Aldrich, Nicodemus

Chaplain Nicodemus Aldrich

(1816-1886)

First South Carolina Artillery Regiment

 By Dr. H. Rondel Rumburg

 “Where the Holy Scriptures do not rule, there I advise no one to send his son. Everyone not unceasingly busy with the Word of God must become corrupt; that is why the people who are in the universities and who are trained there are the kind of people they are” [Martin Luther, Three Treatises, 100]. Nothing has changed since 1520, HRR.

This Confederate chaplain was one of Martin Luther’s band.  In 1863 during the War against Southern freedom the Southern synods of the General Synod formed the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America. In 1866, the name was changed to Evangelical Lutheran General Synod in North America. In 1876, it was again changed to Evangelical Lutheran General Synod South and finally in 1886 to the United Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the South. The denomination he represented is now a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Nicodemus Aldrich was the son of Robert and Ann Aldrich.  The place of his nativity was Charleston, South Carolina. He was born on January 14th, 1816.  Here in this bastion of Southern culture Nicodemus grew up and received his education.  He was placed in the South Carolina Society School which was founded in 1736.  This was a preparatory education to get him ready for college. This institution was owned and managed by a very old society composed of intelligent and prominent citizens, and was attended only by members’ children.

Aldrich married Elizabeth Stroebel on November 1st, 1838 at Charleston.  The Lord was pleased to give them two sons.

Nicodemus Aldrich was privately trained in theology by the Protestant Episcopal minister Rev. William Barnwell who for many years was the rector of St. Peter’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Charleston.  One source said,

Rev. N. Aldrich, a ‘student of divinity of the Episcopal Church at Bristol College, Pennsylvania, was licensed by the North Carolina Synod in 1840, remained only a few months at Concord, N. C., when he removed to Savannah, Georgia, and became the successor of Rev. S. A. Mealy, as pastor of the Lutheran church in that city. He is the present pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, in Charlotte, N. C. [Gotthardt D. Bernheim, History of the German Settlements and of the Lutheran Church in North and South Carolina, 522].

This part of his education was finished in 1840.  Aldrich was licensed in 1840 by Rev. John Bachmann[1] and ordained in November of 1841 by the Lutheran Synod.  His first charge was at Savannah, Georgia where he succeeded Rev. Mealy.  This ministry lasted from 1841 to 1847.    From 1847 until 1854 he was principal of the Academy for Young Ladies at Edgefield, South Carolina.  During this time Aldrich was instrumental in the establishment of a Lutheran Church in Graniteville.

Graniteville was founded in 1845, and is one of the oldest cotton mill towns in the South. At that time the nearest Lutheran church was Mt. Calvary, where a church was built in 1828. The first Lutherans at Graniteville came from Mt. Calvary and from the older Lutheran communities of Saluda and Lexington Counties. Two Lutheran ministers resided here before a church was organized: Rev. Robert Cloy from 1850 until his death on May 4, 1853, and Rev. Nicholas Aldrich, 1854-56. The latter was state agent for the American Tract Society. He preached occasionally at Graniteville, found a number of Lutherans among his neighbors and in 1856 presented their cause to synod. The organization of this church may thus be said to have resulted indirectly from his residence here [Hallman, 192].

Aldrich was also instrumental in seeing the importance of organizing a church in Aiken.  The end result would eventually be St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at Aiken.

It is interesting to note that Rev. E. A. Bolles taught and preached in this town in 1848; Rev. N. Aldrich reported to synod in 1855 that he had found Lutherans there, and in 1857 this point was referred to the Executive Committee of the synod. It will therefore be seen that from 1848 up to 1907 the Lutherans of Aiken were without a church and for various reasons waited sixty years for a church of the faith of their fathers [Hallman, 220].

During his ministry he was constantly attentive to the needs of Lutheran people wherever he ministered.  Aldrich was appointed General Agent for South Carolina of the American Tract Society in 1856, and he fulfilled this position until he was appointed Agent for the Newberry College and Seminary in 1859.  This college was Lutheran and a result of the ministry of Dr. John Bachman who as President of the Synod recommended the establishment of a seminary to train Lutheran ministers.  This was the same Bachman who licensed Aldrich for the ministry.  Aldrich served in this capacity until the War of Northern Aggression began its unconstitutional onslaught.

During Lincoln’s War of Northern Aggression against the Southern People and the U.S. Constitution Aldrich became Chaplain of the First South Carolina Artillery Regiment, which was under the command of Colonel William R. Calhoun, Colonel Alfred Rhett and Major Ormsby Blanding.  This was to be Aldrich’s contribution to the war effort.  To the men of the First Artillery and others as the Lord gave him opportunity he preached the gospel of God’s grace and tended their spiritual needs.  Thus he ministered during the time the South sought to preserve her freedom.

