Baptists and the American Civil War: October 11, 1862

Civil War States MapMeeting at Pierce’s Creek Baptist Church, the work of the Mississippi Baptist Association (of the state of Mississippi) has fallen on hard times due to the war. Only fourteen of 33 churches send representatives, and the national conflict envelopes the meeting.

At a time when death and the afterlife are on the minds of Baptists of the South more than ever, one sermon offers scriptural advice from the New Testament letter of II Corinthians. 5:10: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”

Struggling to maintain associational support of education, a brief report is given concerning the perilous state of the Amite Female Seminary (a lower-level school of education, rather than a theological institution), located in Liberty and founded in 1853. Noting that the the school is yet in operation, the report says, “During the year the number of pupils has been unexpectedly large, taking into view the pecuniary and political condition of the country.” Indeed, the war broadly results in an increase in interest, among Baptists, of the education of young women, yet the resources for education are rapidly diminishing.

During the war, seminary buildings (along with many other structures in Liberty) are burned to the ground by Union troops. The one building left standing after the war is turned first into a public, one-room schoolhouse, and in 1968, the Liberty Public Library.

In addition to death and education, the evangelization of Confederate soldiers is on the minds of the Mississippi Baptists gathered today, who discuss the results of efforts to distribute New Testaments to soldiers:

“Whether they were forwarded by Graves, Marks & Company, and lost in, transportation, or whether they were prevented from forwarding them by the capture of Nashville by the Federal forces, your committee has not been able to ascertain …. In conclusion, your committee can but hope and pray that the Testaments distributed under the sanction of this body among the brave volunteers of our country may lead some to become the soldiers of Christ, the Captain of Salvation.”

Mississippi Baptists, in short, feel the pressure upon Southern Christian publication efforts resulting from the slow but steady Union penetration of the Southwest.

Baptists of the Shelby Association in Alabama also meet, and are exhorted, from Ephesians 6:18-19, to be in prayer during these difficult times. Delegates, assembled at the Dogwood Grove Baptist Church, suspend their meeting for thirty minutes to pray

to Almighty God in behalf of the Army of the Confederate States of America; and in behalf of those venerable brethren in the ministry, who have been imprisoned in Tennessee, for praying to our Father in Heaven in behalf of our bleeding country.

The concerns and prayers of these two groups of Confederate Baptists are representative of white Baptists at large in the South.

Sources: Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Association, October 11, 1862 (link); History of the Liberty Library (link); Minutes, Shelby Association of Baptist Churches, October 1862 (link)