Baptists and the American Civil War: July 7, 1865

lincoln_1863novToday the four convicted assassins of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln are hanged: Lewis Powell (also Payne or Paine), David Herold, George Atzerodt and Mary Surratt. General Winfield Scott Hancock, a hero of the war, is the officer in charge of the executions. Hancock is a Baptist.

Lewis Powell, one of the most hated men in American history, is the son of a Baptist minister. Before his execution he prays with Baptist minister Abram D. Gillette, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. Powell acknowledges the foolishness of his actions, and indicates he is ready to die.

For a wounded nation only beginning to heal from the war, the executions bring some sense of closure to the murder of Lincoln. The former president’s legacy is a strong, overriding presence in these early months of initial attempts to enforce freedom and justice for black citizens of the South.

Sources: Betty J. Ownsbey, Alias “Paine”: Lewis Thornton Powell, the Mystery Man of the Lincoln Conspiracy, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1993, p. 1 (link); “Winfield Scott Hancock,” CivilWarWiki (link); “Winfield Scoot Hancock,” Civil War Trust (link)