Baptists and the American Civil War: December 27, 1864

lincoln_1863novConfederate General John Bell Hood’s Army of the Tennessee, retreating from the Battle of Nashville less than two weeks ago, today completes a re-crossing of the Tennessee River into Mississippi, en route to Tupelo. With the crossing, the war comes to an end in Tennessee.

Dispirited and demoralized, the Rebel army mirrors the feelings of many Confederates as this year draws to a close.

Reflecting the growing optimism present in the North, on the other hand, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln today writes a letter to John Maclean, in which he notes, “Thoughtful men must feel that the fate of civilization upon this continent is involved in the issue of our contest. Among the most satisfying proofs of this conviction is the hearty devotion everywhere exhibited by our schools and colleges to the national cause.”

In addition to institutions of higher education existing in the North prior to the war, institutions from whom many young men have served as soldiers, the president during the past two years expanded educational opportunities by giving land grants to individuals states to assist in the establishment of state colleges, while also encouraging the creation of schools for freedmen.

Of the later, black Baptists have benefited greatly in 1864 in terms of primary, vocational and higher education. Many Baptist-affiliated schools now exist along the South Carolina coast in which freedmen are learning to read and write, and adults are acquiring vocational skills. In addition, two black Baptist colleges, Roger Williams College (Nashville, Tennessee) and Virginia Union University (Richmond, Virginia) were established in the present year.

Education, for many generations denied to most African descendants living in America, slave or free, promises to be a great uplift to future generations of black Americans. And black Baptists appear poised to be among the greatest future beneficiaries of educational advancement among black Americans.

Sources: “Confederate General Hood’s Army Crosses the Tennessee,” (link); Lincoln letter to John Maclean, December 27, 1864 (link); Morrill Land Grant Acts (link); Roger Williams University (link); Virginia Union University (link)