In 1863, President Jefferson Davis delivered the Gettysburg Prayer soon after the Army of Northern Virginia's colossal victory on that Pennsylvania battlefield.
Gettysburg Prayer Part One by Raymond SpeerExcerpt from Jefferson F. Davis' Commentary, 1870;
Matters reached a cresendo in the summer of 1863. Generals Lee and Jackson performed a miracle at Chancellorsville but that hardly helped the sad state of affairs in my home State, Mississippi. There, Southern generals were barely moving and Yankee generals Grant and Sherman had subjected Vicksburg to an unbreakable seige that could not be endured past the middle of the year.
My fear was that Lee and Jackson would continue to win but that continued defeats far off in western States would eventually doom Confederate independence.
Is Patrick Ronayne Clebourne the Savior of the Confederacy? Some people call him that because he was admittedly the first responsible party to state aloud that we were fighting the War with one arm tied behind our backs. Free the Negroes and arm them to fight beside us. As early as January 1863, he was saying that to his peers over the campfire and in March 1863 he wrote me a long letter on the theme that we should free Negroes and recruit them as soldiers.
When I got General Clebourne's letter, I felt so ill that I had to seek rest in my darkened bed chamber for a week before I could return to my office desk. Clebourne had made such a good case that I could not pretend he was wrong. Yes, arming our Negroes and sending them out to fight would rescue our independence. But was independence worth such a change?
When Generals Lee and Jackson came to Richmond to confer about their 1863 offensive into Pennsylvania, I shared with them General Cleburne's letter. I was surprised when Jackson wept profusely and told us that he had long been oppressed by the thought that he was prolonging the existance of slavery. Jackson had long awaited Richmond to announce that the peculiar institution would soon end.
General Lee told me that he was very reluctant to overstep his boundaries, but when I insisted on his thoughts on emancipation, Lee said that the Negroes were as many as a third of the men in the South, and our armies certainly had need for many recruits.
I was conscious of my lack of a strong organization in either House of Congress. Also, I had never asked the Legislators what they made of the possibility of emancipation and my innate gloom made me think Congress might take up my impeachment and removal from office if I endorsed emancipation.
Once I knew that Jackson and Lee were with Varina and me. the conspiracy got underway. The generals would lead their Army into the North and hopefully meet and destroy the Army of the Potomac. Meanwhile, I would prepare the people of the South for a surprising revelation that would be announced if and when great news came from the Army of Northern Virginia.
Of course, it is a matter of history what Lee and Jackson did during the Four Days of Gettysburg. The dual movements on both ends of the enemy line on the second day lead to the dissolution and capture of the Army of the Potomac by the Fourth of July, 1863. Less favorable was the telegram I received from Joseph Johnston telling me that Vicksburg had fallen to the Yankees and that the whole Mississippi was now controlled by our enemies.
After the drama of the deaths of Union generals Reynolds, Sickles, Hooker and Hancock at Gettysburg, the noncaptured survivors of the Yankee Army abandoned rural Pennsylvania and Harrisburg, and crowded into Philadelphia as a garrison. For the moment, we owned that Yankee State and that fit in well with our plans.
On the last day of July 1863, in front of a crowd that made up the mass of the Army of Northern Virgnia, Imade the most important speech of my life, and for a generally good result. They yelled very loudly and cheered me for about an hour!
"Citizens and Soldiers, picked by God and His Son, Jesus Christ, to inhabit the most beautiful and bounteous country anywhere,
we Confederates are all born with God's greatest gift,
citizens in a republic where all of us are greater than monarchs or dictators.
As we separate from mammon worship and the political domination of the tyrannical majority,
We Confederates profess for others
the freedoms that we claim for ourselves,
and so we ask God for the wisdom and determination to free all members of our people
so that Slavery may end and we may all proceed to a new era of abundence".
I was excited at the close of my address, so I ended with a Rebel Yell, whereupon the Earth shook as my audience returned the sound of celebration.