Civil War

(1863) Seventh-day Adventists

and the Civil War

in the United States


Even before the first shots of the Civil War were fired, Ellen White, at Parkville, Michigan, on January 12, 1861, had been given a view of the coming conflict and its ferocity. The philosophy behind the war, and its ultimate outcome, had been opened up to her in the vision at Roosevelt, New York, on August 3, 1861. In Testimony No. 7 she opened her statement with words that threw light on the whole situation:


God is punishing this nation for the high crime of slavery. He has the destiny of the nation in His hands. He will punish the South for the sin of slavery, and the North for so long suffering its overreaching and overbearing influence.—1T, p. 264.


Making reference to the vision of August 3, she declared that she was “shown the sin of slavery, which has so long been a curse to this nation.” She referred to the unconscionable law of the land, the “fugitive slave law” that required the return to their masters of any slaves who escaped to the North. This, she said, was “calculated to crush out of man every noble, generous feeling of sympathy that should rise in his heart for the oppressed and suffering slave.” Months earlier she had written:


The law of our land requiring us to deliver a slave to his master, we are not to obey; and we must abide the consequences of violating this law. The slave is not the property of any man. God is his rightful master, and man has no right to take God's workmanship into his hands, and claim him as his own.—Ibid., p. 202.


When the laws of men conflict with the Word and law of God, we are to obey the latter, whatever the consequences may be.—Ibid., pp. 201, 202.


As to slavery, she declared:


God's scourge is now upon the North, because they have so long submitted to the advances of the slave power. The sin of Northern proslavery men is great. They have strengthened the South in their sin by sanctioning the extension of slavery; they have acted a prominent part in bringing the nation into its present distressed condition.—Ibid., p. 264.


She provided the following insight into the situation:


I was shown that many do not realize the extent of the evil which has come upon us. They have flattered themselves that the national difficulties would soon be settled and confusion and war end, but all will be convinced that there is more reality in the matter than was anticipated. . . .

The North and South were presented before me. The North have been deceived in regard to the South. They are better prepared for war than has been represented. Most of their men are well skilled in the use of arms, some of them from experience in battle, others from habitual sporting. They have the advantage of the North in this respect, but have not, as a general thing, the valor and the power of endurance that Northern men have.—Ibid., pp. 264-266.


The Battle of Manassas


Ellen White was in vision taken to the scene of the Battle of Manassas; she was shown God's hand in what took place there:


I had a view of the disastrous battle at Manassas, Virginia. It was a most exciting, distressing scene. The Southern army had everything in their favor and were prepared for a dreadful contest. The Northern army was moving on with triumph, not doubting but that they would be victorious. Many were reckless and marched forward boastingly, as though victory were already theirs.


As they neared the battlefield, many were almost fainting through weariness and want of refreshment. They did not expect so fierce an encounter. They rushed into battle and fought bravely, desperately. The dead and dying were on every side. Both the North and the South suffered severely. The Southern men felt the battle, and in a little while would have been driven back still further. The Northern men were rushing on, although their destruction was very great.

Just then an angel descended and waved his hand backward. Instantly there was confusion in the ranks. It appeared to the Northern men that their troops were retreating, when it was not so in reality, and a precipitate retreat commenced. This seemed wonderful to me.

Then it was explained that God had this nation in His own hand, and would not suffer victories to be gained faster than He ordained, and would permit no more losses to the Northern men than in His wisdom He saw fit, to punish them for their sins. And had the Northern army at this time pushed the battle still further in their fainting, exhausted condition, the far greater struggle and destruction, which awaited them would have caused great triumph in the South.

God would not permit this, and sent an angel to interfere. The sudden falling back of the Northern troops is a mystery to all. They know not that God's hand was in the matter.—Ibid., pp. 266,267.


Thus was revealed God's guiding hand in the affairs of the war.

The Battle as Seen by a Southern Lieutenant Colonel W. W. Blackford, a lieutenant colonel in the Southern Army, in his book War Years With Jeb Stuart, gave a stirring account of what happened at Manassas in the battle of July 21, 1861:


It was now about four o'clock and the battle raged with unabated fury. The lines of blue were unbroken and their fire vigorous as ever while they surged against the solid walls of gray, standing immovable in their front. It was on that ridge earlier in the day Jackson won the name of Stonewall.

But now the most extraordinary spectacle I have ever witnessed took place. I had been gazing at the numerous well-formed lines as they moved forward to the attack, some fifteen or twenty thousand strong in full view, and for some reason had turned my head in another direction for a moment, when someone exclaimed, pointing to the battlefield, “Look! Look!”

I looked, and what a change had taken place in an instant. Where those well-dressed, well-defined lines, with clear spaces between, had been steadily pressing forward, the whole field was a confused swarm of men, like bees, running away as fast as their legs could carry them, with all order and organization abandoned. In a moment more the whole valley was filled with them as far as the eye could reach.

