Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

March 25, 2013

Religious writers in the south

When I was growing up in Corsicana, I remember people going from door to door handing out religious tracts. During the War Between the States, the people who distributed religious tracts and books were referred to as “coporteurs.” And a good number of pastors and missionaries were being sent from the various denominations to minister to the Confederate troops beginning in 1863.

One of the peddlers was J.W. Jones, who described his job as one that the soldiers respected. When he would approach a camp with his saddlebags stuffed “With tracts and religious newspapers and with Bibles and Testaments” he could hear the excited shouts of the soldiers, ‘Yonder comes the Bible and Tract man,’ and they would actually surround him while he was still on his horse and divest him of all his goods before he ‘could even get into the camp.’

Some of the religious periodicals were “The Army and Navy Messenger,” published by the interdenominational southern Evangelical Tract Society, and another was the Presbyterian “Soldier’s Visitor.” The “Southern Christian Advocate” came from the Methodists, and the Baptists sent the “Soldier’s Friend.” Some other popular pamphlets were “A Mother’s Parting Words to her Soldier Son” and “How Do You Bear Your Troubles?” These may not sound too inviting to today’s readers but we must remember that these soldiers had very little else to read, and these tracts prepared the way for a widespread revival. According to one enthusiastic soldier, it was like ‘one great Methodist camp meeting.’ They would build huge campfires, sing and pray, would surge forward, ‘some falling on the ground and crying for mercy.’ Remember that in that day “mourners were those who were confessing their sins and their desire for salvation. These penitents would collect at the “mourners’ bench” near the front of the gathering.

The chaplains and missionaries often found that when they worked together, their efforts made more of an impact. So many times they would form Christian associations without specifying a denomination. Their main objective was to provide religious experiences for the troops. Of course there were some who disapproved of this “joining together.” But many of them eventually believed in the importance of these groups which led in handling the distribution of tracts and the organization of prayer groups. The following description by a soldier shows the irony in the situation: “We had a Presbyterian sermon, introduced by Baptist services under the direction of a Methodist chaplain, in an Episcopal church.”

However, most of the time, services were held in the open. One soldier’s description says that he attended preaching on a hillside. Trees were cut and logs rolled to the gathering place for seating. A rough pulpit was constructed and the area was lit at night by “chunks of light wood” in “wire baskets” placed on top of poles stuck in the ground. One diary by a Capt. A Fielder mentions prayer meetings scheduled almost every day in “the spring of 1863.” His diary entry for Sunday, April 19th reflects the participation of the various denominations: ‘Sunday, April 19th — preaching in our Regt. by the Rev. Mr. Millakin (Baptist) of the 13th text John 16 chapter 8 to 11 verses inclusive — Evening 3 1/2 o’clock preaching in our Brigade by the Rev. McFerring (Methodist) text John 3 chap. 14 and 15 vers. The Congregation was large and attentive and the sermon interesting and applicable to the times ... prayer meeting at night.’

Of course hymn singing was prominent at these meetings with “Amazing Grace” and “Rock of Ages” being requested regularly. But it was the coporteurs who handed out the tracts and actually struck the first spark.

(Dedicated to Col. Roger Q. Mills Chapter 2466, United Daughters of the Confederacy. Facts from Religious Revivals Among the Troops,” by Connie Walton Moretti in Aug. 2006 issue of UDC Magazine.)

            —————

Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Thursdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Belcher, Bob.jpg Salute to 'Mr. Derrick Days'

    I can’t help but think back to the “near-death experience” that Derrick Days had 14 years ago, and how one man’s determination brought it back.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Tinsley Resurrection

    I was 29-years-old when my father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow.  He was 53 years of age. Only hours before his death, I spoke with him. Our eyes met during that final visit, the same eye contact we had shared from my birth.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dr Don Newbury 2014.jpg It’s about time

    Some aspect of time steals quietly into our psyche in all conscious moments, and our use or abuse of it is central to much poetry, lyrics, scripts, conversations — you name it.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick Platt 2014.jpg The Wonderlic Test

    Did you hear the one about Texas A&M’s “Johnny Football” Manziel testing better than all the other quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine? No, this is not the start of an Aggie joke.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • deannakirk.jpg Work Out? Bite your tongue!

    I've shared this before, but it bears repeating. I'm a lot like my late, dear Daddy … whose idea of “working out” was a good, brisk sit.
    Amen, Daddy. Me too.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Letters to the Editor for Saturday, April 12, 2014

    Thanks for service
    To the Editor: The Blooming Grove Elementary School would like to express appreciation to several individuals and businesses that for three years have provided a “free” vision exam and eyeglasses for many of our students.

    April 11, 2014

  • Dr Don Newbury 2014.jpg Uncle Mort: For the Birds

    Personal experiences racked up across three-quarters of a century — including yips and yaps at lecterns spanning five decades — offer positive proof that many times, utter silence is preferable to spoken words.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick Platt 2014.jpg One-liners

    For many years, in a previous life, I had somewhat of a reputation as a master-of-ceremonies and I stayed relatively busy at that avocation. I never met a microphone I didn’t like

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Deanna Kirk mug Gotta love a small town

    There's so many things to love about living in a small town. Why just last week I got to hang out with my ex-husband, his folks, his wife and baby at the Youth Expo. Then just a day later, I got to see my other ex-husband and his wife at the hospital, when one of our daughters got sick and landed there.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jacobs, Janet.jpg Weird foods on our shelves

    The Atlantic magazine reported recently that sales of frozen pre-packaged dinners are falling and Nestle is considering selling off its Lean Cuisine food line.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo