Baptists and the American Civil War: February 18, 1864

Kentucky Tennessee MapThree years after the beginning of the war, both North and South are desperately recruiting soldiers to fill their decimated army ranks. Today Tennesseans Lemuel and Barak Chambers, father and son, enlist in the Union Army. They have long-standing Baptist roots.

The father of Barak and grandfather of Lemuel, Barak Chambers (1792-1847), was a Baptist minister and land-owning farmer from South Carolina. The elder Barak married Agnes Sandford (c1797-1890) and together they had nine children. In 1828 Chambers became a founding member and the first church clerk of the Holly Springs Baptist Church of the Pendleton/Pickens District (County). In 1841 the congregation voted to call Chambers as pastor, and for the next 75 years Chambers would retain the church’s pulpit.

The Chambers’ clan in the coming decades spread out into Tennessee and Georgia. Some displayed a keen interest in the world beyond South Carolina.

Barak’s oldest son (Lamech) joined the youngest (Spencer) and two other extended family members on a western gold prospecting expedition to the Rocky Mountains. Lamech kept a diary during the trip out West in which he wrote about the weather (including frequent snows), buffalo, antelope, encounters with Indians, and other adventures. The men, however, as was so often the case with prospectors, failed to strike it rich and eventually gave up and returned home empty-handed.

Back home, Lamech and Spencer faced the reality of a family divided by the Civil War, with brother pitted against brother. Lamech and Spencer and most of their brothers sided with the Confederacy with Lamech and Lucious bearing arms.

On the other hand, Lemuel and his son Barak today enroll in the Union Army. Father and son together join the Union Army, Company I, 5th Regiment, Tennessee Volunteers.

Sadly, both die in uniform, never having been reconciled to their family. Lemuel spends his last days in a hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he passes away on September 27, 1864, barely seven months after putting on the Union blue.

Sources: “The Diary of Lamech Chambers” (link); John Limmer, “The Chambers” (link)