During the Civil War, on March 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer:
"Whereas, the Senate of the United States devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations,
has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation; and
Whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow
yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world,
may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity.
We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us;
and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request and fully concurring in the view of the Senate,
I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30TH DAY OF APRIL, 1863, as a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.
And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 30th day of March, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh. Abraham Lincoln. By the President: William H. Seward, Secretary of State."
Lincoln's National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer was observed APRIL 30, 1863.
Two days later, a freak accident occurred which altered the course of the war.
One of the South's best generals was accidentally shot by his own men.
Lt. General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was considered one of the greatest tactical commanders in history.
He refused to let his men give ground at the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861, standing there "like a stonewall."
Often outnumbered, sometimes 2 to 1, Jackson successfully fought the Shenandoah Valley Campaign:
Battles of McDowell (May 8, 1862);
Front Royal (May 23, 1862)'
Winchester (May 25, 1862);
Port Republic (June 9, 1862);
Seven Days Battles (June 25-July 1, 1862);
Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28-30, 1862);
Antietam (September 17, 1862);
Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862); and
Chancellorsville (April 30-May 2, 1863).
Stonewall Jackson wrote to Colonel Thomas T. Munford, June 13, 1862:
"The only true rule for cavalry is to follow the enemy as long as he retreats."
Jackson advised General John D. Imboden (Robert Underwood and Clarence C. Buel, eds. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, 4 vols. New York: Century Co., Vol.2, p. 297):
"Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number.
The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it.
Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible."
The day after Lincoln's Day of Fasting was observed, April 30, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorville began, May 1, 1863.
Outnumbered two to one, Stonewall Jackson's 60,892 Confederate troops successfully attacked the flank of 133,868 Union troops.
The Union suffered a devastating 17,197 casualties to the Confederate 13,303.
At the end of the day, May 2, 1863, Jackson surveyed the field and returned to camp at twilight.
Suddenly, one of his own men shouted, "Halt, who goes there," and without waiting for a reply, a volley of shots were fired.
Two bullets hit General Jackson's left arm and one hit his right hand.
Several men accompanying him were killed, in addition to many horses.
In the confusion that followed, Jackson was dropped from his stretcher while being evacuated.
His left arm was mangled, became infected, and had to be amputated.
General Robert E. Lee wrote to Jackson:
"Could I have directed events, I would have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead."
General Lee sent the message through Chaplain B.T. Lacy:
"He has lost his left arm but I my right ... Tell him that I wrestled in prayer for him last night ... as I never prayed for myself."
Jackson's injuries resulted in him contracting pneumonia.
Growing weaker, Jackson said, May 10, 1863:
"It is the Lord's Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday."
A few moments before he died, as he was losing consciousness, Jackson said:
"Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees."
Jackson had previously told General John D. Imboden ("Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Bull's Run," New York Times, May 3, 1885):
"My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death.
I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. ... That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave."
Many Civil War historians speculate what would have happened if Stonewall Jackson had not been shot.
He most certainly would have been at the Battle of Gettysburg two months later, which conceivable would have resulted in a Confederate victory, changing the entire outcome of the war.
Jackson's death was difficult to reconcile, as he was exemplary in faith and virtue.
He did not fight to defend slavery, but rather he fought to defend his home state of Virginia from the war of Northern Federal aggression.
Jackson was personally against slavery, having arranged to free the slaves he inherited from his wife's estate.
Beginning in 1855, Jackson participated in civil disobedience every Sunday by teaching a Colored Sunday School class at the Lexington Presbyterian Church.
This was against the law, as a Virginia statue forbade teaching slaves to read, especially after Nat Turner's rebellion. Nevertheless, Jackson regularly taught both slaves and free blacks, adults and children, to read the Bible.
The Revised Code of the Laws of Virginia (1819):
"Whereas it is common in many places for slaves to meet at religious meeting-houses in the night, or at schools for teaching them reading or writing, which if not stopped may cause considerable evil to the community;
Be it passed: That all meetings of slaves, or free negroes or mulattoes mixing with such slaves, at any meeting-house or school for teaching them reading or writing, either in the day or night, for any reason, shall be deemed an unlawful assembly.
And any officer of the law may have permission to enter the house to arrest or send off such slaves, and to punish them with up to twenty lashes."
William M. Banks wrote in Black Intellectuals (1996):
"Literacy also threatened the control and surveillance network for slaves in the South ...
Literate slaves ... could forge the necessary papers and escape to the North ...
Some slaveholders ... ignored the statutes for economic reasons, realizing that literate slaves could handle record-keeping ... Prohibitions were also ignored by pious masters who wanted their slaves to read the Bible."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, September 17, 1937:
"I came into the world 17 years after the close of the war between the states ...
Today ... there are still many among us who can remember it ... It serves us little to discuss again the rights and the wrongs of the long 4-years' war ...
We can but wish that the war had never been.
We can and we do revere the memory of the brave men who fought on both sides ...
But we know today that it was best ... for the generations of Americans who have come after them, that the conflict did not end in a division of our land into two nations.
I like to think that it was the will of God that we remain one people."
At the Confederate Memorial in Arlington Cemetery, President Coolidge said, May 25, 1924:
"It was Lincoln who pointed out that both sides prayed to the same God.
When that is the case, it is only a matter of time when each will seek a common end.
We can now see clearly what that end is.
It is the maintenance of our American ideals, beneath a common flag, under the blessings of Almighty God."