Compelled to Elect

St. James Episcopal Church, Wilmington, North Carolina.
St. James Episcopal Church, Wilmington, North Carolina.

We stand to-day, dear brethren, in the midst of circumstances of great doubt and anxiety, with provocations tending to kindle the bitterest and most vehement passions, and with the line of duty in many instances difficult to trace, and difficult to follow, even when traced. Never did we stand more in need of right counsels, deliberate and conscientious reflection, earnest purpose to do our duty, and heartfelt dependence on God our Saviour, for guidance and strength to enable us for its performance.

We stand to-day, face to face with civil war, a calamity, which, unless the experience and universal testimony of mankind deceive us, is direr and more to be deprecated than foreign war, than famine, than pestilence, than any other form of public evil. The cloud we have all been so long watching, which we have seen, day by day, and month by month, enlarging its skirts, and gathering blackness, is now beginning to burst upon us.

It seems to me that no one but an Atheist, or an Epicurean, can doubt that it is God who rides in this storm, and will direct the whirlwind, and that He now calls upon us to look to Him, to consider our ways and our doings, to remember the offences by which we have heretofore provoked Him, and to determine on the conduct we will hereafter pursue towards Him, toward our fellowmen, and towards ourselves.

I feel that we have some solid grounds of encouragement to hope for His favour. This Commonwealth, with whose fortunes our own are linked, cannot be said to have had any hand in causing, or precipitating the issue before us. She has sought, till the last moment, to avert it, and she his incurred censure by these efforts. But when compelled to elect between furnishing troops to subdue her nearest neighbors and kindred, and to open her Territory for the passage of armies marshalled to accomplish that odious, unauthorized and unhallowed object, or to refuse to aid, and to seek to hinder such attempts, she chose the part which affection, and interest and duty seems manifestly, and beyond all reasonable question, to require. What she has done, and is about to do, she does, as an old writer finely says in such a case, “willingly, but with an unwilling mind,” as an imperative, but painful duty. Such is the temper, we may be well assured, in which it best pleases God, that strife of any sort, especially strife of this sort, should be entered on.

There is another consideration from which I derive great comfort, and which is certain to give comfort to all who receive it. It is that whatever we may think of some of the earlier steps in these disputes, yet as to the present questions between the North and the South, we can calmly, conscientiously, and, I think, conclusively, to all impartial men, maintain before God and man that now at least we of the South are in the right. For we are on the defensive, we ask only to be let alone. That old Union to which we were all at one time so deeply attached, is now dissolved. It cannot be, at this time, amicably reconstructed. No one proposes it shall be done–no one supposes it can be done. Shall there then be a voluntary and friendly separation, or an attempt at subjugation? This is really the question before the people, lately known as the people of the United States. How strange that there should be any doubt as to the answer! That men should hesitate which to prefer, a peaceful separation of those who cannot agree, or civil war, with all its horrors, and all its uncertain issues! We ask the former–those so lately our brethren demand the latter. Should they insist on this, and should they succeed in this detestable strife to the very height of their hopes, it would be worse than a barren victory. It would be a victory that would cost the conquerors not only material prosperity, but the very principles of government on which society with them, as with us, rests.

Extract from a sermon delivered by the Rt. Rev. Thomas Atkinson, (Protestant) Bishop of North Carolina, at St. James Church, Wilmington, 6 May 1861 (Fifth Sunday after Easter).

Thy Manifold and Great Mercies

Bishop Thomas Frederick Davis, fifth Episcopalian Bishop of South Carolina.

