most of my preaching was to other commands. I have several times preached when shot and shell were flying over our heads, and also several times I had minnie-balls to strike in my congregation while preaching. We often had prayer-meetings in the trenches, where God did greatly bless and comfort our hearts. In the winter-quarters at Petersburg there was much faithful preaching, and regular prayer-meetings kept up in this brigade.
"1. I believe that the conversions were genuine. There were exceptions of course. But I received candidates for baptism just as I do at home, i. e., I assembled the Baptists of the regiment, heard a relation of the applicants' Christian experience, took the vote, etc. All other Baptist ministers, I think, did the same. And their statements of the work of grace were clear and satisfactory.
"2. So far as my knowledge extended, these converts maintained their professions with astonishing faithfulness. Up to the time that I left them, I knew of but two or three exceptions.
"3. The character of the brigade was decidedly moral and religious, compared with what it was before this good work began. The worship of God became a fixed part of the regular duties of the brigade. The religious element was as well defined, as well organized and as constant, as in any congregation to whom I have preached. Christians were recognized as such, ministers were respected and kindly treated and loved. I have never had a congregation at home that seemed to esteem me more, and certainly I never loved a congregation so much. I never was treated disrespectfully by a soldier or officer while I was in the army — not in one instance. They preserved a tender regard for my feelings. None of them ever gambled or swore in my immediate presence; if any did swear in my immediate presence in a moment of unguarded levity or haste or passion, they always followed it with a becoming apology. Card-playing and the like ceased to be public in this brigade, except among the Irish Catholics, of whom there were three companies, who seemed 'neither to fear God nor regard man;' only they were very good soldiers.
" 4. The officers of my regiment, to a man, were respectful to me and to my position. They always attended preaching. There was no exception. Some of them
were good Christians, while all believed that there was no officer in the regiment worth more to it than a good chaplain, and no part of their daily duties of so much importance as that of religious services. The men who commanded the regiment for the most part of the time that I was with them, were: Colonel W. H. Forney, Episcopalian; Lieutenant-Colonel Shelley, Methodist inclined; Major Joseph Truss, Baptist; Captain Brewster, of seemingly no fixed denominational preference. There never was a time that any one of these noble spirits would not do any and every thing that I desired to further the interests of public worship, preaching, prayer-meetings, etc. They did not allow anything that they could control to interfere with our hours of worship. And Colonel Shelley, who commanded most of the time (Colonel Forney being a prisoner), often said that the work of the chaplain was essential to the welfare of the regiment, essential to its efficiency, etc. The officers of the brigade, nearly all of them, were similar in conduct and disposition to those of my own regiment. And so I found the officers throughout the army, so far as I had opportunity to test the matter. No one of any rank ever treated me other than respectfully and kindly.
"5. There were some very efficient Christians in the brigade. Lieutenant Cumbie, of the Fourteenth Regiment, was a most useful man. He was pious, devoted and active, a very good preacher, a brave soldier and an efficient officer. Privates E. B. Hardie, of the Tenth, and Jacob Nelson, of the same regiment, were both most excellent young men, faithful and zealous in the service of the Lord, and brave soldiers. Both of them were young ministers. These three men were Baptists, and are pastors at home now, and successful. There were many others who were not preachers, that were in every way faithful and true.
"6. So far as I have been able to observe, those who professed religion in the army and lived to get home, are as faithful, constant and zealous now, as any other part of the religious community. I am pastor of several of them, and I know many others. Some of them are splendid church-members; but some have made shipwreck of the faith, or never had any faith. Yet I think three-fourths are maintaining a good profession, and proving that they were truly converted.
"7. I believe it was generally conclusive that religious men made the best soldiers. And I know that officers frequently expressed themselves as believing thus. Religious soldiers complained less at army regulations, hard service and short rations. They did their duty more generally and more willingly, and I never knew one of them to disgrace himself in battle. Many of them died at their posts. They straggled less on marches, and committed fewer depredations on the rights of citizens.
"8. The religious status of this brigade remained firm and decided to the surrender of the army.
"Brother Jones, I am aware that this letter is a very poor and indifferent account of the religious standing of my old brigade. Maybe, however, that you can get something out of it. I baptized about two hundred while I was in the army, two years, but nearly half of them were men of other brigades than my own, and converted under the ministry of other men. The Lord bless you in your good work,
"Yours fraternally, "J. J. D. Renfroe." =============
[From J. William Jones, Christ in the Camp (or, Religion in the Confederate Army), 1871; rpt. 1986. - Scanned and edited by Jim Duvall]
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