Baptists and the American Civil War: October 2, 1861

First Baptist Church Forsyth, GeorgiaSix months into the war, economic hardship is felt throughout the Confederacy as southerners complain of merchants charging higher prices for goods. Today Gov. A. B. Moore of Alabama issues a proclamation criticizing merchants, tradesmen and suppliers of government equipment for overcharging buyers. From this point forward, inflation, speculation and greed will increasingly characterize the southern economy. Some Southern Baptist leaders will voice opposition to such evils in the months and years ahead.

Meanwhile, on a rainy day in Forsyth, Georgia Julia Stanford offers her thoughts and observations on the war:

The Battle of Lexington Ky. is confirmed 5000 Yankees captured.

… Read the [Christian] Index tonight Rev. Buckes is in real want – But with a lofty patriotism refuses to ask aid of Kentucky … Boykin thinks 80 days will decide the fate of our republic.

Like other home front southerners, Stanford is dependent upon newspapers and word of mouth for news of distant battlefronts. Kentucky seems to be on Stanford’s mind, although she is misinformed of the Battle of Lexington of which she writes. No recent battle has taken place in Lexington, Kentucky, although Union troops had seized control of the city in late September. Simultaneously, the Battle of Lexington in Missouri unfolded September 13-20, as Confederate forces won yet another victory. And while casualties were very light on both sides, the Confederates did take some 3,000 Union soldiers as prisoners (and soon paroled them).

News of distant battlefields is not the only item off the mark. Stanford is one of many readers of Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index, and editor Samuel Boykin’s speculation that the South will win the war within three months is overly optimistic, despite the South’s solid string of battlefield victories in the first six months of the war. Nonetheless, many Georgia Baptists, like Stanford, will embrace Boykin’s editorials and commentaries in the months and years ahead.

Meanwhile, on Long Island, New York, Baptist life carries on with some normalcy as thirty one charter members organize the First Baptist Church in Setauket and Port Jefferson. Charles Hawkins and Adolphus Bayles are elected deacons, and on October 16 the church is officially received into affiliation with the New York Association of Baptist Churches. The Rev. Lanson Steward soon becomes the new congregation’s first pastor, assuming the pulpit on November 30.

Sources: A. B. Moore proclamation (link); “The Diary of Miss Julia A. Stanford” (A copy is available in the Mercer University Georgia Baptist History Depository, Macon, Georgia); Battle of Lexington, Missouri (link); First Baptist Church in Setauket and Port Jefferson, New York (link)