Baptists and the American Civil War: June 17, 1865

Henry Thomas Riley (1846-1919)

Henry Thomas Riley (1846-1919)

The reorganization of the Southern states continues. Today U.S. President Andrew Johnson appoints James Johnson (1811-1891) as provisional governor of Georgia.

Johnson remains in office for most of the rest of the year, guiding the state through the initial stages of repealing Georgia’s Ordinance of Secession and formally abolishing slavery.

On this same day, Virginian Edmund Ruffin (born 1794), one of the foremost Southern Democrats who demanded in the 1850s that the U.S. preserve African slavery, and subsequently helped push the South into war with the North, takes his own life. His suicide is a result of his despairing of the war’s outcome and his own failing health.

Unheralded this day is the release from military prison, at Point Lookout, Maryland, of Confederate soldier Henry T. Riley (Company E, 28th Regiment, Virginia Infantry). Riley’s long journey home thus begins.

Born in 1846, Riley is a Baptist. He remains a Baptist for the remainder of his long life, dying in 1919. Riley is one of many thousands of Baptists who serve in the Confederate Army, survive the war and live their lives in obscurity. Little remembered outside of family history, their faith is sometimes written of on their tombstones, as is the case with Riley:

In loving memory of
Henry Thomas Riley
Born Aug. 30, 1846
Died May 19, 1919
For he was a good man and full
of the Holy ghost and of faith.
Acts II:24

Sources: Walter McElreath, A Treatise on the Constitution of Georgia, Atlanta: Harrison, 1912, pp. 137-139 (link); “James Johnson,” New Georgia Encyclopedia (link); Edmund Ruffin, Encyclopedia Virginia (link); Henry Thomas “Hunt” Riley, including image (link)