Baptists and the American Civil War: July 12, 1863

Union Col. Charles H. Banes

Union Col. Charles H. Banes

Gettysburg’s outcome ripples outward North and South, impacting the lives of countless soldiers, officers, civilians and politicians. One impacted Union officer is Charles H. Banes (1831-1897), a Baptist businessman from Philadelphia and member of the city’s Second Baptist Church. Banes this month is promoted to the rank of major in the Union Army’s Philadelphia Brigade. His promotion is “for gallant and meritorious services” in the Battle of Gettysburg. Banes later attains the rank of lieutenant colonel before receiving a “painful and dangerous wound” at Cold Harbor in June 1864, soon resulting in his retirement from the army.

After recovering from his injury, Banes in the postwar years returns to business in Philadelphia in the field of manufacturing. The city of brotherly love is also a center of Baptist life in the United States. In addition to his business interests, Banes becomes a leading layman in the Second Baptist Church, serving for many years as Sunday School superintendent and as a deacon. The industrious and devout Banes also becomes deeply involved in the larger Baptist world, enters politics, writes an acclaimed history of the Philadelphia Brigade, and establishes a publishing house.

In 1892 the Baptist Congress meets in Philadelphia and Banes gives the opening address. Two years later the American Baptist Publication Society convenes in Saratoga, New York, and Banes presents the annual report of the society’s Board of Managers.

When Banes dies in 1897, the American Baptist Publication Society publishes a tribute sermon to the Colonel, honoring the Baptist layman as a model of “Christian manhood,” a popular concept in late nineteenth century Protestant Christianity. Banes thus becomes an example of how exemplary service in the Civil War provides opportunity for pious and successful Christian men to become model Christian figures in the decades following the great conflict.

Sources: “Banes, Col. Charles H.,” in William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia, Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883, pp. 65, 67, including image (link); Philadelphia Brigade (link); Charles H. Banes, History of the Philadelphia Brigade: Sixty-Ninth, Seventy-First, Seventy-Second, and One Hundred and Sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, J. B. Lippincott, 1876 (link); Cathcart, William, The Ancient British and Irish Churches, Philadelphia: Charles H. Banes, 1894 (link); Charles H. Banes, Publisher (link); Baptist World Congress papers, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (link); “Baptist Publication Society,” New York Times, May 26, 1894 (link); John B. Filson, History of Second Baptist Church, Seventh Street Below Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, University of Chicago, 1886 (link); W. T. Chase, Christian manhood, in memory of Col. Charles H. Banes; a sermon, Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1897 (link)