George Barton Ide.

Battle echoes : or, Lessons from the war online

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Let any one visit the plantations where these
freedmen live ; let him note the evidences of in-
creased comfort which gladden their homes ; let him
mark the new-born dignity, the look of recovered
manhood, with which they ply their voluntary toil ;
let him go into their schools, and watch those dark
minds brightening and expanding under the beams
of knowledge ; let him listen as they sing the songs
of Freedom ; let him enter their crowded places of
worship ; let him contemplate their churches with
thousands of members, which fresh accessions are
constantly augmenting, let him ponder all this,
and he cannot but be convinced that a social and
moral transformation is here going forward, might-
ier than human sagacity ever contrived or human
statesmanship ever wrought ; and that never, since
the light of the Gospel first broke on the hill-sides
of Judea, has the earth presented a spectacle so
fraught with sublime and inspiring auguries.

Such is the field which now invites our culture,
and such are the bright signs of promise which it
everywhere displays. There is room here for all ;
and the Providence of God summons all to enter in
and reap. The whole Christian strength of the
North could not suffice to gather a harvest so wide
and so ripe. To the Baptist churches, however, the
appeal addresses itself with peculiar significance
and emphasis. The pious among the freedmen


are largely of our denomination. At Port Koyal
they are almost exclusively so. And everywhere
throughout the South, vast multitudes of the colored
people profess our faith, or harmonize with us in
sentiment. They naturally look to us for their re-
ligious teaching. We can most readily gain their
confidence and sympathy. Hence it is clear that on
us the care of their educational and spiritual inter-
ests pre-eminently devolves. If we neglect the
trust, God will transfer it to more faithful hands ;
but this will not alter the fact that to us the work
appropriately belongs. Others may help us; and
most gladly do we welcome their co-operation. Yet
let us never forget that ours is the chief and fore-
most place in this godlike undertaking.

What, then, as Baptists, are we called to do in
this matter? The first and most urgent demand
that meets us a demand that cannot be neglected
a single day without incalculable injury to the cause
of Christ is to supply these broad wastes with
missionaries and pastors, at least in sufficient num-
bers to occupy the central points, superintend the
churches that still exist, gather new ones, and direct
the general work of evangelization. We cannot
longer defer this duty on the plea that the South is
inaccessible to our efforts. The brazen wall which
Slavery had built around it has been beaten down
by our victorious cannon. Already wide regions


invite our occupancy ; and the whole land will be
open to us sooner than we shall be prepared to go
up and possess it. In those parts of the rebel terri-
tory which the advance of our armies has brought
back under the control of the Union, there are many
vacant houses of worship once belonging to our de-
nomination, and many desolate altars on which the
fire still feebly burns amid the ashes of devastation
and the deluge of war. These the national authori-
ties have placed in our hands, with the guaranty of
military protection, and the promise of similar fa-
cilities in all the revolted States, whenever they
shall have been reclaimed to their allegiance. Thue
does the Providence of God summon us to the
mighty task of reconstructing, on a Christian basis,
the religious institutions of the South. In place of
a Gospel so corrupted by false views of human
rights, so distorted by the selfish greed of the op-
pressor, as to stand forth an abomination to heaven
and earth, we must plant there the Gospel which
He taught who came to save the poor and to lift up
the fallen a Gospel which proclaims liberty to the
captives, and the opening of the prison doors to
them that are bound. And as an evidence of the
pressing necessity that we should engage in this
work at once and with the utmost vigor, and as an
incentive to our zeal, it will be sufficient to cite the
history of our operations in the Sea Islands. Here


