Rebuilding Zion


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Rebuilding Zion
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Stowell, Daniel Wesley, 1964-
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
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    Table of Contents
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    Introduction: Stonewall Jackson and the providence of God
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    Chapter 1. God's wrath: Disruption, destruction, and confusion in southern religious life
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    Chapter 2. God's chastisement: The Confederate understanding of the Civil War
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    Chapter 3. God's judgment: The northern understanding of the Civil War
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    Chapter 4. God's deliverance: The freedmen's understanding of the Civil War
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    Chapter 5. Crossing Jordan: The black quest for religious autonomy
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    Chapter 6. Southern churches resurgent: Denominational structures and religious newspapers
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    Chapter 7. Educating Confederate Christians: Sunday schools and denominational colleges
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    Chapter 8. "A pure and loyal gospel": Northern missionary efforts in the south
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    Chapter 9. One nation under God?" Efforts toward sectional reunion
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    Conclusion: The shape of religious reconstruction
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    Biographical sketch
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Full Text







Many people contributed to the successful completion of this study. I owe my

greatest intellectual debts to Bertram Wyatt-Brown, the chairman of my committee, and

Samuel S. Hill, Jr. Each has helped me to refine and shape this dissertation through

several seminars and the research and writing process. They have sharpened my prose

as well as my arguments, and my respect for both of them continues to grow. The other

members of my graduate committee, Kermit L. Hall, Darren: B. Rutman, and C. John

Sommerville, have also contributed to my development as a scholar, and to them I also

express my appreciation. Stephen Grossbart and Harold Wilson graciously agreed to

participate in the oral defense of this work, and their insights have enhanced the final


Several organizations have contributed generously to help me finance my graduate

education and this study. During the early years of my doctoral program, the Richard

J. Milbauer Fellowship from the Department of History at the University of Florida aided

me in completing my coursework. A travel grant from the Southern Baptist Historical

Library and Archives allowed me to make use of the collections housed there. Finally,

a Charlotte Newcombe Dissertation Year Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson

Foundation supported me in the final stages of research and writing. I wish to express

my gratitude to each of these organizations for their assistance in my graduate career.

The Department of History at the University of Florida has been fortunate over

the past six years to have an excellent group of graduate students. My special thanks go

to my comrades in exams, John Guthrie, Jack Henderson, Dave Tegedar, and Joe

Thompson. I also wish to thank Michael Justus for his example and Andy Chancey for

his understanding. Two of my fellow students deserve special mention. Stan Deaton has

been a close friend since we entered graduate school at the University of Georgia. His

enthusiasm for the study of the past continues to reawaken in me the love of history that

has drawn me to this profession. Tim Huebner, always optimistic, encouraged me in

many ways over the past six years. Most importantly, he has always listened patiently

to my less-than-optimistic lamentations.

On a personal level, I would like to thank my parents, Francis and Eunice

Stowell, and my brother, Timothy Stowell, who have always encouraged and supported

me even when they did not understand why my "paper" took so long to complete. My

parents-in-law, Dave and Eula Keener, also offered encouragement throughout my

graduate career.

The most significant people in my lives, my immediate family, have contributed

much to this study by shaping how I view both the present and the past. Samuel and

Joseph, both born since this dissertation began, have kept me sane and happy by drawing

me away from my research and writing long enough not to miss the important events in

their lives. Their tears and laughter, their firsts and fits have made the past two years

simultaneously frustrating and wonderful. My wife, Miriam, has been a constant source

of support throughout graduate school, financially and emotionally. She has applied her

considerable editorial skills to polishing this manuscript, making it consistent where I am

not. To Miriam far more than to anyone else goes the credit for the completion of this

dissertation. Her faith in me has kept the project moving and can only be repaid by my

profound gratitude and love.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................. ii

A BSTRA C T .. . .. .. .. .. .. .. . .. .. .. . .. . . . . vii

G O D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


IN SOUTHERN RELIGIOUS LIFE ..................... 16

N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 8

OF THE CIVIL WAR ............................... 57

N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

CIVIL W AR ................... .............. 90

N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117

OF THE CIVIL WAR ........ ...................... . 124

N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150

AUTONOM Y .................................. 156

N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187


N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . .. 220


N otes . . . . . .... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253

EFFORTS IN THE SOUTH ..... ...................... 260

N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288

REU N IO N ............................. ....... 294

N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325


N otes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340

REFEREN CES ........................................ 342

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ 368

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Daniel Wesley Stowell

April 1994

Chairman: Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Major Department: History

This study explores how, in light of their understanding of God's providence in

the outcome of the Civil War, southerners and northerners rebuilt the religious life of the

South. Adopting different interpretations of the providential meaning of the war, three

groups-Confederates, northerners, and freedmen-defined what the religious

reconstruction of the South should mean. The interaction among these visions

determined the contours of religious reconstruction in the 1860s and 1870s and shaped

much of late-nineteenth-century southern religious life.

Confederate Christians, confident of the righteousness of slavery and secession,

believed that God permitted the overthrow of the Confederacy, but was chastising, rather

than judging, southerners for their sins. This fine distinction was crucial to southern

evangelicals' self-understanding in the postwar period. Thus interpreting Confederate

defeat, they saw little need for major reforms in their religious life, including the belief


that the freedmen should remain quietly in the biracial churches. While rebuilding their

denominational organizations to uphold sectional identity, southern evangelicals staunchly

refused to consider reunion with their politicized and radical counterparts in the North.

Northern evangelicals insisted that God had judged the South for the sins of slavery and

secession, meaning that southern denominations should not be entrusted with the fate of

the South's moral regeneration. Only northern missionaries and their religious scalawag

allies were worthy, since they proclaimed a pure and loyal gospel.

The central fact of the war for freedmen was their deliverance from bondage.

This conception of Confederate defeat mandated rapid separation from southern biracial

churches. Many united with northern denominations who provided desperately needed

financial and organizational assistance. Freedmen also zealously pursued educational

opportunities for themselves and their children.

The Confederate plan for religious reconstruction predominated in the postwar

South, but the other two views achieved some success. Most notable among these was

the freedmen's desire for separate black churches, despite objections from their white

brethren. Focusing on the three major evangelical denominations in the states of Georgia

and Tennessee, this study examines how each vision contributed to the contested process

of religious reconstruction.


On the evening of May 2, 1863, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, a few

of his officers, and several couriers rode beyond Confederate lines to reconnoiter the

Federal forces along the Plank Road near Chancellorsville. Jackson was planning a night

attack in the moonlight to capitalize on the successes of the past few hours. As Jackson's

party returned to their own lines over the unfamiliar ground, pickets of the 18th North

Carolina Regiment mistook them for Federal cavalry and opened fire. Several members

of the party were shot from their horses. One of the officers shouted to the pickets that

they were firing on their own men. Believing this to be a Yankee trick, the pickets fired

another volley. In the shooting, three bullets struck General Jackson, one in the right

hand and two more in the left arm. One bullet severed an artery near the shoulder. That

bullet struck the heart of the Confederacy, for it proved to be a mortal wound for


Jackson's sorrel bolted into the woods, carrying its wounded rider crashing into

the branches. Jackson managed to rein in the horse and return to the road. Two of his

officers carefully removed him from his saddle, and Jackson muttered, "My own men."

With much difficulty in the midst of a Federal artillery bombardment, Jackson's men

transported him to a field hospital where his left arm was amputated. Despite the success

of Jackson's bold flanking maneuver against superior Union forces, General Robert E.



Lee was troubled by the news: "Any victory is dearly bought which deprives us of the

services of General Jackson, even for a short time."

The following day, Lee sent a note to Jackson congratulating him on his victory

and assuring him that "for the good of the country," he would have chosen to be

wounded in Jackson's stead. On May 5, Jackson was moved to a field hospital ten miles

south of Fredericksburg, where he showed signs of recovering from the amputation, but

two days later, he developed pneumonia. Jackson's wife Anna and their infant daughter

Julia, not yet six months old, arrived the next day. He assured his wife that he was

"perfectly resigned" to accept God's will. Jackson had seen his daughter only once,

some two weeks earlier before Federal troops marched toward Chancellorsville. He saw

her only once more on Saturday, May 9. By the next morning, Jackson's doctors had

little hope for his survival. Anna told him he must prepare for the worst, and asked him

if he wanted God to have His will with him. "I prefer it," he replied. "Yes, I prefer

it." A few hours later, Jackson told those at his bedside, "I always wanted to die on

Sunday." And that Sunday afternoon, his wish was fulfilled.

The Confederacy mourned as it had for no other loss. General Lee lamented to

his wife, "I know not how to replace him; but God's will be done! I trust He will raise

up someone in his place." Mary Jones in Georgia wrote to her son, "The death of our

pious, brave, and noble General Stonewall Jackson is a great blow to our cause! May

God raise up friends and helpers to our bleeding country! "' On May 15, Jackson's

funeral was held in the Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Virginia, where Jackson had

been a deacon and the superintendent of a black Sunday School. His pastor, the Rev.


W. S. White, began the funeral sermon by reading from the fifteenth chapter of I

Corinthians: "0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory .. But

thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Several days later in nearby Lynchburg, the Rev. James B. Ramsey of the First

Presbyterian Church delivered a memorial sermon on the death of Jackson. Ramsey

spoke for the entire Confederacy when he asked, "God has taken him, and why? . .

why this terrible blow? Why raise up just the instrument we needed, and then remove

him when we seemed to need him as much if not more than ever?" He declared to his

congregation that although "his loss seems irreparable" to both the church and the

country in "this hour of our peril," God could raise up others in Jackson's place. Instead

of questioning God's decision to take Jackson from them, southerners should be thankful

and hopeful that the Confederacy was blessed with such a "perfect Christian Hero."

Who could believe that "God would have given us such a man, and answered in every

step his prayers for two eventful years, and blessed him as our defender, if he had not

designs of mercy for us, and was not preparing for us a glorious deliverance, and us for

it?" Jackson was great because "he honored God with all his heart and life," and his

success stemmed from his dependence upon God. If southerners followed his example,

God would certainly secure their independence. Jackson's death was designed to teach

the Confederacy this vital lesson.2

The Rev. Robert Lewis Dabney, Presbyterian minister, Confederate chaplain, and

Jackson's chief of staff for a time, published a discourse on Jackson's life soon after the

General's death. Searching for God's purposes in Jackson's death, Dabney asked


rhetorically, "Can the solution be, that having tried us, and found us unworthy of such

a deliverer, he [God] has hid his favourite in the grave, in the brightness of his hopes,

and before his blooming honours received any blight from disaster, from the calamities

which our sins are about to bring upon us?" Dabney answered with a resounding "Nay."

Instead, he suggested, "may it not be, that God, after enabling him to render all the

service which was essential to our deliverance, and showing us in him, the brightest

example of the glory of Christianity, has bid him enter into the joy of his Lord, at this

juncture, in order to warn us against our incipient idolatry .... Dabney exhorted his

audience that "while man is mortal, the cause is immortal. Away then, with unmanly

discouragements, God lives, though our hero is dead."3

While Ramsey and Dabney offered their answers to the question "Why?" others

were not as certain of the providential meaning of the hero's death. For the religious

citizens of the Confederacy, Jackson was "the chosen standard bearer of liberty" and

"the anointed of God to bring in deliverance for his oppressed Church and Country."

God had apparently struck him down in the midst of the struggle for southern

independence, an act of Providence that raised serious questions about God's plans for

the Confederacy. Even the facts surrounding Jackson's death seemed curiously

providential: "The very time and circumstances of his death were all such as to awaken

peculiar and melancholy interest, and so force attention to his example, as if God

intended that not a single element should be wanting to perfect the influence of that

example." He was unquestionably a Christian general, devoted to prayer and the

religious welfare of his men; certainly God had not seized his life because of his iniquity.


He was at the height of his success; his troops had performed brilliantly in what became

known as Lee's masterpiece, the battle of Chancellorsville. He was shot down by his

own men, not by those of his enemy. Surely God had some message for the South in

this calamity: "Men were everywhere speculating with solemn anxiety upon the meaning

of his death." Some feared that God had "taken the good man away from the evil to

come"; because of their sins, southerners were unworthy of such a deliverer. Others,

like Ramsey and Dabney, more hopefully assured themselves that God intended to

emphasize Jackson's Christian and military virtues by taking him in the zenith of his

career and to teach the South to trust in no man, but in God alone.4 For the first time

in the war, two months before the disasters at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, southerners

paused to consider whether God would grant them ultimate victory.

Most Confederates shared the sentiments of Ramsey and Dabney. They quickly

reassured themselves that God was only chastising them for their sins (including the sin

of idolizing Jackson) and that they would soon regain divine favor. Two years later

under the stress of a far greater disaster, southern evangelicals would repeat this process,

assuring themselves that although they had been defeated on the battlefield, God had not

deserted them. The Confederate attitude toward religious reconstruction began to take

shape here in the midst of the war. After the initial shock of defeat and through the

spring of 1866, southern Christians developed a theological understanding of the war that

molded their attitudes toward the issues of religious reconstruction. Neither the death

of Stonewall Jackson nor the collapse of the Confederacy, it was believed, were

indications of God's stern hand of judgment. Instead, these tribulations were signs of


the Father's hand of chastening. This distinction was central to the Confederate

understanding of the war. The mysterious providence of God had a greater purpose for

the South. In both events, God was scolding white southerners for their sinfulness but

not abandoning them. Armed with this interpretation of their recent past, Confederate

Christians were ready to face the challenges of reconstructing their religious lives.

Central to their vision was the adamant conviction that God still favored the South

and its churches. Secession and slavery as an institution were not sinful, though most

admitted that some abuses had existed in the practice of slavery. Since northern

denominations were hopelessly political and radical, southern denominations had a duty

to preserve the Gospel untainted. Furthermore, while northerners and freedmen

controlled much of the political and economic life of the South, southern evangelicals had

to maintain their churches as bastions of regional identity.

For many reasons, the freedmen should remain under the religious authority of

their former masters. Emancipation did not release southern evangelicals from their duty

to evangelize the black race as part of God's providential plan for their elevation. The

freedmen were too ignorant to proclaim the pure Gospel of Christ or to establish and

maintain ecclesiastical organizations. They were vulnerable prey to political

"missionaries" from the North, radicals who sought to incite the freedmen against their

true friends, white southerners. Even more threatening was the possibility that

ecclesiastical independence might lead to other forms of independence.

While white religious southerners were developing their understanding of the war

and Confederate defeat, two other visions were forming. Religious northerners also saw

the hand of God in the great events of their day. Battlefield reverses were God's

chastisements upon them, but they remained confident that their cause was just. The

collapse of the Confederacy confirmed their belief that southerners had been rebelling

against God. God, in righteous indignation against the sins of secession and slavery, had

not merely chastened the South, but had brought His fierce judgment upon it. Because

secession from the Union was a sin, northerners reasoned, secession from the national

church bodies was also a sin. Now that the Union was restored, national denominational

structures could also be reconstructed. The condition for readmission to the privileges

of citizenship was a loyalty oath; naturally, the restoration of ecclesiastical ties should

involve a declaration of loyalty to the church and a confession of the sins of secession

and slavery. Because the southern churches were tainted with treason and slavery, they

could no longer effectively minister to southern blacks, so a vast new missionary field

was open to northern churches. Northern evangelicals would take the Gospel to the

millions of black men and women living in ignorance and superstition in the South.

A small group of "religious scalawags" scattered across the South encouraged

northern evangelicals in their vision of the providential meaning of the war and their

approach to religious reconstruction. These religious scalawags were ministers and

members of the southern churches who agreed with northern Christians that God had

indeed severely judged the South for its sins. Some had been unionists trapped within

the Confederacy. Others, however, were staunch Confederates who reevaluated their

earlier beliefs in light of Confederate defeat. Whatever their background, they joined

with the northern denominations, and many served as missionaries among both whites


and freedmen in the South. They desired a reunion of the severed denominations, though

they were generally less strident toward their fellow southerners than were their northern

brethren. Like political scalawags, religious scalawags became the objects of intense

hatred by their fellow southerners. They were traitors to the southern cause, which lived

on in the churches and in the providence of God.

Like white evangelicals, North and South, the freedmen also drew providential

meaning from the war and its outcome. The monumental fact for them was God's

deliverance from bondage. Their freedom also provided black evangelicals the

opportunity to establish churches and conduct religious services free from white

supervision. While they quickly withdrew from the churches of their masters, the

freedmen also realized that they could not provide church buildings, religious literature,

or trained ministers without outside help. They accepted help from their former masters

in many cases, while they offered their membership to northern black and white

denominations in return for houses of worship and educational opportunities. The goal

for blacks in the postwar period was to establish churches for themselves separate from

the control of their former masters, and to this end, they accepted assistance from many


The competition among these three visions of religious reconstruction determined

the shape of the religious reconstruction of the South in the decades after 1865. Each

vision of what constituted religious reconstruction was based on a different understanding

of God's purposes in the overthrow of the Confederacy. No vision was completely

triumphant, nor did any of these approaches suffer complete disappointment. Each


contributed a part to the formidable task of rebuilding the religious life of the southern


The Confederate perspective of religious reconstruction, however, enjoyed by far

the most success. Immediately after the war's end, white southern evangelicals began

to rebuild their shattered denominational organizations. Associations, conferences, and

presbyteries met for the first time in several years in many places, and all voiced a

commitment to rebuilding southern churches. They staunchly refused any efforts toward

reunion with their northern counterparts, believing that such a step would corrupt their

churches and forfeit God's favor. Denominational newspapers resumed publication, and

many denominational colleges made the first strides toward recovery. Sunday schools

were reestablished in many churches and begun in even more. Southern denominational

leaders worked diligently to provide "appropriate" literature for the Sunday schools, free

from the taint of northern radicalism. In all these efforts, the primary motive was a

genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of themselves, their families, and their fellow

southerners, both black and white. However, an intimately related purpose was the

retention of southern ideals and influences in their religious life. In virtually every

aspect of Confederate efforts for religious reconstruction, pious efforts included an

underlying element of southern sectionalism.

The freedmen's perception of religious reconstruction also enjoyed success,

especially in their goal of separating from their former masters' churches. Despite white

southerners' advice that they were unprepared for independent spiritual governance, black

southerners rapidly withdrew from mixed congregations and formed their own churches.


While southern white evangelicals offered some initial assistance in establishing church

organizations and occasionally provided places for worship, their aid quickly diminished

when it became clear that the freedmen intended to be permanently and completely

independent. Black Christians then turned to northern missionary agencies and the

Freedmen's Bureau for support in erecting school/church buildings and in training

teachers and ministers.

