Baptists and the American Civil War: March 20, 1865

Jefferson DavisToday’s Richmond Daily Dispatch carries a report of a Confederate Senate committee critical of president Jefferson Davis‘ recent call for the arming of slaves in defense of the South.

Calling the measure “radical in its character” and “repugnant to the prejudices of our people,” as well as “intimately affecting the organism of society,” the report expresses congressional displeasure. Many white Southern Baptist elites have expressed just such sentiments.

Meanwhile, Confederate soldier Henry Harrison High (1842-1931), Tennessee native and Texas citizen, is furloughed from the 15th Texas Infantry.

High’s dismissal from service (he does not return, as the war soon concludes) comes after his having fought in at least fourteen battles, as well as serving time in a Union prison camp. The last battle in which he was active was that of Nashville in December 1864.

Following his war time service, High returns to Texas and his family. Soon becoming a Baptist, he serves as a deacon in the Old Cana Baptist Church for over fifty years.

High’s voice is unheard in the public discourse of the war, yet his trajectory represents that of white Baptists in the South of the post-war era. High becomes a  Baptist as the denomination at large pulls away from a close heat with Methodists for religious dominance, to a clear lead in the South.

Sources: “Report on the Senate Committee on President Davis’s Late Message,” Richmond Daily Dispatch, March 20, 1865 (link); “Henry Harrison High, 1842-1931,” Cemetery Works (link)