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Meeting the Spiritual Needs of the Kentucky Orphans

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

By 1864, it was apparent that the Army of Tennessee had undergone a serious revival. The seeds of this holy reconciliation may have been planted in 1863, before the big one sprouted and grew. In 1861, various chaplains had mixed success in the Kentucky Brigade, especially while the majority of its regiments were encamped at Camp Boone, Tennessee. As William C. Davis notes in his wonderful book on the Orphan Brigade, the Kentuckians could be rather rambunctious. However, they could also be quite serious on issues of faith, which the following anecdote seems to show in this June 4, 1863 edition of the South Western Baptist from Marion, Alabama.

Though not a part of the brigade, Private Thomas McCreary of the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry displays what appears to be a Bible or testament.

Rev. A.D. Sears

This beloved brother, so well known in Kentucky, and for the past year a refugee in Miss., has entered the service of the Domestic Board of Missions, and is now with Breckinridge's Division of the army of Tenn., preaching to the Kentucky soldiers. In a letter received during my absence at the Southern Baptist Convention, in Augusta, he says, "Kentucky will probably not be represented in the Convention at Augusta, and as some may misjudge, the Baptists of that State, I speak advisedly, when I say four-fifths of them are for the South. All the prominent preachers, and indeed nearly all the preachers are with us, but two." May the 4th he writes again from near the Headquarters of Breckinridge's Division: "I arrived in Tennessee on the 24th of April, and proceeded immediately along the line from Columbia to this place. At first the whole aspect of things was forbidding in the extreme. After, however, I reached the Kentucky Brigade and heard names that had been familiar to my ears for nearly forty years, things changed with me, and I felt at home. I have been examining into the condition of things here, and find a wide field for usefulness. This brigade appears to be very moral, and a deep seriousness prevails among the men, and many are serious enquirers after truth. Mr. Richit of the Christian church has acquired a most wonderful influence over the men, and as chaplain of the Brigade has fulfilled his mission in a spirit which entitles him to the deepest gratitude of the men, and the highest praise of the country. He received me with the warmest of affection becoming a Christian patriot. We immediately commenced nightly meetings, and in the morning (Monday) I baptized 3 young men-you can better imagine than realize my feelings. Never did such gratitude inspire my heart-I feel that God has given his divine approval to my mission here. Should the Brigade remain stationary, I anticipate the happiest results from our meeting.

When it closes I shall (D.V.) visit the Brigades of the Division, and of Hardee's (corps) and even of the army, and will endeavor to conduct similar meetings with as many of the regiments and brigades as I can. I want as many Testaments as you can send me, say 1,000, 1,500 or even 2,000. And I want if possible 500 or 1000 Bibles suitable for the tents, that each mess may have a Bible. I was tracts and religious books, if I can get them, without limit; I feel that there is a great work to do here, and by God's help I want to aid in doing it."

The Domestic Board has now some six missionaries at work in the army of Tennessee. May the brethren pray for their success, and give liberally to sustain the work.



Derrick Lindow is an author, historian, teacher, and creator of the WTCW site. His first book, published by Savas Beatie, will be released in Spring 2023. Go HERE to read more posts by Derrick and HERE to visit his personal page. Follow Derrick on different social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter) to get more Western Theater and Kentucky Civil War Content.



South Western Baptist (Marion, Alabama), June 4, 1863, 2.

William C. Davis, The Orphan Brigade: The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn’t Go Home. Mechanicsburg PA: Stackpole Books, 1993.

Private Thomas McCreary of Co. E, 3rd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, in a Columbus depot jacket and holding a book. United States, None. [Between 1861 and 1865] Photograph.

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