Baptists and the American Civil War: January 2, 1863

emancipation_news_phil_press_jan02_1863At Boston’s Twelfth Baptist Church, the celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation  continues until after the sun rises. Today’s Boston Journal thus describes the scene of the prior night (at the Tremont Baptist Church) and early morning hours of this day (at the Twelfth Baptist Church):

the grand demonstration in this city, yesterday, at Tremont Temple, …probably the only public celebration of the kind in this section of the country. The Proclamation of freedom was not received at the meeting until just previous to the adjournment last evening when it was read by Charles W. Slack. The joyous enthusiasm manifested was beyond description….the whole audience rising to their feet and shouting at the tops of their voices …. After the meeting at the Temple, a large number wended their way to the Twelfth Baptist Church, where they joined in prayer and congratulations, and partook of a repast which had been there prepared.

News of the signing of the Proclamation spreads throughout the country, followed by celebrations–some small, and others large. In Norwich, Connecticut–a city and state highly supportive of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln–perhaps the first official public celebration in the United States (outside of Washington D.C.) takes place in the form of an hour-long ringing of the bells and a one hundred gun salute.

A handful of newspaper editors receive word early enough to publish news of the Proclamation signing in today’s editions, including the Providence Day Journal of Rhode Island and The Press of Philadelphia (pictured at right).

Celebrations also continue in the Beaufort and Hilton Head communities of South Carolina, areas under Union military control. Many, perhaps most, of the freemen along the South Carolina coast are Baptists by faith: formerly Southern Baptists by necessity, their newly-emerging autonomous congregations are aided by Northern Baptist missionaries.

Freedom, now extended to persons of color, thus continues its march in the story of the United States.

Sources: “The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Millions of Slaves Set Free,” Boston Journal, January 2, 1863 (link); “Norwich Freedom Bell” (link); Providence Daily Journal front page, January 2, 1863 (link); “The Proclamation,” The Press of Philadelphia, January 2, 1863 (link)