Baptists and the American Civil War: January 2, 1861

Georgia voters, many of whom are Baptists, go to the polls to vote on secession.

According to the publicized numbers, the vote for secession is roughly 50,000 in favor, with about 37,000 voting against. Not until the late 20th century would the numbers be examined more closely because of voting abnormalities, and one estimate, now often cited by historians, determine that the actual vote had been 42,744 against and 41,717 in favor of immediate secession. Another estimate indicated that secession barely passed.  (The votes cast against secession had been for coordinated cooperation with other southern states in discussing and potentially acting upon the matter of secession.)

Voters, of course, were white males. While the secessionists won the day (more or less), strong Union sentiment remained in the northern mountains and pockets of rural Georgia at large. The state’s secession convention began on January 16, with secession declared on the 19th.

White Baptists in Georgia stood on both sides of the secession issue, to no small degree according to socio-economic status. In the coming months and years, individuals, churches and associations would respond to the Civil War in differing ways.

For more information on Georgia’s secession vote, see Michael P. Johnson, Toward a Patriarchal Republic: The Secession of Georgia, p. 61-63, and Mark A. Weitz, A Higher Duty: Desertion Among Georgia Troops During the Civil War, p. 14-15; and Photo: Georgia’s secession flag as flown in January 1861 in Augusta and Milledgeville.