was the beginning of our labors for the spiritual
welfare of the freedmen, and here they have been
most thoroughly and earnestly prosecuted. And
what is their actual amount ? How large is the sup-
ply which we have sent to this our earliest and most
favored field? On these Islands there are sixteen
thousand liberated bondmen, all needing our aid,
all placed within the reach of our Christian sympa-
thies. In this population there are three Baptist
churches, comprising an aggregate of thirty-three
hundred members. The church at Beaufort con-
tains, with its five branches, fifteen hundred mem-
bers ; that on St. Helena Island nine hundred ; and
that at Mitchelville, near Hilton Head, a similar
number. In these churches thirteen hundred and
fifty .have been baptized during the two years since
missionary work commenced among them. And
yet at this important point, so peculiarly our own,
and so rich in promise, there are only three ordained
Baptist ministers, two white, and one colored. Of
the former, one is there merely for the purpose of
regaining his health, and will soon return to his
home in the North, if he has not already done so ;
and the other, worn down with exhausting toil, and
unsupported, is also expected ere long to leave the
field. So that, unless reinforcements are speedily
sent, there will be only one colored preacher of our
denomination for sixteen thousand souls. And if


such is the destitution in the spot where we have
done most, how great must it be throughout the
vast regions in which we have done nothing ! Oh,
how thrilling, how importunate is the cry which
comes to us from all parts of the recovered South
for men to break to these famishing multitudes the
Bread of Life !

But the preaching of the Gospel does not com-
prehend our whole duty in relation to this momen-
tous matter. These degraded and outcast masses
need to be educated for this world as well as for
the next. Along with an adequate number of com-
petent ministers, we must send out a host of teach-
ers, qualified not only to take charge of the business
of secular education, but also to assist in organizing
and sustaining Sunday schools, and in the various
departments of Christian labor. This is a want
which has been greatly felt. A large proportion
of the teachers now on the ground, however com-
petent to instruct in the week-day schools, have
little fitness for the duties of the Sunday-school.
Many of them are rationalists, deists, skeptics ; and
instead of seeking to instil into those clouded minds
the knowledge of Christ and of His salvation, are
laboring to infect them with the gospel of Theodore
Parker and Wendell Phillips.

Here is our work ; and this is precisely the re-
lation in which the Baptists of the North stand to


the^ Freedmen of the South. God has pointed us
out as their guides in the upward course which he
is opening before them. What Moses and Joshua
were to the Tribes which Divine Power, with
mighty signs and wonders, delivered from the thral-
dom of Egypt, we should be to the myriads whom
the same Almighty hand, by manifestations not less
startling, is bringing out of a more cruel bondage.
On us rests the obligation to lead them into the
Land of Promise; to train them for freedom on
earth, and for immortality in heaven.

Let the vastness of the work rouse us. Here are
a million of human beings, just risen from the black
night of Slavery, now waiting to be enlightened,
elevated, and prepared for the rights of manhood
and the heritage of salvation. And behind them
are three millions more, yet lingering in the prison-
house, from whose limbs the fetters are breaking,
and are destined to fall utterly away, when the
design of God in this civil war shall have reached
its triumphant fulfilment. And, following these,
are eight millions of white men, who, when the
curse of bondage is removed, will rise up from
their darkness and degradation, to claim the fran-
chises of which a tyrannical oligarchy has robbed
them, and ask for the blessings of education and of
true religion. Where in all the ages is there a
movement so stupendous as this? On what page of


the world's annals can you find anything so majestic
as the moral uprising which will pervade the entire
South, when once the Rebellion has been suppressed,
and its authors and leaders have fled to the shelter-
ing arms of foreign despots ; or, like Judas, their
great prototype, have emigrated to their "own
place ! " Oh, what a day of redemption will that
be for the South, when over her sunny fields, now
blasted by slavery, and ravaged by the fury and the
despair of a merciless usurpation, free labor, free
schools, a free press, and a free Gospel shall pour
their living energies, renovating the whole land,
and covering all its fertile plains and valleys with a
thriving and peaceful population! This is to be
the great social revolution of our day, and the
grandest of all the days. Whose heart is so dead
as not to kindle at the thought of taking part in an
enterprise so mighty in its scope, and so benign in
its results?

