Baptists and the American Civil War: March 8, 1865

Texas Civil War MapUnion forces continue advancing in North Carolina. Unable to prevent the Federals from marching through South and North Carolina, Confederate forces in those states strive to slow down Union advances and prevent the enemy from reaching Petersburg.

Should Grant be reinforced at Petersburg by Sherman, the war will surely be over.

Already, with Sherman systematically forcing Lee to stretch his forces ever thinner in defense of Richmond, many are convinced the war cannot be won.

Nonetheless, life in Richmond largely goes on as usual, at least by wartime standards. In short, the rich attend galas and parties and eat well, while many poor whites hover on the brink of starvation. Slaves anxiously await news of a Union advance on Richmond, news that will signal their freedom is nigh.

Far to the southwest, Baptists receive mention in this week’s Galveston Weekly News (Texas) coverage of the war.

A Good Joke.—A friend of ours, says the Jackson Mississippian, who is always on the alert for amusing instances, as well as being a jolly, whole souled fellow, gives the following exceedingly original anecdote in relation to an enthusiastic Baptist minister, having since been promoted to a captaincy in Gov. Clark’s militia.  Holding forth lately at a revival not over fifty miles from this city, he concluded his description of the beauties of heaven in this way:

My dear brethren, there will be heard no more the thundering roar of the cannon, the loud roar of the mortar, the bursting of the bomb in the air, nor the sharp crack of the rifle; and what is better, my brethren, there will be no Yankees in that celestial city.

Also, some Texas soldiers have formed a Baptist church.

Editor News:–I desire through your columns to publish the progress of Christianity in this department of the army (Forney’s division.) There is, and has been for some time, an intense interest on this subject, manifested by the soldiers. We have indeed had refreshing showers of the grace of God poured out upon us, interrupted from time to time only by marches of the command. Several missionaries have visited this division in the last few months, and much good has been accomplished. Owing to the recent removal of camps, and very much cold wet weather rendering it necessary, public services have to a great extent been dispensed with. But again as the weather is better, and opportunities presenting themselves, interest is again manifesting itself. Brother N. O. Mason, Missionary of the 2d brigade, has arrived, and commenced his labors, not only in the pulpit, but among the sick, and at the prayer meeting and Bible Class. He has done much in visiting the sick, encouraging the desponding, cheering the hopeless, and ministering to not only their spiritual but their temporal wants. He has ingratiated himself with the soldiers, and is much esteemed by them. On his return he found the Christian Advocate, which he was instrumental in organizing last summer, in a flourishing condition, and dispensing through its committees, its charities to the sick of the brigade. Its regular meetings are held on the first Sunday of every month, and on the intervening Sabbaths it meets in the capacity of “Bible class and prayer meeting,” where much spiritual refreshment is had by its members, by an affective intercourse and exchange of advice, instruction and encouragement to one another. No schism or sectarian spirit is manifested, but rather a holy communion of spirits, refreshed by the presence of the Spirit of the Father. But much more good might be accomplished by the Association, if it were not hindered for want of means, to carry out their chief objects, one, and chief of which, is to visit and procure comforts in every way for the sick, to procure attention and such articles of diet as are indispensable to the unfortunate and suffering sick soldier. Much has already been accomplished in this way, and efforts are about being made to devise means to extend their usefulness in this way. We have also organized a Baptist Church in this brigade, which is in a flourishing condition, and of which, I am acting as pastor. But owing to my feeble health, I do not know how long I can act in this capacity. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,                                                   L. S. Cox. 

Meanwhile in Florida, a letter from a Methodist minister speaks of the work among freedmen of Baptist minister Isaac W. Brinckherhoff, a New Yorker who has devoted his life, leaving his family back home, to fulfilling his personal conviction that freedom is God’s will for all persons.

A former employee of the American Tract Society, Brinckerhoff was appointed in March 1862 to the position of Superintendent of Contrabands, tasked with the education and spiritual care of freedmen through the National Freedmen’s Relief Association at Beaufort, South Carolina. Transferred to St. Augustine in February 1863, the Baptist pastor ‘s responsibilities remain the same. In his spiritual capacity he works with Methodists and Presbyterians, in addition to Baptists (the latter being the most common faith among freedmen).

