Baptists and the American Civil War: June 7, 1863

The original Howard College campus, later Marion Military Institute

The original Howard College campus, later Marion Military Institute

Fifteen miles north of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Confederate forces from Texas strike a Union supply area at Milliken’s Bend in an attempt to loosen U.S. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant‘s siege of Vicksburg.

The supply depots and hospitals at Milliken’s Bend are guarded by black soldiers, many of whom were until recently enslaved men. Armed with inferior weapons, the Union soldiers fight bravely. With help from nearby Union gunboats, they repel the attack, demonstrating to the United States public and military brass that black soldiers, despite little military training, can fight bravely against superior forces.

With Vicksburg now solidly under siege, the ripple effects of the Vicksburg Campaign spread eastward. One far-reaching consequence is the converting of Alabama Baptists’ Howard College (later to be named Samford University), located in Marion, into a hospital for Confederate soldiers wounded in the Vicksburg theatre.

By now, Howard College is largely devoid of students, as most are serving in the Confederate army. With an agreement struck, the Breckenridge Military Hospital is soon housed in college dorms, designated Wards A and C, and the chapel. The chapel pews are used by the more seriously ill patients, while the dorm wards house those soldiers less seriously wounded and ill. Some rooms in the chapel serve as administrative offices, while others are utilized as operating rooms. The college’s front lawn is filled with tents housing overflows of patients. During its use as a hospital into 1865, Howard College houses hundreds of patients.

Howard College also feels the impact of Vicksburg in another way as this month Ishaw W. Garrot, president of the college’s board of trustees, while serving in the Confederate army is killed in action near Vicksburg.

Sources: “Battle of Milliken’s Bend,” National Park Service (link) and Wikipedia (link); “Breckinridge Military Hospital (1863-1865) on the Marion campus,” including image, Marion Military Institute Archives (link); Wayne Flynt, Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998, p. 132 (link)