Baptists and the American Civil War: September 28, 1865

James Madison "Boss" Hendry

James Madison “Boss” Hendry

Born in 1839 in Lowndes County, Georgia, the future Rev. James Madison “Boss” Hendry as a child moved with his parents to Florida. There he lived when the war broke out. He acquired the nickname “Boss” because of his “aggressive” nature.

Enlisting on May 4, 1862 as a private at Fort Meade, Florida, he serves in Company E, Seventh Florida Infantry, Confederate Army. Absent without leave for a period of time in 1863, he is thereafter granted a medical discharge due to heart problems.

Back home in Florida, Hendry witnessed chaos as Union forces occupied Fort Myers in January 1864.

On June 15, 1864 he enlisted again, this time in the Union Army in Company B, Second Florida Cavalry, United States.

Having fought for both armies and concluding the war on the winning side, Corporal Hendry is furloughed today. On November 29, 1865 his service in the U.S. Army comes to an end with an honorable discharge at Tallahassee, Florida.

A Methodist at the end of the war, Hendry converts to the Baptist faith in 1867 and is soon ordained as a Baptist minister. He also raises a family during the post-war years, marrying twice, as his first wife passes away.

Pastoring in a number of churches over five decades, Hendry’s preaching is described by an eyewitness: “When he preached, his voice was penetrating as the roar of an angry bull.”

In addition to his preaching duties, Hendry works as a cattle man, merchant, sawmill owner and one-time postmaster. He also provides the name for a new community in Florida, as related by the DeSoto County Times Centennial issue of May 14, 1987: “The accepted origin of the name Arcadia is attributed to the Reverend James ‘Boss’ Hendry, a Baptist lay minister who built a store and began a sawmill near the Peace River ferry in 1883….In addition to his sawmill Hendry operated an open air store near the ferry crossing at Peace River. In late 1884, he sold the stock in his store to Captain John W. Whidden.”

Late in life, Hendry receives a pension from the U.S. government based on his service in the Union Army.

James Madison “Boss” Hendry, one of hundreds and perhaps thousands who fought on both sides of the Civil War, passes away in 1922, an influential figure in local Baptist life.

Source: Spessard Stone, “Rev. James Madison “Boss” Hendry” (link)