On November 10, 1861 while the 8th CVI trained in Annapolis, Maryland, Oliver had the opportunity to visit a “Colored Church” [as he referred to it] for the Sunday evening services. As evidenced by his letter to his sister Abbie on November 13, 1861, his visit was quite memorable.
I attended colored church Sunday evening and if there ever was ever enthusiasm in any place, there was there. Whilst the minister was preaching there was much shouting and clapping of hands. his subject was the readiness of Christ to receive all sinners; he was quite eloquent, but he handled the subject different from what we usually hear it. After the sermon there was delivered such prayers accompanied by such yelling and groaning as you never heard, but the climax was not reached until they commenced to sing, each one singing to suit him or herself using same repetition (to suit his taste) after every line. The other words appeared to be composed for the occasion; they kept time by snapping fingers, stamping, rocking their bodies too [sic] and fro. Every little while such unearthy [sic] shouts were made that it really reminded me of a mad house. There was a little negro sitting by the side of me, and seeing that I was pleased said, ‘You ought to hear them. Some nights they make a heap more noise than tonight, sometimes they knock down the stove by their stamping.’
You can just imagine Oliver sitting there with look of amazement.