Baptists and the American Civil War: October 31, 1863

Georgia MapThe Bethel Baptist Association of Georgia, a fellowship of churches in the southwestern portion of the state, convenes today at the Americus Baptist Church.

As with other Baptist associations meeting this fall, the war is never far from the minds of delegates. Several of the reports and resolutions offered and approved by delegates mention the war and its debilitating effects upon the work of the Gospel.

The Committee on Domestic Missions states:

Thus far Brother Hogue has remained uninterrupted upon his accustomed field at Armstrong Academy, Choctaw Nation. That portion of the country has not yet been overrun by the Federal Troops, and we trust it will escape their vandal feet. Still the country has been greatly depleted, as the men, able to bear arms, have all entered the ranks of our Federal (?; probably a misprint) Army. Not less than seven regiments of men are in the service of our government and have distinguished themselves for their loyal bearing upon the many battle fields upon which they have poured out their blood freely, in defense of their homes. The missionaries generally (native) have fought and preached as opportunity afforded. But for these devout ministers of Christ the poor Indians would have been without the restraining influences of the Gospel and the consolations of the religion of our blessed Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. How providential then this arrangement. The Board have felt no hesitancy in regard to paying the salaries of our native preachers, though cut off from the wonted field of operation, they have done good and their labors in another world if not in this.

The report of the Trustees of the Baptist Female College also notes issues resulting from the war:

The spring term was interrupted by the small pox and for awhile the college work was suspended, and that the effect of the present war in which our country is engaged has had a very injurious and discouraging tendency. The trustees have let the Confederate Government have the tin from off the college building, for which government has put on a new and substantial shingle roof, and we hope the government and college have both been benefited in the arrangement. So it is observed that missionary baptists have been called upon to actually give the roof off their houses for the help of the government. This spirit has ever been the spirit of the real Baptists.

Bethel Baptists also vote to set aside January 1, 1864

as a day of fasting and prayer in view of the condition of our bleeding country and that we recommend the government to adopt this day as a national fast day.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis does not heed the request of Bethel Baptists for a day of fasting and prayer at the beginning of the New Year; perhaps he never even learns of the request. Unknown is how many Baptist churches of the Bethel Association observe the day as recommended.

Source: Alexander L. Miller, “History of Bethel Baptist Association,” Americus, Ga.: 1934, p. 74-76