Baptists and the American Civil War: October 26, 1864

slave_whippedConfederate General John Bell Hood, marching through northern Alabama with some 39,000 soldiers and en route to a planned invasion of western Tennessee, today arrives at Decatur, Alabama.

Here he encounters some 3,000-5,000 Union soldiers defending entrenchments, two forts and a rifle pit, in addition to two Federal gunboats patrolling the Tennessee River. Needing to cross the river in order to invade the state of Tennessee, Hood’s forces encircle Union defences as the day draws to a close.

With the offensive positions secured, the attack begins on the morning of the morrow, carried out in a dense fog. Under the cover of the morning fog, the Rebels close to within 800 yards of the main Federal fortifications. Victory over the vastly outnumbered Union soldiers seems imminent.

Reflecting the growing haplessness of Confederate military forces, however, as the fog clears around noontime, a Federal regiment charges the Rebels. Driving back the enemy, Union soldiers take some 125 Confederates captive. Hood, unwilling to sacrifice any more of his men by engaging the Federals in a full-scale assault, begins withdrawing his forces from Decatur. Within two days, the Confederates have fully retreated and are heading further west to seek a suitable locale where they may cross the Tennessee River uncontested.

The battle thus formally ends on the 29th, a conflict in which Federal forces, outnumbered about 10-1, manage to defeat the second largest remaining Confederate Army will only some 150 casualties.

Meanwhile, even as the weakness of Confederate resistance in the Southern homeland is all too painfully demonstrated, two Southern newspapers, independent of one another, this day write about Rev. Ebenezer W. Warren, the fiery pastor of the First Baptist Church of Macon, Georgia whose vivid, vocal and public commitment to the institution of black slavery has wavered not an inch from the early days of Southern secession to the present.

The Richmond Daily Dispatch makes note of the Macon church’s commitment to substantially raise their beloved pastor’s salary, a rather defiant act in the face of the severe economic hardships brought about by the war:

The Baptist church at Macon has resolved to raise its pastor’s salary to ten thousand dollars for the coming year, for which purpose several members subscribed as high as one thousand dollars, and others for half that sum.–The Presbyterians of the same city have resolved to give Rev. D. Wills, their able pastor, a house and a support, cost what it will.

At the same time, the South Carolina Confederate Baptist publishes a brief recommendation of a new book written by Warren, a volume reflecting what Warren is most known for in the public sphere: the biblical defense of black slavery.

The book, a novel, is entitled Nellie Norton: Or, Southern Slavery and the Bible: A Scriptural Refutation of the Principal Arguments upon which the Abolitionists Rely. A Vindication of Southern Slavery from the Old and New Testaments.

The first two paragraphs of the Preface read thus:

 MANY books have been written in favor of slavery; but few of them have been generally read. This little volume claims no superiority over any of them. It was thought that a reply to abolition objections, based upon the Divine argument, might satisfy many minds who had not the time to devote to a thorough investigation of the subject, and, perhaps, set the question, as to its moral aspect, forever at rest.

It is presented in popular form, because that was thought to be the surest way to place the argument before the public mind. The author is deeply impressed with the fact that slavery is of God, and, desiring others to embrace the same truth, has here presented the scriptural arguments by means of which his own conclusions have been formed.

Of the volume, the Confederate Baptist writes:

A discussion in the shape of a story or argument inwoven into a narrative, has a peculiar charm for many persons, who would be repelled by stern and unadorned logic. Hence a book like this will be read, and read with unflagging interest. The Rev. Mr. Warren, hitherto known, principally, as one of the most cultivated and successful pastors in Georgia, and more recently brought to notice of our readers, by a powerful revival of religion, in the Baptist Church at Macon, of which he is pastor, has, in this work, undertaken to set forth the Scriptural facts and arguments upon which the institution of domestic servitude is founded. Availing himself of the attractive form of the Socratic dialogue, and making his interlocutors the personages in an interesting story, he has contrived to bring his subject fully and clearly before his readers; and if the Yankees were not the most conceited and blinded people on this continent, they could not fail to see the force of his arguments. They will probably continue their insane opposition to slavery, until, as Mr. Warren predicts, it lands them in infidelity, and perhaps atheism.

Abolitionism as atheism is a theme that Warren and other Southern Baptist elites have hammered incessantly throughout the war. As the Confederacy lists dangerously on its side, clearly in prone to sinking at any moment beneath the seemingly endless waves of Union blue, Warren and other Baptist divines, showing every sign of unflinching devotion to Confederate nationalism, determinately cling to their literal, pro-slavery Bible, blessing the peculiar institution while condemning the abolitionist gospel of Yankeedom.

Will the God of slavery reward their faithfulness? Time will tell, and soon.

Sources: Battle of Decatur (link) and (link); “Salaries of Clergyman,” Richmond Daily Dispatch, October 26, 1864 (link); E. W. Warren, Nellie Norton: or, Southern Slavery and the Bible. A Scriptural Refutation of the Principal Arguments upon which the Abolitionists Rely. A Vindication of Southern Slavery from the Old and New Testaments, Macon, Ga.: Burke, Boykin and Company, 1864 (link); “Nellie Norton: Or, Southern Slavery and the Bible, By Rev. E. W. Warren,” Confederate Baptist, October 26, 1864