Baptists and the American Civil War: May 30, 1862

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia

The war now fully engaged, territories controlled by the Union and Confederate armies are fluid. Thus far, battles have been fought on Southern fields, and Union armies are gradually pressing southward. In much of the upper South and Tennessee, civilians live in somewhat of a no-man’s land, their towns and farms seesawing between Confederate and Union control. At the same time, the Confederacy is experiencing a shortage of food and rising inflation.

In some instances, suffering Southern civilians in these areas find themselves caught between army lines. Union sentiment remains strong in many of the contested regions. With increasing frequency, Southern individuals between army lines, when accosted by Union forces demanding they take an oath of loyalty to the United States, willingly do so.

Some Southern Baptists, however, express outrage that any white Southerner would turn his or her back on the Confederacy. Virginia Baptists, in their annual state meeting, thus declare:

… no citizen between the lines could take the oath without incurring the guilt of treason and perjury … [hopefully] no one would bring so foul a blot on his character

Virginia Baptists also vow to resist the [feared] enslavement of Southern whites at the hands of the North.

On the positive side, Virginia Baptists hear of the successes of their Colportage Board in supplying Bibles and other religious literature to Southern soldiers.

We have collected $24,000, with which forty tracts have been published, six million one hundred and eighty seven thousand pages of which have been distributed, besides six thousand and ninety-five Testaments, thirteen thousand eight hundred and forty-five copies of the little volume called Camp Hymns, and a large number of religious books. Our policy has been to seek the cooperation of chaplains and other pious men in the army, and, as far as possible, to work through them. Thus it is that a vast amount of labor has been performed without any expense to the Board and these scores of voluntary tract distributors, while carrying joy and peace to the hearts of their comrades, have themselves been greatly benefited.

Sources: Minutes of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, 1862; “Baptist General Association of Virginia,” Richmond Daily Dispatch, May 31, 1862 (link)