The assistance that these agencies provided to the freedmen proved to be the

major success of the northern vision of religious reconstruction. Although they made

overtures toward reunion with their southern counterparts, northern evangelicals were

never willing to offer the hand of fraternity without simultaneously condemning slavery

and secession. Southern resolve, already strong, stiffened under northern castigation.

Northern efforts to enter the South as a mission field also frightened and enraged white

southerners. Northern denominations made some progress among whites in the unionist

areas of the South, especially southern Appalachia, but their greatest successes came in

evangelizing the freedmen. Teachers supplied with Bibles and educational materials and

missionaries equipped with the funds to build churches quickly established congregations

among the freedmen and made enemies among white southerners. More troubling,

however, to the Confederate vision of religious reconstruction were the small groups of

religious scalawags who actually joined the invaders and aided them in their unholy

work. Southern churchmen could dismiss northern missionaries as having been corrupted

by the false theologies rampant in the North. But southerners, some of them loyal

Confederates, who accepted the northern notion that God had judged the South in


Confederate defeat posed a more serious problem. Religious scalawags were vehemently

denounced as traitors, despite their attempts to moderate northern attitudes toward the

South, a policy that demonstrated how important sectional solidarity was to insecure

southern evangelicals.

Scholarship on the religious history of this period of southern history has

generally neglected to examine the process of religious reconstruction broadly. Several

historians such as Rufus B. Spain, John Lee Eighmy, Hunter Dickinson Farish, and

Ernest Trice Thompson have examined the history of a single southern denomination

during this period.5 Studies of northern evangelistic and educational efforts have often

been cast along denominational lines as well. Work by Ralph Morrow, Donald G. Jones,

Louis G. Vander Velde, and Robert Andrew Baker has examined the actions and attitudes

of individual northern denominations involved in religious reconstruction.6 Some studies

of black religion, such as those by Clarence E. Walker and Katharine L. Dvorak, also

focus on individual denominations.7

By focusing on a single denomination, these works do not examine the similarities

among the three major evangelical denominations. They also fail to examine critically

the interaction between their subjects and the other two groups of participants in religious

reconstruction. Too often they view the other groups through the eyes of their subjects,

a practice that distorts their understanding of those who had different visions and

priorities. Therefore, students of southern denominations find northern Christians

uncharitable and unreasonable and view the freedmen as ignorant and helpless. Those

who examine black denominations see southerners as unrelievedly hostile to blacks and


consider northerners to be only marginally better in their paternalism. Scholars who

explore northern denominations' contributions to religious reconstruction view their

efforts to assist the freedmen as a great humanitarian effort to assist the benighted

freedmen. Ironically, however, they seem to accept some aspects of the southern critique

of their subjects as unreasonable in their demands for contrition over slavery and


A few studies have broken denominational barriers to examine more broadly one

of the three groups involved in religious reconstruction. Both Charles Reagan Wilson's

examination of the civil religion of the Lost Cause and Gaines M. Foster's analysis of

the relationship between Confederate defeat and the emergence of the New South offer

valuable insights into the initial southern white reaction to defeat, but the focus of both

books is the flowering of the Lost Cause celebrations in the 1880s, 1890s, and 1900s.8

William E. Montgomery examines the spectrum of black denominations in his study of

southern black churches in the last third of the nineteenth century, but his work does not

address fully the interaction between black initiatives and those of southern and northern

white Christians.9 While these works represent a step forward in their inclusion of all

of the major denominations, a new framework is necessary for understanding religious

reconstruction as a contested historical process.

All three major groups-southern whites, northern whites, and blacks-contributed

to the rebuilding of southern church life in the decades after the Civil War. A full

description of each group's view of Confederate defeat clarifies how religious Americans,

both black and white, northern and southern, formed their respective visions of religious


reconstruction. By dismissing the attitudes and actions of one or more groups as

irrational, narrow-minded, or even un-Christian, many scholars have failed to understand

the sincerity with which nineteenth-century evangelicals held to their interpretations of

God's purposes in human history. Only by accepting each group's unique view of God's

providence and the resulting plan of action as valid for their time and circumstance can

historians achieve a better conceptualization of the religious history of this period.

Focusing on the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians as representative of

southern religion, this study examines how these groups faced the challenges of

rebuilding in the aftermath of the Civil War. These three denominations embraced 94

percent of all the churches in the 11 states of the Confederacy. Methodists and Baptists

alone accounted for 90 percent of all the churches in Georgia.10 While the examination

of the response to defeat and of the formation of plans for religious reconstruction ranges

across the entire South, and North as well, the analysis of the actual process focuses

intensively on two states, Georgia and Tennessee. Georgia was the most populous state

in the lower South and ranked only behind Virginia and Tennessee in population among

the states of the Confederacy. It provided critical support for the Confederate war effort,

supplying both men and materiel. Because the state was united in its support of the

Confederacy and invaded by Union armies only late in the war, religious reconstruction

did not fully commence until the end of the war. Tennessee's experience was much

different. Invaded early in the war and marked by strong unionist sentiment in the

eastern mountains, the state became a battleground from February of 1862. Nashville

surrendered to Union forces in that month; Memphis followed in June. Much of the state

was occupied by Union armies for the remainder of the war. Wartime governor Andrew

Johnson began the process of political reconstruction in 1862 and 1863, while newly

arrived northern missionaries and blacks taking their first steps toward freedom

inaugurated religious reconstruction in Tennessee. A comparison and contrast of how

religious reconstruction developed among the three major evangelical denominations in

these two states reveals the roles Confederates, northerners, and the freedmen played in

the struggle for the soul of the South.


1. R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, 11 May 1863 in Robert E. Lee, Recollections and Letters of
General Robert E. Lee (Garden City, NJ: Garden City Pub. Co., 1924), 94; Mrs. Mary
Jones to Col. Charles C. Jones, Jr., 19 May 1863, in Robert Manson Myers, ed., The
Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1972), 1063.

2. James B. Ramsey, True Eminence Founded on Holiness: A Discourse Occasioned by
the Death of Lieut. Gen. T. J. Jackson (Lynchburg, VA: n.p., 1863), 9, 18, 19. See
also George William White, "On the Death of Stonewall Jackson," sermon delivered in
May 1863, George William White Collection, Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian
and Reformed Churches, Montreat, NC.

3. Robert Lewis Dabney, True Courage: A Discourse Commemorative of Lieut. General
Thomas J. Jackson (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication of the
Confederate States, 1863), 22-23. For the personal turmoil that overwhelmed Dabney
with Confederate defeat, see Charles Reagan Wilson, "Robert Lewis Dabney: Religion
and the Southern Holocaust," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 89 (January
1981): 79-89.

4. A Virginian [John Esten Cooke], The Life of Stonewall Jackson (Richmond, VA:
Ayers & Wade, 1863), 1; Ramsey, True Eminence Founded on Holiness, 19; Robert
Lewis Dabney, The Life and Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. Thomas J. Jackson (New York:
Blelock & Co., 1866), 727-28.
For a recent evaluation of Stonewall Jackson's death, see Charles Royster, The
Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman. Stonewall Jackson. and the Americans
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 193-231.

5. Rufus B. Spain, At Ease in Zion: A Social History of Southern Baptists. 1865-1900
(Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1967); John Lee Eighmy, Churches in
Cultural Captivity: A History of the Social Attitudes of Southern Baptists, rev. ed.
(Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987); Hunter Dickinson Farish, The Circuit
Rider Dismounts: A Social History of Southern Methodism. 1865-1900 (Richmond, VA:
Dietz Press, 1938); Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, 3 vols.
(Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1963-73).

6. Ralph E. Morrow, Northern Methodism and Reconstruction (East Lansing: Michigan
State University Press, 1956); Donald G. Jones, The Sectional Crisis and Northern
Methodism: A Study in Piety. Political Ethics, and Civil Religion (Metuchen, NJ:
Scarecrow Press, 1979); Lewis G. Vander Velde, The Presbyterian Churches and the
Federal Union. 1861-1869 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932); Robert
Andrew Baker, Relations Between Northern and Southern Baptists (n.p., 1954; reprint,
New York: Arno Press, 1980).

7. Clarence E. Walker, A Rock in a Weary Land: The African Methodist Episcopal
Church During the Civil War and Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1982); Katharine L. Dvorak, An African-American Exodus: The
Segregation of the Southern Churches (Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing, 1991).

8. Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause. 1865-
1920 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980); Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the
Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1987). See also Thomas L. Connelly and Barbara L. Bellows,
God and General Longstreet: The Lost Cause and the Southern Mind (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1982).

9. William E. Montgomery, Under Their Own Vine and Fig Tree: The African-
American Church in the South, 1865-1900 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 1993).

10. Edwin S. Gaustad, Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Harper &
Row, 1962), 58.


The experience of the Civil War shook the foundations of southern religious life

between 1863 and 1865. White religious southerners made a strong commitment to the

war effort, and the early years of the war were marked by a confidence in the

Confederate cause and God's support of it as evidenced by battlefield victories. As the

war raged into a third year, however, the antebellum patterns of southern life became

more vulnerable to change. Religious southerners generally did not question their beliefs

that God wore gray and the Confederacy would succeed, though a few did. Their

concerns were much less philosophical and much more practical. Not only had the North

declared war on slavery, but northern armies were occupying larger sections of the

South. Slaveowners feared that their human property might flee to Federal lines. Many

areas of the South struggled with material privations, and numerous daily routines of life

were disrupted by the war. The war also had a profound effect on southerners' religious

lives. Many of the extra-local functions of the churches were disrupted during the latter

stages of the war; conferences, conventions, and synods could not meet. Religious

newspapers and denominational colleges ceased to operate. In battle areas, church

buildings were put to less than sacred use, as hospitals, barracks, warehouses, and even

stables. Ministers left for the armies or took up secular jobs to support themselves and



their families. Some religious leaders complained that the war distracted their members

from spiritual concerns and fostered certain types of sin, especially extortion. Northern

missionaries followed Union armies and began to establish churches wherever they could

find people willing to join, especially among the black population tasting freedom for the

first time. The freedmen also began to test their new powers by forming churches of

their own or breaking away from antebellum biracial congregations. Long before

Appomattox, the war laid waste to the southern religious landscape, and tentative

strategies for its regeneration were being formulated and tested.

Most local southern churches would survive in some form. The questions

religious southerners faced in 1865 and 1866 concerned the relationship of local churches

to their surrounding world. To whom would they minister? What strategies would they

use? What changes were necessary to work effectively in the postwar South? With

which other local churches would they unite in pursuit of these goals? How would they

channel their resources? What particular endeavors deserved support-religious

periodicals, evangelical colleges, Sunday schools, foreign missions, domestic missions

with the black and Indian populations? Most importantly, what role did God wish for

them to play? These were the questions that southern whites, freedmen, and northern

missionaries faced. Their varied answers were influenced by the disordered condition

of southern religious life in the aftermath of the Civil War.

One important blow to southern religious life during the war was the disruption

of the denominations' organizational apparatus. Established over decades and

consolidated since the separation from their northern counterparts, these organizations


provided unity and direction for southern Christians. While most were not destroyed

during the war, denominational structures and institutions increasingly ceased operations

in the latter years of the war as Union armies occupied more of the Confederacy. These

interruptions brought the lives of the southern denominations virtually to a standstill.

Across the South various religious meetings could not be held because of

inadequate transportation or the presence of enemy forces. The Presbyterian Synod of

Memphis, which included western Tennessee and northern Mississippi, was unable to

meet in Trenton, Tennessee, in 1862, because the area had fallen far behind the Federal

lines. It met at College Hill church in northern Mississippi instead. Because "the

facilities for travel were destroyed, or monopolized by the army, and absence from

home, unprotected, was more or less hazardous," the ministers of the synod "by

common consent," chose not to meet at Florence, Alabama, in October 1863. The

following year, members from two presbyteries of the Synod of Memphis met in

Covington, Tennessee. Although they reassembled periodically for three days, no

delegates from the other three presbyteries arrived, and they were forced to suspend the

session for lack of a quorum. The Synod of Texas suffered a similar fate in 1863. The

Synod of Nashville in middle and east Tennessee did not meet in 1862, 1863, or 1864.

Even the smaller presbyteries had difficulty meeting in some areas. Most presbyteries

in Mississippi did not meet in 1863 and 1864, and in eastern Tennessee, the Presbytery

of Knoxville did not meet after 1863.'

The quadrennial General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,

scheduled to meet in New Orleans in the spring of 1862, was postponed when United


States forces under Flag Officer David Farragut captured the city in April. The General

Conference did not convene again until 1866. The Tennessee Annual Conference did not

assemble in 1863, and in 1864 only 13 of nearly 200 ministers met with Bishop Joshua

Soule to conduct the business of the Conference. Other conferences suffered as well,

especially from a lack of episcopal visitation. The Texas Conference did not see a

bishop for five years, and the Arkansas Conference saw none for four years. Bishop

Soule's home in Tennessee was behind Federal lines for much of the war. Even Bishop

George F. Pierce in Georgia met with only the Georgia and Florida Conferences in 1861.

He wrote to his son, "I am cut off from all my Conferences by war and the lack of

money. "2

Southern Baptists also had severe organizational problems. The Baptists of

Mississippi held only one annual state convention during the war, while Arkansas

Baptists suspended their convention between 1861 and 1867. The Virginia state

organization that met in 1863 had only 35 present instead of the usual several hundred,

and the entire meeting lasted only a few hours instead of days. The Nolachucky

Association in Tennessee did not meet at all during the war, and many other associations

gathered irregularly. In Georgia the state convention was to assemble in Columbus on

April 21, 1865, but Union General James H. Wilson's cavalry captured Columbus in a

night assault on April 16 and the meeting was cancelled. The meeting of the Southern

Baptist Convention itself was postponed from the spring of 1865 until the following



Local churches suffered considerable disruption as well. The Candays Creek

Baptist Church in southeastern Tennessee held no sessions between July 1863 and June

1864 because "there Arose a Rebelion People in force and Arms Against the Cuntry and

Drove the male members nearly all from their homes and throwed the Cuntry in such a

deranged Condition that we thought it best not to mete for a while." The Presbyterian

Church in Monticello, Georgia, did not have a local meeting of the church elders

between March and November 1863, because "all the members of the Session are in the

service of the country." In 1864 the pastor of the Methodist Church in Port Gibson,

Mississippi, reported that "the Church is scattered and wasted to a great extent by the

war. . Sunday School is still kept up though frequently interrupted by the Yanks

capturing teachers and other causes." A Georgia woman wrote in the summer of 1864

as Sherman's army marched through the state: "No church. Our preacher's horse stolen

by the Yankees." The clerk of a Presbyterian church in eastern Tennessee wrote in April

1865, "the state of the church being such at this time owing to the fact that so many of

the members were gone to the war on either side of the question that it makes it

impossible to make out a true statistical report to Presbytery. 4

While administrative meetings such as synods, conferences, and conventions were

in disarray, the primary vehicles of denominational communication-the religious

newspapers-also perished in the wartime conditions. These periodicals suffered from

a variety of conditions caused by the war. Circulation rates plummeted as the movement

of armies and the disruption of the mails cut off subscribers. In December 1860, the

Baptist Christian Index in Macon, Georgia, had 4,900 subscribers. Two years later in


this relatively stable area of the Confederacy, only 2,100 copies were published, many

of which went to soldiers in the armies. Inflation and shortages of paper also plagued

the religious weeklies. The subscription rate for the Presbyterian Christian Observer

climbed from $2.50 annually in 1861 to $5.00 in August, 1863, when the size of the

paper was also cut in half. By May 1864 subscriptions cost $8.00, and in January 1865

the price rose to $20.00 per year. All three of the surviving Methodist weeklies also

raised their rates to $20.00 by the end of 1864. The Southern Presbyterian lamented in

April 1863 that "it is with deep regret that we return to the half sheet." The paper mill

that supplied its paper was burned, and the editors had been unable to secure any other

supply of paper. The paper suspended for a month in December 1863 and January 1864

because of a lack of paper. The price of paper and printing rose so steeply that by June

1864, the editors of the Southern Presbyterian wrote that they could not continue to

publish a half sheet without an annual outlay of $10,000 beyond the income of the paper.

Although they did not expect to suspend so soon, it was "a matter of necessity" because

they could no longer procure paper. The newspaper resumed publication in October

1864 with a new subscription rate of $10.00 for six months.5

Each of the three denominations had several newspapers published throughout the

South. Southern Methodists, for example, were publishing ten weekly papers early in

1861, with a combined circulation of over 50,000. Only two remained after a year of

warfare, the Southern Christian Advocate in Charleston, South Carolina, and the

Richmond Christian Advocate in Richmond, Virginia. The North Carolina Christian

Advocate ceased publication in May 1861, but revived with a new editor in April 1863


as the Christian Advocate (Raleigh, North Carolina). The Texas Christian Advocate,

published in Galveston, suspended operations in late 1861, but resumed publication in

1864 in Houston because Galveston was under Federal control. The Southern Christian

Advocate fled from bombarded and blockaded Charleston to Augusta, Georgia, in April

1862. In mid-April 1865 the editor announced that the paper would move to Macon,

Georgia, and resume in a few weeks. On June 29, a single issue appeared from Macon

explaining that the editor left Augusta for Macon before the last issue went to press.

General James H. Wilson's cavalry forces "reached Macon before the editor did, and he

found the place in possession of the United States forces, and the publishing house in

ashes." The June issue was designed to test the "future fortunes" of the newspaper.

Although it had a "considerable amount of Confederate money on hand" when the

currency collapsed, the paper was "now left without one dollar," except what it had

invested in printing paper. Two months elapsed before another issue appeared.6

Perhaps even more devastating for southern Methodists was the loss of their

publishing house when Federal forces captured Nashville in February 1862. The

facilities had produced the Nashville Christian Advocate, tracts for Confederate armies,

many religious books, and even a pocket Testament, "proudly proclaimed as the first

Bible entirely stereotyped in the South." The editor of the Nashville Christian Advocate,

Holland N. McTyeire, fled Nashville because "the Yankee officials would hardly allow

me to edit such a paper as I liked, and I would not edit such a one as they liked. Even

provided the Advocate could have been got out as formerly, there were no mails to take

it off. Nashville would be cut off from the Confederacy where our readers are." For

the rest of the war, the Southern Methodist Publishing House was used for the printing

needs of the United States Government with much damage inflicted on the property.7

Baptist and Presbyterian periodicals suffered as well from the upheavals of war.

