Baptists and the American Civil War: August 31, 1862

James M. Pendleton is a well-known Baptist preacher and newspaper editor (assistant editor of the Tennessee Baptist) in Tennessee and among many other rural Baptists in portions of the South. He is also  the author of an influential book, An Old Landmark Re-Set (Old Landmarks Revisited), published in 1856 and the figurehead volume advocating Landmarkism (the name taken from Proverbs 22:28 in the King James Bible).

Landmark Baptists teach that the New Testament concept of church is expressed solely in the local, visible congregation. There is, accordingly, no universal church. Communion is restricted to congregational members only and baptism is valid if administered within and by a local Baptist congregation. Historically, “Baptist succession” may be traced from John the Baptist, through centuries of dissenting Christian groups who did not acknowledge the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and stood apart from the later Protestant Reformation, to modern Baptist churches where believer’s baptism and Landmark principles yet remain. These beliefs are appealing to certain Baptists, both of the Primitive and Southern denominational variety, who have (essentially) a hatred of the Roman Catholic Church and wish to believe that the Baptist faith is the only legitimate expression of Christianity.

Yet Pendleton disagrees with fellow Landmark leaders James R. Graves and Amos C. Dayton over the issue of slavery. Whereas Graves and Dayton are pro-slavery, Pendleton is against the “peculiar institution” and remains supportive of the United States. Their split on this overarching issue of the war reflects larger divisions within the state of Tennessee. For the Pendleton family, encroaching Confederate raiders in the area of Murfreesboro this summer cause no little anxiety.

Today, Pendleton and his family flee Murfreesboro for the safety of Union-controlled Nashville, an adventure he thus recounts.

During the Summer of 1862, two regiments, 9th Michigan (Colonel Parkhurst) and 3d Minnesota (Colonel Lester), were stationed at Murfreesboro. The two regiments were eneamped for a time near my house; but it was said the Colonels disagreed about something, and one of them removed his regiment more than a mile from the other. This fact was naturally communicated to the Confederate General Forrest, who was not far away. He took advantage of the circumstances, and, with his “Texas Bangers ” and others, dashed into Murfreesboro at day break Sunday morning (the second Sunday in July) and captured the regiment near my house. There was some fighting, not a great deal, and a few balls struck the house. General Forrest, having captured this regiment, moved on the other, which surrendered. Now, the fact not creditable to the Colonels is this: If their regiments had been together, General Forrest could have done nothing, for his success grew out of the disagreement of the Colonels. Who can tell how many of the disasters of the war may be traced to quarrels among officers? This may be considered an episode in my narrative.

The last day of August, 1862, we left our home in Murfreesboro to occupy it no more. As the Federal forces had possession of the railroad to Nashville, it was deemed safer for me to go on the train. My family went in a barouche in charge of Rev. G. W. Welch, a theological student. The horse was well-known in and around Murfreesboro and not much progress was made on the way before a halt was called by one of a guerrilla band. He made inquiries of Mr. Welch and finally said, “You are not the man I thought you were,” and permitted him to proceed. My wife heard all that passed, and has never had a doubt that the man supposed that I, as usual, was driving my horse, and intended to capture me. Providence ordered that I should be elsewhere. We reached Nashville in safety and there Mr. Welch took the stage and I took his place in the barouche. I could go by the railroad no farther, for Gen. John Morgan had destroyed the tunnel near Gallatin. In going by private conveyance to Bowling Green I was exposed to danger of which I learned more afterward. I was intrusted at Nashville with more than thirty letters from officers and soldiers, to be mailed at Bowling Green for the North. As we passed along we sometimes had a view of men whom we took to be guerrillas, and if they had obtained possession of the letters, I know not what would have been the consequence; but we were not molested. In passing through Franklin, Simpson County, we met our friend Judge Ritter, of Glasgow, who was holding Court. We had a short conversation, and to our consternation we learned afterward that guerrillas dashed into Franklin the next morning, captured the Judge, and conveyed him to some unknown place. Surely I was mercifully preserved.

Pendleton and his family eventually make their way to Indiana, where they live for the duration of the war. When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox, Pendleton is “jubliant.” And when U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated, Pendleton mourns. Of Lincoln following the assassination, Pendleton declares:

During his Presidency a thousand things were said by his enemies in disparagement, and even in ridicule, of Mr. Lincoln, but he was a great man with a heart full of kindness. No one could more truly than he use the words which have become immortal: “WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE, WITH CHARITY FOR ALL.” His name will go down to posterity clothed with glory, historians will record what he did, and the millions of the African race in the United States will thank God that he lived.

Source: James M. Pendleton, Remembrances of a Long Life, pp. 130-132 (link)

Note: Special thanks to Jim Duvall, creator of the BaptistHistoryHomepage.