Saturday, May 30, 2015

No Solace in the Church

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A look at Methodist Church Records in East Tennessee in the Civil War Era

In October 1862 the Holston Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South convened in Athens, Tennessee. Bishop Early presided, whose zeal for the cause of the South may be inferred from these words, which he is reported to have said when about to ordain a class of ministers. Lifting his hands toward heaven he exclaimed, "God forbid that these hands should be laid upon the head of any man disloyal to the Southern Confederacy!"
Rev Jonathan L Mann, then a young member of the Conference, was present and gives the following description:
In order to appreciate the doings of this Conference, we must first remember that the Confederacy was then at the highest climax of its glory, and that all rebeldom was sanguine of certain success. These things inspired (Bishop) Early and his rebel conclave to daring deeds of religious and ecclesiastical chivalry. They were surrounded by rebel soldiers, and cheered on by the presence and curses of the Provost Marshal, at Athens, who might have been frequently seen in the gallery of the Conference room during the sittings of the Conference, swearing what he would do with all the "Tory" or Lincolnite preachers of the Conference. The rebel members now had every thing their own way, without even the show of opposition. No Union member dared to enter his protest against even the most extreme measures that might be offered. Rebel bayonets and rebel prisons awed all of us into silence. Every Union minister of the Conference seemed to say. "If prudence will save my life I will at least be cautious."

Under these circumstances one of the first measures of the Conference was to appoint a committee of investigation, whose business it was to examine the political status of every suspected character of the Conference. The following were that committee: John M M'Teer, James S Kenedy, WH Bates, AG Worley, Carroll Long. Before this inquisitorial committee were arraigned the following brethren WH Rogers, WHH Duggan, Wm C Daily, JA Hyden, PH Reed, John Spears, James Cumming, Thomas H Russell and Thomas P Rutherford- nine in all every one of whom was charged with disloyalty to the Confederacy. (Source: Methodist Review (Google ebook, Volume 53,1871 p. 624)

It is affirmed that Bishop Early, before reading out the appointments said. "Brethren when you go to your several fields of labor, purge the Church of its unworthy members," by which he was understood to mean, "Turn out all persons who are not loyal to the Southern Confederacy." The Conference had set them a worthy example in this kind of work. They were exhorted now to go to their charges and do likewise. Whether the ministers so understood the Bishop or not, or whether they needed any exhortation, when they went to their charges, we are told that they the disloyal portion of the Conference eagerly commenced and zealously prosecuted the work of "purging the Church" of known Unionists, and thus hundreds, if not thousands, were cut off from membership. The preachers could not wait the slow process of a formal citation to appear and a trial by their peers. In many cases a summary process was adopted, and the names of the members deemed unworthy were by the minister stricken from the Church books, and those who were members a moment before were by a simple stroke of the pen dashed into excommunication. For nearly two years there followed a persecution which cannot be appreciated by those who did not feel it, the facts of which when stated would seem almost incredible. (Source: Methodist Review (Google ebook, Volume 53,1871 p. 625)
None of these men were charged with having committed an overt act of treason against the rebel government or even of having committed any act whatever. They were arraigned because rebels believed that their hearts and sympathies were with the Government in its grand struggle to crush an unholy rebellion. Here we have presented to us the strange spectacle of a body of Christian ministers trying its members for their political opinions. Several of these men were among the ablest members of the Conference. Father Cummings was above seventy years of age, still he must be humiliated by a mock trial, and that in his absence by a committee of rebels; his own children in the ministry. Rev JA Hyden was also absent and very sick at the time and his recovery even thought doubtful yet rebel vindictiveness must follow its helpess victim even to the very verge of death (Source: An Appeal to the Records: A Vindication of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Its Policy and Proceedings Toward the South (Google eBook), Erasmus Q. Fuller, Hitchcock and Walden, 1876, p. 358)

In October 1863 the Conference met at Wytheville Virginia They here expelled Jonathan L Mann, William H Rogers, William Milburn, and WHH Duggan. All of these were expelled for their loyalty to the General Government and no other charges were preferred against them so far as we have been able to ascertain. Hence loyalty to the United States was deemed by the Southern clerical knights a crime sufficient to exclude a Christian minister from the fellowship and holy communion of Christ's Church. Only think of a body of men claiming to be Christian ministers, meeting in Conference and expelling their absent brethren simply for their adherence to the great principles of the Gospel of human freedom and of eternal right.

They were now more hostile toward Unionism than ever before ,and some of them actually began the work of expulsion from the Church for the sin of being loyal to the United States. For the truth of this remark, we could furnish scores of witnesses and victims in different parts of East Tennessee. In the mean time, Union preachers were made to suffer more than ever from the cruel hate and persecution of rebels. Long before this, our present noble Governor WG Brownlow and old Father Cummings had been forced to secrete themselves in the fastnesses of the Smoky Mountains from the prowlings of rebel murderers. WHH Duggan, a true man and a patriot, and then past the meridian of life, had been arrested and driven on quick time for miles through the heat and dust, at the points of rebel bayonets until he fainted and fell to the ground, and has been ever since a perfect wreck mentally and physically. WH Rogers, a firm and faithful man of God was arrested and taken South where for months we believe he was the inmate of the most loathsome of rebel prisons. William Milburn, another zealous and true minister of Christ, who had seen above sixty years of life, was arrested and finally released on condition that he would not pass beyond the limits of his own farm, except to mill and for a physician. John Spears was expelled at the Athens Conference, in their own laconic language for joining the enemies of his country. This was the only charge and for this they expelled him. Others were arrested and forced to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy or otherwise go to prison or to death. Scores of our local brethren were compelled to flee from their homes and take refuge in the Union army, some of whom were afterward brutally murdered. Such was the case with Chaplains Patty and M Call. (Source: An Appeal to the Records: A Vindication of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Its Policy and Proceedings Toward the South (Google eBook), Erasmus Q. Fuller, Hitchcock and Walden, 1876, p. 31)

