Baptists and the American Civil War: July 8, 1863

Civil War States MapRunaway slaves are now fleeing to Union lines and the northern states in unprecedented numbers. Today in Chicago, seventeen escaped slaves, many having traveled North via the Underground Railroad, establish the Providence Baptist Church, the first African American Baptist church on the west side of Chicago, and the city’s second overall. The name “Providence” is chosen in recognition of God’s divine hand upon the former slaves.

Rejoicing over their newfound bodily and spiritual freedom, church members worship God “under their own fig tree” and according to their own consciences. Later, the congregation changes its name to the Original Providence Baptist Church. The church remains to this day.

Meanwhile, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia, following the devastating loss at Gettysburg, continues retreating southward. Union Gen. George G. Meade‘s forces, slowing pursuing the retreating enemy, finally engage Lee’s forces today in the Battle of Boonsboro in Washington County, Maryland. The skirmish is between a rear guard of Lee’s cavalry and advancing Union calvary and infantry. Although the Union wins this minor battle, Lee gains another day to push his decimated army further southward.

Sources: Original Providence Baptist Church history (link);  “Original Providence Baptist Church 150th Anniversary” (link); Battle of Boonsboro (link)