Baptists and the American Civil War: August 20, 1864

Georgia MapUnion General William T. Sherman, whilst besieging Atlanta, continues his efforts to further destroy Confederate supply lines. Multiple skirmishes take place this day, including the Battle of Lovejoy’s Station in Clayton County, in which Union forces destroy supplies and some rail tracks before being forced to retreat under the cover of darkness. While the Confederates win this particular encounter, the mere fact of the Union engaging the enemy at so many points in the Georgia theater is stretching Rebel forces ever thinner, even as Atlanta teeters on the brink of falling to the Union.

The widespread presence of Union troops affects many Baptist churches this day, Saturday being a common day for churches to conduct monthly business meetings accompanied by worship. Sandy Springs Creek Baptist Church of Morgan County, Georgia is scheduled to meet today but the meeting is canceled “in consequence of the Yankees being in the country.”

Elsewhere in Morgan County, the Bethlehem Baptist Church convenes despite the nearby presence of Union forces. As do many churches of the South this month, the congregation collects an offering for “army missions,” the one viable avenue of mission work for Confederate Baptists. Members put a total of $5 in the offering plate to assist in efforts to evangelize Confederate soldiers.

Westward, the Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Mississippi’s Reid Community cancels worship services “due to call from 18 to 55,” referring to the most recent Confederate conscription act that drafts remaining able white males between the ages of 18 and 55.

Meanwhile in Charlottesville, Virginia, the First Baptist Church, African American, purchases an old hotel building to use for worship services, thus completing its break with the white Charlottesville Baptist Church.

For black Baptists of the South, the presence of Union troops is most welcome.

Sources: Battle of Lovejoy’s Station (link) and (link); Minutes, Sandy Creek Baptist Church, August 20, 1864; Minutes, Bethlehem Baptist Church, August 20, 1864; James Young, “Popular Springs Baptist Church,” Vardaman History Project (link); “First Baptist Church (West Main Street),” CvillePedia (link)