From:  Rev G. Greeley, St Augustine , Fla. , March 8, 1865
To:  Rev Geo Whipple, Sec American Missionary Association, 61 John St , New York City

Dear Brother,

Your favor of the 3rd Ult was very gratefully received on the 19th but I had not time to answer by return of mail, and we have had no mail since, either way. But I write now to be ready for the next arrival.

You remark that you have heard that Br Brinckerhoff is not fully satisfied that our work is needed here.  Br B. came to Beaufort, S. C. as a Lay man, to superintend a farm. He came to this place, not as a Missionary, but as a Government Agent, wholly secular; a Superintendent of Negro Affairs, having been ordained a Baptist Cleric in the meantime, he voluntarily [..?..]  the work of a Gospel Minister to the colored people, and [..?..] as [..?..] the pastoral charge of the Methodist Church, and took possession of their Church Edifice. In this position he organized a Baptist church (there having never been one in the place before) and added to its numbers until it increased to about 30. To the Methodists, who were the proprietors of the house, his services and management among them were very unsatisfactory; more so than I apprehended, till after the separation. Therefore the church formally and urgently requested that I would remain with them, and be their Minister. Accordingly, when the Rev Mr Lewis, who was authorized by Government to take possession of all the Methodist churches in this department came to this place in November, he gave me the pastoral charge of the church and the occupancy of the house. But we both invited Rev. B. to remain and preach once each Sabbath and superintend the Sab. School as before. But he declined and procured the use of the Presbyterian Church,
and drew off the Baptists, and some nonprofessors(?) amounting to nearly one half of the congregation. It was his intention to remove the Sab. and weekday schools, but he could not get permission to hold them in the Presbyterian Church. Therefore, they remain in the Methodist Church and Bro. B. still superintends the Sab. School .

There has always been a friendly relation between Bro B. and me, and between his family and mine and mutual politeness full as much since the separation as before.

Immediately on my arrival here, Bro. B. fell sick and was laid aside about three months. During that time, at his request, I preached to the colored people, conducted the Sab. School and Sat Eve and Wednesday prayer meetings and taught school in the week time. After his recovery, I preached to the soldiers (they being without a Chaplain) till I took charge of the Methodist Church the middle of Nov.  I preach twice and conduct prayer meeting on the Sabbath and hold two religious meetings in the week time, assist Mrs Greely in teaching and visit the people at their houses. I proposed to Bro. B. that he and I should each preach to the Sab. School on alternate Sab. [..?..] at our Church but he declined. Therefore, I do it alone.

The Whooping Cough and want of clothing have diminished my congregation this winter. So it has been only about half as large as it was before the Separation, being now about from 50 to 75. Also, at present, an Agent of the Christian Commission is preaching to the soldiers, which affects us some.  All the able-bodied colored men are absent, many of them in the Army and Navy, and many men and women are with the Rebels. Most of them may return at the end of the War, or before, and increase our numbers. It is reported that a colored regiment is to be stationed here. If so, and they happen to be without a Chaplain, they will come in for a share.

The Church is in a thriving condition, 14 persons having been added to the numbers since I took charge of it. A lively interest is manifested in our meetings, and the prospect is encouraging for continued prosperity. We find plenty of work to do. But if you think we can be more useful somewhere else, we are subject to your orders.

Mrs Greeley will give you an account of her work.

Herewith, please find our Bill. You will see I have charged my Salary and Board from Oct 10th.  I understood that you would employ me when discharged from the African Society; and that is the date of my discharge. From that time I was doing the same work as from the first of Nov, but if you think that is not right, you can [..?..] out that first.

Fifteen dollars per month and expenses as heretofore, is satisfactory for me.

Very truly yours,
G. Greeley

P.S.  We have recd no Missionary Magazine later than Oct, except [the no. for ?] Feb. We should beg(?) to receive the intervening Nos.                G.G.

Sources: Galveston Weekly News, March 8, 1865 (link); “Rev. George Greeley to Rev. George Whipple, March 8, 1865,” from American Missionary Union Archives (link)