Baptists and the American Civil War: March 22, 1865

Civil War States MapToday Union General James H. Wilson, commanding some 13,000 cavalry, launches a weeks-long raid targeting Confederate infrastructure in central Alabama. The few remaining Rebel forces in the state offer no significant resistance as Wilson’s horsemen sweep across the state. The largest cavalry raid of the war, Wilson’s offensive transpires at a time when the Confederacy’s defeat is already sealed. Despite the vast scope of the raid, at this late date it has no impact on the war itself.

Meanwhile, in Union-controlled Charleston, South Carolina, for the city’s freedmen each waking day is one of excitement and gratitude. The city is abuzz with various educational classes for young and old, job training, church activities, and many other efforts designed to help prepare freedmen for long-term lives of autonomy.

Nonetheless, the city itself is a stark reminder of the horrors of the war. Much of Charleston yet remains in ruins, having been shelled for years by Union forces prior to surrendering.

The city’s freedmen, most of whom are likely Baptists, know the great sacrifices made by Union soldiers on their behalf, sacrifices that include many thousands of deaths. This month a small group of Charleston’s African Americans gather to remember fallen United States soldiers. Determined to honor the men whose lives purchased their freedom, from this initial gathering arise plans to hold a larger observance the following month.

Sources: Keith S. Hebert, “Wilson’s Raid,” Encyclopedia of Alabama (link); Derek Legette, “Reclaiming History,” June 1, 2010, Charleston Post and Courier (link)