“As I was riding by a small, religious-looking church, cruciform in shape–all churches do not look sacred–but this, in a grove of magnolia trees, with a small spire surmounted with the emblem of faith, gothic windows, and everything that tends to make it a place of worship, and inspire one with love for Him who holds the wind in the palm of His hand, who careth for the bird and feedeth the young lambs upon the hills,–
“I halted at the gateway, and noticed that the doors were open. After dismounting and climbing a hill, I stood upon a level with the church. Could it be? I could not realize until I walked to the door and looked in. Not a vestige of floor, not a remnant of a pew–altar gone. Even the string-pieces that supported the floor were gone. A few negroes sat in the corners cooking meat, while the smoke arose in reluctant wreaths, as though hesitating at the desecration. A beautiful marble font lay broken upon the ground, while the bowl was used for ordinary ablutions and the washing of dishes.
“I asked how this had been done. ‘Why,’ said they, ‘rebel cavalry used to camp in it, and they burned all the seats and the pulpit; we only burned the floor.’
“I had a superstitious fear about entering it to look in the small side rooms, one of which had given forth sounds of praise, and in the other the sacred vestments of the priest were kept. The organ had long since vanished; the vestments were gone. Desecration and desolation sat here in silence–mournful reminder of a curse too deep for words, that Fate had uttered against the people who conceived this thing. What a fit comment on the rebellion! Churches desecrated, and graveyards defiled.
“In a cemetery there are graves opened by curious, impious hands. One grave has the body of a celebrated duellist who was killed in Arkansas, opposite Memphis, embalmed. He looks like one sleeping. There are skulls that seem to laugh at the chaos which perplexes us, and fresh faces sleeping under glass that look as though they were in eternal sleep.
“Infants, with their white caps, looking like cherubs asleep, through the glass of metallic cases, awake not nor arise at the tread of the stranger.
“The fences were burned by the rebels, and the passing of hurrying feet and the tread of animals have worn off many of the graves until the occupants are exposed.”
Letter of Sept. 1863.
Originally posted 2009-03-30 18:20:20.