Baptists and the American Civil War: November 4, 1864

African SlaveryToday a 10-day Confederate siege of Union-controlled Fayetteville, Arkansas comes to a quiet end.

Fayetteville has been under Union control since September 1863. The state was reconstructed with a Union-loyalist government in January 1864, although Confederate forces, consisting primarily of cavalry forces and Rebel guerrillas, maintain influence and even control over certain portions of the state.

The siege of Fayetteville is an effort to re-exert Confederate influence over one of Arkansas’s larger towns. Union fortifications in the town, however, have proven too daunting for the Rebel offensive. In addition, on one occasion Federal soldiers took the offensive, marching out of Fayetteville and successfully dislodging Rebel forces on a nearby hill.

Yesterday, Confederate forces made three unsuccessful charges upon the town, only to be repulsed each time by superior firepower. Today, they abandon the siege. Fayetteville remains safely in Union hands for the remainder of the war.

Meanwhile, the defiant Southern defense of African slavery continues playing out in the Confederate press, both sacred and secular.

Today both the Georgia Baptist Christian Index and the Richmond Daily Dispatch publish the recent Georgia Baptist Association resolution declaring that Confederate states should recognize the institution of marriage among slaves. As Confederate fortunes have waned in the past year and a half, white Christian leaders have increasingly blamed the nation’s wartime losses on government’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of slave marriages. This is the greatest extent to which white Christians of the South are willing to reform the God-ordained institution of the enslavement of the black race.

Thus, the Daily Dispatch reports:

–A Baptist Association of Georgia, at its late session, adopted the following resolution in relation to the marriage relationship between slaves:

“Resolved, That it is the firm belief and conviction of this body that the institution of marriage was ordained by Almighty God for the benefit of the whole human race, without respect to color; that it ought to be maintained in its original purity among all classes of people, and in all countries, and in all ages, till the end of time; and that, consequently, the law of Georgia, in its failure to recognize and protect this relation between our slaves, is essentially defective, and ought to be amended.”

While the Christian Index also publishes the statement, a separate editorial makes certain that readers understand the biblical mandate of black slavery cannot be conquered by the evil United States.

…. If our nationality fails, slavery is extinct here. But even that result will not disprove that it is amongst men by Divine appointment. It will exist elsewhere were all the Southern sovereignties dead. God’s “eternal thought moves on.” We forget that with Him nothing is either great or small. This great revolution, so pregnant with weal or woe to us, may be, in God’s estimate, but a ripple on the surface of that majestic stream of events which flows in the line of His Government.

But if our independence is won, in spite of the most atrocious war upon christianity, liberty, right and decency, known to the annals of humanity, then will slavery stand, and its deliverance will be a sacred affirmation of its rectitude. In the meantime, read Nellie Norton [a pro-slavery novel by Macon First Baptist Church pastor Ebenezer W. Warren].

Sources: “Operations Around Fayetteville, October 25-November 4, 1864,” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture (link); “Marital Rights of Slaves,” Richmond Daily Dispatch, November 4, 1864; Christian Index, November 4, 1864