Baptists and the American Civil War: May 16, 1865

Kentucky Tennessee MapWith the war over, Baptist churches of the South that survive the great conflict strive to return to some sense of normalcy. Many churches face a generational future of far fewer white male members than prior to the war. In addition, black members, if they have not already, are certain to leave within weeks, months or a few years at best to form their own congregations.

For the moment, though, the task at hand is often that of repairing and re-opening meetings houses damaged by bullets, cannon balls and/or military occupation. One of many congregations returning to a defaced and damaged meeting house is the Shepherdsville Baptist Church of Shepherdsville, Kentucky.

According to early-20th century correspondence with the U.S. government concerning war-related damage claims:

During the late civil war the military authorities of the United States took possession of the property of the Baptist Church of Shepherdsville, Ky , consisting of a large, well-constructed, brick church building, and occupied the same as a hospital from 1862 until the end of the war in 1865, and the property thereby greatly injured; that a claim was presented in the War Department for repairs and a small allowance made on said claim for repairs but no allowance or payment on account of rent or use and occupation of the property; that the reasonable rental value of said property, including the repairs necessary to restore said property to the same condition as before such occupation, was the sum of $2,500, for which no payment has been made; that the claimant has at all times borne true allegiance to the Government of the United States, and has not in any way voluntarily aided, abetted, or given encouragement to rebellion against the said Government.

The Shepherdsville Baptist Church is one of hundreds that receives a claims payout in recompense for damages attributed to occupation by Union forces. Following the war, the church struggles to stay open through the end of the century, finally experiencing a period of growth in the early 20th century. In the present day the church is a vibrant organization housed in a building constructed in the late 1960s.

Sources: “Shepherdsville Baptist Church in the Civil War,” Bullitt County History Museum (link); “Shepherdsville Baptist Church Celebrates 175 Years,” Shepherdsville Courier-Journal, October 24, 2012 (link)