Baptists and the American Civil War: November 7, 1861

Cannon fireFreedom finally arrives today for some African slaves, including many Baptists, of Port Royal, South Carolina. Following a four-day coastal siege held in check by stormy weather, a Union Navy fleet accompanied by soldiers overwhelms the meager Confederate defense, sending Confederate soldiers and white civilians fleeing inland and/or northward to Charleston. The “Day of the Big Gun Shoot,” as it becomes known by now-freed blacks in the vicinity, marks the beginning of a Union advance along South Carolina’s coast. Within weeks, Beaufort, the rest of Hilton Head, St. Helena, Ladys, and several other nearby islands fall to Union forces.

Not all Port Royal slaves, however, are emancipated. Some flee with their owners, afraid to defy the will of white masters. Some who refuse orders from their owners are killed. Yet many are emancipated and in the remaining years of the war live as freeman working the plantations of their former owners, their freedom guarded diligently by Union troops.

With emancipation comes freedom of worship, and many black Baptists along the South Carolina coast enjoy the newfound opportunity to preach and worship apart from the supervision of whites. In the years following the war, black Baptist congregations along both the South Carolina and Georgia coasts evidence some of the most vibrant expressions of black faith in the post-war South.

Sources: “South Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Chronology of Emancipation” (link)