The Union occupation of New Orleans ended the career of the Presbyterian True

Witness. When Federal troops occupied Fayetteville, North Carolina, in March 1865,

all of the property of the North Carolina Presbyterian was destroyed. The fire that

consumed much of Columbia, South Carolina, on February 17, 1865, destroyed the plant

that printed the Southern Presbyterian Review. The Southern Presbyterian newspaper

had left that city and moved to Augusta, Georgia, in the summer of 1864, but ceased

operations in April 1865 and did not resume publication until 1866. Two Presbyterian

newspapers in Richmond, the Central Presbyterian and the Christian Observer, suspended

publication after the fall of the city to Federal forces in April 1865. The printing office

of the Central Presbyterian and the building and records of the Presbyterian Committee

of Publication were destroyed in the Richmond fire, but the Christian Observer's press

was spared. The fire also destroyed the press that published the Baptist Religious

Herald. Further to the south, both the Christian Index of Macon, Georgia, and the

South-Western Baptist of Tuskegee, Alabama, ceased publication in April 1865; the

South-Western Baptist never reappeared. By May 1865 the primary modes of

communication for southern churches were inoperable. Few of the denominational

newspapers began to publish again before 1866; some never recovered.8

The desolation of their newspapers was only one of many problems confronting

southern evangelicals. Their missionary efforts also lay in ruins. Since separating from


their northern counterparts in the mid-1840s, southern Baptists and Methodists had been

conducting their own foreign and home mission programs. In 1861, southern Baptists

supported missionaries in China and in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria in Africa.

Methodists also supported missionaries in China. In June 1863, the Foreign Mission

Board of the Southern Baptist Convention voted to invest all surplus funds in Confederate

bonds, a policy that reaped disastrous results. The Board's corresponding secretary,

James B. Taylor, travelled to Charleston and Savannah several times during the war to

make arrangements with shipping companies for sending money to the missionaries. The

Board urged southern Baptists in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Maryland to send

their contributions directly to the missionaries through a provisional committee in


The war made life very difficult for southern missionaries in foreign lands.

Baptist missionary Matthew Yates, who had supported himself through real estate

transactions and as an interpreter for the foreign community in Shanghai, left China in

1863 to join his family in Switzerland. Methodists Young J. Allen and J. W. Lambuth

supported themselves in China; Allen worked for the Chinese government as a translator.

Baptist R. H. Graves wrote to the Foreign Mission Board from China in June 1864:

"Brethren in America, I look for you to sustain me. I have come down into the well.

You hold the rope. Do not let me fall." T. A. Reid wrote from Nigeria in the spring

of 1864: "I have not received a letter outside of this country for about three years. This

has a discouraging effect upon me." In a remarkable display of Christian charity, Dr.

Thomas Carlton, the treasurer of the northern Methodist Missionary Society, honored


some large drafts for the southern Methodist China mission. This and other obligations

left the southern Methodist Foreign Mission Board with $60,000 in debts when the war

ended. By the spring of 1865, the Baptist Foreign Mission Board was almost wholly

dependent upon organizations in Kentucky and Maryland for the support of its

missionaries. The board had a debt of only $10,000 because many of its missionaries

had resorted to self-supporting efforts. To meet its obligations, the foreign board had

only $20,000 worth of Confederate bonds and notes, which were worthless at the war's

end. In December, 1865, the Baptist board began the process of reconstruction with

$1.78 in its treasury.10

Southern Presbyterians, only recently divided from their northern brethren, had

no organized foreign missionary efforts except for the work of 14 ministers among

several tribes in the Indian Territory, an area considered part of the foreign mission field.

The war in the West disrupted efforts among the Indians, the Creek Nation Presbytery

was scattered in 1863 and 1864, and most of the Presbyterian missionaries supported

themselves. One made tubs and barrels, while his wife and daughters made clothes.

Another became a part-time cobbler. Southern Methodists also had missions among the

Indians, though the war decimated their Indian membership, which dropped from over

4,100 to approximately 700 during the war. Most of southern Christians' missionary

energies were directed toward the Confederate armies with considerable results. Revivals

swept most of the armies in the latter years of the war, and thousands were converted.

However, financial devastation, poor communication with foreign missionaries, and


concentration on army missions left the southern denominations ill-prepared to resume

normal missionary operations in 1865."

Another important disruption in southern religious life was the suspension of

nearly all evangelical colleges during the war. In the spring and summer of 1861,

students abandoned the colleges and joined the army. By July 1861 Howard College in

Alabama had lost 42 of its 62 students, two professors, and its president to the

Confederate armies. In October 1861 a faculty member at Centenary College in

Louisiana closed the college and wrote in the faculty minutes, "Students have all gone

to war. College suspended: and God help the right!" Young men in colleges across the

South left their studies to take up the weapons of war. The Conscription Act of 1862

drew the remaining students out of the colleges. Presbyterian Oglethorpe University in

Georgia closed six weeks later, and many other colleges followed: LaGrange Synodical

College in Tennessee, Erskine College in South Carolina, East Alabama Male College,

and Richmond College in Virginia. Some colleges, such as Roanoke College in Virginia

and Trinity College in North Carolina, remained open only by offering preparatory

classes for younger students. Some female colleges, such as Wesleyan College in

Macon, Georgia, remained open throughout the war, but others, such as the Woodland

Female College in northwestern Georgia, disintegrated. The Baptist Female College of

Southwestern Georgia and Andrew College, both in Cuthbert, were forced to suspend

during the war.2

More important than the suspension of college exercises were the permanent

losses suffered by these educational institutions. The Civil War decimated an entire


generation of southern men. Mercer University in Georgia lost 30 students to death in

the war. The faculty of Mississippi College, a Baptist school, led almost the entire

student body to the Virginia battle front. Of 104 who left, only eight returned. Large

numbers of students and faculty from other evangelical colleges also died during the war.

The libraries and furnishings of several institutions such as Stewart College and

Cumberland University in Tennessee fell victim to the vandalism of both armies. The

buildings of the Hearn School near Rome, Georgia, "were much injured, and the library

and apparatus were destroyed by the soldiery." An Iowa Cavalry regiment rode away

from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with the library and scientific materials of Union

University. 13

The difficulty of recovering from these losses was compounded by the decision

of most southern denominational colleges to invest their endowments in Confederate

bonds and securities. The Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Columbia, South

Carolina, had invested $250,000 in Confederate bonds, which were worthless at the end

of the war. Oglethorpe University's South Carolina and Alabama professorships, funded

by Presbyterians in those states, evaporated when their endowments became worthless. 14

Randolph-Macon College lost $45,000, Richmond College lost $86,000, and Howard

College lost over $58,000 when the Confederacy collapsed; these amounts constituted

most of each institution's endowment. Two Alabama Methodist colleges, Southern

University and the East Alabama Male College, lost endowments of $200,000 and

$100,000, respectively. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in South Carolina

and Union Theological Seminary and Hampton-Sydney College in Virginia also invested


heavily in Confederate bonds. Even those institutions that made safer investments

suffered in the general financial wreck of the South. Land values plummeted,

scholarships were uncollectible, and few students could afford tuition.15

In addition to the disruption of their publication, missionary, and educational

endeavors, southern denominations also suffered physical destruction, death, and loss of

ministers and members. The occupation and destruction of church buildings and

evangelical colleges in the South by both armies were widespread. Confederate armies

confiscated many evangelical colleges for use as hospitals throughout the war. Centenary

College and Mount Lebanon University in Louisiana, Emory and Henry College and

Richmond College in Virginia, Oglethorpe University and Emory College in Georgia,

and Howard College in Alabama served as Confederate hospitals during part or all of the

war. Two female colleges in Cuthbert, Georgia, also served as Confederate hospitals:

the Baptist Female College of South-Western Georgia and the Methodists' Andrew

College. "6

Tennessee colleges suffered extreme hardships because the state was a

battleground through much of the war. Stewart College, run by the Nashville

Presbyterian Synod, was used as a Confederate hospital early in the war, then later as

a Federal hospital and barracks. Federal soldiers who occupied the building in early

1862 "broke open the cases of the mineralogical and geological specimens and carried

away many of the most valuable specimens, and choice portions of the books belonging

to the Washington Irving Society, chairs, tables, curtains, etc., finally stripping even the

College chapel of everything in it." Federal soldiers took control of La Grange


Synodical College in December 1863 and used it for a hospital. Later, they tore down

the college building and used the bricks to build huts and chimneys for their tents as part

of their winter quarters. Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, was occupied

by Confederates early in the war until they were forced out by the arrival of Federal

troops who destroyed the furnishings and scattered the library. After the Federal troops

left the area in 1864, a Confederate brigade burned the main building to prevent its use

as a Union armory. The colleges of Tennessee, however, were not the only ones to

suffer devastation. Sherman's army destroyed the Cherokee Baptist College in northwest

Georgia, and soldiers burned the windows, doors, and sash of the Fletcher Institute in

Thomasville, Georgia.7

Churches were also appropriated as hospitals by both armies, and hundreds were

destroyed. All of the churches in Ringgold, Georgia, and Newnan, Georgia, were used

as Confederate hospitals. The Old Sweetwater Baptist Church in eastern Tennessee "was

occupied and used by the soldiers of one army or the other, Union or Confederate, for

hospital and other purposes, so that church meetings could not be held." The Baptist

church of Bolivar, Tennessee, was used by the Federal army for a smallpox hospital for

about two years, and the First Baptist Church of Memphis became the "Gangrene

Hospital" for Federal troops. The Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches of

Franklin, Tennessee, were used by Federal authorities as hospitals. The army occupied

the Presbyterian church for about two months "removing therefrom the pews, pulpit, and

other furnishings, which were materially damaged." When Union forces occupied

Marion, Alabama, at the end of the war, Howard College became a Federal hospital.18


Southern evangelicals sometimes gave up their church buildings only when

compelled to do so. During the winter of 1862-1863, Confederate hospitals in Ringgold,

Georgia, were told to expect more casualties from the front. According to one of the

nurses present, "negotiations were at once opened for the only church in Ringgold not

occupied by the sick." Although the people declined to give it up, it was seized and the

pews were taken out and piled up in the yard. Straw was placed upon the floor, and

when the supply of pillows gave out, "head-rests were made by tearing off the backs of

the pews and nailing them slantwise from the base-board to the floor." Other

southerners questioned the wisdom of taking the churches for secular uses. Kate

Cumming, a Confederate nurse in Newnan, insisted, "I do not think there is any

necessity for taking them at present . and, without that, I think we should not have

taken them." She mused about the consequences of this action: "We act as if churches

were built rather for our amusement than the worship of the living God. He has told us

he is a jealous God, and will visit every sin against him; not only visit it on us, but on

the third and fourth generation. If ignoring his sacred temple will not bring retribution,

I think nothing will." A "Daughter of the Church" from Augusta, Georgia, voiced

similar sentiments in correspondence with the Southern Presbyterian: "Is it right that

God's temple should be set to any purpose but His own praise, unless from most absolute

necessity? . Now our sanctuary is desolated, two weeks since. Those who profess

to be clothed with military authority seized it for a hospital." If there were no other

place for the sick and wounded soldiers, "most gladly would we give them our churches,

but when there are numbers of houses of business, and places of public amusement, that


could have been better adapted to the wants of our suffering soldiers, is it right that these

officers should set aside the claims of religion and make their authority higher than His

who rules the world?"19

While southern civilians questioned whether churches should be used as hospitals,

Federal troops confiscated and destroyed southern churches in the name of military

necessity. The First Baptist Church of Decatur, Alabama, was destroyed to clear the

range of guns. The Oak Grove Methodist Church in Jackson County, Alabama, was torn

down, and the materials were used to build a pontoon bridge across the Tennessee river.

The Boiling Fork Baptist Church of Cowan, Tennessee, the Methodist church of

Saulsbury, Tennessee, and the Methodist church of Powder Springs, Georgia, were all

dismantled to build quarters for Federal troops. All of the churches in Pine Bluff,

Arkansas; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Fredericksburg, Virginia, were damaged or

destroyed by Federal armies. The Dover Baptist Association in Virginia reported that

"the commodious edifice of one of our largest churches is now a heap of ruins."

Another church "pierced by the cannon balls of our invaders shows ghastly rents."

Across the South several churches were used as warehouses, and the basement of the

Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta became a slaughterhouse for the Union army.20

Twenty-six Baptist churches were destroyed by Federal forces in Virginia alone.

Between ninety and one hundred Presbyterian churches were seriously damaged or

entirely destroyed throughout the South; approximately one half of these were in the

Synod of Virginia. In some cases at least, the destruction went beyond any claims of

military necessity. In Hardeeville, South Carolina, an Illinois infantry regiment


destroyed a "large beautiful church." As one of them remembered, "the pulpit and seats

were torn out, then the siding and blinds ripped off. . Many axes were at work . .

it became a pile of rubbish." The Federal army had used the Baptist church in Bolivar,

Tennessee, as a hospital, "at the end of which time it was accidentally burned." Other

"accidental" fires destroyed Methodist churches in Triune, Tennessee, and Oakbowery,


Not only did many local congregations lose their houses of worship, even more

lost their ministers. Hundreds of ministers entered Confederate service as chaplains and

missionaries to the troops, and hundreds more entered as common soldiers. By the fall

of 1862, 20 percent of the Methodist ministers in the Tennessee Conference were in

military service. The Ninth Arkansas regiment numbered 42 ordained ministers among

its ranks. Some did not return; for example, six members of the Methodist Georgia

Annual Conference died in Confederate service. At least 209 Methodist and 72

Presbyterian ministers served as commissioned chaplains in the Confederate armies.

Many more served as temporary missionaries. Another 141 Methodist preachers served

as either Confederate officers or soldiers. Some ministers such as Georgia Baptist H.

A. Tupper combined their religious and military offices; Tupper served as captain and

chaplain in the Ninth Georgia Regiment. The Alabama Presbyterian minister F.

McMurray entered the army as a captain "not only from patriotic motives, but especially

to be with the members of his church, who had entered the company of which he was

made Captain." A New Orleans Methodist announced, "Nearly every minister we know

is a member of a military company."22


The preachers who remained in their churches often faced severe difficulties in

supporting themselves and their families. Although many congregations raised their

pastor's salary, the rapid inflation of Confederate currency made ministers' livelihoods

precarious. Pastors like Basil Manly, Sr. insisted that their churches pay their salaries

or do without their services. Manly wrote in his diary, "Feeling as much responsible for

the course of the Confederate States as any single man, I am as ready to bear my part

in the trouble consequent as any man." Accordingly, he informed one of the deacons

of the church that he would accept $400 a quarter while the war lasted, "provided that

can be paid with some reasonable promptitude and regularity." Otherwise, "if I have

to sustain my own expenses in preaching the Gospel, I must be near my home and

resources; and strive to give such attention to my own means and business as to provide

my support." Methodist Bishops James 0. Andrew, Robert Paine, and George F. Pierce

had farms of their own, and Bishop John Early had enough resources to support himself

and his family through the war.23

Many preachers, however, were not so fortunate. A Louisiana Methodist church

sent their pastor, Benjamin F. White, away "without his salary being paid in full."

Another Louisiana Methodist minister, Dan Watkins, had served at Opelousas Station

from 1860 to 1863 and had only one arm. He was sent away in 1864 "to dig for the

support of his needy family. We drove him from his masters work and said to him in

effect go dig with your one hand for your wife and little ones." Ministers across the

South were forced to find secular employment to support themselves. By 1862 most of

the Methodist ministers in Florida had secular jobs "to supplement their support to the


point of actual necessity." School teaching was one of the most popular vocations, but

some took up farming or other occupations. Thomas W. Caskey, declaring that his

congregation could not pay him, went into partnership with a lawyer. A Methodist

minister and historian who lived through the period wrote that the preachers were

"forced to field and bench and counter to get bread."24

The suspension of seminaries, the drafting of ministerial students, and the inability

of congregations to support their ministers created a shortage of clergymen in southern

churches. Even after the war ended, many preachers continued in secular employment

to support themselves. Battle had claimed the lives of some southern preachers, and

Baptist minister J. L. M. Curry lamented that "few young men have the ministry in

view." Many churches remained without pastors or shared the services of a minister

with neighboring congregations of the same denomination.25

Local southern churches faced a variety of problems during the Civil War. The

church building might be occupied and perhaps even destroyed by the soldiers of either

army. The pastor might join the army as a chaplain or a soldier, or he might be forced

to pursue some other occupation to provide for himself and his family. Every southern

church also faced a loss in membership from a variety of sources. Thousands of

evangelical men went to war, and many were killed on the battlefields of the war. A

Georgia Methodist pastor complained that "on one Sunday there were forty male teachers

in the Sunday-school, the next there were four." Families fled their homes, and

churches, to move away from the advancing armies. While these refugees sometimes

swelled the congregations of churches in interior regions, their absence devastated the


churches from which they came. The Presbyterian churches of North Carolina lost over

two thousand members during the war, while the Methodist Episcopal Church, South lost

approximately one third of its membership across the South between 1861 and 1866.

While nearly 130,000 blacks left the southern Methodist fold, their exodus accounted for

only half of the losses suffered by the Church during the war.26

Table 1-1: Membership Declines in the Major Southern Denominations, 1860-1866

Denomination 1860-61 1865-66 Change

Southern Baptist 649,518 N/A
Methodist Episcopal 748,968 498,847 33%
Church, South
Presbyterian Church 72,000 66,528 8%*
in the United States

*The Presbyterian Church in the United States suffered a net loss in
members despite the addition of approximately 10,000 members from its
union in 1864 with the United Synod of the South, the southern branch of
New School Presbyterianism. Without this infusion of members, the loss
would have been over 21%.

Although the membership statistics given in Table 1-1 are undoubtedly inaccurate

because of the breakdown of ecclesiastical structures in the later years of the war, they

do reveal the general trend. More importantly, they reflect the perception of southern

evangelicals when they considered their denominations in 1865 and 1866. Even in the

relatively stable state of Georgia, invaded only late in the war, a variety of factors

combined to produce dramatic decreases in membership, as Table 1-2 demonstrates.

Table 1-2: Membership Declines in Georgia Denominations, 1860-1866

Denominational ,,,_
Denominational 1860 1866 Change
Georgia Baptist 64,611 53,428 18%
Georgia Annual 84,120 66,122 -21%
Synod of Georgia 7,246 6,258 -14%

Source: Georgia Baptist Convention, Minutes, 1860, 1867; Georgia Annual
Conference, Minutes, 1860, 1866; Presbyterian Church in the United States of
America, Minutes, 1860, Presbyterian Church in the United States, Minutes, 1866.
Note: Baptist figures are those reported at the April 1867 meeting of the Georgia
Baptist Convention. They were reported to the various associations in the fall of
1866. These totals include all associations that were members of the Georgia Baptist
Convention in 1877. They do not include the many primitive, and non-aligned
missionary Baptists in the state; the Georgia Baptist Convention represented
approximately two-thirds of the Baptists in the state in this period. Of the 28
associations extant in 1866, the data for 14 were interpolated from known endpoints
for each association. In several cases, the data were interpolated over only two years,
but in others the range of missing data was much longer. Interpolation, therefore,
smoothes what was probably a large loss of membership in 1864-65 and a recovery
The Presbytery of Florida was one of the five presbyteries which made up the
Synod of Georgia in this period.

