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“The Meeting Continued All Night, Both by the White & Black People”: Georgia Camp Meeting, 1807

Camp meetings such as this one, held near Sparta, Georgia, in 1807, were a manifestation of the nationwide Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century. The Second Great Awakening was an evangelical religious revival conducted by Baptists, Methodists, and other dissenting Protestant sects. Evangelical religion was often described as “enthusiastic,” and people attending expressed their feelings through spontaneous movements and speech. Like the first Great Awakening of the 18th century, the Second Great Awakening was notably egalitarian, with men, women, blacks, and poor whites mingling together in worship.

The Methodists have lately had a Camp Meeting in Hancock County, about three miles south of Sparta in Georgia. The meeting began on Tuesday, 28th July, at 12 o’clock, and ended on Saturday following. We counted thirty-seven Methodist preachers at the meeting; and with the assistance of a friend I took an ac-count of the Tents, and there were one hundred and seventy-six of them, and many of them were very large. From the number of people who attended preaching at the rising of the sun, I concluded that there were about 3000 persons, white and black together, that lodged on the ground at night. I think the largest congregation was about 4000 hearers.

We fixed the plan to preach four times a day-at sunrise, 10 o’clock, 3 o’clock and at night; and in general we had an exhortation after the sermon. We had 14 sermons preached at the Stage; and 9 exhortations given after the sermons were closed; besides these, there were two sermons preached at the Tents on one night, when it was not convenient to have preaching at the Stage.

The ground was laid out in a tolerable convenient place, containing 4 or 5 acres, and the Tents were pitched close to each other; yet the ground only admitted of about 120 Tents in the lines; the other Tents were pitched behind them in an irregular manner. We had plenty of springs convenient for to supply men and beasts with water. The first day of the meeting, we had a gentle and comfortable moving of the spirit of the Lord among us; and at night it was much more powerful than before, and the meeting was kept up all night without intermission however, before day the white people retired, and the meeting was continued by the black people.

On Wednesday at 10 o’clock the meeting was remarkably lively, and many souls were deeply wrought upon; and at the close of the sermon there was a general cry for mercy; and before night there were a good many persons who professed to get converted. That night the meeting continued all night, both by the white & black people, and many souls were converted before day.

On Thursday the work revived more & spread farther than what it had done before; and at night there was such a general stir among the mourners at the Stage that we did not attempt to preach there; and as we had but one Stage it was thought best to have preaching at some of the Tents. The meeting at the Stage continued all night and several souls were brought to God before day, and some just as the day broke.

Friday was the greatest day of all. We had the Lord’s Supper at night, by candlelight, where several hundred communicants attended; and such a solemn time I have seldom seen on the like occasion; three of the preachers fell helpless within the altar; and one lay a considerable time before he came to himself From that the work of convictions and conversion' spread, and a large number were converted during the night, and there was no intermission until the breake of day at that time many stout hearted sinners were conquered.

On Saturday morning we had preaching at the rising of the sun; and then with many tears we took leave of each other.

I suppose there was about eighty souls converted at that meeting, including white and black people. It is thought by many people that they never saw a better Camp Meeting in Georgia.

The people in general behaved exceedingly well; and there was not a public reproof given from the pulpit during the meeting. There were a few disorderly per-sons who brought liquors to sell, &c. But the Magistrates took some of them with a State warrant, and bound them over to court; after this we were more quiet. This Camp Meeting will long live in the memories of many of the people who attended it.

Source: Farmer’s Gazette (Sparta, GA.), Aug. 8, 1807, signed Jesse Lee, reprinted U.B. Phillips, A Documentary History of American Industrial Society: Plantation and Frontier (Cleveland: A.H. Clark, 1910), vol. 2, 284–86.