There are some, perhaps, to whom the force of
this appeal may be lessened by the imagination that
an undertaking so immense, requiring such large
expenditures of men and of means, must neces-
sarily cripple our endeavors for the evangelization
of the West, which they have been wont to regard
as our sole, particular sphere. Even were this
objection well founded, were it indeed true that
we should be compelled by the inadequacy of our


resources to neglect either the new West or the
new South, I hesitate not to affirm that wisdom
and benevolence would alike justify us in leaving
the West for the present to take care of itself. The
West is free. The West is strong. No burdens
have weakened her gigantic youth ; no chains have
clogged her swelling muscles. She has at her
command all the requisites and appliances of her
own intellectual and moral progress. Her soil, from
the surface of the earth to its centre, is one huge
treasure bed. Her plains are granaries, her hills
mines, the sands of her rivers richer than those of
old Pactolus. Her power of self-help is limited
only by her inclination. By the munificence of
His gifts God has made her the mistress of her own
destiny. And the boundless energies which she
has displayed in this hour of the nation's peril,
show her sufficient for the trust, and equal to all
the exigencies of her magnificent future.

But the trampled and crushed ones for whom we
plead have hitherto had no agency hi deciding their
condition. No opportunity for better things has
ever been theirs. Their darkness and their debase-
ment have been forced upon them by circumstances
beyond their control. Slavery, and not their own
free choice, has made them what they are. And
now as they come forth, in countless throngs, from
the pollutions and the horrors of their involuntary


bondage, and with outstretched arms implore us to
succor them, must not humanity, and "the mind
that was in Christ Jesus," prompt us to take them
by the hand, stanch their wounds, wipe away their
blood, and raise them up, even though in doing so
we should be obliged for a tune to let go of others
less exposed, or less helpless ?

There is, however, no necessity that in respond-
ing to this special call of God we should withdraw
from other fields of labor on which He has led us to
enter. If we faithfully use the resources which He
has conferred upon us, we shall find that we have
ample ability to do all that needs to be done for the
freedmen and for the South, without setting aside
the claims of any Christian enterprise whatever.
We have means enough and men enough to meet
the sudden and large demands arising from the
downfall of Slavery, and at the same time to plant
the banner of Christ throughout the destitute West
and the pagan East. Nevertheless, we cannot but
recognize, in the magnitude of the cause we advo-
cate to-day, in its momentous bearings on the pub-
lic weal, in the solemn emphasis of its claims, in
the fearful hazards which indifference to them in-
volves, the clear handwriting of Heaven, marking
it out as the paramount interest of the hour, and
invoking us to comprehend and earnestly promote it.


The hopeful aspects of the work should inspire
zeal and confidence. Let us not be kept back by
the cry of slavemongers and their upholders, that
the negro belongs to an inferior race, and is inca-
pable of improvement. That he is at present low
down in the social scale, may be admitted. It
would be a miracle if centuries of servitude and
debasement had left him in any other condition.
But he is no lower than God's chosen people were
when He brought them out of Egypt no lower
than any portion of the human family would be, if
subjected for the same length of time to the same
deteriorating influences. We hesitate not to affirm
that whatever of defect there may be in .the charac-
ter of the freedmen is to be ascribed, not to pov-
erty of intellectual or moral endowment, but to
the circumstances in which they have been placed.
They have bent all their lives under burdens. Is it
strange that they cannot at once stand erect ? They
have just come up from the foul dungeon of Slav-
ery, with the scent of its abominations yet clinging
to them, and its deadly vapors still paralyzing every
sense and every faculty. And shall we marvel that
they do not walk forth with the strong step and up-
lifted brow of those who have always trodden the
mountain tops, breathing the free air, and basking
in the glad sunshine? Notwithstanding the dis-
advantages which surround them, disadvantages


springing alike from their past deprivations and
from their present unsettled state, they neverthe-
less manifest qualities of mind and of heart which
prove their capacity for better things, and prophesy
well of their future. Even through the deep gloom
that overshadows them, flashes of a noble nature
gleam forth, indicating that they need only oppor-
tunity and culture, to emerge from their depression,
and take their place by the side of the more favored

