Baptists and the American Civil War: March 11, 1861

The Confederacy, currently comprised of seven states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas) officially adopts the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.

The Confederate Constitution differs in a few instances from that of the United States, especially in regards to slavery. Whereas the U.S. Constitution avoided the word “slavery,” the Confederate Constitution leaves no doubt as to the key role that black slavery in perpetuity plays in the existence of the Confederate South:

No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed [by Congress]”

In addition, section 2 of Article IV declared that

citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired”.

Many delegates want to enact legislation to prevent non-slave states from ever joining the Union, but this sentiment is not enacted within the Constitution.

Forty-three men from the seven seceded states sign the Constitution. At least four of the forty-three are Baptists.

James Byeram Owens (1816-1889), a Florida signer, is a 44-year old native South Carolinian who is a Baptist minister, medical doctor, and owner of 89 slaves.

William Parish Chilton (1810-1871), an Alabama signer, is an Alabama lawyer, chief justice, renowned debater, and Baptist deacon. In 1875, the Alabama county of Chilton is named in his honor.

Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry (1825-1903), also representing Alabama, is a lawyer, former United States congressman, Baptist minister, future president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention (1865), future president of Howard College (now Samford University) (1865-1868), and future leader within the Southern Baptist Convention. During the war, Curry serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate Army, then as a staff aide to General Joseph E. Johnston and General Joseph Wheeler.

Thomas Neville Waul (1813-1903), a native South Carolinian and Texas representative, and a lawyer, is a Baptist layman. He soon raises a command (known as “Waul’s legion”) and during the war attains the rank of brigadier-general in the Confederate army. He leads Texas forces in Mississippi (1862-1863), participating in the defense of Vicksburg (1863). The following year, he leads a brigade in the Red River campaign at Mansfield, Louisiana, and Jenkins’ Ferry, Arkansas.  He is wounded during an engagement in Louisiana.

Sources: Confederate Constitution, Owens, Chilton, Curry (and here), Waul (and here).