Once again, the figures are not completely accurate, though it is difficult to

determine if membership as a whole is overestimated by the use of previous years'

figures or underestimated by the failure of some associations, quarterly conferences, and

presbyteries to report their statistics. The withdrawal of black members from biracial

churches had clearly begun by 1866, but it would not be complete until the mid-1870s.

Baptist churches in the Georgia Association lost from 25 to 65 percent of their

membership when black members withdrew to form their own churches. Over 90

percent of the Baptist Sunbury Association in Georgia were slaves in 1860. When 6,400

of Sunbury's black members withdrew in 1865 and 1866, the association reorganized as

the New Sunbury to include more whites. Boasting over 7,000 members before the war,

the new association struggled to number more than 1,000 during Reconstruction.27

The excitement of war times also "took people's minds off religion," and in

contrast to the revivals taking place in the Confederate armies, southerners at home

generally took less interest in religion. Some lost all faith in the churches. A

Kentuckian reported that he had known "elders and deacons, as well as private members,

to forsake attendance upon divine service, give up even an outward show of holy living,

and betake himself to drinking and swearing, all on account of politics." Even as

prominent a southern evangelical as La Grange College president John N. Waddel

wrestled with his faith during the war. He "prayed as earnestly as I could" for the

success of the Confederacy, but could not help feeling "that God is against us and my

faith is weakened." A contributor to the Southern Presbyterian late in 1864 feared that

many "have not only lost confidence in man, but also in God. Yes, lost confidence in

God,-especially in regard to the public affairs of the country." The writer warned, "it

is folly, or worse than folly to say that God has no hand in this war. . It is

discouraging. . It leads men to despair and restrain prayer before God." Because of

the great contrast between the spiritual revivals in the armies and the lukewarm state of

the churches, the Central Presbyterian in Richmond even urged the soldiers to pray for

those at home.28


When the Confederacy collapsed and the war ended, the strain on southerners'

faith was intense. Presbyterian Mary Jones of Georgia admitted that her "faith almost

fails" and wondered if God had "forgotten to be gracious." Grace Elmore Brown of

South Carolina struggled to comprehend the result of the war: "Hard thoughts against

my God arise; questions of his justice, of his mercy arise, and refuse to be silenced."

"Night and day in every moment of quiet," she labored "to work out the meaning of this

horrible fact, to find truth at the bottom of this impenetrable darkness." Baptist editor

Samuel H. Ford wrote: "It is, indeed, a crisis with the churches, and with Christians

throughout the South. The scenes of the last four years have tried, severely, our spirits,

our temper, and our faith. . We felt that might had prevailed, and that right was

overwhelmed. 'Where is God?' seemed to be the anxious questioning of each heart. . .

Is there a God? many, many asked, yet deaf to our prayers and heedless of our wrongs."

The Presbytery of South Carolina lamented that "the faith of many a Christian is shaken

by the mysterious and unlooked-for course of divine Providence." Presbyterian William

Safford wrote from Greensboro, Georgia, to his sister in Bolivar, Tennessee: "Bolivar

is not the only place where people have been demoralized by the war, such is the state

of things all over the country." Transitions to peace were especially difficult in border

states like Kentucky, where one church member wrote in September, 1865: "For my

own part I have almost become a heathen man as I have resolved, not to sit under the

ministry of a teacher, that repudiates the commandment requiring allegiance, faith and

loyalty to our government." Alfred Mann Pierce, a historian of Georgia Methodism,

described the difficulty in the immediate aftermath of the war: "The faith of some, at


least for a period, failed outright; on the part of many others, faith grew feeble; on the

part of well-nigh all faith had to struggle hard to survive." For most southern

Christians, faith survived, but the transition was difficult.29

The closing years of the Civil War brought not only disruption and destruction

but also confusion to southern religious life. New alternatives arose as northern black

and white missionaries entered the South determined to gather southerners into the fold

of northern denominations. Blacks enjoying freedom for the first time in occupied areas

left the churches of their masters and joined white and black northern denominations.

Disaffected whites also joined northern denominations, especially in Unionist areas such

as southern Appalachia. In several areas, northern missionaries even seized southern

church buildings under War Department orders and held services in them. The northern

missionary efforts contributed substantially in many areas to the membership declines

suffered by southern churches.

The Baptist Home Mission Society met in Providence, Rhode Island, in May 1862

to formulate a plan for missions in the South. A committee recommended that the

Society take "immediate steps to supply with Christian instruction by means of

missionaries and teachers, the emancipated slaves . and also to inaugurate a system

of operations for carrying the Gospel alike to free and bond throughout the whole

southern section of our country, so fast and so far as the progress of our arms, and the

restoration of order and law shall open the way." Divine Providence was "beckoning

us on to the occupancy of a field broader, more important, more promising than has ever

yet invited our toils." In 1864 the Home Mission Society supported 25 missionaries in

eight southern states. By April 1865 the Society had 120 missionaries and teachers in

the South.30

In their fall meeting in 1863, the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church

determined that their church must play a role in the religious reconstruction of the South

and began to explore opportunities for missionary labor. Over the next two years, the

annual conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church sent 21 ordained ministers into

the South as missionaries. Over 500 northern Methodist preachers served as chaplains

with Union armies at some time during the war, and many Methodist laypeople also

journeyed south as teachers and missionaries. They went into areas of the South

occupied by Federal armies such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Memphis,

Nashville, and Murfreesboro, Tennessee; New Bern, North Carolina; and Beaufort and

Charleston, South Carolina. In their 1864 episcopal address, the northern bishops

proclaimed that "the progress of Federal arms has thrown open to the loyal Churches of

the Union large and inviting fields of Christian enterprise and labor." Although

wrongfully excluded for 19 years by the southern Church, the Methodist Episcopal

Church would occupy a "prominent position" in the cultivation of the southern fields.

"And now that the providence of God has opened her way, she should not be disobedient

to her heavenly calling, but should return at the earliest practicable period." The

General Conference of 1864 authorized the bishops to establish annual conferences

throughout the South, and it organized the Church Extension Society to aid in erecting

church buildings. Methodist missionary John P. Newman in New Orleans explained the

northern Church's mission in the South: "We hold and teach that loyalty is a religious


duty, as truly obligatory as prayer itself." The message of loyalty did attract some

southern whites such as those who organized the Holston Conference in east Tennessee

during the last year of the war. The conference was officially made part of the

Methodist Episcopal Church on June 1, 1865. In Kentucky several leading ministers had

left the southern church by the end of the war. The West Virginia and Western

conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South were broken up, and the Missouri

Conference was divided.31

Northern Presbyterians also entered the wartime missionary endeavors in the

South. In 1864 the Committee of Home Missions of the northern New School

Presbyterian Church declared, "A great field of missionary operations is opening at the

South." Union and Kingston presbyteries in eastern Tennessee had withdrawn with other

southern presbyteries in 1857 from the New School Presbyterian Church to form the

United Synod of the South. After the United Synod voted to unite with the Presbyterian

Church in the Confederate States of America (Old School), these two presbyteries

determined in September 1864 to return to the northern New School Presbyterian

Church. The New School Presbyterians had also begun work in Missouri, but a raid by

Confederate General Sterling Price toward Kansas City had disrupted their efforts among

unionists there. The Committee of Home Missions insisted that "the work in Missouri

and Eastern Tennessee we think may be considered a fair type of what must be done in

fourteen of the Southern states. Both the labor and the expense will be very great.

Prejudices will yield very slowly." Old School Presbyterians in the North resolved in

their 1865 General Assembly to direct their Board of Domestic Missions "to take prompt

and effectual measures to restore and build up the Presbyterian congregations in the

Southern States of this Union by the appointment and support of prudent and devoted

missionaries." This decision to organize loyal presbyteries and synods in the South was

taken in response to the "loud call from the Lord Jesus Christ to pass over and help to

rebuild that part of the American Zion which has been so sadly laid waste by the

rebellion and civil war."32

The early successes of northern denominations among whites in unionist and

border areas like eastern Tennessee and Missouri proved to be their greatest, but neither

they nor southern Christians were certain of that outcome in 1865. Northern evangelicals

were confident that these gains were only the first of many; their southern counterparts

feared they were right. Southern churchmen had more reason to fear the loss of their

black membership, as northern missionaries of both races had much greater success

among the freedmen who were beginning to act out their own interpretation of religious


In 1864 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of

America (PCUSA) (Old School) organized two committees to work among the freedmen.

Northern Methodists initially worked through nondenominational agencies, but in 1866

they formed their own Freedmen's Aid Society. The Baptist Home Mission Society also

worked actively among the freedmen. Franklin C. Talmage, a historian of Georgia

Presbyterianism, insisted that while the southern churches remained open to the

freedmen, they "abandoned the affiliation with the Southern church and formed a

connection with the Assembly of the Northern church because of hopes aroused by the

Freedmen's Bureau of that church."33

Black northern Christians also sent missionaries into the South to gather freedmen

into their denominational folds. The two most active were the African Methodist

Episcopal (AME) and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Churches. These

denominations believed the South had been providentially opened to them: "Heaven has

graciously opened the way for the spreading of our beloved Zion in that land," wrote one

AME minister. The AME Church sent its first two missionaries to the Sea Islands of

South Carolina in May 1863. Seventy-five more would follow them into the South by

1870. In December 1863, Bishop Daniel Payne went to Nashville and admitted two

black Methodist congregations into the AME Church from the Southern Methodist

Church. In the ten years following the war, the AME Church gained 250,000 members,

the vast majority of them from the South. The AMEZ Church established itself in the

South by receiving a black congregation in New Bern, North Carolina, early in 1864 and

began missionary work in Florida and Louisiana later that year. By the end of the war,

the exodus of black members from the biracial southern denominations had barely begun,

but perceptive observers, North and South, realized what the wartime departures meant

for the future.34

Northern denominations solicited and received the aid of the Federal government

and the Union armies in their missionary efforts. Throughout the South, church

buildings sat vacant as ministers had entered the army or fled approaching Federal

armies. After New Orleans was captured in 1862, at least 40 churches, including all five


Methodist and all five Presbyterian churches in the city, were without regular services.

Churches in a variety of cities where the Union army had been successful were also idle.

A chaplain with Federal forces in Nashville wrote to northern Methodist Bishop Matthew

Simpson that most of the local pastors had deserted their congregations. The church

buildings were either empty or occupied by the army. The Methodist Episcopal Church

could "regain" the churches "if the matter could be properly presented to the government

authorities." Bishop Edward R. Ames hurried to confer with his friend, Secretary Edwin

M. Stanton of the War Department. On November 30, 1863, Stanton issued an order

instructing generals in the Departments of Missouri, the Tennessee, and the Gulf to

"place at the disposal of Bishop Ames all houses of the Methodist Episcopal Church,

South, in which a loyal minister, who has been appointed by a loyal Bishop of said

Church does not officiate." The generals were also directed to "furnish Bishop Ames

and his clerk with transportation and subsistence when it can be done without prejudice

to the service and will afford them courtesy, assistance, and protection." On December

9, the same order was given concerning Methodist churches in the Departments of North

Carolina, Virginia, and the South over which Bishops Osmon C. Baker and Edmund S.

Janes had authority. On December 30, Stanton repeated theorder for Kentucky and

Tennessee under the direction of Bishop Simpson.35

Similar orders for the other northern denominations streamed from the War

Department in the first three months of 1864. A January 14 order instructed

commanders to turn over Baptist church buildings "in which a loyal minister of said

Church does not now officiate" to the American Baptist Home Mission Society. On

February 15, missionaries of the United Presbyterian Church were given authority to

seize Associate Reformed Presbyterian churches in the South. A War Department order

of March 10 declared that military commanders were to give missionaries of the Board

of Domestic Missions of the Presbyterian Church (Old School) and the Presbyterian

Committee of Home Missions (New School) "all the aid, countenance, and support which

may be practicable and in your judgment proper in the execution of their important

mission." Missionaries from the northern denominations quickly took advantage of these

orders. Within the first four months, representatives of the Baptist Home Mission

Society seized about 30 buildings.36

Northern Methodists, however, engaged in the most extensive campaign of church

occupation in the South. Believing that thousands of southern Methodists were eager to

rejoin the northern Church, Methodist missionaries and several of the bishops themselves

entered the South to seize buildings and organize local, loyal churches. Bishop Ames

left for the lower Mississippi Valley almost immediately after Stanton issued the order.

Within a few weeks he had "appropriated, under the order of the War Department" and

supplied a dozen churches formerly belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

Ames took control of Methodist churches in Memphis, Little Rock, Pine Bluff,

Vicksburg, Jackson, Natchez, Baton Rouge, and several in New Orleans. Bishop

Simpson traveled to Nashville in January 1864 to establish loyal Methodism there. He

placed Michael J. Cramer in charge of the churches in Nashville and authorized Chaplain

Calvin Holman to occupy churches in Chattanooga. Cramer, after appealing over the

heads of local officials to his brother-in-law, Ulysses S. Grant, secured both McKendree

Chapel and the German Methodist Church in Nashville. Chaplain H. A. Pattison

acquired an order from General George H. Thomas granting possession of the Methodist

church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Northern Methodist agents also occupied churches

in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia; Femrnandina, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine,

Florida; and Beaufort and Charleston, South Carolina."7

Southern Christians did not quietly accept the occupation of their churches by

northern missionaries. In many areas they protested or attempted to disrupt the

enforcement of the War Department directives. On the local level in Texas, Methodist

Presiding Elder R. W. Kennon wrote in June 1865 to one of his preachers, 0. M.

Addison, that the minister assigned to the Galveston church was still away on a trip to

acquire Bibles. "The Federals will take possession of the city in about a week-there

will be Yankee Methodist preachers perhaps with the first expedition, and if we have no

preacher in charge of the church, he will walk into it." Kennon urged Addison to take

charge of the Galveston church to prevent the northern Methodists from occupying it:

"You had better go down at once. I will furnish you with a certificate of your

appointment to that charge." Border state Presbyterians around Louisville, Kentucky,

urged the General Assembly of the PCUSA to disavow the order to save the Church from

"the sin, the reproach, and ruin which this thing is calculated to bring upon her." Also

at Louisville, Kentucky, in April 1864, a convention of southern Methodist ministers

from states within Union lines met to protest the order which they regarded as "unjust,

unnecessary and subversive alike of good order and the rights of a numerous body of

Christians." They appealed to President Abraham Lincoln, whom they rightly believed


was not pleased with Stanton's order, to "restrain and prevent its enforcement." Lincoln

did pressure Stanton to restrict the operation of the order to states in rebellion, thereby

giving border state evangelicals some relief. By early 1865 Lincoln had begun the

process of restoring church property to the southern churches. President Andrew

Johnson continued the policy, and by the spring of 1866, with a few notable exceptions,

the properties seized under the War Department orders had been returned to their original


From whatever vantage point southern evangelicals viewed their churches and

denominations in the spring of 1865, they saw disruption, destruction, and confusion.

All of the denominational structures were in disarray, from conferences and mission

programs to newspapers and colleges. Local churches too felt the sting of war when

ministers and laity went into the armies, church buildings were seized or destroyed, and

their membership scattered. For some southerners, the war produced a crisis of faith;

for most, it prompted reflection upon the religious implications of Confederate defeat.

Some feared that the southern denominations were hopelessly disorganized. According

to one contemporary observer, several members of the Southern Methodist Church,

"losing faith in her future, were coquetting with an Episcopal Bishop for a union of

churches-the M. E. Church South and the Protestant Episcopal South." Others "were

proposing to give up and go back to the M. E. Church." The religious condition of the

South spurred southern evangelicals to contemplate God's purposes in the war and His

future plans for them. The conclusions they drew from this examination shaped their

approach to religious reconstruction.39


Where southerners saw devastation, northerners and freedmen saw opportunity.

Northern Christians pondered the providential meanings of the war and the destruction

of many southern religious institutions. The Methodist in New York City proclaimed as

early as the end of 1863 that "the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, is shivered to

atoms. It is doubtful if its General Conference will ever meet again."4' The war and

God's judgment upon the South had opened the region to a free and loyal Gospel

proclaimed by northern missionaries; they believed theirs was a vital role in the spiritual

regeneration of the South, and they were determined to pursue that role. Black

Christians in the South considered the disruption caused by the war to be their

opportunity to shape their own religious lives to a greater degree than ever before.

Between 1863 and 1866, each of these three groups worked out its interpretation

of the religious significance of the war. White southern Christians had the most

difficulty grappling with the outcome, because they were forced to reconcile the

righteousness of their cause with the reality of defeat. Their efforts to do so were shaped

both by their antebellum attitudes and their wartime experiences. Throughout most of

the war, white southerners were confident of God's approval.


1. Robert L. Neely, Manuscript Historical Sketch of the Synod of Memphis, 1880,
Robert Langdon Neely Collection, Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and
Reformed Churches, Montreat, NC; W. Harrison Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War
on Southern Protestantism," Maryland Historical Magazine 69 (1974): 57-58.

2. Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War on Southern Protestantism," 57; George F.
Pierce to his son Lovick Pierce, Jr., 15 October 1861, quoted in George Gilman Smith,
The Life and Times of George Foster Pierce (Sparta, GA: Hancock Publishing Co.,
1888), 444.

3. Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War on Southern Protestantism," 58; Jesse L. Boyd,
A Popular History of the Baptists in Mississippi (Jackson, MS: Baptist Press, 1930), 111;
W. Fred Kendall, A History of the Tennessee Baptist Convention (Brentwood, TN:
Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, 1974), 135; Georgia Baptist
Convention, Minutes, 1866; James Pickett Jones, Yankee Blitzkrieg: Wilson's Raid
through Alabama and Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1976), 136-38.

4. Minute Book, Candays Creek Baptist Church, Bradley County, Tennessee, 1846-1866,
1st Saturday in June 1864, Tennessee State Library, Nashville, TN; Session Book,
Monticello Presbyterian Church, Jasper County, Georgia, 1829-1904, 23 November
1863, Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, GA; Quarterly Conference
Minutes, Port Gibson Station, Mississippi, 1848-1872, 18 June 1864, Mississippi
Conference Historical Society, as quoted in Willard Eugene Wight, "Churches in the
Confederacy" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1957), 86; Dolly Sumner Lunt Burge, A
Woman's Wartime Journal: An Account of the Passage Over a Georgia Plantation of
Sherman's Army on the March to the Sea (Macon, GA: J. W. Burke, 1927), 19-20
(journal entry of 24 July 1864); Record Book, St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, Hamblen
County, Tennessee, 1858-1875, 2 April 1865, Tennessee State Library.

