Baptists and the American Civil War: April 7, 1865

Civil War States MapNot to be lost in the midst of the fall of the Confederacy are the many stories of individual Baptist soldiers and officers, including those held in captivity.

One such story is that of Tennessee native Captain William Evander Penn, a lawyer before the war and for over a year a Confederate officer in captivity. Today he is swapped for captured Union soldiers, a practice utilized off and on during the war. After the war Penn and his family move to Texas. Continuing his law practice, he also becomes a Baptist preacher and denominational leader among Texas Baptists. Penn is one of many Baptists in the Confederate Army who survive the war and afterwards have a career in the ministry and/or in denominational service.

Meanwhile, Confederate General Robert E. Lee is effectively in captivity, bottled up by far superior Union forces.

Union General Ulysses S. Grant, hoping to bring the war to a conclusion this day, writes to Lee asking for the surrender of his army in order to prevent more bloodshed.

APRIL 7, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood, by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the C. S. Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.


Lee, hoping to yet find a way to escape the Union armies that surround him, declines to take Grant’s advice at this point.

While Lee casts about for an escape route, a Northern correspondent of the New York Times pens his observations of the moods of the citizens of Richmond:

In regard to the temper of the people of the city, no intelligent opinion can yet be formed. They are very docile, and the property owners who suffered by the fire are very gloomy. The poorer classes express their gratification openly at the Union occupancy of the city, and the negroes, of course, are overjoyed. The fire, caused as it was, will have an influence toward causing many of the citizens to renew their loyalty. They will do so for two reasons: First, because the ruin brought upon them was by the hands which should have protected them, and second, because being reduced to poverty they will find pecuniary profit in no other way than by becoming loyal citizens again.

Sources: “Penn, William Evander,” The Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association (link); “Grant and Lee: The Surrender Correspondence at Appomattox,” Civil War Trust (link); New¬† York Times, “From Richmond: April 7, 1865,” April 11, 1865 (link)