Baptists and the American Civil War: October 11, 1863

Civil War States MapAlabama’s Muscle Shoals Baptist Association meets this month at the Town Creek Church. A summarization of the meeting some 25 years after the war provides a glimpse of how post-war Baptist writers of the South remember the war.

Elder J. Gunn preached the introductory sermon. Sixteen churches were represented. Elder J. Gunn was moderator and Elder J. C. Roberts, clerk. The war was still going on, and the Tennessee Valley had become a battle ground between the two contending forces. The enemy was making frequent raids through the country, consequently those not belonging to the army kept themselves at home. But little business was done. There was a good missionary spirit manifested, and several ministers pledged gratuitous service. Elder Wm. Spain was elected missionary by the association and did some good work.

The battles and raids thus mentioned take place in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, including today’s skirmish in Tennessee that becomes known as the First Battle of Colliersville. The action takes place not far from Memphis.

Like many small battles in the region this year, the contest is an effort by Confederate forces to slow or drive back Union advances in the area. In this instance, a Union garrison at Colliersville is the object of the Confederate’s attack. Although rebel cavalry forces numbering some 800 manage to mostly surround the town, Union reinforcements soon arrive. Skirmishing takes place in the nearby hills and woods, and Confederate forces capture some Union supplies.

The day, however, ends in a stalemate. While the Confederates force federal troops to fall back to the fort and nearby railroad depot, they are unable to dislodge the Union defenders. The rebels withdraw by the end of the day, ending a battle in which casualties are less than 200 on each side.

Little is thus accomplished by the end of the battle, marking this day as just one of hundreds if not thousands of minor clashes this fall season. While civilians living in the communities where such activity takes place indeed keep “themselves at home” lest they suffer injury or death, many battles such as Collierville become mostly a footnote during the long Civil War.

Sources: Josephus Shackleford, History of the Muscle Shoals Baptist Association from 1820 to 1890, Trinity, Ala.: 1891, pp. 85-86 (link); First Battle of Colliersville (link)