Baptists and the American Civil War: May 14, 1865

Charles Henry Corey (1833-1899)

Charles Henry Corey (1833-1899)

With the war effectively over, Charleston, South Carolina is transitioning to a new normalcy in which whites and blacks alike enjoy freedom. The work of the United States Christian Commission, a philanthropic-government hybrid organization that assists freed persons in transitioning into a life of freedom, is finished in the southern port city. Baptist minister Charles H. Corey, agent of the Commission, prepares to return to New England.

In the midst of his moving preparations, a letter is placed in Corey’s hands, a missive that relates to his ministry as the pastor, these past few months, of the Wentworth Street Baptist Church, a congregation that Baptist divine Basil Manly pastored prior to the war. The message therein reflects the changing times of a congregation that had once been the spiritual home of wealthy slaveowners and their chattel, only in recent months to come under the leadership of a Northern abolitionist.

The letter reads:

Wentworth St. Baptist Church, May 14th, 1865.

At a meeting of the members of this church and congregation, held this day after morning service, Mr. W. N. Hughes was called to the chair, and Mr. W. J. Heriot appointed Secretary. Tho following preamble and resolutions, offered by Deacon W. B. Heriot, were unanimously adopted:

Whereas, the Rev. Charles H. Corey, agent of the United States Christian Commission has, for several months past, taken charge of the Baptist Church in Wentworth Street, in the city of Charleston, during which time he has, without pecuniary compensation, regularly maintained public worship therein on each successive Sabbath, and having, by the courteousness of his demeanor, the usefulness of his instructions, the exemplariness of his character, and the interest he has manifested in the welfare of our church, most justly entitled himself to our high esteem and deep gratitude; and whereas, Mr. Corey has informed us that his appointed duties will in future prevent him from continuing to perform services at our church; therefore we, the members of the church and congregation, who have enjoyed the privilege of Mr. Corey’s acquaintance and Christian ministry, deem it a duty we owe to ourselves to give expression to our feelings on this occasion. And to that intent we do unanimously resolve as follows:

1. That our heartfelt thanks are justly due and are hereby cordially tendered to the Rev. Charles H. Corey, for the ministerial services he has so cheerfully and acceptably performed in our church during the past few months.

2. That we have learned with regret that the appointed duties of Mr. Corey will hereafter prevent him from continuing his services at our church; and that the best wishes and prayers are, that he may continue in health and be abundantly prospered in the good work in which he is so faithfully engaged, wherever, in the providence of God, his lot may be cast.

3. That a copy of this preamble and resolutions be transmitted to Mr. Corey over the signatures of the Chairman and Secretary of this meeting.

W. N. HUGHES, Chairman. W. J. Heriot, Secretary.

Although Corey moves back North, in the fall he returns as an employee of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. In the months following, Corey assists in forming new African Baptist congregations in the outlying areas around Charleston.

Source: Charles Henry Corey, A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary: With With Reminiscences of Thirty Years’ Work Among the Colored People of the South, Richmond: J. W. Randolph, 1895, p. 33-38 (link)