Baptists and the American Civil War: May 29, 1865

freedmens_schoolReconstruction of the South begins at large today as U.S. President Andrew Johnson issues the Amnesty Proclamation allowing for the restoration of property rights (slaves excluded) to eligible white Southerners who sign an oath of allegiance declaring that “I, _______ _______, do solemnly swear, (or affirm,) in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by, and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God.”

There are many white Southerners, however, who are ineligible to benefit from the provisions of the Proclamation, including former Confederate officials and military officers.

Nonetheless, the Proclamation provides a simple way for white residents of the former Confederate States to reclaim their U.S. citizenship with no further personal losses.

Many Baptists thus face a choice of whether or not to sign the Amnesty Proclamation. Among those who remain unreconciled to emancipation are the white members of the Stone Creek Baptist Church in Twiggs County, Georgia, who vote to “expel each and every colored member” of the congregation that deserted his or her owner and fled to the enemy.

Sources: Andrew Johnson, Amnesty Proclamation (link); Bruce T. Gourley, Diverging Loyalties: Baptists in Middle Georgia During the Civil War, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 201p1, p. 180 (link)