Baptists and the American Civil War: May 7, 1861

Confederate flagIn Montgomery, Alabama, J. W. Garrard today enlists in the Independent Rifles, formed as Company “D” (Later “E”) of the 6th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Born September 10, 1839 in Newton, Georgia, Garrard had lived a portion of his teenage years in Montgomery. His return to Montgomery is over circumstances that the teenage Garrard could not have foreseen.

Private Garrard in the summer of 1863 is taken prisoner at Gettysburg, spending twenty-one months as a POW, probably at Fort Delaware. Upon his release, Garrard returns to Montgomery and marries Rachel Jackson on February 20, 1866. The family moves to Texas in 1869, one of many families moving westward following the war. In Texas they make a living by farming, as did many other white families.

A Baptist, Garrard is ordained as a pastor of the Missionary Baptist Church in 1875, serving in Jack County. Seven of the couples’ ten children survive past infancy, but wife Rachel dies in 1890. J.W. outlives his wife by a number of years. Prosperity never comes to Garrard, who is destitute in his old age and in 1914 files for a Confederate Pension (27934). In his latter years, he lives with one of his daughters. Garrard dies on April 2, 1934, in Scurry County, Texas, having lived an exceptionally long life.

Garrard’s story is common among southern, rural, white Baptist ministers of the Civil War era and following. Pastoring in rural congregations paid little if anything, while farming for white common folk was barely a way to make a living. In addition, while army pensions did provide some money for ex-soldiers in their advanced years, they did not provide nearly enough to live off of comfortably. There were no other social safety nets in America, and the advent of old age typically resulted in living arrangements with children.

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