5. Wesley Norton, "The Role of a Religious Newspaper in Georgia During the Civil
War," Georgia Historical Quarterly 48 (June 1964): 125-26; Christian Observer
(Richmond, VA), 3 January 1861, 12 August 1863, 5 May 1864, 5 January 1865; Joseph
Mitchell, "Southern Methodist Newspapers During the Civil War," Methodist History
11 (1973): 23; Southern Presbyterian (Columbia, SC), 16 April, 17 December 1863; 16
June, 20 October 1864.
The Georgia Baptist Christian Index raised its subscription rate to $20 per year
on January 12, 1865; two weeks later the price rose to $15 for six months. Christian
Index (Macon, GA), 12, 26 January 1865.
William E. Pell, editor of the North Carolina Christian Advocate lamented the
burning in 1863 of the paper mill at Bath, North Carolina, and urged his readers to sell
their rags to the remaining mills. North Carolina Christian Advocate (Raleigh, NC), 16
April 1863; Henry Smith Stroupe, The Religious Press of the South Atlantic States.
1802-1865 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1956; reprint, New York: AMS Press,
1970), 36, 93.

6. Mitchell, "Southern Methodist Newspapers During the Civil War," 20-23; Macum
Phelan, A History of Early Methodism in Texas. 1817-1866 (Nashville, TN: Cokesbury
Press, 1924), 463; Southern Christian Advocate (Macon, GA), 29 June 1865. Macon
surrendered to the vanguard of General Wilson's cavalry on April 20. Jones, Yankee
Blitzkrieg, 167.
According to W. Harrison Daniel, "inflation, a shortage of materials, and federal
occupation forced the suspension of one-half of the religious weeklies in the South by the
end of 1862." All Southern religious newspapers faced occasional suspensions during
the war. Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War on Southern Protestantism," 50-51; W.

Harrison Daniel, Southern Protestantism in the Confederacy (Bedford, VA: Print Shop,
1989), 154.

7. John Abernathy Smith, Cross and Flame: Two Centuries of United Methodism in
Middle Tennessee (Nashville, TN: Commission on Archives and History of the
Tennessee Conference, 1984), 142-43; Southern Christian Advocate, March 1862, quoted
in J. J. Tigert IV, Bishop Holland Nimmons McTyeire: Ecclesiastical and Educational
Architect (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1955), 124. See also James Penn
Pilkington, The Methodist Publishing House. A History. Volume I: Beginnings to 1870
(Nashville, TN: Abindgon Press, 1968).

8. Southern Presbyterian (Columbia, SC), 16 June, 20 October 1864, 4 January 1866;
Arnold Shankman, "Converse, The Christian Observer, and Civil War Censorship,"
Journal of Presbyterian History 52 (1974): 240; Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians
in the South (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1963-1973), 2:85, 435-39; Haskell M.
Monroe, Jr. "The Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America" (Ph.D.
diss., Rice University, 1961), 326, 328; Christian Index, 9 November 1865, 6 January
1866; Norton, "The Role of a Religious Newspaper in Georgia," 139.

9. George B. Taylor, Life and Times of James B. Taylor (Philadelphia, PA: Bible and
Publication Society, 1872), 265; Jesse C. Fletcher, "A History of the Foreign Mission
Board of the Southern Baptist Convention During the Civil War," Baptist History and
Heritage 10 (October 1975): 205-06, 213-14.

10. Charles E. Taylor, The Story of Yates the Missionary, As Told in His Letters and
Reminiscences (Nashville, TN: Sunday School Board, 1898), 147, 150; Fletcher, "A
History of the Foreign Mission Board," 217-19; Holland N. McTyeire, History o
Methodism (Nashville, TN: Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1884), 665; Daniel,
"The Effects of the Civil War on Southern Protestantism," 44.

11. Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, 2:20-22; Monroe, "The Presbyterian Church
in the Confederate States of America," 294, 305, 309; McTyeire, History of Methodism,

12. James F. Sulzby, Jr., Toward a History of Samford University (Birmingham, AL:
Samford University Press, 1986), 1:44; Centenary College Faculty Minutes, 17 October
1861, quoted in Ralph Eugene Reed, Jr., "Fortresses of Faith: Design and Experience
at Southern Evangelical Colleges, 1830-1900" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1991),
257; Reed, "Fortresses of Faith," 255-57; Charles Finney Ogilvie, "Alabama Baptists
During the Civil War and Reconstruction" (Th.M. thesis, Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary, 1956), 27-28; Comer Hastings, "The Methodist Episcopal
Church, South During the Reconstruction Period" (M.A. thesis, Duke University, 1932),
16; Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War on Southern Protestantism," 54; Samuel
Luttrell Akers, The First Hundred Years of Weslevan College. 1836-1936 (Macon, GA:
Beehive Press, 1976), 74; B. D. Ragsdale, Story of Georgia Baptists (Macon, GA:

Mercer University Press, 1935-38), 2:177, 3:106; Bethel Baptist Association, Minutes,
1865, 6.
Dr. George W. Carter, president of Soule University in Texas, became a colonel
in the Confederate army and led his students to battle. Phelan, A History of Early
Methodism in Texas, 464-67.

13. Spright Dowell, A History of Mercer University. 1833-1953 (Macon, GA: Mercer
University Press, 1958), 409; Charles F. Pitts, Chaplains in Gray: The Confederate
Chaplains' Story (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1957), 28; Waller Raymond Cooper,
Southwestern at Memphis. 1848-1948 (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1949), 30-31;
Winstead Paine Bone, A History of Cumberland University (Lebanon, TN: published by
the author, 1935), 82; Georgia Baptist Convention, Minutes, 1866, 18; List of War
Claims. Confined Entirely to Claims for Use and Occupation or Rent of Church
Buildings. College Buildings, and Other Public Buildings, by the Military Forces of the
United States During the War. Coupled in Some Cases with a Claim for Damages Done
to the Building During the Occupancy With a Statement of Each Case Compiled for
Convenience of Members of the Senate Committee on Claims in Connection with an
Examination of H. R. 19115 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1912), 35.

14. Southern Presbyterian, 4 January 1866; W. Harrison Daniel, "Southern Presbyterians
in the Confederacy," North Carolina Historical Review 44 (Summer 1967): 253.
Presbyterian minister James A. Lyon wrote in his diary that he warned the Treasurer of
the seminary that investing in Confederate bonds was unwise, because even if the
Confederacy succeeded, he believed all Confederate money and bonds would be
repudiated. James Adair Lyon, Diary, 1861-1870, entry for May 1863, Historical
Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches; Synod of Georgia, Minutes
1865, 12-13.

15. Reed, "Fortresses of Faith," 272-73; Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War on
Southern Protestantism," 52; Hastings, "The Methodist Episcopal Church, South During
the Reconstruction Period," 15-16; Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, 2:97.
Even the Baptist trustees of the small Hearn School in Rome, Georgia, invested
its endowment of $4,000 in Confederate bonds which became worthless in 1865.
Georgia Baptist Convention, Minutes, 1866, 18.

16. William H. Nelson, A Burning Torch and a Flaming Fire: The Story of Centenary
College of Louisiana (Nashville, TN: Methodist Publishing House, 1931), 177-82;
Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War on Southern Protestantism," 54; George J.
Stevenson, Increase in Excellence: A History of Emory and Henry College (New York:
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1963), 92-96; Allen Tankersley, College Life at Old
Oglethorpe (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1951), 108-13; Henry M. Bullock, A
History of Emory University (Nashville, TN: Parthenon Press, 1936), 149; George V.
Irons, "Howard College as a Confederate Military Hospital," Alabama Review 9
(January 1956): 22-23; Bethel Baptist Association, Minutes, 1865, 6; Irby D. Engram,
"A History of Andrew College" (M.A. thesis, Emory University, 1939), 26-27.

17. Cooper, Southwestern at Memphis. 1848-1948, 30-31; Synod of Memphis, Minutes,
1860-1865, meeting of 1862, Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed
Churches; John N. Waddel, Memorials of Academic Life (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian
Committee of Publication, 1891), 365; Churches and Institutions of Learning Destroyed
by the United States Military Forces During the Civil War. But Not as an Act of Military
Necessity. The Materials Having Been Appropriated and Used (Washington, DC:
Government Printing Office, 1912), 12; J. Barien Lindsley, "Outline History of
Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee, 1842-1876," Theological Medium 12
(October 1876): 437-38; Bone, A History of Cumberland University, 82, 87; List of War
Claims. Confined Entirely to Claims for Use and Occupation or Rent, 34; Ragsdale,
Story of Georgia Baptists, 3:106; Bainbridge District Conference, Minutes, 1867-1878,
April 1868 meeting, South Georgia Conference Archives, Epworth-by-the-Sea, GA.

18. Fannie A. Beers, Memories: A Record of Personal Experience and Adventure During
Four Years of War (Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1889), 80; Kate Cumming,
Kate: The Journal of a Confederate Nurse, ed. Richard Barksdale Harwell (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1959), 144, 207; Glenn A. Toomey, Jubilee Three:
History of the Sweetwater Baptist Association and its Affiliated Churches. 1830-1980
(Madisonville, TN: n.p., 1980), 77; List of War Claims. Confined Entirely to Claims
for Use and Occupation or Rent. 29, 33; Fred T. Wooten, Jr., "Religious Activities in
Civil War Memphis," Tennessee Historical Quarterly 3 (September 1944): 261-62;
Ogilvie, "Alabama Baptists During the Civil War and Reconstruction," 28.

19. Beers, Memories, 80; Cumming, Kate, 144; Southern Presbyterian, 5 November

20. List of War Claims Including a Few Exceptional Cases for Churches: Also List of
Other Claims to Which Objections Appear. Such as Laches. No Proof of Loyalty.
Insufficient Evidence as to Facts. Evidence of Payment and Statutory Bars. With a
Statement of Each Case Compiled for the Convenience of Members of the Senate
Committee on Claims in Connection With an Examination of H.R. 19115 (Washington,
DC: Government Printing Office, 1912), 11; Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War on
Southern Protestantism," 48-49; List of War Claims. Confined Entirely to Claims for
Use and Occupation or Rent. 31-32, 36; Churches and Institutions of Learning
Destroyed, 7; Hunter Dickinson Farish, The Circuit Rider Dismounts: A Social History
of Southern Methodism. 1865-1900 (Richmond, VA: Dietz Press, 1938), 29; Dover
Baptist Association, Minutes, 1864, 20, quoted in Bell Irvin Wiley, Southern Negroes.
1861-1865 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1938), 101; Monroe, "The
Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America," 312.
The Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta was, according to its returning pastor,
"very little injured" in its use by the Federal troops. Robert Quarterman Mallard Papers,
Pastoral Record, 1855-1865, entry of May 14, 1865, Historical Foundation of the
Presbyterian and Reformed Churches.

21. Garnett Ryland, The Baptists of Virginia. 1699-1926 (Richmond, VA: Baptist Board
of Missions and Education, 1955), 297; American Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of
Important Events, vol. 6, 1866 (New York: Appleton, 1870), 625; Stephen F. Fleharty,
Our Regiment. A History of the 102nd Illinois Infantry Volunteers (Chicago: Brewster
and Hanscom, 1865), 132; List of War Claims. Confined Entirely to Claims for Use and
Occupation or Rent, 29; List of War Claims Including a Few Exceptional Cases for
Churches, 11.

22. William Warren Sweet, The Methodist Episcopal Church and the Civil War
(Cincinnati, OH: Methodist Book Concern Press, 1912), 222-24; Pitts, Chaplains in
Gray, 28-29; Christopher Hendrick Owen, "Sanctity, Slavery, and Segregation:
Methodists and Society in Nineteenth-Century Georgia" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University,
1991), 339; Monroe, "The Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America,"
336-38; W. Harrison Daniel, Southern Protestantism in the Confederacy, 32; James
Stacy, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Georgia (Elberton, GA: Press of the Star,
1912), 181-82; Christian Advocate (Nashville, TN), 8 May 1861. See also Sidney J.
Romero, "Louisiana Clergy and the Confederate Army," Louisiana History 2 (Summer
1961): 277-300.
For further discussion of Confederate chaplains and religion in the Confederate
armies, see Sidney J. Romero, Religion in the Rebel Ranks (Lanham, MD: University
Press of America, 1983), Daniel, Southern Protestantism in the Confederacy, and
Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr., A Shield and Hiding Place: The Religious Life of the Civil
War Armies (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987).

23. W. Stanley Hoole, "The Diary of Dr. Basil Manly, 1858-1867," Part II, Alabama
Review 4 (July 1951): 223; Smith, The Life and Times of George Foster Pierce, 482.

24. Willard E. Wight, ed., "Pay the Preacher!: Two Letters from Louisiana, 1864,"
Louisiana History 1 (Summer 1960): 255-56; J. L. M. Curry to Basil Manly II, 26
October 1866, Manly Collection of Manuscripts, Southern Baptist Historical Library and
Archives, Nashville, TN; John C. Ley, Fifty-Two Years in Florida (Nashville, TN:
Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South, 1899), 90-91, 94; Southern Presbyterian,
25 January 1866; Thomas W. Caskey, Caskey's Last Book. Containing an
Autobiographical Sketch of His Ministerial Life, with Essays and Sermons (Nashville,
TN: n.p., 1896), 48; Smith, The Life and Times of George Foster Pierce, 491.

25. J. L. M. Curry to Basil Manly II, 26 October 1866, Manly Collection of
Manuscripts, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. Basil Manly, Sr. is also
Basil Manly II. Although his father was Basil Manly, Basil Manly, Sr. named his oldest
son Basil Manly, Jr. Both Basil Sr. and Basil Jr. were active in the Southern Baptist
At least six Methodist traveling preachers in Georgia were killed during
Confederate service. Owen, "Sanctity, Slavery, and Segregation," 339.

26. Memorials of Methodism in Macon. Georgia. From 1828 to 1878 (Macon, GA: J.
W. Burke, 1879), 34; Daniel, "The Effects of the Civil War on Southern Protestantism,"

27. By the spring of 1867, Georgia churches had begun to recover from the losses of the
war, although many black members were yet to leave. The Georgia Association of the
Georgia Baptist Convention, for example, lost 2,219 members between 1867 and 1868,
most of them freedmen. Georgia Baptist Convention, Minutes, 1860, 1867; Robert G.
Gardner, Charles 0. Walker, J.R. Huddlestun, and Waldo P. Harris III, A History of
the Georgia Baptist Association. 1784-1984 (Atlanta: Georgia Baptist Historical Society,
1988), 204, 213, 219.

28. Phelan, A History of Early Methodism in Texas, 467; Cincinnati Gazette (Cincinnati,
OH) 16 June 1865; John N. Waddel Diary, 1 December 1863, 12 December 1864, John
N. Waddel Papers, Library of Congress, quoted in Reed, "Fortresses of Faith," 264;
Southern Presbyterian, 22 December 1864; Central Presbyterian (Richmond, VA), 27
August 1863.

29. Mary Jones to Joseph Jones, 2 May 1865, Joseph Jones Papers, Hill Memorial
Library, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, quoted in Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts
of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 13; Grace Elmore Brown Diary, 10 May 1865,
South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, quoted in ibid., 13; S. H. Ford, "Duty of
Southern Churches," Christian Repository and Family Visitor: A Southern Religious and
Literary Monthly (June 1866): 65; South Carolina Presbytery, Minutes, September 1865,
Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches; William Safford to
Mrs. Mary Thompson, 26 December 1865, Safford Family Papers, Correspondence,
1863-1877, Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches; J. W.
Kincheloe to Joseph Holt, 20 September 1865, Joseph Holt Papers, L, 6605-a, Library
of Congress, quoted in E. Merton Coulter, The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1926), 395; Alfred Mann Pierce, Lest
Faith Forget: The Story of Methodism in Georgia (Atlanta: Georgia Methodist
Information, 1951), 111.
A correspondent to the Christian Index in January 1866 wrote that "the
providence of God, in this unexpected consummation, is to us an unfathomable
mystery-we do not comprehend, and we have no right to comprehend it. Who are we,
that we should arraign the wisdom of the great God? . It is our duty to submit, and
to believe that the Lord of all the earth will do right. Yet by this mysterious providence
the faith of some good men, in the justice of God, has been shaken; against this evil
effect they, doubtless, struggle; but the harm is, it deadens the zeal and excuses
inertness." "Religious Literature for the South," Christian Index, 13 January 1866.
The feeling that God had deserted them manifested itself in the army as well.
One Presbyterian chaplain on hand for the surrender of the Confederate Army "wondered
what had happened. Why had defeat finally overtaken the people of the South? Had
God forgotten His flock?" William E. Boggs, The Secession of South Carolina and Her

Ten Sister States (Columbia, SC: n.p., 1915), 3, quoted in Monroe, "The Presbyterian
Church in the Confederate States of America," 330.
Jack P. Maddex, Jr. writes that the downfall of the Confederacy turned southern
Calvinists' "progressive millenialist confidence" into "millenarian desperation." The loss
"crushed the very structure of their hopes and plunged them into a crisis of faith." Jack
P. Maddex, Jr., "Proslavery Millenialism: Social Eschatology in Antebellum Southern
Calvinism," American Quarterly 31 (Spring 1979): 59.

30. American Baptist Home Mission Society, Annual Report, 1862, 50-51; Robert
Andrew Baker, Relations Between Northern and Southern Baptists (n.p., 1954; reprint,
New York: Arno Press, 1980), 90; Oliver Saxon Heckman, "Northern Church
Penetration of the South, 1860 to 1880" (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1939), 232. The
1864 figure includes only missionaries; the 1865 figure includes both missionaries and

31. Sweet, The Methodist Episcopal Church and the Civil War, 100, 139; General
Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Minutes, 1864, 278-79; Frank K. Pool,
"The Southern Negro in the Methodist Episcopal Church" (Ph.D. diss., Duke University,
1939), 45; Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America
During the Great Rebellion, 2d ed. (Washington, DC: Philip and Solomons, 1865), 523;
Isaac Patton Martin, Methodism in Holston (Knoxville, TN: Methodist Historical
Society, 1945), 81-87; Smith, The Life and Times of George Foster Pierce, 490.

32. General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (New
School), Minutes, 1864, 545; Harold M. Parker, Jr., The United Synod of the South:
The Southern New School Presbyterian Church (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988),
271-74; General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America
(New School), Minutes, 1866, 77; General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the
United States of America (Old School), Minutes, 1865, 553-54.