When the policy of emancipation was inaugu-
rated, its enemies, both at home and abroad, as-
sailed it as inviting the slaves to insurrection, and
as tending to produce among them wild disorder
and outbursts of brutal ferocity. And even its
friends feared that a measure, for which so little
preparation had been made, might leave its objects
helpless through indolence, or lawless from sudden
liberty. But the event has justified none of these
predictions. The liberated bondmen have shown
no unwillingness to labor wherever employment has
been furnished them, and no disposition to avenge
the insults and wrongs heaped upon them as well by
loyal as by rebel hands. And those who yet remain
in slavery are waiting for the deliverance which they
know to be near, with a patience and forbearance
actually sublime. That this calm endurance of in-
juries, this quiet demeanor under hope deferred,


springs merely from constitutional timidity, or from
lack of spirit to assert their rights, no one can be-
lieve who has witnessed the manliness with which
they bear themselves as soldiers. Their firmness
and courage in many a bloody field have silenced
forever the taunt that the negro is a coward. The
glorious dead of Port Hudson, of Fort Wagner,
and of Olustee, who fell bravely fighting for a
country which gave them no citizenship, and which,
even in accepting them as its defenders, dishonored
and robbed them, prove that dark skins may cover
souls as heroic and patriotism as unselfish as the
world has ever known. It is idle to deny that a
race exhibiting such examples of magnanimity and
valor, possesses elements of greatness which require
only to be developed, to raise it to a high order of

Equally promising is the strong religious ten-
dency so manifest in the negro character. Grant
that his piety is often deeply tinged with supersti-
tion ; that it sometimes resembles more the wild
Fetishism of his ancestral Africa than the soberness
of the Gospel ; that it is a thing of emotion and ex-
citement rather than of holy living ; and that even
when apparently most ardent it is not seldom dis-
severed from morality. These peculiarities are ac-
cidental the fungus growth which the poison of
Slavery has spread over his moral life. Neverthe-


less, the tendency is there, vital and potent in his
nature, and, when purified and rightly directed,
will become a powerful auxiliary in his uplifting.

These striking capabilities, displayed by the col-
ored population of the South under circumstances
so adverse, viewed in connection with the wonder-
ful unfoldings of Divine Providence in their behalf,
are full of encouragement to those who would seek
their welfare. Nor is it an extravagance to say,
that nowhere on the face of the globe is there a de-
partment of Christian labor so rich in presages of
success, or where the reapers may gather sheaves
so abundant and so precious.

The elevation of this race is as important to our-
selves as it is to them. Their home is upon our
soil. Our destiny is bound up with theirs. Their
numbers forbid their removal. And even were this
possible, it would be a disaster, and not a blessing.
The industry of Spain was ruined for a century by
the expulsion of the Moors, and that of France by
the banishment of the Huguenots. And the pro-
ductive power of our own country would be crip-
pled, if not destroyed, by the colonization of the
negroes in other lands. While all sections would
suffer from such an immense loss of labor, there
are vast regions which would become a desert, were
the brawny arms that now till them withdrawn.
They are here, and they are needed here. We can-


not expatriate them if we would ; and it were sui-
cide to do it if we could. The only choice left us
is, to allow them to remain in their degradation, a
blot on the nation's fame, a gangrene in the body
politic, a festering mass of ignorance and vice, im-
perilling alike the present and the future ; or to
rouse ourselves, and put forth instant and vigorous
efforts to fit them, by all the appliances of Chris-
tian truth and Christian education, for the new
sphere into which God is so unexpectedly con-
ducting them. Patriotism and humanity, the com-
mand of Christ, and the finger of Heaven, all beck-
on us forward to the work. Interest, duty, consist-
ency, benevolence, unite to intensify the summons.
We have prayed we have battled for the free-
dom of the slave. And now that God is suddenly
breaking his chains, how tremendous will be our
guilt, if by neglect we turn the blessing into a
curse ! What dishonor will such neglect bring to
the cause of emancipation among all the struggling
peoples of the earth ! What woes will it entail on
the generations that are to come after us ! If we
fold our hands in listless inaction while the day of
decision is upon us, and events big with the fates
of unborn ages are rushing on, how shall we answer
it at the bar of conscience at the bar of posterity
at the bar of the world at the bar of that Om-
niscient and Holy One, who will judge us for our


not doing as for our misdoing ; and who has de-
clared that " to him that knoweth to do good, and
doeth it not, to him it is sin? " *

