Baptists and the American Civil War: August 18, 1862

Civil War States MapThe times are defined by war, and Baptists do their part in seeking success for their respective governments.

Today in Richmond, the Confederate capital, the Confederate States Senate meets, with opening prayer by the Rev. Dr. Seeley of the city’s Second Baptist Church.

Far from the storied halls of national governments, today is much like any other day of this war as untold numbers of Baptist men join the ranks of the United States and Confederate armies. Among these men are John B. Standerfer of Hamilton County, Illinois and William Chandler Scifres of Gatewood, Kentucky.

A biographical summary of Standerfer’s life’s story notes:

John B. Standerfer, treasurer of Hamilton County, was born in that county December 24, 1830, a son of Job and Mary (Daily) Standerfer; natives respectively of Tennessee and Kentucky. The father was born in Maury County, Tenn. in 1802, and in 1816 with his father, Arch (Archibald) settled in Auxer Creek, Crouch Township, afterward moving to Shelby County, where he died. Job followed farming, and for six years was county treasurer and associate judge for several years. He was a Democrat in politics. Eleven of their twelve children are now living, with whom the parents now reside this county.

John B. was reared to manhood on the farm, and has followed farming most of his life, now owning a good farm in Crouch Township, three and a half miles west of McLeansboro. From August 18, 1862, to November 16, 1863, he served as private in Company A., eighty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, when he was disabled by rheumatism during service. He has been a life-long Democrat.

He was county treasurer and assessor two terms, and two years later was elected sheriff. In 1886, he was elected treasurer of the county under the new organization. January 16, 1851, he married Elizabeth Shirley, who died in 1865 leaving five children: Job, Wilburn, Hamilton, Amanda (wife of H. L. Maulding, deputy circuit clerk; Reuben and John F. (deceased). He next married Nancy J. Deitz, who died April 25, 1884. Their children are Robert, Marshall, Edward, Ebington, Charles, Elizabeth and John T. On March 12, 1885, he married Nancy J. Myers, of this county. They are both missionary Baptist, and are esteemed members of the community.

As to Scifres’ life:

William Chandler Scifres was born March 8, 1842 in Hardin County, KY. He was the first son of of David Edward Scifres and Permelia Ann Padgett. Permelia was, however, the fourth of David’s 5 wives, so William had seven older brothers and sisters. His only younger sister … was Sally Ann Scifres LAMBERT, born 1844 in Hardin Co., KY.

As a very young man, William operated the Scifres Mill on Otter Creek in Hardin Co., KY, where he lived until 1856 (he would have been 14 years old). He moved to Meade Co. with his father, David, and sister, Sally. He was a storekeeper and miller at Gatewood, near Brandenburg, Ky. … William enlisted August 18, 1862 in the Confederate Army in Hartsville, TN and served in Company C, 2nd Calvary KY Regiment under Morgan until the end of the war. He was in a prison camp at Camp Douglas in Illinois for about 18 months. … [on] October 15, 1874 … he married Rilla Chappell in Spencer Co., IN. They had [11 children] …

William died on October 22, 1909 in Hancock Co., KY and is buried in Utility Cemetery behind Union Church in Utility, KY. His wife, Rilla, died on December 7, 1936 in Hancock Co., KY and is believed to be buried next to her husband.

“Union” Baptist Church, in which the Scifres family is active following the war, is also known as “Utility Baptist Church.”

Memories of these two Baptist layman have been largely preserved by their descendants. Their stories are similar to those of many common Baptists who serve North and South in the war and survive to marry, raise children, and take active roles within their local congregations.

Sources: “Confederate States Congress. (adjourned session.) Senate.”, Richmond Daily Dispatch, August 18, 1862 (link); The History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois; Hamilton County Biographical Appendix, Goodspeed Pub. Co., 1887, pp. 740-741 (link); “Scifres, William Chandler” (link); Scifres grave records (link)