33. Ralph E. Morrow, Northern Methodism and Reconstruction (East Lansing: Michigan
State University Press, 1956), 155-56; Franklin C. Talmage, The Story of the Synod of
Georgia (n.p., 1961), 75.

34. Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, PA), 30 May 1863; Clarence E. Walker, A Rock
in a Weary Land: The African Methodist Episcopal Church During the Civil War and
Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982), 49-50, 64; Daniel
A. Payne, A History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, ed. C. S. Smith
(Nashville, TN: Publishing House of the AME Sunday-School Union, 1891), 471-72;
David Henry Bradley, Sr., A History of the AME Zion Church. 1796-1872 (Nashville,
TN: Parthenon Press, 1956), 160-62.

35. Sweet, The Methodist Episcopal Church and the Civil War, 96; Robert D. Clark,
The Life of Matthew Simpson (New York: Macmillan Co., 1956), 230; McPherson, The
Political History of the United States of America, 521.


36. McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America, 521-22; Baker,
Relations Between Northern and Southern Baptists, 88-89.

37. Christian Advocate and Journal (New York), 4 February 1864; Clark, The Life of
Matthew Simpson, 232-33; Morrow, Northern Methodism and Reconstruction, 34-35.

38. McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America, 522; American
Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events, vol. 4, 1864 (New York:
Appleton, 1870), 515; Morrow, Northern Methodism and Reconstruction. 37-39; R. W.
Kennon to 0. M. Addison, 4 June 1865, quoted in Phelan, A History of Early
Methodism in Texas, 486.

39. Smith, The Life and Times of George Foster Pierce, 492.

40. Methodist (New York), 19 December 1863.


Religious southerners upheld the Confederacy both in victory and in defeat. Few,

if any, groups could surpass Confederate clergymen in their devotion to the southern

cause. They preached for it, prayed for it, and interpreted God's purposes in it from the

beginning to the end. White religious southerners were certain, even through the bitter

spring of 1865, that God favored the Stars and Bars. Then came defeat, sudden and

complete. How could such a calamity befall the people and fledgling nation whom God

favored and whose cause was righteous? The answer for most white religious

southerners was that God was chastening the southern people for greater usefulness in

the future.

In the fall of 1860 and the spring of 1861, however, southerners had little reason

to worry about God's chastening. Abolitionists, Republicans, and northerners in general,

southern churchmen believed, had much greater cause to fear God's wrath. Southern

ministers supported, and sometimes even led, the movements for secession in the

individual southern states. While South Carolina was moving toward secession with

other southern states following closely behind, Louisiana wavered. The state's economic

ties to the upper Mississippi Valley made secession an even more ominous decision for

Louisiana's citizens. Presbyterian minister Benjamin Morgan Palmer, a native South

Carolinian, seized the chance to address the political crisis in his sermon on November

29, Thanksgiving Day. Palmer insisted that the conflict between the sections was rooted

in "morals and religion." God had "providentially committed" to the South the duty "to

conserve and perpetuate the institution of domestic slavery as now existing." Northern

efforts to interfere with the South's divine imperative were an offense against God. In

short, Palmer proclaimed, "we defend the cause of God and religion." The citizens of

"all the Southern States" should "take all the necessary steps looking to separate and

independent existence." Closing his sermon with the declaration that "whatsoever be the

fortunes of the South, I accept them for my own," Palmer appealed for the divine

protection of the South: "May the Lord God cover her head in this her day of battle."'

Thousands of copies of Palmer's sermon were published in New Orleans and

distributed throughout Louisiana and the South. Several newspapers reprinted the entire

text of the sermon. Thaddeus W. McRae, a Presbyterian minister in Baton Rouge who

had unionist sentiments, marvelled at the effect of Palmer's sermon upon his

congregation. On the same day that Palmer delivered his sermon in New Orleans,

McRae preached a sermon which "deprecated the threatened revolution," and several

"leading Church members" congratulated him. Palmer's printed sermon appeared in

Baton Rouge the following morning, and "that afternoon I found my own prominent

Elders and members on the other side." Palmer's sermon advocating the South's duty

to perpetuate slavery through secession "reconciled the majority of Presbyterians in the

State to secession. "2

Palmer, though perhaps one of the more eloquent on the subject, was hardly alone

in his sentiments that southerners had a religious duty to protect and uphold slavery, and

with it, southern society. The Alabama Baptist Convention, meeting at the end of 1860

in Tuskegee, unanimously adopted a resolution offered by Basil Manly, Sr., which

declared that Alabama Baptists felt bound to declare themselves "subject to the call of

proper authority in defense of the sovereignty and independence of the state of Alabama,

and of her sacred right as a sovereignty to withdraw from this union." In this

declaration, they were "heartily, deliberately, unanimously, and solemnly united." One

observer believed that this declaration, like Palmer's sermon in Louisiana, "did more to

precipitate the secession of Alabama from the Union than any other one cause."

Throughout the South, thousands of preachers and editors of religious newspapers urged

southerners onward toward secession.3

During the war as well, evidence abounds of southern churches' exhorting their

members to support the Confederate cause.4 Publicly, ministers assured southerners that

God favored the Confederacy and would ultimately give them the victory. Privately,

religion provided individual southerners with the determination to continue in the

struggle. From Charleston, South Carolina, Presbyterian Thomas Smyth declared that

the fall of Fort Sumter "was a signal gun from the battlements of heaven, announcing

from God to every Southern State, 'This cause is mine.'" Shortly after the Emancipation

Proclamation was issued, the Southern Presbyterian declared that "if by events a people

were ever justified before God, if reason and Scripture are worth anything, then are we

today right, right before Him and our own hearts, proved right by the terrible wrong and

sin surging against us." In March 1863, Bishop George Foster Pierce of the Methodist

Episcopal Church, South and Benjamin Morgan Palmer of the Presbyterian Church in the

Confederate States of America delivered sermons before the Georgia General Assembly.

Pierce declared before the legislators that God "is for us and with us." The willingness

of the Confederate Government to proclaim fast days "bring our country . into

peculiar covenant relations with God, and enlist in our defense, the resources which God

alone can command." In Pierce's view there was no "object proposed by our

Government . [upon] which we may not consistently, piously, scripturally invoke the

Divine blessing." The cause of the Confederacy was the cause of God. The reason was

simple: "the Southern people . have never corrupted the gospel of Christ." Palmer

reiterated Pierce's sentiments, declaring "our cause is pre-eminently the cause of God

himself, and every blow struck by us is in defense of His supremacy." This paramount

fact explained why southern ministers had "borne a distinguished part in this momentous

struggle"; their loyalty to God compelled them to strike against the "wicked infidelity"

of the North. Based on his understanding of God's providence in the war, Palmer

assured the Georgia legislature that "God is dealing with us, not in judgment, but in

discipline." Nine months later, Palmer confidently assured the South Carolina General

Assembly that the divine purpose of the Confederacy was to preserve "God's right to

rule the world. "'

The conviction that God was on the side of the South also permeated the

Confederate armies. One of the more popular songs among the Army of Northern

Virginia was "God Save the South," which includes the following verse:

God made the right
Stronger than might.
Millions would trample us
Down in their pride.
Lay Thou their legions low,
Roll back the ruthless foe,
Let the proud spoiler know
God's on our side.'

Many preachers sent soldiers away to battle with words like those Methodist Augustus

Baldwin Longstreet, the president of South Carolina College, used: "Gallant sons of a

gallant State, away to the battle field, with the Bible in your arms and its precepts in

your hearts. If you fall, the shot which sends you from earth, translates you to


On a personal level, the "sustaining faith" of Alabama soldier Hiram Talbert Holt

encouraged him through many battles with the 38th Alabama Infantry in the Army of

Tennessee. Shortly after the war began, he assured his wife that "the God of the just

will be with us to shield us from harm & give us victory." After General Braxton

Bragg's defeat at Tullahoma, Tennessee, and the fall of Vicksburg in the summer of

1863, Holt despaired of victory. Only his personal faith sustained him as a soldier and

as a southerner. In early September, Holt wrote that while he had suffered much in the

past months, "yet I feel even more faith now in the declaration of the inspired writer than

ever before. 'That all things work well together for those who serve the Lord.'"

Learning of the death of his infant daughter whom he had never seen, Holt wrote to his

wife, "I hope you have borne your loss with Christian fortitude, and that like good old

Job, you have exclaimed, 'The Lord giveth & the Lord taketh away, thrice blessed be

the name of our Lord.' Also remember whom God loveth he chasteneth." Less than a

month later, he fell in a skirmish near Dalton, Georgia.8

Methodist chaplain Morgan Callaway of Georgia wrote to his wife in 1864:

"What a thorough test this war is of faith in Christ." Although it was "a dark hour truly

for the Confederacy," Callaway had "unchanged hope in ultimate success." He told his

wife Leila at home in Cuthbert that if she were able to see the necessity for men in the

field, "you would be willing for your own Morgan's life to be sacrificed in the sacred

cause." Although "offered on several bloody fields, God has not yet accepted it."

Fellow Georgia Methodist Thomas Conn wrote after the First Battle of Manassas that

"knowing the Lord will do right, [I] can face the cannon's mouth, . and if it is his

will I should die here, can die, like a hero expecting a happy reunion with friends and

relatives where there is no war." Callaway survived the war and helped to rebuild the

Southern Methodist Church in Georgia, but Conn was killed in battle.9

Southern civilians also relied on their religious faith to help them endure the

adversities of war. Sarah M. Manly wrote in early 1862 to her three sons in the army,

"I am humbly thankful that I have reason to believe that you have each enlisted under

the banner of the cross of Jesus Christ. God knows that my greatest desire is (and has

ever been) that you should be, sincere and consistent Christians." Their father, Basil

Manly, Sr., wrote, "Life itself is not too dear or precious to be offered up in defense of

our country and the churches of our God." Neither he nor his wife were willing to

withhold their sons from serving their country "in the hour of her need. It is the service

of God; and of the cause of humanity and religion. "10

Many Confederate Christians believed that southerners' sins had aroused God's

wrath and that he would punish them by prolonging the war. In July 1863, Basil Manly,

Jr. wrote to his brother Charles: "I know we have sinned and richly deserve

chastisement, and I believe we should have it, and the Yankees may be used as the rod

in God's hand; but, for all that, I cannot believe we should be either subjugated or

exterminated by them." Methodist Leroy M. Lee addressed the same theme in his

sermon to a congregation in Lynchburg, Virginia, on August 21, 1863, a national fast

day. Lee insisted that because the Confederate cause was righteous, "failure is

impossible, except by default of our own efforts, or by reason of our sins and

unworthiness." The chief danger to the Confederacy was "among ourselves. Our

reverses are the punishment of our sins.""

When the tide of battle turned against the Confederacy, southern Christians turned

for solace and inspiration to biblical examples of God's miraculous deliverance of his

chosen people from their enemies. In April 1864 Captain B. F. Eddins, a deacon in the

Baptist church at Montgomery, Alabama, was mortally wounded by Union cavalry as

they approached the outskirts of the town. Basil Manly, Sr. conducted the funeral and

chose for his text Judges 6:13: "If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?"

The passage relates the story of Gideon, one of the judges of Israel. When Gideon

questioned God's choice of him as a leader of the Israelites, the Lord said to him,

"Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man." With only

300 men and the help of God, Gideon miraculously defeated the hosts of the Midianites,

who incidentally were camped on the north side of the Israelites. The lesson was clear


for the embattled Confederates: God's intervention could and would save the

Confederacy. He did not need great armies to accomplish his purposes and drive back

the invading hosts.12

Even to the very end, religious Confederates were certain that God would deliver

the South and uphold its independence. The Ebenezer Baptist Association insisted in the

fall of 1864 that "while the chastising rod of God has been visited upon us, a wicked

people, we still believe we are on the side of truth and justice; and while we humbly bow

to an Allwise providence, we humbly trust in God, hoping and believing that success will

yet attend our cause." Sounding the same theme, the Reverend H. C. Hornady, the

pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, assured his congregation on December 24,

1864 that the "blackened ruins" amidst which they sat were evidence of the chastening

hand of God. Just as an earthly father disciplines his children, "so the Lord by his

chastening of us manifests his love to us, and gives us the assurance that we are his

children, the dear objects of his love." Despite the destruction, Hornady was confident

of God's favor: "My brethren, this is, indeed, one evidence that we are the children of

God: that he has not forsaken us. He chastens us as we have been because we are his

children, and he loves us as his children. When I survey the ruins by which we are

surrounded, I still feel that a father's hands holds the rod while he inflicts on us the

stripes." Homrnady exhorted his church, "Coming out of the fire purified and chastened,

but still not destitute of hope, let us be a faithful, earnest, and devoted people.""13

In late February 1865, a writer to the Baptist Christian Index warned that "the

crying sin of the people of God throughout our beleaguered, devastated, and bleeding

country, is their want of faith in God, and our righteous cause." The reason the war had

dragged on for four years was simple: "It is our want of faith!" Throughout the war

religious Confederates had blamed battlefield reverses on a variety of sins among the

southern people, including extortion, moral laxity, intemperance, profanity, desecration

of the Sabbath, and abuses of the institution of slavery. Near the end of the war, this

Baptist beseeched all southerners to repent of their ultimate sin-their lack of faith in God

and in the Confederacy. They must confidently call upon the Lord of hosts, and

"speedily, we shall be taken out of the fiery furnace ... [and] established as a separate

and independent nation."4

As late as March 1865 the Presbyterian newspapers of the South urged their

readers to put away despondency and "Stand fast; quit you like men." Although the

Confederacy had suffered serious reverses, other successful causes had struggled through

worse circumstances. The editors exhorted their people to "take good heart in this holy

work of defence, to which they are summoned by the unmistakable providence of God."

The role of encouragement was the "solemn duty" of the religious papers, because the

conflict was devoted to saving for the South "the priceless boon of both civil and

religious freedom." In Georgia the Christian Index agreed. The editors felt that the

crisis "demands that we give words of encouragement and cheer to our people." They

were not troubled and felt as strongly as ever that "under God, we will yet gain our

independence." To their readers they counseled, "despair not, but with eyes fixed on

the glorious goal of independence, struggle on unfalteringly, till the shout of triumph

goes up all over our land!"15

Of course the shout of triumph which went out across the land was uttered by

northern armies, northern citizens, and northern Christians. Defeat crushed the people

of the South, and deeply perplexed religious Confederates. They had been "taught in

every Southern paper, and in almost every Southern pulpit, that the justice of the

Southern cause must ensure its success." Now they faced overwhelming defeat. "The

South lies prostrate," seventeen-year-old Emma LeConte confided to her diary in

Columbia, South Carolina, "there is no help .. who could have believed who has

watched this four years' struggle that it could have ended like this! They say right

always triumphs, but what cause could have been more just than ours? Have we suffered

all-have our brave men fought so desperately and died so nobly for this?" A month

later when remnants of the southern army had returned to Columbia, LeConte still found

it hard to believe the Confederacy was no more: "The army is disbanded now-oh!

Merciful God!-the hot tears rush into my eyes and I cannot write."16

The Reverend Moses Drury Hoge, Presbyterian pastor in Richmond, wrote to a

close friend in May 1865: "The idolized expectation of a separate nationality, of a social

life and literature and civilization of our own, together with a gospel guarded against the

contamination of New England infidelity, all this has perished, and I feel like a

shipwrecked mariner thrown up like a seaweed on a desert shore." He continued,

"God's dark providence enwraps me like a pall; I cannot comprehend, but I will not

charge him foolishly; I cannot explain, but I will not murmur. . I await the

development of his providence, and I am thankful that I can implicitly believe that the

end will show that all has been ordered in wisdom and love." Hoge, like other


southerners, drew comfort from the Old Testament account of Job's righteous suffering.

Like Job, he concluded, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." In September he

was still uncertain of God's purposes in the war: "I have not been very well since the

surrender. . These inscrutable providence are like the half lines written in the

palaces of the Casars-what is to come after will explain and complete their meaning."17

The Rappahannock Baptist Association gathered just six weeks after Lee's

surrender to survey the remnants of their group of churches and begin the work of

religious reconstruction. They were certain that "the sore trials through which we have

passed and the darkness which now overshadows us are a part of the workings of

Providence." Reflecting the common Confederate understanding of the war, they

declared, "our severe chastisements . are ordained of God, as instruments to work for

us a far more exceeding and eternal glory."8 Like these Virginia Baptists, most

religious southerners believed Hebrews 12:6-7 explained God's dealings with them: "For

whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye

endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the

father chasteneth not?" God loved the South even though he allowed them to be

defeated. He had greater things planned for the South which southerners could not then

comprehend, according to the scriptural promise, "all things work together for good to

them that love God." They had to cling to faith when they lacked understanding.19 The

firm belief that the defeat of the Confederacy did not signal God's disapproval shaped

white religious southerners responses to the issues of religious reconstruction.

The primary duty of southern ministers and editors in 1865 and 1866 was to

convince themselves and their congregations that God had not deserted the South. To

accomplish this task, they assured their churches that the southern cause had been

righteous, that their afflictions were God's chastisement rather than his judgment, and

that God would eventually vindicate the South in some unknown way. The righteousness

of the southern cause, the justice of God, and Confederate defeat could and would be

reconciled. 20

Even before the war ended, some ministers were developing a framework within

which they could accommodate both the assurance of God's continued favor and the

military defeat of the Confederacy. In April 1864 Baptist clergyman Thomas S.

Dunaway warned a Virginia congregation against believing "an idea which I have heard

some advance, when they say that if our cause is just and right it will succeed in any

event; and if it fail it is conclusive that our cause is a bad one, and God is displeased

with our institutions." Dunaway insisted that "an accurate acquaintance with the ways

of Providence as manifested in the Scriptures, will disabuse our minds of this error."

Failure did not imply God's final judgment. Rather, it might simply be part of his own

"wise purposes" to "withhold success from his most faithful servants."21 This argument

was developed by a wide array of southern evangelicals in the immediate aftermath of

the war to explain why God would permit the defeat of a righteous cause.

Near the end of 1865, a writer in the Baptist Religious Herald reflected on the

providential meaning of Confederate defeat. Because Confederates were certain of the

righteousness and the eventual triumph of their cause, "the blow that overthrew the


Confederacy, shook their faith in the righteous providence of God." Something was

obviously awry; "either the Confederate cause was wrong, or Providence does not always

favor the right side." The author quickly revealed where the problem lay. "Believing

that the Confederate cause was righteous, we need not have our confidence in Divine

Providence shaken by its failure." Clearly, right did not invariably triumph over might.

