Baptists and the American Civil War: February 7, 1863

Civil War States MapThe throes of war cannot stop Baptists of the South from the task of starting new congregations. Today the Smyrna Baptist Church of Pike County, Mississippi is birthed. The new church is founded at a time when many of the county’s men are fighting for the Confederacy.

Meanwhile, another Baptist, Georgia Gov. Joseph E. Brown, is concerned that Savannah is vulnerable to attack by United States military forces, who are now comfortably in control of the South’s coastal waters and have a large army presence along much of the Southern coast, including in South Carolina, north of Savannah. Brown, taking seriously his duty to protect his state, frequently finds himself at odds with Confederate military officials who are more concerned about the front lines of war than they are the interior of the South.

Today, Gov. Brown writes the Confederate Secretary of War, requesting the deployment of more Confederate troops to Savannah in order to thwart the danger of a hostile invasion of the important coastal town.

Milledgeville, February 7,1863.

Don. James A. Seddon,
Secretary of War

Dear Sir: The statements of General Beauregard and of Brigadier General Mercer cause me to fear an early attack upon Savannah by a heavy force of the enemy. As you are aware, we have a very inadequate force there for its defense. If re-enforcements are not sent by your order, and the attack is made, there is strong reason to fear that the city must fall. I shall in a few days have two regiments of State troops ready for service, who will be sent to Savannah in case of the continued prospect of attack, but this, which is all the State can do, will be wholly insufficient. I therefore most earnestly request that you send early re-enforcements to Savannah. The Fifty-fifth Regiment Georgia Volunteers, now at Cumberland Gap, while its commanding officer has behaved very badly, is an excellent body of men, and under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Persons would be most effective and valuable. On account of the character of the regiment having suffered by the conduct of Colonel Harkie, I feel that it is due the men and other officers of whom it is composed that the regiment be placed where it can have active service, and by its bravery and high-toned valor wipe out any supposed stain which rests upon it. I therefore specially ask that it be transferred to the coast immediately, that it may participate in the pending conflict. I also ask the same favor for Colonel Smith’s legion, now at Loudon, Tenn., if compatible with the public interest. Our military authorities and our whole people feel great interest in having the defenses of Savannah strengthened as soon as possible. I am informed that the Sixty-third Tennessee Regiment, commanded by Colonel Fain, now stationed at Cumberland Gap, is not attached to any brigade and could at once take the place of the Fifty-fifth Georgia in the brigade. This I trust may be considered as another reason in favor of the early transfer of the Fifty-fifth Georgia to the coast. I greatly prefer that all the re-enforcements sent be Georgians, if it can be so arranged.

Very respectfully, &c,


Sources: Smyrna Baptist Church, Pike County, records, Mississippi Department of Archives and History (link); Luke Ward Conerly, Pike County Mississippi 1798-1876 Pioneer Families and Confederate Soldiers, Southern Line Books, 2008 (link); Letter from Joseph E. Brown to Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon, February 7, 1863, inĀ The War of the Rebellion: v. 1-53, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1893, p. 279 (link)