Baptists and the American Civil War: October 16, 1865

american_union_commissionAmerican (Northern) Baptists, concerned about freedmen and poor whites alike in the South, continue ramping up missionary efforts within the region.

The recently-formed American Union Commission, under the auspices of the American Tract Society (a Northern-based publication organization), is a non-denominational organization devoted to aiding the post-war South. The Commission has some support among Baptists of the South.

The mission of the American Union Commission reads: “The American Union Commission is constituted for the purpose of aiding and co-operating with the people of those portions of the United States which have been desolated and impoverished by the war, in the restoration of their civil and social condition, upon the basis of industry, education, freedom, and Christian morality.”

Today’s New York Times reports of an American Union Commission lecture at the city’s Madison Avenue Baptist Church, but with little detail.

“At the Madison-avenue Baptist Church, last evening, Rev. JOHN H. CALDWELL and Hon. WILLIAM KING, both of Georgia, spoke on the condition and wants of the people of the South, both white and colored. The meeting was under the auspices of the American Union Commission.”

John H. Caldwell is a Methodist minister who reversed his pro-slavery views and is atypical among whites of the South.

Some poor whites welcome Northern philanthropy, although many, conditioned to believing in white supremacy by politicians who in reality take advantage of them, reject such overtures.

The American Union Commission is a short-lived organization.

Sources: “Circular of the American Union Mission,” 1865 (link); “Local News,” New York Times, October 16, 1865 (link); Daniel Stowell, “John H. Caldwell and the Religious Meaning of Confederate Defeat,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 78 (Spring 1994), pp. 1-38; The American union commission: its origin, operations and purposes. Organized to aid in the restoration of the Union upon the basis of freedom, industry, education, and Christian morality, New York: Sanford and Harroun, 1865 (link)