"That truth and righteousness will finally triumph, we have no doubt; but it is one of the

mysteries of Providence, that in this world, and for a season, they are permitted to be

obscured and perverted." In conclusion, "there is nothing in the issues of our late

unhappy and ruinous war to change our views as to the rectitude of the Southern struggle

for independence." The author examined the southern quest, and found it, on the whole,

virtuous. It was their view of God's providence, not their purposes in the war, that

Confederate Christians needed to reevaluate.22

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of

America, meeting in Augusta, Georgia, in December 1865, assured southern

Presbyterians that God had not forsaken them. "Our national sins have aroused God's

wrath, and caused Him to visit us with sore national calamities and bereavements."

They must "cordially acquiesce in the dispensations of his inscrutable Providence," with

the firm hope that God would pity his people and deliver them. Georgia Baptist S. G.

Hillyer wrote to the Christian Index, "let us not falter in our faith, in this time of public

and private calamity. Let us accept the chastenings of the Lord with all humility. They

are the dealings of a father's hand. His love in the method of its manifestation, may be

incomprehensible. But he is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind."23


Henry Holcomb Tucker, the editor of the Christian Index, admitted that "when

the Southern Confederacy fell, thousands of hearts were crushed." To those men and

women the editor offered Christian consolation: "Whether you see the good that is to

come of what has happened or not, is immaterial. God will be certain to subserve some

grand purpose of mercy by it. The present result is not of man's doings. God is the

author of his own providences" While many believed that "Providence had sent upon

them an overwhelming calamity," they must not challenge God's will or lose faith in his

plans: "The hand of the Lord is then in this thing. It is God who has done it. Will his

saints complain? Do they doubt his wisdom? Do they question his goodness?" Instead

of questioning God's decision in the conclusion of the war, southern Christians must

accommodate themselves to their changed circumstances. If they refused to do so, they

were "fighting against his providence, and disobeying the evident inclinations of his

will." Tucker insisted that "the facts before us are the materials God has given us with

which to operate, and to glorify him." The conclusion of the Civil War, of course, did

not reveal God's will as clearly to everyone as Tucker seemed to indicate. Northern

evangelicals, the freedmen, and southern religious scalawags all interpreted the facts

before them differently than did the majority of Confederate Christians. In conclusion

Tucker wrote, "we may console ourselves with this even in what seems to us to be the

darkest providence, that 'all things work together for good to them that love God'; so

therefore comfort one another with these words."24

Benjamin Morgan Palmer, driven to Columbia, South Carolina, by the war, also

believed God would vindicate the southern cause. Even after Lee's surrender, Palmer

encouraged his congregation with the hope of future deliverance. Emma LeConte wrote

in her journal on April 23, 1865: "Dr. Palmer this morning preached a fine and

encouraging sermon. He says we must not despair yet, but even if we should be

overthrown-not conquered-the next generation would see the South free and

independent. "25

Because they convinced themselves that the Confederate cause was righteous and

God still looked upon them as his people, southern Christians adamantly refused to

concede to northern charges that slavery and secession were sins for which God had

judged them. They vigorously denied any accusations that the outcome of the war could

be attributed to their peculiar institution or to their political course in 1861. The defense

of both slavery and secession had important implications for other aspects of religious

reconstruction as well.

The General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church, meeting late in 1865,

declared that the Church had no commission to propagate or abolish slavery; this matter

of policy belonged exclusively to the State. However, "the lawfulness of the relation as

a question of social morality, and of scriptural truth" was still a matter of vital

importance. The belief that slavery was inherently sinful was "unscriptural and

fanatical," and the acceptance of this creed by any church "is a just cause of separation

from it." Although southern Presbyterians may have cause to repent "for neglect of duty

or actual wrong towards our servants," they did not have "to bow the head in humiliation

before men, or admit that the memory of many of our dear kindred is to be covered with

shame" because they held slaves.26


In February 1866, a contributor to the Baptist Religious Herald challenged an

editorial which suggested that the war had been God's method of abolishing slavery.

"Can it be," he asked, "that it was the design of God in the late terrible civil war to

overthrow an institution which he himself ordained, established and sanctioned, and

which he 'designed' should exist forever?" Such a conclusion was ludicrous. God

would not have allowed all of this suffering and bloodshed "that an inferior race might

be released from nominal bondage and endowed with a freedom which, to them, is but

another name for licentiousness, and which must end in complete extermination, so far

as human foresight can judge." The author declared, "I cannot, I will not believe

it. . It was Satan that ruled the hour. "27

Presbyterian theologian Robert Lewis Dabney offered a 350-page justification of

slavery published in 1867 under the title, A Defence of Virginia, and Through Her, of

the South. To the question, "Is not the slavery question dead? Why discuss it longer?"

Dabney replied, "Would God it were dead! But in the Church, abolitionism lives, and

is more rampant and mischievous than ever, as infidelity." Therefore, the "faithful

servants of the Lord Jesus Christ dare not cease to oppose and unmask it." Dabney then

proceeded to offer arguments supporting slavery from the Old and New Testaments, and

from ethics and economics. "A righteous God," he concluded, "for our sins towards

Him, has permitted us to be overthrown by our enemies and His." The southern people

"suffer silently, disdaining to complain, and only raising to the chastening heavens, the

cry, 'How long, 0 Lord?'" Two years after the war ended, Dabney felt it his Christian

duty to uphold the righteousness of slavery, and await future vindication by God.28


Likewise, even a full decade after Appamattox, Methodist Thomas 0. Summers, editor

of the Nashville Christian Advocate, attacked the idea that slavery was an inherently

sinful institution. As late as 1892, the Southern Baptist Convention articulated a religious

defense of the institution through which the black slave "exchanged the degrading

idolatry of his native land for the truths of the gospel, and from his cabin home the

witchery of Christian melodies banished the voudoism of his fatherland. "29

Likewise, southern evangelicals defended the righteousness of secession, a course

which they heartily supported only a few years before. In justifying secession,

southerners reasserted their wartime arguments about the constitutional and moral right

for states to secede from the Union. The force of arms had determined the fact of the

future relationship of the states to the Federal government, but southerners insisted that

morally they had acted correctly in 1861. The Christian men of the South, the Southern

Presbyterian maintained in 1866, "still believe that those views of States' Rights for

which they battled so stoutly, and from which the right of secession naturally flows, were

the views of the framers of the Constitution." Most still agreed with Presbyterian

Thomas Smyth of Charleston who in 1863 claimed that the South had exercised "the

divine right of secession. "30

Neither slavery nor secession had provoked God into forsaking the southern

people. Both the peculiar institution and the political separation were righteous before

him, and although God had chastised Confederate Christians, he was only preparing them

for greater usefulness in the future. With this understanding of God's intentions in

Confederate defeat, southern evangelicals considered one of the most important issues

of religious reconstruction-reunion with their northern counterparts. Northern

Christians, meanwhile, had come to very different conclusions about God's providence

in the war, and had developed their own vision for the religious reconstruction of the

South. When the two groups discussed the issue, their divergent visions of religious

reconstruction quickly led to harsh accusations and uncompromising attitudes.

Initially, the southern churches were in such a critical condition that even their

leaders displayed some doubts about their future. Quickly, however, Confederate

Christians established their interpretation of the war as God's chastening and committed

themselves to rebuild their southern religious institutions. In Sardis, Mississippi,

Methodist pastor Robert H. Crozier exhorted his congregation: "If we cannot gain our

political, let us establish at least our mental independence." Evangelicals across the

South expressed the same sentiments. The first official signs of life from the Southern

Methodist Church came from Missouri. There at Palmyra, Missouri, in June 1865, two

dozen preachers and a dozen laymen gathered to discuss their future. They considered

the maintenance of a separate and independent ecclesiastical organization "of paramount

importance and our imperative duty." For them to go into the Methodist Episcopal

Church would be "to admit the charge that with the institution of slavery we stand or

fall." They acknowledged that different ideas for the religious reconstruction of the

South had already been proposed. Referring to the northern Methodists, the report

protested, "The only consolidation or reconstruction they would accept would be that we

turn over to them our Church property and interests and influence; yield the whole field;

confess that we have been wrong; indorse the politics of their Church as a condition of


membership; and become political hucksters instead of Gospel ministers." Their

congregations demanded with "great unanimity" that the Methodist Episcopal Church,

South be preserved. The Palmyra Manifesto, coming from a border-state Conference,

invigorated the southern Church. A month later, Bishop George F. Pierce affirmed in

a letter to an Atlanta newspaper that "my deliberate judgment is, that our true policy is

to maintain our present organization."31

In August 1865 Bishops Andrew, Paine, and Pierce of the Methodist Episcopal

Church, South, wrote a pastoral address to southern Methodists, making it clear that they

had no intention of reuniting with the Methodist Episcopal Church. The majority of

northern Methodists, they lamented, "have become incurably radical. They teach for

doctrine the commandments of men. They preach another gospel. They have

incorporated social dogmas and political tests into their church creeds. They have gone

on to impose conditions upon discipleship that Christ did not impose." Faithfulness to

their "providential mission," the Bishops proclaimed, required that southern Methodists

"preserve our church in all its vigor and integrity, free from entangling alliances with

those whose notions of philanthropy and politics and social economy are liable to give

an ever varying complexion to their theology."32

The Memphis Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South met early

in October 1865 to begin the process of reorganization. On the final day of the meeting,

the Conference resolved that "we are decided in our purpose to maintain intact our

present ecclesiastical relations; believing that our membership desire no change; and that

any action of this Conference looking to a union with another church would be highly


prejudicial to Methodism." The Conference also declared that "we heartily approve, and

fully endorse the address of our Bishops." Other southern Methodist conferences

followed this example as they also expressed their commitment to southern ecclesiastical


The General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterians issued a pastoral letter to

all of its churches in December, 1865. Southern Presbyterians, the letter declared, were

forced to organize a separate assembly in 1861, and the reasons for that separation from

the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America "not only remain as conclusive

as at first, but have been exceedingly strengthened by events of public notoriety,

occurring each succeeding year." The General Assembly cautioned all southern

Presbyterians to "repel all unworthy attempts of men who may lie in wait to deceive, and

to cause you to fall from your own steadfastness." The Southern Presbyterian insisted

that "there is really no option in the matter." Reunion would imperil the southern

Church's "purity and safety" and "dishonor the Great Head of the Church."34

The ministers of the Georgia Baptist Association pledged their continued support

of "the Southern Organizations of our denomination." Any attempt to unite northern and

southern Baptists "would be productive of trouble and confusion and not good."35 In

early 1866 the new editor of the Christian Index declared that he had received "several

ably written articles in opposition to union of organization on the part of Northern and

Southern Baptists." Because his readers were "almost unanimous in opposition to this

measure," he considered it "needless to discuss it." The following week, he observed

that the editor of the Religious Herald declared that 99 of every 100 southern Baptists

favored the maintenance of their own southern organization. Not to be outdone, the

editor exclaimed that the figure "nearer the truth" was 999 out of 1,000: "Southern

Baptists are so nearly unanimous on this subject, that we think it worse than a waste of

time to discuss it." To the paper's correspondents who wrote letters on the subject, he

insisted that "it will be time enough to combat the proposition for reconstruction, when

somebody advocates it. . We think that the subject had better be dropped." In sum,

"there is not the least prospect of a re-union of Northern and Southern Baptists, for many

years to come, if ever." Ironically, in subsequent issues, the editor continued to discuss

the reasons why he did not discuss reunion. Evidently the editor or his readers needed

reassurance that no reasonable southern person would advocate reunion.36

While southern and northern evangelicals rejected reunion on the terms offered

by their counterparts in the other section, Confederate Christians affirmed their

commitment to rebuild their southern institutions. Denominational newspapers and

colleges were destroyed during the war, and resumed operation only after much effort.

Church buildings had to be rebuilt and organizational structures reestablished. Despite

the difficulties, southern evangelicals quickly set to work rebuilding their religious lives.

Only by reconstructing their "southern Zion" could Confederate Christians hope to

maintain a separate southern religious identity and prepare for the unfolding of God's

providential purpose for them.37

Another vital element of religious reconstruction for Confederate Christians was

the religious future of the freedman. Underlying all of the southern evangelicals'

decisions on this subject was a persistent and profound belief in the inferiority of the


black race. Several forces were at work in the months following the war that determined

the future relations between black and white Christians in the South. Some Confederate

Christians wanted little to do with the freedmen, socially or religiously. Infuriated over

emancipation, they resented any efforts on behalf of the freedmen and preferred to leave

them to the care of the northerners who had freed them. More southern evangelicals,

especially ministers, believed it to be still their duty to evangelize the freedmen just as

they had evangelized the slaves. As North Carolina Baptists resolved, the evangelization

of the black race was "a special duty imposed by the Providence of God on Southern

Christians." Texas Baptist F. M. Law insisted that the religious instruction of the

freedmen had to be "taken hold of, conducted and controlled by Southern people. "38 Of

course, this effort was in no way intended to advocate equality in church relations. The

structures of religious instruction which existed under slavery were to continue between

whites and freedmen; God's charge to southern Christians to uplift the black race had not

ended with emancipation, nor had the attitudes of paternalism died when the slaves

became free. This mixture of religious duty coupled with a desire to maintain control

over an inferior race motivated most southern evangelicals in 1865.39

The Alabama Baptist Convention clearly favored retaining black members in

white-controlled churches: "The changed political status of our late slaves does not

necessitate any change in their relation to our churches; and while we recognize their

right to withdraw from our churches and form organizations of their own, we

nevertheless believe that their highest good will be subserved by their maintaining their

present relation to those who know them, who love them, and who will labor for the


promotion of their welfare."40 Basil Manly, Sr. wrote in late 1865 that the black

members of his church had petitioned to be set apart as a separate church. Manly

doubted the wisdom of such a step: "We think they are not yet prepared for the

responsibility of an independent church state. We have told them so, but yet shall let go

our hold of them, if after our advice, they desire it."41

The Georgia Baptist Association, one of the member associations of the Georgia

Baptist Convention, included churches in eastern Georgia between Athens and Augusta.

At the end of the war, it had approximately nine thousand members. Nearly two thirds

of this membership was black, including five independent black congregations in Augusta

with over three thousand members. At the associational meeting in the fall of 1865, one

of the churches sent two queries regarding its black members. After "considerable

interchange of opinions" on this vital issue, the Georgia Baptist Association unanimously

declared that it was permissible for black members to form churches of their own, but

it was not considered "expedient at present in the country." The Association also

determined that it was scriptural for churches to continue to receive black members.42

The Georgia Synod of the Southern Presbyterian Church, meeting in Augusta in

October 1865, feared that their members would believe themselves to be absolved from

all obligation to labor for the salvation of black men and women since they were no

longer responsible for them as owners. The Synod exhorted the churches "not to relax,

but rather redouble their exertions for the religious instruction of the colored people."

Georgia Presbyterians hoped that when the freedmen recovered from the "temporary

intoxication of suddenly acquiring freedom," they would learn that, "after all, their late

masters are their best friends and most efficient instructors." ,43

Southern evangelicals insisted that a primary reason for blacks' leaving their

churches was the efforts of northern missionaries, both black and white, who had

descended on the South to stir discord among the freedmen. Confederate Christians had

to attribute the exodus either to black ignorance or to outside influences; to do otherwise

would shatter the myth of black complacency in slavery and would impugn their own

attitudes toward black Christians. The General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterians,

which met in November 1865, noted a "marked change" in the "religious deportment"

of the black population. Instead of crowding the churches for instruction and worship

as they formerly had, few of them were to be found in the Presbyterian churches. The

General Assembly attributed this calamity to "the insinuations of designing men, who,

for sinister purposes, have sought to alienate their affections" from their former

ministers, and to a "misapprehension of the feelings we entertain for them as a people."

To admit that blacks left the biracial churches on their own initiative and for good

reasons would not only shatter southern Presbyterians' confident assumptions of black

inferiority and docility, but would also belittle the results of their efforts to evangelize

the slaves.44

The members of the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church,

South, also meeting in the fall of 1865, pledged to continue evangelizing the freedmen

under white ministers wherever possible. However, the Conference requested the Bishop

to appoint the black pastors already selected by black congregations as supplies for those


churches because "we are desirous that all our colored members should continue to be

members of the M. E. Church, South." Although the Conference disclaimed any power

to transfer church property used by blacks before and during the war to the freedmen,

they did recommend that trustees of church property permit black congregations to use

church buildings even if none remained in the southern Methodist fold. Only by

retaining black members within the southern organization could southern evangelicals

insure the control necessary to maintain a measure of social mastery amid postwar


The decisions of most black Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians to leave the

churches of their masters demolished white plans to maintain antebellum religious

relationships. Faced with the fact of black exodus, southern church leaders repeatedly

readjusted their stance toward black Christians. Initially, leaders believed that the

antebellum patterns of paternalistic biracial churches could continue. Next, they

attempted the organization of the freedmen into separate congregations with white

ministers. Later, they accepted the idea that freedmen might have black ministers under

white supervision. Eventually, they assisted in the organization of black associations,

conferences, and presbyteries. Ultimately, they reluctantly admitted that the freedmen

would have an entirely separate and independent denominational structure. In the five

years that it took the Methodist Episcopal Church, South to adjust to this reality, the

denomination lost all but a few thousand of its over 200,000 black members. In 1870

two white bishops of the southern Church superintended the establishment of the Colored

Methodist Episcopal Church into which most of the remaining black members

transferred. 46

Southern Christians, confident of God's support from secession to surrender, were

dismayed at the collapse of the Confederacy. Why had God allowed this disaster to

befall his people? When southern Christians contemplated this question, their ministers

were ready with an explanation. Drawing heavily upon the reasoning they had developed

to explain battlefield defeats during the war, southern ministers extended these arguments

to cover the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy. All of these tribulations, from the loss

of a skirmish to the collapse of the nation, were designed by God to chasten his southern

children. These ordeals demonstrated God's love and concern; He had not deserted

them, but was instead purifying them for a glorious future vindication.

Believing that God had chastened them by defeat, Confederate Christians faced

the daunting tasks of religious reconstruction. They continued to uphold the

righteousness of slavery and secession, and closed ranks against northern Christians who

insisted that the war demonstrated God's disapproval of the sins of secession and slavery.

Confronting the northern vision of religious reconstruction, southern evangelicals refused

to discuss reunion with their northern counterparts who expected repentance. Instead of

repenting, southern Christians judged themselves righteous and zealously began to rebuild

the religious life of their southern Zion. While they accepted emancipation as a result

of the war, most saw no need for a change in the traditional religious relationship

between the races. The freedmen should remain in white churches where they would

hear the "pure" gospel and where whites could exercise a measure of control over them.