James Cummings (1787-1869) Joined Methodist Espiscopal Conference in 1865. Buried in Shiloh, Sevier County. Link

Wm C Daily, (1818- 1897) Joined Methodist Espiscopal Conference in 1865. Buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Knoxville, Tennessee. Link
WHH Duggan (1814- 1867) Joined Methodist Espiscopal Conference in 1865. Buried in Hickory Grove, Mount Vernon, Tennessee. Link
William C Graves Joined Methodist Espiscopal Conference in 1865
J A Hyden, (1828 (now) Loudon County, Tennessee - 1909) Joined Methodist Espiscopal Conference in 1865. Buried Highland Cemetery, Ottawa, Franklin County, Kansas. Link
Jonathan L Mann Chaplain in the 9th Regt Tennessee Cavalry, Joined Methodist Espiscopal Conference in 1865 (February 2, 1839- April 4, 1893) Modesto Citizens Cemetery, Modesto, California Link Military Records; Link His brother, John Wesley Mann (August 9, 1835- May 29, 1897), was also a Methodist minister. He is buried in Old Gray Cemetery, Knoxville, Tennessee

Joseph Milburn Joined Methodist Espiscopal Conference in 1865 Greene County. Buried in Milburnton Church Cemetery in Greene County, Tennessee. Link

William Milburn (1897-1877) Chaplain 8th Tennessee Cavalry, Joined Methodist Espiscopal Conference in 1865. Buried in Milburnton CHurch Cemetery in Greene County, Tennessee. Link

William Hurd Rogers, (22 Mar 1813 - 17 - Mar 1891) Living in Blount County in 1863, buried in Fort Hill Cemetery, Cleveland, Tennessee) Link Article about the Rogers family: Link
Thomas P Rutherford (1835- 1922) Buried Thorn Grove, Knox County,Tennessee. Link
Patrick Henry Reed, (1830- 1904) Oak Grove Cemetery, Greeneville, Tennessee Link
John Spears, (-1906) In 1866 Brother Spears made application for admission in the Indiana Conference, Riverside Cemetery at Spencer, Indiana

Brother Spears who died in 1873 the following extract is taken: After speaking of Brother Spears work in the Holston Conference, he (John J Hight) says, "By the autumn of 186, the storm of Civil War was desolating all the regions of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee, but he in company, with such men as Parson Brownlow and others, was true to his country. At the Conference in the same year, he was granted a superannuated relation, and returned with his wife through the mountains to her father's home in the Sequatchie Valley. At the next session of the Conference there was, accorded him, the distinguished honor of an expulsion from the Methodist Episcopal Church South, for his devotion to his country, but before this happened, he had crossed the mountains into Kentucky, and without safety beyond the Ohio River, he enlisted in the Union Army, and was commissioned chaplain in the Sixth Tennessee Regiment. Link His command stationed at Cumberland Gap. Toward the autumn of the same year when the clouds of Civil War began to grow more gloomy than ever, he determined to attempt the rescue of his family. After a perilous journey, found his wife and children at her father's house. The most of her relation chose the Southern side of the contest, but she determined to share the fate of her husband and country. One horse was their only hope transportation. For more than two hundred miles through the mountains, beset with innumerable dangers, he with his wife and two children. journeyed. They reached the Union camp at Cumberland Gap just in time join in the celebrated retreat of General Morgan's forces at that place. He secured a buggy and preceded the army. At Mt Sterling, Ky, they were captured and detained. Here every inducement, including large offers of money, was presented to him to abandon the seemingly sinking fortunes the Union and to return to Tennessee. But husband and wife were not to moved from their purpose ,and after being robbed of horse and buggy other things, were set down in the street at Sharpville, Ky, penniless. From this place they made their way, as best they could, to Indiana where he left his family and returned to the army. It may truly be said of him that he "wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth;" that he had "trials of cruel mockings, yea moreover of bonds and imprisonments."

In 1866 Brother Spears made application for admission in the Indiana Conference. He had no certificate of transfer from the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, from which he had been expelled, and his only recommendation was his parchments and certificate of an honorable discharge as a chaplain in the Union Army. His was a peculiar case, but when it had been fully explained and the statement made by his Presiding Elder, that he had been expelled from the ministry and membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church South because he refused to pray for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy, the Bishop remarked, "That is recommendation enough," and he was admitted. The Indiana Conference never had a more loyal kind and lovable member than John Spears.

Civil War Service Link

August 5, 1906, he entered into rest. His body lies in Riverside Cemetery at Spencer, Indiana Link

(Source: Minutes of the ... Session of the Indiana Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Volumes 71-77 (Google eBook), Methodist Episcopal Church. Indiana Conference, p. 306-308)

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