Baptists and the American Civil War: November 13, 2014

Kentucky Tennessee MapToday the Confederate States win a much-needed, albeit small, battle in the east Tennessee counties of Hamblen and Green in the Battle of Bull’s Gap.

In the battle, a Confederate expedition from Virginia enters east Tennessee in search of food and supplies, in the light of winter closing in. The Rebels also seek to drive Federals out of the area.

The fighting lasts from November 11-14, during which time the Confederates force Union forces to fall back to the vicinity of Knoxville. Securing victory and some supplies, the Rebels begin retreating back into Virginia. While a minor victory, the Confederates thus hamper the Federals’ plans on securing east Tennessee from a Confederate military presence.

In the larger picture, the possibility of the Confederacy winning the war has fallen to almost nil. Nonetheless, white Christians of the South continue to largely support the war, as voiced through denominational records.

Southern Baptist newspapers of the South frequently cover and publish highlights of Baptist associational meetings in their respective states, focusing on missionary giving, associational sermons preached and Sunday School.

This week’s Georgia Baptist Christian Index publishes a lengthy account of the recent meeting of the Rehoboth Baptist Association in western Georgia, an area thus far untouched directly by the ravages of war. Among churches who are members of the association is the First Baptist Church of Augusta, a city in which Confederate munitions are manufactured.

The association at present consists of churches whose collective membership is comprised of 2,277 white members and 1,623 black (mostly slave) members, for a total of 3,000. The ratio of whites to blacks is higher than in many other associations, in part reflecting that the geographical area covered by the association is not as heavily agricultural as is middle Georgia, and in part taking into account that many of Augusta’s black residents are members of the Springfield Baptist Church, a large African church established by free blacks following the American Revolution and consisting of many enslaved blacks.

A listing of the association’s missions giving reveals that much missionary activity is focused on evangelizing soldiers. Line items include:

Bibles for Soldiers …. $20.00

Army Missions …. $1019.90

Rev. J. H. Campbell [Army Missionary] …. $122.00

Sending [Christian] Index to Soldiers …. $446.00

Sending [Baptist/ Banner to Soldiers …. $200.00

Bible and Colporter Soc[iety] …. $108.00

Education Soldiers’ Orphans …. $50.00

Army Colportage …. $650.00

Religious Reading for the Army …. $427.00

The Rehoboth Association’s financial support of Confederate soldiers, proportionally at a far greater level than that of other missionary boards and endeavors, and like that of the support of many other Baptist associations, continues to the bitter end of the war.

Sources: Battle of Bull’s Gap (link) and (link); “Rehoboth Association,” Christian Index, November 11, 1864