Tennessee Churches with Civil War Stories
Tennessee churches dot almost every street; their steeples rise high like a beacon of hope. For some, there is much more to the stories than being a house of worship. Historical secrets lie just beyond the great wooden doors. Some were used as Civil War hospitals. Some were organized by former slaves and Confederate soldiers rest in peace under their grassy knolls. When church bells ring in Tennessee, the stories from long ago come alive. Here are a few historical churches to check out in remembrance of Tennessee’s deep Civil War roots.
Nestled on a picturesque plot of land, Bethesda Church and Cemetery in Morristown has many Civil War connections. The church was used as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers during the war and patients with smallpox. There are 80 Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery. The church and cemetery are also sites of Tennessee’s Civil War Trail.
Established in 1786 by the Reverend Archibald Scott, a Scottish native, New Providence Church in Maryville has an extensive history. Maryville College was established by Isaac Anderson, one of the ministers of New Providence in 1842. A brick church was to be constructed in 1852 but was never finished because of the Civil War. However, the building was still used until 1893. The foundation for the present-day site was laid in 1951. Constructed in a Gothic style with stained-glass windows, the church is a testament of unchanging faith in changing times.
Shiloh Baptist Church is one of the oldest black churches in Chattanooga. Organized in 1866 by former slaves, they spent 30 years collecting funds and materials to build their place of worship.
St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows Church, celebrating its 165thanniversary, is one of the oldest churches in Nashville and first Catholic Church constructed in Tennessee. Dating back to 1847, St. Mary’s is a Nashville landmark, built in a Greek revival temple style where the absence of support beams made the church architecturally significant. The stress beam along the width of the church is just as strong as it was in 1847. Like many churches during the Civil War, St. Mary’s closed and was considered a neutral zone. It was used as a hospital for Union and Confederate soldiers where about 300 soldiers died inside its stone walls.
First Presbyterian Church in Gallatin holds some Civil War stories. The sanctuary where people sing hymns to God today is the same location doctors and nurses treated soldiers’ wounds during the War. Organized in 1828, the church was constructed in 1836 – 1837 in Greek revival architecture and is the oldest church in Gallatin. The Tennessee Historical Commission recognized the church as a reformed historical site.
Trinity Episcopal Church in Winchester is 150 years old with many challenges throughout its history before becoming successfully established. The first permanent building for the congregation was taken over by the Northern Federal Army during the Civil War and used as a hospital. The church was burned down during the War but a building was erected at its current location in 1874.
A Civil War cannonball in the upper right Main Street entrance is an object of interest at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Greeneville. The church found itself at the center of a skirmish in September 1864 where Confederate General Morgan, known for his raids against the Union Army, died during the battle. The church’s first and present home has been there since 1860, after a plot of land was purchased by Senator (and later President) Andrew Johnson for $1,200.
Denmark Church originally was established on Cub Creek in 1821 but later moved to Denmark, Tennessee where the Snipes brothers had the church built in six days in 1854 using slave labor. It also housed the Masonic Lodge #154 where many of the signatures on the walls are still visible. Civil War stories surround this building, even one about two soldiers escaping from Union soldiers by hiding underneath their sweethearts’ hoopskirts. The cemetery is also on the church’s site, dating back to 1823 where many Confederate soldiers are buried. The building is listed on The National Register of Historic Places and Tennessee trail.
Christ Episcopal Church is one of many in Brownsville with historic character and charm. Organized in 1832 and erected its present building in 1854, Christ Episcopal Church is the oldest standing church in Brownsville.
Do you know of other Tennessee churches with historical connections? Tell us in the comments below!