Baptists and the American Civil War: October 29, 1865

Civil War States MapSix months following the conclusion of the war, many Baptist churches in the South are just now resuming congregational life with some sense of normalcy. Some do not reopen until this month, while others continue adjusting to the realities of freedom for black members.

This month the Oak Grove Baptist Church of Arkansas finally reopens its doors, as noted in church minutes:

“[H]aving been two years without any meeting on account of the presence of war in our midst,” the church determines to “resume its regular meetings at the adopted times, the third Sabbath in each month and Saturday before.”

Meanwhile in Virginia, white members of the Mountain Plain Baptist Church are not yet accustomed to the free status of black members. Having for decades designated black members as either “servants” (slaves) or “free,” the clerk, referring to persons baptized this day, notes “Lizzy Woods Free,” before catching himself and going back and scratching out the word “free.”

All African Americans, after all, are now free. Whether or not they are perceived as equals to whites, however, is another matter entirely.

Sources: “War in Our Midst,” Oak Grove Baptist Church, October 1865, in “Baptist Voices in Civil War Arkansas,” Ouachita Baptist University Archives and Special Collections (link); Edward L. Ayers, Gary W. Gallagher, Andrew J. Torget, editors, Crucible of the Civil War: Virginia from Secession to Commemoration, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006, pp. 156-157 (link)