Followers of Jesus ! you see the path of duty
and of labor to which your Master points you.
Whatever you do must be done now, and done
with your whole strength, or the succor will be too
late and too feeble to avail its objects. They are
afloat on the wild sea of uncertainty, and will perish
if left to their own guidance. Helpers of the help-
less ! hasten to their rescue. Let not the All-rul-
ing Hand wave before you unheeded. Let not the
blood of sons and brothers slain on the high places
of the field be poured out in vain. By your coun-
try's peril, by the woes of the down-trodden, by the
pity of Christ, so meet this solemn crisis, that the
verdict of the ages shall bless you, and eternity
confirm the award, " WELL DONE 1 "



one of the islands that stud the broad bosom
of the Pacific, there is a region scarred by
wreck and havoc. A volcano, whose fires
never slumber,^ rises in its centre ; and all
around are strewed lava rocks, and the still
smoking cinders of recent eruptions. There are no
trees, no verdure, no vegetable life. The whole
scene is black and drear traversed by yawning
fissures, and covered with masses of scoria. Yet,
amid this desolate expanse, at the very foot of the
heaving and belching mountain, a spring of pure
water gushes up ; and from it a clear, sparkling
brook flows off through the blasted waste, with
many a playful winding and jocund ripple, down to
the sea. And wherever it flows a belt of soft green
appears, glinting joy and brightness upon the en-
compassing gloom. Strange union beauty allied



with horror coolness and refreshment bubbling
from a soil hot with flame and vomiting death !

How like to this is the spectacle which our coun-
try now presents ! A fearful civil war is raging
through all our borders a war unexampled in its
magnitude, in the gravity of the questions it in-
volves, in the energies it develops, in the wide
sweep of its destructive power. Loyalty and Re-
bellion have met in fierce and deadly encounter, and
the whole land reels with the shock. A moral vol-
cano, more wrathful than Vesuvius when it shook
and roared in the battle of the demi-gods, now rocks
the nation with its convulsive throes, and disgorges
its molten floods, shrouding the heavens in sulphur-
ous clouds, and pouring devastation on the earth.
Broad commonwealths are ravaged, vast industries
submerged, untold treasure and life swallowed up.
The entire continent seems one huge crater spouting
fire and blood.

But in this appalling view there is one feature on
which the eye may linger with delight. Welling
up from the deep heart of the people, a stream of
patriotic beneficence winds through the lurid land-
scape, visiting every scene of carnage and suffering,
and spreading health and gladness in its course. A
tiny rill at its birth, it has become a mighty river,
fed by countless aifluents, and sending its healing


waters by a thousand channels wherever the exi-
gencies of the strife demand their presence.

In this remarkable war, unprecedented in so
many of its aspects, there is nothing more remarka-
ble, nothing more unprecedented, than the prompti-
tude and fulness with which the individual contri-
butions of the country have flowed forth to minister
to the needs of its soldiers. That a people so
young, so wedded to the arts of peace, so unprac-
tised in military operations, should have been able,
hi an emergency so sudden, to raise and equip ar-
mies whose muster-roll registers millions, is one of
the most surprising facts of history. How, then,
must the surprise and the wonder grow upon us,
when we see that same people not only sustaining
such a tremendous drain of men, and the equally
tremendous cost of their mobilization, but following
them to the field, in outgoings of personal kindness
and munificence, which, for system, comprehen-
siveness and extent, are without a parallel in the
annals of war ! Other nations have created great
armies. But what nation ever cared for its armies
as we are caring for ours ? What were the paltry
and ill-regulated attempts of England to lighten the
miseries of her troops in the Crimea, compared with
the vast, harmonious, all-embracing movement that
now stirs the patriotism of the North to its profouiid-

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Online LibraryGeorge Barton IdeBattle echoes : or, Lessons from the war → online text (page 10 of 19)