Baptists and the American Civil War: January 7, 1863

Civil War States MapSouthern Baptist newspapers have not yet weighed in on the Emancipation Proclamation, but today’s edition of the secular Richmond Enquirer offers a few unkind words about Abraham Lincoln‘s legal freeing of Confederate slaves, calling it “the most startling political crime, and the most stupid political blunder, yet known in American history…Southern people have now only to choose between victory and death.”  (“People,” of course, referring to whites only.)

Yet for all the bluster emanating from the Confederate capital, not far to the North, in the U.S. capital, “it is very quiet in the City” as a “Sharp, raw wind” blows, according to an eyewitness. While controversial, the Proclamation has not torn the city or nation asunder. The Union Army marches relentlessly onward in the South, further shrinking the territory securely under the control of the Confederacy. Rather than being a “blunder,” the Proclamation seems to have energized Union forces, providing the most important tool yet for striking a blow at the heart of the Confederate nation–the mandate to free Southern slaves.

Southerners, however, do celebrate the victory at Fredericksburg three weeks prior. Newspapers throughout the South continue reporting on the war and its aftermath, tempering the joy of victory with eyewitness accounts of devastation that now characterizes the Virginia city. Today’s Central Georgian newspaper offers an account of fifteen “large holes” in the structure of the Fredericksburg Baptist Church, “four through the steeple” and the roof “torn up in many places.”

Other Baptist churches within the city and in the vicinity of Fredericksburg also continue to assess damages and ponder a future course of action. Few are convinced that war has visited the city for the last time. Some Baptists have decided to temporarily move to safer havens, while many Sunday worship services in Fredericksburg and surrounding area are postponed or moved to alternative locations.

Thus, even as the Emancipation Proclamation is derided in the South, white Southerners wonder at what cost victory for the Confederacy will be secured.

Sources: “Enquirer Enunciates Emancipation Errors,” This Day in the Civil War (link); “Diary of a Yankee in the Patent Office,” January 7, 1863 (link); Central Georgian newspaper story, January 7, 1863 (link)