The Confederacy lost one of her bravest when Comrade Steele fell dead at Franklin on top of the breastworks to the left of the pike leading from Columbia into the town. He was never heard to murmur or to disobey, and professed great faith in the cause of the South and in the ability of our leaders. Above all, he was a true Christian, having joined the church at Dalton, Ga., a fact which his relatives never knew.
Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010Mississippi section of the McGavock Confederate Cemetery
In General Wood’s brigade a meeting of great interest has for several weeks been under the supervision of Rev. F.A. Kimball, chaplain of the 16th Alabama, assisted mainly by Colonel Reed, Chief of Provost Marshal Department, in Hardee’s corps, Col. Lowery [sic], of the 45th and 32nd Mississippi, the result of which has been one hundred conversions. In the same brigade, Chaplin Otkin, of Lowery’s [sic] regiment, has been conducting religious services, which, from the best information received, has been productive of great good in restoring many wanderers to their former enjoyments and inducting about forty-five souls into the kingdom of Christ.
I was present at a great open-air preaching at General Wood's camp. Bishop Elliott preached most admirably to a congregation composed of nearly 3000 soldiers, who listened to him with the most profound attention. Generals Bragg, Polk, Hardee, Withers, Cleburne, and endless brigadiers, were also present. It is impossible to exaggerate the respect paid by all ranks of this army to Bishop Elliott; and although most of the officers are Episcopalians, the majority of the soldiers are Methodists, Baptists, &c.
But evangelistic preaching wasn't the only means of spreading the Christian gospel through the army. According to one author and observer, James D. Porter, in Vol. 9 of Confederate Military History, during the war, Bible societies were organized for the publication, sale, and gift of Bibles for dissemination in the Confederate army. Christian newspapers were published in many places and thousands of copies were regularly circulated. Tens of thousands of religious tracts and books of "Camp Hymns" were also distributed. Even the American Bible Society, headquartered in New York, donated thousands of Bibles and smuggled them to Rebel troops via a Confederate agent. And for Confederate POWs held in the north, the U.S. Christian Commission of the YMCA conducted devotional meetings and distributed Bibles and Christian literature to them.
Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010The beautiful and tranquil McGavock Confederate Cemetery in Franklin
where Steele, and nearly 1,500 of his comrades-in-arms, are buried.
A few years ago, my wife and I visited the McGavock Confederate Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee, where Sgt. Miles J. Steele lies with the unknown. Steele, along with Great Grandfather Oakes and all true believers who have died in Christ, await that last trumpet call, which will raise the dead to eternal and imperishable life (1 Corinthians 15).
Sources: Confederate Veteran, Vol. 7, January 1899-December 1899; Confederate Military History, Vol. 9, James D. Porter; Three Months in the Southern States, April-June, 1863, Arthur Fremantle