Baptists and the American Civil War: June 26, 1865

First Baptist Church, Nashville

First Baptist Church, Nashville

The First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee, has experienced ups and downs during the past four years.

When Nashville came under Union occupation in 1862, the church’s pastor and other ministers in the city refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, and were accordingly arrested. For several months during the year church services were led by members.

January 1863 witnessed the occupation of the church’s building by the Federals, who stripped the interior and turned the sanctuary into a hospital. For several months, church members met for worship “in an upper room over a store on College Street.” In August the church building was restored and returned to the church, but two months later it was re-seized and transformed back into a hospital. For two months the church met in the local theater, until on December 23 the building, once again, was handed back to church members.

The back and forth continued in 1864. In January the church was seized for a third time by the Union army and, in this instance, turned into a barracks for soldiers. In May an order was given to return the building to church members, but before the order could be carried out, it was remanded. For the third time the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church was turned into a hospital, operating as such throughout the remainder of the war and beyond.

Today, the church is returned to church members for the fourth and final time, along with $5,000 from the U.S. government. The money only partially covers the $12,400 expense required to restore the building into a useable condition.

Source: W. Woodford Clayton, History of Davidson County, Tennessee, Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis, 1880, p. 319 (link)