Baptists and the American Civil War: May 8, 1865

Alabama Map 1860sFounded on May 29, 1842, the First Baptist Church of Selma, Alabama is more fortunate than many Baptist congregations of the South. Having remained open during the war, the church now moves into the post-war era, one month following the Battle of Selma in which Union forces invaded and destroyed the town’s army arsenal and factories.

Present in this day’s worship services are Federal officers. Rev. A. G. Spalding, the church’s pastor, writes in his diary that the Baptist church “was the only church open. We had a large congregation. It was the first assembly of the people after our capture. General Andrews and his staff of the Federal Army attended the service. My text was Romans 8:20-23. The Perfect Creation.”

In the adjacent state of Georgia, Confederate Captain Henry Wirz is under arrest for the mistreatment of Union prisoners at the now-shuttered Andersonville Prison Camp. Some officers at Andersonville managed to escape capture, but Wirz is not so fortunate. He argues that he was merely following orders, but to no avail. Following a military trial, he is executed in November.

Sources: History of the Selma Baptist Church of Christ (link); Henry Wirz’s Arrest, including May 7, 1865 letter to U.S. Major General J. H. Wilson (link)