They plunged through Bull Run wherever they came to it, regardless of fords or bridges, and there many were drowned. Muskets, cartridge boxes, belts, knapsacks, haversacks, and blankets were thrown away in their mad race, that nothing might impede their flight. In the reckless haste, the artillery drove over everyone who did not get out of their way. Ambulance and wagon drivers cut the traces and dashed off on the mules. In [their] crossing Cub Run, a shell exploded in a team and blocked the way and twenty-eight pieces of artillery fell into our hands.


Blackford's description of the disorderly and unaccounted-for retreat is vivid:


By stepping or jumping from one thing to another of what had been thrown away in the stampede, I could have gone long distances without ever letting my foot touch the ground, and this over a belt forty or fifty yards wide on each side of the road.

Numbers of gay members of Congress had come out from Washington to witness the battle from the adjacent hills, provided with baskets of champagne and lunches. So there was a regular chariot race when the rout began, with the chariots well in the lead, as was most graphically described by the prisoners I captured and by citizens afterwards. . . . Some of their troops, north of Bull Run, did not participate in the panic, and some did not throw away their arms, but the greater part must have done so, from the quantities we found.—W. W. Blackford, War Years With Jeb Stuart, pp. 34, 35 (see also DF 956).


Years later a Mr. Johnson, who had been among the Confederate forces, told J. N. Loughborough:


“I stood not four rods from General Beauregard when that stampede began. Beauregard had their cannons loaded with chain shot, and was about to fire. He looked toward the advancing host, and cried out: ‘The Yanks are all retreating. Don't fire the guns.”’ Brother Johnson said, “Had they fired that charge, they would have mowed everything down before them to the earth.”—PUR, March 21, 1912.


What was unclear and puzzling to the Southern generals, and in fact to almost everyone, was clearly opened up in early 1862 to members of the remnant church in Testimony No. 7.

The Church Given a Preview


The Union and the Confederate forces, having gained a glimpse of the involvements and proportions of the struggle ahead, began to dig in for a long and bitter conflict. Near the close of the year the government appointed a day for the nation to unite in fasting and prayer. On Sabbath, January 4, 1862, God disclosed to Ellen White in vision many elements relating to the war, its prosecution, the philosophy behind it, the protracted struggle ahead, and the futility of national fasts, under the circumstances.


It seems impossible to have the war conducted successfully, for many in our own ranks are continually working to favor the South, and our armies have been repulsed and unmercifully slaughtered on account of the management of these proslavery men. Some of our leading men in Congress also are constantly working to favor the South.   38.5}

In this state of things, proclamations are issued for national fasts, for prayer that God will bring this war to a speedy and favorable termination. I was then directed to Isaiah 58:5-7: . .. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” . . . I saw that these national fasts were an insult to Jehovah. He accepts no such fasts.—1T, pp. 256, 257.


This put Seventh-day Adventists in a vantage position with an understanding of what to expect. In the lead article in Testimony No. 7, Ellen White declared:


Thousands have been induced to enlist with the understanding that this war was to exterminate slavery; but now that they are fixed, they find that they have been deceived, that the object of this war is not to abolish slavery, but to preserve it as it is. . . .

In view of all this, they inquire: If we succeed in quelling this rebellion, what has been gained? They can only answer discouragingly: Nothing. That which caused the rebellion is not removed. The system of slavery, which has ruined our nation, is left to live and stir up another rebellion. The feelings of thousands of our soldiers are bitter.—Ibid., pp. 254, 255.


Referring to the treachery of Congressmen and of Union Army officers who were sympathetic with the South, she declared, “As this war was shown to me, it looked like the most singular and uncertain that has ever occurred.”—Ibid., p. 256. As to international repercussions she stated:


I was shown that if the object of this war had been to exterminate slavery, then, if desired, England would have helped the North. But England fully understands the existing feelings in the Government, and that the war is not to do away slavery, but merely to preserve the Union; and it is not for her interest to have it preserved.—Ibid., p. 258.

2BIO 34-39

Very many men in authority, generals and officers, act in conformity with instructions communicated by spirits. The spirits of devils, professing to be dead warriors and skillful generals, communicate with men in authority and control many of their movements. One general has directions from these spirits to make special moves and is flattered with the hope of success. Another receives directions, which differ widely from those given to the first. Sometimes those who follow the directions given obtain a victory, but more frequently they meet with defeat.—Ibid., pp. 363, 364.


She contrasted the guidance God would give with that of the great adversary, Satan himself:


The great leading rebel general, Satan, is acquainted with the transactions of this war, and he directs his angels to assume the form of dead generals, to imitate their manners, and exhibit their peculiar traits of character. The leaders in the army really believe that the spirits of their friends and of dead warriors, the fathers of the Revolutionary War, are guiding them.

If they were not under the strongest fascinating deception, they would begin to think that the warriors [supposedly] in heaven (?) did not manifest good and successful generalship, or had forgotten their famed earthly skill.

Instead of the leading men in this war trusting in the God of Israel, and directing their armies to trust in the only One who can deliver them from their enemies, the majority inquire of the prince of devils and trust in him. Deuteronomy 32:16-22. Said the angel: “How can God prosper such a people? If they would look to and trust in Him; if they would only come where He could help them, according to His own glory, He would readily do it.”—Ibid., pp. 364, 365.

2BIO 48