Baptists and the American Civil War: November 8, 1865

Civil War States MapDuring the antebellum and Civil War years most, but not all, Southern Baptist ministers harbored loyalties for the Confederacy. Of those who were Unionists, sympathies with the Union remained buried, or at least subdued.

James Ryland Kendrick is one such example. Born in Poultney, Virginia in 1821, he graduated from Hamilton Seminary (New York) and Brown University before moving to the Deep South. Pastoring first in Macon, Georgia, Kendrick in 1847 became the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. There in the heart of the Southern slaveocracy, he likely remained silent regarding Unionist sentiments. After all, those who spoke against slavery tended to be run out of town. A writer as well as an orator, Kendricks served as associate editor of the Southern Baptist newspaper headquartered in Charleston.

In 1855 Kendricks left First Baptist to lead in the establishment of the Citadel Square Baptist Church in Charleston, where he remained through the early years of the war until resigning in May 1862 in the face of a dwindling congregation. During the war he pastored for a short while in Madison, Georgia, but by the end of the great conflict his Union sentiments were widely known in the community.

This month Kendrick forsakes the South and a people intent on keeping blacks in servitude. Moving to New York, he assumes the pastorate of the Tabernacle Baptist Church for some seven years, pastoring other New York churches afterward and working in the Baptist newspaper business of the North.

Sources: “Kendrick, James Ryland D.D.,” in William J. Cathcart, Baptist Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, Philadelphia: Everts, 1881, p. 648; Joseph Kelly, America’s Longest Siege, Charleston, Slavery and the Slow March Toward Civil War, New York: Overlook Press, 2013 (link)