Baptists and the American Civil War: June 28, 1864

Map of Virginia 1860sIn Sussex County, Virginia, Union cavalry raiders, already partially successful in their mission to destroy Confederate rail tracks, are on their way back to the safety of Union lines. En route they are surprised today by Confederate forces. The Battle of Sappony Church results, an engagement that takes place in and around the Sappony Baptist Church.

During the day’s action, the sanctuary is confiscated to serve as a hospital. At some point, a stray bullet lodges in the church’s Bible. Cannonballs knock holes in the front of the church.

Following the day long battle, overwhelmed Union forces retreat at nightfall, seeking another route to safety. In retreating, the Federals are forced to leave behind a number of escaped slaves who were under their protection.

Meanwhile, on this same day in Washington, D.C., the last of the fugitive slaves acts in the United States is repealed. Tracing their origins to 1793, fugitive slave acts authorized government officials to seize and return escaped slaves to their owners. Often challenged and largely unenforced since 1850, the last vestiges of the fugitive laws are finally put to rest against the background–despite today’s minor battle–of growing Union military momentum against the Confederacy.

Sources: Battle of Sappony Church (link) and (link); Sappony Baptist Church, Historical Marker (link); “Fugitive Slave Acts” (link)