Baptists and the American Civil War: February 10, 1861

Basil Manly Sr.

Basil Manly Sr.

The Basil Manly clan is a prominent family in the South. Large slaveholders and fiery secessionists, they are active in southern politics. They are also Baptists.

Basil Manly, Sr. (1798-1868, pictured), Baptist minister, former president of the University of Alabama (1837-1855) and owner of some forty slaves, carries the secessionist torch in Alabama, serving as chaplain to the Alabama Secession Convention. Now, he is chaplain to the Montgomery convention of the Confederate States of America.

Basil Manly, Jr. (1825-1892), by contrast, in the past has largely confined his professional activities more to religious matters, and has doubts about his families’ secessionist sentiments. Viewing secession as unwise, he nonetheless realizes war is inevitable, and after the beginning of open hostilities becomes a devoted Confederate.

The senior Manly, long-time leader among Baptists of the South (former pastor of First Baptist Charleston, South Carolina; involved in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, and founding chairman of the board of trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), writes to his son, also a leading Southern Baptist figure (former pastor of First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virgina; founding professor of Old Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), concerning the formation of the Confederate States of America:

“I think we are right, and I do not shrink from the responsibility of all that I have done.”

Manly’s words to his son come on the same day that the senior Manly preaches in the pulpit of Montgomery’s First Baptist Church, imploring worshipers to pray for and support the new Confederacy.

Sources: Manly as quoted in Miller, Stout, Wilson, Religion and the American Civil War (New York: Oxford Press, 1988), p. 171, 172; see also A James. Fuller, Chaplain to the Confederacy: Basily Manly and Baptist Life in the Old South (Louisiana State University Press, 2000), pp. 295-296; also Basil Manly, Sr. papers (link) and biography (link); also Basil Manly, Jr. papers (link)