Baptists and the American Civil War: March 7, 1865

Kentucky Tennessee MapWith Wilmington under Union control, Federal forces are advancing inland in North Carolina.

Today in the Battle of Wyse Fork, Union forces attack Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s forces near Kinston. Control of roads and a railroad is at stake.

For four days the battle rages. For much of the time the Confederates appear to have the upper hand, but the arrival of Federal reinforcements on March 9 tips the battle to the Union’s advantage. The Confederates withdraw the following day.

Meanwhile, colored members of the First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee, following in recent days the prohibition of slavery in the state and the creation of the federal Freedmen’s Bureau, sense that their hour is at hand. Today they ask the church to allow them to form an independent congregation that will no longer be under the supervision of the white-led church:

“We, the colored members of the First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee, do hereby petition your honor for a separate and independent church to be known by the name of the First Colored Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee. We most cordially thank you for kindness done us in times past. We also wish that you would grant us a clear deed to the lot on which our house now stands. Our membership is 500. We petition in love and respect done by order of the Church at its regular meeting for business this 7th day of March 1865.”

Only after Northern victory in the war does the First Baptist Church consider the request of her black members, finally granting independence on August 13, 1865.

The congregation, the First Baptist Church Capitol Hill, remains to this day as one of the most influential congregations in the city of Nashville.

Sources: Battle of Wyse Fork (link); “First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, Nashville,” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (link); “Our History,” First Baptist Church Capitol Hill (link)