Baptists and the American Civil War: April 7, 1864

Map of Virginia 1860sThe Confederacy prepares for spring warfare by recalling Gen. James Longstreet to Virginia to assist Gen. Robert E. Lee in defending the South’s capital from an anticipated offensive by the Union Army.

The state of Virginia, bordering the United States capital of Washington, D.C., has been divided since the beginning of the war. As part of a larger effort to create a protective bulwark around D.C., Union forces seized and occupied Alexandria, Virginia, on May 24, 1861, the day after the state’s citizens voted to secede from the Union. Now, Alexandria, the longest occupied city in the Confederate South, is home to Union soldiers, officers and civilians, as well as many of their families. In addition, many former slaves now live as freedmen within and around Alexandria.

Today, Union supporters in the occupied areas of Virginia adopt a new constitution, four months after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln‘s offer of amnesty for Southern citizens and states. Conditions for a Confederate state to be readmitted into the Union include the adopting of a new constitution which bans slavery, as does the document affirmatively voted upon today by a relatively small number of delegates who, of course, do not speak for the majority of Virginians who live in the Confederate-controlled areas of the state. In short, the new Government of Virginia is ignored by the Confederacy and scoffed at by Confederate officials in the South’s capital city of Richmond.

The constitution is thus largely symbolic. Nonetheless, it is a foreshadowing of what is to come one year hence.

In spite of the gravity of the times, there is much entertainment yet available in Richmond and surrounding environs. Tonight the Ashland Baptist Church hosts a concert “by the Glee Club of the 5th Virginia cavalry.”

Civil war soldiers are sometimes known to form Glee Clubs to pass the time during seasonal lulls in battle.

There is merriment and fun tonight for the Glee Club of the 5th Virgina Cavalry and the church members and guests gathered at Ashland Baptist Church, but the battlefield will soon pull the young men away from song and smiles to the harsher sounds and grim landscape of the battlefield.

Sources: Curious and Useful Questions on the Bible, Designed for Sunday Schools and Families, Goldsboro, N.C.: N.C. Baptist Board of Missions, 1864 (link); Rebecca Downes, “The Occupation of Alexandria, VA During the Civil War,” Carlyle House Docent Dispatch, May 2011 (link); Sara B. Bearss, “Virginia Constitutional Convention 1864,” Encyclopedia Virginia (link); David Loyd Pulliam, The Constitutional Conventions of Virginia from the Foundation of the Commonwealth to the Present Time, Richmond: John T. West, 1901, pp. 122-124 (link); “Concert,” Richmond Daily Dispatch, April 6, 1864 (link)