Baptists and the American Civil War: December 2, 1865

Freedmen in Richmond, Virginia.

Freedmen in Richmond, Virginia.

Today the Fourth Baptist Church, an African American congregation, is established in Richmond, Virginia. It is one of hundreds of black Baptist churches formed in the immediate post-war months as freedmen depart white churches, and white supervision, to form their own autonomous congregations.

A historical marker tells the church’s story:

“Fourth Baptist Church is the first black Baptist church erected in Church Hill. The congregation, composed of enslaved men and women, met before 1861. During the Civil War, the group gathered in the white Leigh Street Baptist Church’s basement. In 1865, the members moved to the Union barracks on Chimborazo Hill, and the church was formally organized on 2 Dec. 1865 with the Reverend Scott Gwathmey as its first pastor. Using lumber from the demolished barracks, the congregation soon built its own church, and another followed in 1875. This building, with a Greek Revival exterior and Victorian interior, was completed in 1884.”

The church remains a thriving congregation in the 21st century.

Sources: Fourth Baptist Church Historical Marker (link); “Our History,” Fourth Baptist Church (link)