Baptists and the American Civil War: April 18, 1863

Missouri Map 1861Trickery is ever afoot in the border states as Confederate and Union partisans vie for control of disputed territory.

One of many Baptist families caught up in the conflict on a local level is the Smith family. Obediah, a native Kentuckian, is a Baptist pastor of the Missionary Baptist persuasion. A pioneering family of Missouri, Smith is friends with the famous Boone family, having spent (during his toddler years) the winter of 1808-09 with Daniel Boone, after which his family followed Boone up the Missouri River and settled in Howard County, before later moving to Cedar County, both in Missouri.

Smith, the father of eight children in three marriages (his first two wives having died), has witnessed much grief during the Civil War. A state representative for the Union, Smith is involved in the war effort politically while his sons serve in uniform. All told, five of his sons die for the Union during the war years.

Yet Smith is a targeted man for more than his political activities, as he is suspected by Confederates of having assisted Union Gen. Jim Lane in the burning of the town of Osceola, Missouri in 1861.

Today, a group of men dressed in Union uniforms arrive at Obediah’s house and ask to speak with him. Standing on the porch, Obediah and wife Elizabeth converse with the visitors. Ever wary, Smith keeps his rifle by his side. Yet finally convinced that his company is friendly folk, he consents, upon the asking, to let the men examine his newly-purchased rifle.

Unbeknownst to the Smiths, the visitors are Confederate guerrillas disguised as U.S. soldiers. With Obediah’s rifle in hand, one of the men turns the rifle upon its owner and murders the Baptist minister as he stands beside his wife.

The death of Obediah Smith thus becomes one more causality in a war that, off the battlefield, is fueled on the border state homefront by deadly passions and grudges.

Sources: “Rev. Obediah Smith, 1806-1863” (link); “The Murder of Obadiah Smith, Seeking Damages” (link)