If Valentine’s Day was forgotten, religious feeling was not, and a Christian Revival among the Confederate troops that seems to have begun on Feb. 8, 1863, at the William Street Methodist Church, soon spread to other churches across Fredericksburg, including St. Georges Episcopal Church—above, as it looks today.
Spartan Band Private William H. Hill attended the first Methodist service preached by “Rev. Mr. Owen, Chaplain of the 17th Mississippi Regiment.”
A week later, 17th Regiment diarist Robert A. Moore recorded:
“the [Methodist] church is quite commodious & is always crowded to overflowing with attentive hearers…Our chaplain is now carrying on a protracted meeting. Everything bids fair for the outpouring of God’s Spirit.”
Soon, according to Hill, the Rev. Mr. Owen was joined in the preaching by Private Claiborne McDonald and Private Thomas Sterling West of the 13th’s Wayne Rifles.
“From 40 to 50 soldiers,” Hill recorded, “are at the mourner’s bench every night” waiting to be “saved” from their sins.
Word of the revival meetings got out as far as Richmond and Hill said the regimental parsons were joined by Rev. Dr. Robert Styles, a soldiers missionary, of Richmond.
By the end of the month, Moore counted himself saved and wrote in his diary:
“I feel and know that Christ has power on earth to forgive sin. I can recommend the atoning blood of Christ to all. All seems bright to me. I hope to walk so as never to bring reproach on the cause of Christ. All should praise the Lord.”
Photo of St. Georges Episcopal Church courtesy of 13th Regiment descendant Jo Anzalone.