Baptists and the American Civil War: May 10, 1864

Map of Virginia 1860sMany church buildings fall prey to the battles of and movement of troops during the war. One such structure this month is the Enon Baptist Church of Chesterfield County, Virginia.

As a part of the grand Union strategy of capturing Richmond, Union Mayor General Benjamin Butler is working his way toward Chesterfield County between Richmond and Petersburg in an effort to severe the rail link between the two cities, even as General Ulysses S. Grant is trying to reach Petersburg from another direction.

While Confederate forces ultimately prevent Butler from achieving his objective, for now the offensive plays out in a game of cat and mouse. In the midst of the fray is the Enon Baptist Church. In need of a military hospital to treat the wounded, the Union Army seizes the building, dismantles it, and moves it to an area known as Point of Rocks. The lumber from the meeting house is then used to construct a hospital.

In a post-war story with a familiar refrain but a bit of a twist, following the defeat of the Confederacy the congregation tears down the hospital, moves the lumber back to church property, and builds a new church building.

Meanwhile, in the ongoing Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Grant’s forces this day attempt to breach a critical point of the Confederate defensive line, coming close to doing so. Although the effort results in a slaughter of Union men, the offensive formation utilized displays much promise, and Grant two days hence uses it again with great success.

From hence forward in the war, in a desperate effort to bring to a close a prolonged war that has resulted in far more death and destruction than could have been imagined in the spring of 1861, both sides will deploy innovative strategies and new tactics on the battlefield.

Sources: Enon Baptist Church historical marker (link); Civil War Sesquicentennial, County of Chesterfield, VA (link); Curtis D. Crockett, “The Union’s Bloody Miscue at Spotsylvania’s Muleshoe” (link)