We feel that we need only mention the fact that our brave soldiers are asking for the Word of Life in order to secure from a generous public the most liberal contributions. Who can withhold, when the sick and wounded who fill our hospitals ask for the word of God to cheer and sustain them during their days of affliction, their nights of weariness and suffering? We feel confident that there are many who will give neither grudgingly nor of necessity, but with cheerful hearts and liberal hands. The religious interests of our soldiers demand and must receive prompt attention from every lover of good order, civil liberty, and piety towards God.
|Dalton, Georgia, 1880|
Source: Georgia Archives
Thousands of appeals like this were made, and there was a tremendous response by Southern churches and individuals. Thus the seeds of the great revival to come in the west were sown in camp during the early months of the war.
We have a large Brigade church built, in which we have been holding services for two weeks. About ten days ago we commenced a series of nightly meetings; at first more on the order of prayer-meetings, but the interest began to increase so rapidly that in three nights we found a revival springing up in our midst. Great crowds gather nightly. We find our church too small. Large numbers are seeking the Lord—forty to fifty every night. The word of God and religious services seem to be better appreciated than ever before in this brigade. Men's minds appear to dwell more on religion and the soldiers more concerned about their soul's eternal welfare... The prospect before us is very encouraging. Wickedness and vice seem restrained. Members of the Churches are becoming revived. The Spirit of the Holy One is present and felt. Good resolutions are being formed in every regiment. A number are endeavoring to fulfill their promises made to God upon the eve of and during the late battles. We are expecting and praying for great things.
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 center of his division, where himself and most of his officers were present, and where I was assisted by Brigadier-General Lowry [sic], who sat in the pulpit with me 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.
|Rev. Brig. Gen. Mark Lowrey|
I often preached in camp. While in camp at Dalton, Ga., in the Spring of 1864, there was a general revival of religion in the army, and I participated in it, preaching very often to my command. Within two weeks, I baptized over 50 of my own men in camp, on the march, and in the field.2
Strange as it may seem to many readers, the call to preach the gospel of Christ came to the hearts of the men of war on the tented field; and no sooner were their carnal weapons laid aside than they buckled on the Divine armor, and, seizing the sword of the Spirit, entered the battle against the powers of darkness. In this we find one of the strongest proofs of the genuineness of the Army Revival. Truly, its fruits are still enduring. Thousands who were participants in that glorious and, to some, strange work, have passed the flood of death and are seen no more among men, but the seed they sowed in trench and camp and hospital, in the bivouac, and on the weary march, was watered from above and has borne a rich harvest. And may we not hope that the full fruition of this work is to be realized in that era of peace and good will which is even now descending upon our common country?
2 Lt. Thomas J. Stokes of Cleburne's Division at Dalton, wrote home in April 1864 to his sister, Mary Gay, "General Lowry [sic] baptized about thirteen of them who were from his brigade. He is a Christian, a soldier and a zealous preacher, and his influence is great. It was truly a beautiful sight to see a general baptizing his men. He preaches for our brigade next Sabbath." The revival continued right up to the Federal attack on the Confederate stronghold at Dalton in early May. Stokes writes again on May 5,
The great revival is going on with widening and deepening interest. Last Sabbath I saw eighty-three immersed at the creek below our brigade. Four were sprinkled at the stand before going down to the creek, and two down there, making an aggregate within this vicinity of eighty-nine, while the same proportion, I suppose, are turning to God in other parts of the army, making the grand aggregate of many hundreds. Yesterday I saw sixty-five more baptized, forty more who were to have been there failing to come because of an order to be ready to move at any moment. They belong to a more distant brigade... If we do not move before Monday, Sabbath will be a day long to be remembered—‘the water will,’ indeed, ‘be troubled.’ Should we remain three weeks longer, the glad tidings may go forth that the Army of Tennessee is the army of the Lord. But He knoweth best what is for our good, and if He sees proper can so order His providence as to keep us here. His will be done.