A church in Falls Church, Virginia. Library of Congress photo (LC-DIG-cwpb-01516 DLC).

Traci Nichols Belt and Gordon T. Belt, authors of Onward Southern Soldiers: Religion and the Army of Tennessee in the Civil War, wrote in a New York Times post that “Among the many reasons for the war lasting as long as it did, one of the most critical, and most often overlooked, is the role that . . . faith played in the mind of the average soldier.”

Often the sound of a band playing hymns on some hill announced the time for Sunday services. It was about the only way the men in camp could tell one day from the next.

At one such service, David Eldred Holt, William Poore’s comrade in the 16th Mississippi, described how a large platform had been built in a recently cleared area. Stumps and logs served as pews for the soldierly congregation.*

On the platform, 15 chaplains preached and received confessions of faith. The ministers preached two at a time from the opposite sides of the platform.

Hugh Carroll Dickson of the 16th Mississippi’s Company C wrote, “It looks like the whole of our regiment are going to join the church. I never saw as many conversions in such a short while in all my life.”*

Perhaps William came forward as hundreds of others did on such occasions to be baptized. Or perhaps he just renewed his faith at such services.

After the war, William and his children became leaders in their local church. This may indicate that William’s faith was more than just a battlefield conversion.

Have you found evidence of showing your Civil War ancestor’s religious beliefs?

(*In Jess McLean, The Official Records of the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment—as told by those who were there. CD-rom. 2001.)