Collect of Thanksgiving

O Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we poor sinners lift up our hearts to Thee, to bless and praise Thy holy name for all Thy manifold and great mercies to these Confederate States, from the first day even until now. O most Mighty and Gracious Good God, Thy mercy is over all Thy works, but in special manner hath been extended towards us, Thy people, whom Thou hast so powerfully defended. Thou hast showed us wonderful and terrible things; but Thou hast continued to protect and bless us; that we might see how Powerful and Gracious a God Thou art; how able and ready to help those who trust in Thee. O God, with deep thankfulness of spirit we worship and adore Thee for Thy protecting power and grace. Be Thou still our God, our Guide and Mighty Defender. And make us, we beseech Thee, truly sensible of Thy mercies. And give us hearts always ready to express our thankfulness, not only by words, but also by our lives, in being more obedient to Thy Holy Commandments; that we, whom Thou hast saved, may serve Thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

— Prescribed by Bishop Thomas Frederick Davis to the Protestant Episcopal Churches of the Diocese of South Carolina, to be used on Thursday, March 5th, 1863, being the day of “Thanksgiving, Humiliation and Prayer” appointed by the Governor of the State.

A Perpetual Sermon

Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk.

Upon the day appointed — being, by a happy coincidence, the Feast of St. Peter the Apostle — the local military force of Augusta, consisting of one full regiment of infantry, a battery of light artillery, and a company of cavalry, was drawn up on Telfair St., in the rear of the City Hall, at half-past nine o’clock, A. M.  The case enclosing the remains was brought and placed within the hearse by soldiers detailed for the purpose.  The hearse was draped in the flag of the Confederate States, with its broad folds of white and its starry cross of Trust and Truth upon a field of blood, and surmounted with wreaths of bay and laurel, and a cross of evergreen and snow-white flowers.

* * *

Leonidas Polk, Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana and General in the Army of the Confederate States.

Who can estimate the influence of such an act as that of our brother upon the cause which is so vital to every one of us? What could invest it with a higher moral grandeur than that a bishop of the Church of God should gird on the sword to do battle for it?  A faction of the Northern Church pretended — some of them engaged in acts infinitely more derogatory to the glory of Christ’s Church — to be shocked at it; but it, nevertheless, filled them with dismay.  They saw in it an intensity of feeling and of purpose at which they trembled, and when they found no echo of their pious horror from the Church of England, they ceased their idle clamor.  And our brother thus became, before even he had drawn his sword, a tower of strength to the Confederacy.  And who can say how much of the religious influence, which has diffused itself so remarkably among the officers of the army of the West may not have reached their hearts through the silent power of his example and his prayers!  Bishop Polk did not think the public exercise of his ministry a proper accompaniment of his military career, and in that I think he acted most wisely; but his dignified and irreproachable life was a perpetual sermon, and his private communion with God was his spiritual power.  It is a very striking fact that every officer of high rank in that army — the army which, in the language of Gen. Johnston, he created, and had always commanded — has become a professed disciple of the meek and lowly Jesus; and that the last act of our warrior-bishop was the admission into the Church of his Saviour and Redeemer, through the holy sacrament of baptism, of two of its most renowned commanders.  He lived long enough to see Christ recognized in its councils of war; and, his work on earth being done, he obeyed the summons of his Master, and passing away from earth, his mantle rests upon it.

— Funeral Address for General Leonidas Polk, Feast of St. Peter, 1864.

Designed Especially for the Instruction of the Slaves

In 1862, under the auspices of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America, there was printed by the Office of “The Church Intelligencer,” a special catechism to be administered and answered orally by those who could not read (slaves).

Can you spot the typo?

From Lesson One:

Quest. WHO made the world?

Ans. God.

Q. Who?

A. God.

Q. What did God make?

A. The world.

Q. Yes, God made the world. Did He make any thing else?

A. He made all things in the world.

Q. What are some of the things in the world?

A. Water, trees, cattle, and men.

Q. What?

A. Water, trees, cattle, and men.

Q. Yes, God made the world, and all things in the world:–Who then made you?

A. God.

Q. What were you made of?

A. “Of the dust of the ground.”

Q. How do you know this?

A. God has told me so.

Q. Where has God told you so?

A. In His own book, called the Bible.

During the course of the War, the Southern Book of Common Prayer — virtually identical to the 1789 book with minor changes to the prayers for the President and Congress necessitated by the new national government — was printed thrice at London. Two of the printings were intercepted by the Union Naval Blockade, making this a very rare book both then and now.

The Church in the CSA also made available abridged and adapted forms of the Prayer-Book for the soldiers fighting in the Confederate forces.