Here you see an overhead shot of Old Town - the historic district. Tonight I want to focus on Fredericksburg Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site), St. George's Episcopal Church, Fredericksburg Presbyterian Church and Fredericksburg United Methodist Church. I have selected just a few of my favorite stories from each of these houses of worship to share with you tonight.

My goal is that you will leave here with a little better of a sense of the legacy of these churches and a better appreciation for the town they reside in. First up this evening is Fredericksburg Baptist Church.


Located on Princess Anne Street, the Fredericksburg Baptist Church was founded in 1804. It moved to the current location in 1855, following a split with the African members who remained at the original Sophia Street site, which is now Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site). Fredericksburg Baptist remains the second largest church building to stand within the city limits.

During the Civil War, this structure suffered extensive damage from Federal artillery fire prior to the city's occupation by Union forces during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Like many area churches, the pews were torn out and the sanctuary was used as a Federal field hospital. Today, the building remains much the way it did after the war damage was repaired.

Beginning with a small congregation, Fredericksburg Baptist Church persevered through the years and grew in membership numbers. Within a decade of its inauguration, the church boasted over 800 believers on its rolls. Surprisingly, almost three fourths of its original membership was made up of slaves and free blacks. This multi-racial fellowship certainly presented an interesting and sometimes hypocritical dichotomy, as Christians were able to come together on Sundays to celebrate the Sabbath, yet remained separatists during the rest of the week.

And although these churches remained open to both free and slave blacks, they only did so at the time with certain social restrictions and stipulations. This included a separate entrances, stairways, and seating areas. Most of which led up to the balcony. Those of you that may be familiar with the building styles of Massaponax Baptist and Christ Episcopal have noticed the smaller side-door entrances. Those were the 'colored' entrances as they referred to them. Despite the segregation, everyone worshiped together under the same roof.

Still, this tension that existed between the two races was cause for a shared desire to venerate separately. In essence, whites were perhaps more comfortable worshiping with whites and blacks most likely preferred worshiping with blacks. This led to a split that I will discuss a little later on. First, I would like to share the story of Rev. Broaddus.


In July of 1862, a Union blockade of the surrounding area, as well as intermittent occupation of the city by Federal forces, weighed heavily upon the lives of native Fredericksburgers. As tensions increased, General Pope ordered a subordinate to arrest four civilians from the town, in hopes that it would settle the community into a submissive mode.

Now to give you an idea of what kind of man the good reverend was, Archibald Thomas Robertson paid tribute to the abiding strength and wisdom of the minister in "Life and Letters of John Albert Broaddus" when he wrote:

Dr. Wm. F. Broaddus was a minister of great power. He left a deep impress on religious life in Virginia and Kentucky. Like most of the Baptist ministers of his time, he had limited opportunities for education, yet he added great industry to his unusual gifts. He was the warm friend of ministerial education and for some time acted as agent for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He began preaching in Culpeper at the age of twenty in the early part of the century. He wrote an autobiography covering seven large manuscript volumes, but this was unfortunately burned with his house at Shelbyville, Ky. Once more he recorded his recollections, which were again destroyed in Fredericksburg when the town was captured by the Federal troops in 1862. In his closing years he again prepared brief reminiscences which have been preserved. Virginia Baptists and the whole South owe Dr. Wm. F. Broaddus a debt for his bold advocacy of the mission enterprise against the "Hardshell " or " Black Rock " element of the denomination, which was very strong in all Piedmont Virginia, the Valley and the Mountains.

According to the testimony of Lucy Ann Broaddus, an account of his forced incarceration stated:

On July 29, 1862, while walking along Main Street, Broaddus was arrested by the Federals and was taken to Old Capital Prison in Washington pending an exchange with Confederate prisoners. News traveled to the Broaddus home on that July day and Lucy and a slave, Hattie, came to bid farewell. In the words of Broaddus, the farewell was 'a trial I would fain have escaped.' For the next two months Lucy Ann sent packages of provisions to her husband. Eventually he was released and the welcoming was another tender scene.

Now on a personal note, when I first read of this incident, I immediately judged it unfairly as a hostage situation, but after discussing the incident with the NPS folks, I came to learn that the good reverend was actually one of 19 people who were abducted in direct retaliation for the arrest of four local Unionist citizens who were captured by the Confederate Army. In other words, they had every intention of using them as bargaining chips to negotiate the surrender of their own people.

Not surprisingly, Rev. Broaddus looked to his situation as an opportunity to minister. He therefore conducted Sunday services amidst the stockade of Federal prison. Among his comrades were several fellow members of the Fredericksburg Baptist Church. In August, he wrote as if the spirit of Saint Paul, who had also been imprisoned unjustly, filled him. He said quote:

This is a beautiful morning! Oh how I long to be home. I find myself unconsciously conning a sermon. But I look around me and see nothing but dark walls and iron bars for my Sabbath temple. How long shall this cruel imprisonment last? Well perhaps I deserve it all or not having prized liberty as I ought to have done while I enjoyed it.

One of the people that Broaddus met while incarcerated was none other than the famous female Confederate spy, Ms. Belle Boyd. He remarked that she was "graceful" and that he could not help "admiring the spirit of patriotism, which seems to control her conduct, although much of romance is no doubt mixed with her patriotism."

Eventually, the preacher was granted a temporary parole pass to travel to the Confederate capital of Richmond, in order to negotiate a prisoner exchange. Broaddus was successful in his mission, arranging for the release of 25 Unionists, whose capture had initiated his entire ordeal. However, instead of immediately returning to the stronghold, the reverend took a detour to his hometown of Fredericksburg.

He stopped at his beloved Baptist church to participate in a service and visit with members of his congregation until the early hours of the next morning. Then he surrendered himself to a Union soldier and requested to be taken back to the prison in Washington immediately. Instead of receiving the anticipated release for himself and his comrades, the pastor was sent back to his cell, where he waited for another two weeks before being set free.

Another contribution courtesy of Rev. Broaddus was the guiding hand that initiated the construction of the new church. This event, however, resulted in a controversial split between the black and the white members of the congregation. After an uncomfortable period of uncertainly, an amicable solution resulted in the birth of two independent churches.

At the time the expansion was proposed, there were approximately 625 African-American members in the Fredericksburg Baptist congregation. This group, made up of both free and slave blacks, had been granted permission to attend services on Sunday at the same time as they attended. In 1854, tensions began to develop between the two races, and their separation appeared to be a foregone conclusion. I myself was very shocked when I realized how integrated southern churches appeared to be years before the war. Unfortunately, none of them would stay that way following the call to secession.

A pledge drive was established to assist in financing the construction of a newer and larger building. Despite their limited resources, and given their social situation, the minority members were able to raise an impressive sum of money. In the congregational minutes book that was dated for September 28, 1855, it reads that the congregation's "colored brethren and sisters" pledged $1,100.


It was then determined that the black members would retain the building by the riverside, and the white congregation would take all pledges and construct a new building in the center of town. This did not sit well with everyone, so a church committee was appointed to oversee the matter. Eventually a compromise of $500 was agreed upon.

The result was two churches where there had been one. These newly separated institutions enabled the local black congregations to worship in a style that more suited them. Unfortunately, they still remained under the supervision of a white elder, who was required by law to supervise the proceedings. This paternalistic approach of the white Baptists no doubt sullied the sincerity of many of their congregational members who were truly hoping to spread charity and good will to their black brethren. In other words, the generosity of some was not necessarily all that generous.

The new body to come out of this separation was the first black Baptist church in Fredericksburg, Shiloh Baptist Church(Old Site).