Blacks, however, held a divergent vision of what religious reconstruction meant based

on a different interpretation of the outcome of the war. Their withdrawal from biracial

churches during and immediately after the war forced white southern evangelicals to

modify their stance toward independent black churches in a vain attempt to retain some

control over the religious lives of the freedmen. These attitudes, forged between 1863

and 1866, shaped Confederate Christians' actions during religious reconstruction. The

competition between their vision and the alternative views held by northern Christians

and the freedmen determined the patterns of religious reconstruction during the next



1. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, The South: Her Peril and Her Duty. A Discourse
delivered in the First Presbyterian Church. New Orleans, on Thursday. November 29.
1860 (New Orleans: n.p., 1860), 6-16; Haskell Monroe, "Bishop Palmer's Thanksgiving
Day Address," Louisiana History 4 (1963): 105-18.

2. Thaddeus W. McRae Papers, typescript autobiography, 1880, Historical Foundation
of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, Montreat, NC.

3. Benjamin F. Riley, History of the Baptists of Alabama (Birmingham, AL: Roberts &
Son, 1895), 280; James W. Silver, Confederate Morale and Church Propaganda
(Tuscaloosa, AL: Confederate Publishing Co., 1957), 16-19; C. C. Goen, Broken
Churches. Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the Civil War
(Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1985), 170-74.
The Georgia Baptist Convention, meeting in April 1861, declared that: "We
declare it to be a pleasure and a duty to avow that, both in feeling and in principle, we
approve, endorse, and support the government of the Confederate States of America."
Georgia Baptist Convention, Minutes, 1861.

4. James W. Silver, Confederate Morale and Church Propaganda, 25-101; Drew Gilpin
Faust, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War
South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988); Richard E. Beringer,
Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones, and William N. Still, Jr., Why the South Lost the Civil
War (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), 82-102, 268-76; Willard E. Wight,
"The Churches and the Confederate Cause," Civil War History 6 (1960): 361-73; W.

Harrison Daniel, "Protestantism and Patriotism in the Confederacy," Mississippi
Ouarterlv 24 (1971): 117-34; David B. Chesebrough, "A Holy War: The Defense and
Support of the Confederacy by Southern Baptists," American Baptist Quarterly 6 (March
1987): 17-30.

5. Thomas Smyth, "The Battle of Fort Sumter: Its Mystery and Miracle-God's Mastery
and Mercy," Southern Presbyterian Review 14 (October 1861): 392; "The New Phase
of Our Contest," Southern Presbyterian (Columbia, SC), 29 January 1863; George Foster
Pierce and Benjamin Morgan Palmer, Sermons of Bishop Pierce and Rev. B. M. Palmer.
D.D. Delivered Before the General Assembly at Milledgeville. Ga.. on Fast Day. March
27 1863 (Milledgeville, GA: Boughton, Nisbet & Barnes, 1863), 3-5, 39-40; Benjamin
Morgan Palmer, A Discourse Before the General Assembly of South Carolina on
December 10. 1863. Appointed by the Legislature as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and
Prayer (Columbia, SC: Charles P. Pelham, State Printer, 1864). For similar sentiments,
see J. J. D. Renfroe, The Battle Is God's: A Sermon Preached Before Wilcox's Brigade
on Fast Day, the 21st of August. 1863. Near Orange Court-House. Va. (Richmond, VA:
MacFarlane & Fergusson, 1863); John Randolph Tucker, The Southern Church Justified
in Its Support of the South in the Present War (Richmond, VA: n.p., 1863); and William
A. Hall, The Historic Significance of the Southern Revolution: A Lecture Delivered by
Invitation in Petersburg. Va.. March 14th and April 29th, 1864. and in Richmond. Va..
April 7th and April 21st. 1864 (Petersburg, VA: A. F. Crutchfield, 1864).

6. The Army Songster. Dedicated to the Army of Northern Virginia (Richmond, VA,
1864), 65, quoted in H. Shelton Smith, In His Image. But . : Racism in Southern
Religion. 1780-1910 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1972), 191.

7. Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, Fast-Day Sermon (Columbia, SC: Townsend and North,
1861), 9-10.

8. Robert Partin, "The Sustaining Faith of an Alabama Soldier," Civil War History 6
(1960): 435-37; see also Drew Gilpin Faust, "Christian Soldiers: The Meaning of
Revivalism in the Confederate Army," Journal of Southern History 53 (February 1987):

9. Morgan Callaway to Leila Callaway, undated fragment from 1864, Morgan Callaway
papers, Special Collections, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University, Atlanta,
GA; William Thomas Conn to Mrs. M. A. Brantley, 25 July 1861, William Thomas
Conn Papers, Duke University, quoted in Christopher Hendrick Owen, "Sanctity,
Slavery, and Segregation: Methodists and Society in Nineteenth-Century Georgia" (Ph.D.
diss., Emory University, 1991), 340.
Private Robert C. Beck also found solace in his religious beliefs. After being
wounded in the foot on June 1, 1864, he crawled to the foot of a tree and waited for the
battle to end. "Oh how comforting was prayer to me then in my time of distress. Oh
who so dear a friend as Jesus in time of trouble." Beck's foot was amputated two days
later, and he died on July 22, 1864. Undated entry, Diary of Robert C. Beck, April-July

1864, Robert Alexander Webb Papers, Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and
Reformed Churches.

10. Sarah M. Manly to her sons, 15 February 1862, Basil Manly II to his sons, Charles,
James, and Fuller, 16 February 1862, Manly Collection of Manuscripts, Southern Baptist
Historical Library and Archives, Nashville, TN.

11. Basil Manly, Jr. to Charles Manly, 15 July 1863, Manly Collection of Manuscripts,
Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives; Leroy Madison Lee, Our
Country-Our Dangers-Our Duty. A Discourse in Centenary Church. Lynchburg, Va..
on the National Fast Day. August 21. 1863. (Richmond, VA: Soldiers' Tract
Association, 1863), 12.
North Carolina Presbyterian minister, Calvin H. Wiley, wrote in his widely read
book that "God is now chastening the country for its sins in connection with slavery."
Calvin H. Wiley, Scriptural Views of National Trials: Or the True Road to Independence
and Peace of the Confederate States of America (Greensboro, NC: Sterling, Campbell
and Albright, 1863), 191.

12. W. Stanley Hoole, "The Diary of Dr. Basil Manly, 1858-1867," Part IV, Alabama
Review 5 (January 1952): 72.

13. Ebenezer Baptist Association, Minutes, 1864, 2; H. C. Hornady, "Sermon,"
Christian Index (Macon, GA), 12 January 1865.

14. "Have Faith in God," Christian Index, 23 February 1865.

15. "Keep in Good Heart," Central Presbyterian reprinted in the Southern Presbyterian,
23 March 1865; "Words of Cheer," Christian Index. 30 March 1865.

16. "The Scepticism Engendered by the War," Christian Index. 13 January 1866; Earl
Schenck Miers, ed., When the War Ended: The Diary of Emma LeConte (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1987), 90, 99. Presbyterian Anna Safford wrote in her
diary, "When the news of Lee's surrender reached us, we could not believe it. It seemed
such a tragic, thoroughly unbelieved-in termination-so dreadful-that we thought it
incredible." Anna C. Safford diary, Safford Family Papers, Historical Foundation of the
Presbyterian and Reformed Churches.

17. Peyton Harrison Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters (Richmond, VA:
Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1899), 235-237.
Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, imprisoned in the North, also
drew comfort from the Biblical account of Job's struggle to understand why God was
allowing such affliction to befall him. In late June he wrote in his prison journal, "My
before-breakfast reading was from Job-a favourite book with me. I have read Job
oftener than any other book in the Bible, except perhaps St. John." Myrta Lockett

Avary, ed., Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens (New York: Doubleday, Page &
Co., 1910), 262.

18. Rappahannock Baptist Association, Minutes, 1865, Mss, Virginia Baptist Historical
Society, Richmond, VA, quoted in W. Harrison Daniel, "Southern Protestantism-1861
and After," Civil War History 5 (1959): 276-82.

19. See "Religious Literature for the South," Christian Index, 13 January 1866.

20. Rufus B. Spain, At Ease in Zion: A Social History of Southern Baptists. 1865-1900
(Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1967), 17.

21. Thomas S. Dunaway, A Sermon Delivered by Elder Thomas S. Dunaway, of
Lancaster County Virginia, before Coan Baptist Church, in Connection with a Day of
National Fasting. Humiliation and Prayer, April. 1864 (Richmond, VA: Enquirer Book
& Job Press, 1864), 18.

22. "The Scepticism Engendered by the War," Religious Herald, reprinted in Christian
Index, 13 January 1866.

23. "Narrative of the State of Religion," General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
in the United States, Minutes, 1865, 380-81; S. G. Hillyer, "To the Baptists of
Georgia," Christian Index, 9 November 1865.

24. "All Things Work Together for Good to Them that Love God," Christian Index, 13
January 1866. In November 1865, the Christian Index reported revivals among
Georgia's country churches and concluded, "We should feel grateful for this evidence
that the Divine favor is still graciously left to us." "Revivals in Georgia," Christian
Index, 9 November 1865.

25. Miers, ed., When the War Ended, 95. See also Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized
in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause. 1865-1920 (Athens: University of Georgia
Press, 1980), 73-74.

26. "A Pastoral Letter from the General Assembly to the Churches Under Their Care,"
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, Minutes, 1865, 385.

27. John Leland, "The War-God's Design to Abolish Slavery," Religious Herald
(Richmond, VA), 22 February 1866.

28. Robert Lewis Dabney, A Defence of Virginia, and Through Her, of the South (New
York: E. J. Hale & Son, 1867), 6.
Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. rightly highlights a group of conservatives in the New
South, of whom Dabney was one of the most prominent, who "utterly refused to
compromise their antebellum principles." They, unlike fellow evangelicals such as J.
William Jones and Atticus Haygood, were never able to embrace the New South creed

and sectional reconciliation. Shattuck concludes that: "Defeat in the war, after all,
triggered much soul-searching among religious southern whites." Most southerners,
however, seem to have embraced parts of both schools of thought. Few brooded as long
or as deeply about Confederate defeat as did Dabney. Most considered defeat to be
divine chastisement, and they moved on to reconstruct the South politically, socially,
economically, and religiously. They did not thereby reject the righteousness of either
slavery or secession. Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr., "'Appomattox as a Day of Blessing':
Religious Interpretations of Confederate Defeat in the New South Era," Journal of
Confederate History 7 (1991): 3.

29. Christian Advocate (Nashville, TN), 13 August 1875; "Report of the Home Mission
Board," Southern Baptist Convention, Proceedings, 1892, iv. The Home Mission Board
also insisted that since emancipation the freedman had found white southerners to be "his
truest friends and his most efficient helpers."
In November 1871, J. L. Reynolds assured South Carolina Baptists that the
Southern Baptist Convention had "never receded" from its views on slavery. It had "no
confession to make" and "no repentance to offer" for its views. South Carolina Baptist
Convention, Minutes, 1871, Appendix, 36.

30. "Who Has Prevented Reconstruction?" Southern Presbyterian, 8 February 1866;
Thomas Smyth, "The War of the South Vindicated," Southern Presbyterian Review 15
(April 1863): 499; Smith, In His Image,. But . .. 213-16; Spain, At Ease in Zion, 19-
20; Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the
Emergence of the New South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 22-23.
For postwar defenses of secession, see Methodist Albert Taylor Bledsoe's Is
Davis a Traitor; or Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War of 1861?
(Baltimore, MD: Innes and Co., 1866), Presbyterian Robert Lewis Dabney's The Life
and Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. Thomas J. Jackson (New York: Blelock and Co., 1866),
and Baptist John William Jones's The Davis Memorial: or Our Dead President. Jefferson
Davis (Richmond, VA: B. F. Johnson and Co., 1890).

31. Robert H. Crozier, The Confederate Spy: A History of the War of 1861 (Gallatin,
TN: R. B. Harmon, 1866), 5; Hunter Dickinson Farish, The Circuit Rider Dismounts:
A Social History of Southern Methodism. 1865-1900 (Richmond, VA: Dietz Press,
1938), 52-54. Crozier's defiant plea appears in the preface to his novel; the preface was
written on May 27, 1865.

32. "Pastoral Address of the Southern Methodist Bishops," Southern Christian Advocate
(Macon, GA), 31 August 1865.

33. Memphis Annual Conference, Minutes, 1865, 97, Luther L. Gobbell Library,
Lambuth College, Jackson, TN.

34. "A Pastoral Letter from the General Assembly to the Churches Under Their Care,"
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, Minutes, 1865, 384;
"Is Reunion with the Northern Church Desirable?" Southern Presbyterian, 22 February

35. Robert G. Gardner, Charles 0. Walker, J. R. Huddlestun, and Waldo P. Harris III,
A History of the Georgia Baptist Association. 1784-1984 (Atlanta: Georgia Baptist
Historical Society, 1988), 209.

36. Christian Index, 6, 13 January 1866. See also 20 January, 22 March, 3 May 1866

37. "The Condition and Wants of the Church," Southern Presbyterian, 25 January 1866;
Farish, The Circuit Rider Dismounts, 22-61; Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in
the South (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1963-1973), 2:89-115.

38. North Carolina Baptist Convention, Minutes, 1865, 16; F. M. Law, "Duty of
Southern Christians to Furnish Religious Instruction to the Freedmen," Texas Baptist
Herald (Abilene, TX), 3 October 1866.

39. A writer to the Christian Index insisted that God had changed the relationship
between the races in the South because southerners did not fulfill their duties as masters.
The correspondent urged his fellow Christians to "labor so to form and regulate the new
relations which are to arise, that the two races which God has brought together in this
good land, may partake together of God's bounty, and may live together in such a
manner as to secure his approbation." "Our Chastisement," Christian Index, 10
February 1866.
Rufus Spain concluded in his study of the social attitudes of southern Baptists:
"The Protestant churches of the South closed ranks after the Civil War in defense of the
traditional relationship of the races. Except for recognizing the personal freedom of the
Negroes, Southern churches exhibited no appreciable change of attitude as a result of
emancipation." Spain, At Ease in Zion, 44.

40. Alabama Baptist Convention, Minutes,1865, 10.

41. Basil Manly II to Jane Smith, 16 November 1865, Manly Collection of Manuscripts,
Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.

42. Gardner, et al., A History of the Georgia Baptist Association, 199, 201, 209.

43. Synod of Georgia, Minutes, 1865, 14-15.

44. "Narrative of the State of Religion," General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
in the United States, Minutes, 1865, 380.

45. Georgia Annual Conference, Minutes, 1865, 11-13.

46. William B. Gravely, "The Social, Political and Religious Significance of the
Formation of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (1870)," Methodist History 18
(1979): 3-25; Othal Hawthorne Lakey, The History of the CME Church (Memphis, TN:
CME Publishing House, 1985), 189-223.


Like their southern counterparts, northern clergymen and laity vigorously

supported their section during the Civil War. Like Confederate Christians, the vast

majority of the northern religious populace interpreted battlefield victories as evidence

of God's favor and defeats as divine chastisement. There, however, the similarities

ended. The Union cause triumphed, and most northern Christians confidently assumed

that God had given them the victory over the wicked South. The outcome of the war

was God's judgment upon the region for the sins of slavery and secession. A few more

modest commentators believed the war a divine judgment on the entire nation, but they

too admitted that God had demonstrated his displeasure with the causes for which the

South had fought. Armed with this understanding of the spiritual significance of the war,

northern churchmen addressed the issues of religious reconstruction in ways very

different from their southern counterparts.

Historian Phillip Shaw Paludan concluded in his study of northern society during

the Civil War that "no force shaped the vision that northerners had of the war more

forcefully than religion. "1 No less than southerners, northern Protestants during the war

looked to their churches and clergymen to understand the providential significance of this

bloody struggle. How their clergymen interpreted for them God's purposes in the war

shaped their attitudes toward the issues of religious reconstruction. Although many

northern Protestants were initially hesitant about war and called for peace, their

reluctance was swept away by the whirlwind of public outrage when the South fired on

the flag at Fort Sumter. Once converted, they rallied to the Union cause and demanded

a vigorous prosecution of the war.2

From the beginning of the war, northern Christians insisted that God had ordained

the Federal government; therefore, the South's revolt against the Union was a sin worthy

of divine punishment. Members of the Methodist Detroit Annual Conference in 1861

declared that they "saluted the stars and stripes as next in our prayers and affections to

the very Cross of the Redeemer." The Northern Baptist Convention, meeting in

Brooklyn, New York, in May declared that "the doctrine of secession is foreign to our

Constitution, revolutionary, suicidal" and that the national government "deserves our

loyal adhesion and unstinted support in its wise, forbearing, and yet firm maintenance

of the national unity and life." With a metaphoric flourish, the Baptist assembly insisted

that "what was bought at Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, and Yorktown, was not, with our

consent, sold at Montgomery; that we dispute the legality of the bargain, and, in the

strength of the Lord God of our fathers, shall hope to contest, through this generation,

if need be, the feasibility of the transfer." The equally nationalistic New School

Presbyterians, meeting in Syracuse, New York, adopted resolutions expressing their

"amazement at the wickedness of such proceedings" as secession and armed rebellion.

They also expressed their "undiminished attachment to the great principles of civil and

religious freedom on which our national Government is based."3

In contrast to the unified Methodists, Baptists, and New School Presbyterians, a

deeply troubled and divided General Assembly of the Old School Presbyterians met in

Philadelphia in May of 1861. Only half of the presbyteries from the border and southern

states were represented, and the two greatest southern Presbyterian leaders, Dr. Benjamin

M. Palmer and Dr. James H. Thornwell, were conspicuously absent. On the third day

of the meeting, Dr. Gardiner Spring, aging conservative pastor of the Brick Presbyterian

Church in New York City, asked the convention to form a committee to make resolutions

of loyalty to the Union. The motion was tabled by a close vote. Undaunted, Spring

insisted that the General Assembly take some action, and offered two resolutions. The

first called for a national day of prayer for peace, and the other pronounced it the duty

of the ministry and churches "to do all in their power to promote and perpetuate the

integrity of these United States, and to strengthen, uphold, and encourage the Federal

Government." After five days of debate, the General Assembly passed the Spring

Resolutions; in the wake of these resolutions, several southern presbyteries seceded from

the General Assembly as soon as they met. On December 4, 1861, ten synods,

encompassing 45 presbyteries with 72,000 members, united to form the Presbyterian

Church in the Confederate States of America.4

Newspapers across the North copied these resolutions by the leading

denominations as evidence of the churches' loyalty to the Union. Throughout the war,

as Philip Paludan writes, "the churches of the North justified and energized the war

effort." Much the same as churches in the South promoted morale and sanctified the

Confederate war effort, northern churches proclaimed the effort to maintain the Union