During Aldrich’s chaplaincy he was also busy in his denomination which had not separated from the Northern body before the war as had the Baptists and Presbyterians.  When the Lutheran Convention assembled at Concord, North Carolina on May 20, 1863 there were delegates from the synods of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.  Rev. Aldrich was the president of the preliminary convention and he called the assembly to order.  He asserted the keynote for the convention concerning the grounds of separation and he revealed the unchristian and ungentlemanly way of the North,

 So far as sympathy and harmony of the section is concerned, the Northern and Southern portions of our Church have for years been divided. The prevailing spirit of the Northern portion is a spirit of fanaticism, which has been nurtured and intensified until like a devouring flame it permeates all their religious, social and political relations. It brooks no restraint, and knows no interest beyond its own. That which it cannot convert to itself it endeavors to destroy, and glories in every opportunity to accomplish its wicked purpose.

On the other hand the spirit of the Southern portion is that of conservatism. We claim for ourselves nothing beyond that which reason and God’s Word allow. While we have always cheerfully conceded to the Northern Church the right to judge for themselves in matters of conscience, we at the same time have demanded that this privilege be extended to us. But how often has it been denied! And in the General Assemblies, how frequently of late had Christian courtesy been violated, and all the generous emotions of our nature mortified by the intemperate zeal of those in whom we confided as brethren of the same household of faith. And now that a cruel and sanguinary war is waged against us by the government of the United States with a spirit of malignity, that disgraces our common humanity, so far from uttering a word of remonstrance, or protesting against its continuance, the Northern Church has actually gloried in these scenes of blood and carnage and by a formal resolution declared it to be a duty of the government to prosecute this war even to our subjugation [Charles William Heathcote, The Lutheran Church and the Civil War, 94,95].

Aldrich’s report having been given the assembly considered an official title for the denomination and settled on: General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America.

The First South Carolina Artillery Regiment of which Aldrich was a chaplain was made up of nine companies.   The unit operated heavy seacoast batteries, mortars, and light field artillery. The First Artillery Regiment participated in the Bombardment of Fort Sumter in April of 1861 and fought in the defense of Port Royal in November of 1861. Members of the First manned some of the guns that repelled the Federal assault on Battery Lamar at Secessionville in June of 1862. The First fought at Second Manassas, VA (August 28-30, 1862), then Second Winchester (June 14-15, 1863). This regiment helped defeat the Federal Ironclad attack against Fort Sumter in 1863. A battery of light guns defended the Confederate right flank at Battery Wagner.  They fought at Second Fort Harrison, VA (September 30, 1864) and Second Fort Fisher (January 13-15, 1865). When the Confederate garrison was withdrawn from Charleston in February of 1865 the First Artillery left Charleston with 1000 men and fought Sherman in South Carolina and North Carolina as infantrymen before being surrendered by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston at Durham Station, Orange County, North Carolina April 26th, 1865.

After the war Rev. Aldrich accepted a call to Charlotte, North Carolina where he also taught in a parochial school.  Aldrich before the war had been an editor of the Southern Lutheran but after the war the Evangelical Lutheran.  When the Southern Lutheran, which had been the organ of the Southern Lutheran’s, sided with the North during the war it died a just and slow death [Heathcote, 101].

The Southern Lutheran continued its existence throughout the period of the war…. It frequently appeared in half-sheet form of two pages and sometimes an issue was missed entirely on account of the inability to secure paper on which to print it, such being the common experience of all publications in the South during the period of 1862-65. During the interval between this period and the establishment of The Lutheran Visitor, the Church in the South depended as a medium of information to a large extent upon The Evangelical Lutheran, of which Rev. Nicholas Aldrich had begun publication in 1866 in Charlotte, N. C. However, on account of some dissatisfaction with the management of this paper, it did not receive an endorsement as an official organ by the Southern General Synod (then known as the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America), and this condition of affairs created a demand for a church paper which the synod could recommend to its congregations [Samuel T. Hallman, History of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of South Carolina, 1824-1924, 94].

After Charlotte, Aldrich went to Vandalia, Illinois and ministered from 1874 to 1877.  In 1877 he accepted a call from King’s Mountain, North Carolina and some years later to Giles County, Virginia where he remained for two years before returning to North Carolina.  Rev. Aldrich went to Baltimore in 1884 where he remained until he was called out of this veil of tears on June 3rd, 1886 at the age of 70.  His body was interred in the South at Charlotte, North Carolina to await the resurrection.

[1] During the War of Northern Aggression Bachman sympathized strongly with his people, and said the prayer at the convention in which the ordinance of secession of South Carolina was passed. His congregation was scattered during the unholy war on civilians as well as soldiers; his library, with valuable scientific collections, was destroyed by one of Gen. Sherman’s columns, and he was atrociously beaten by soldiers. Peace having returned, he gathered his congregation, which he had served in its dispersion in every part of the state.  Bachman was distinguished in natural history; he was a collaborator of Audubon in the Birds of America and in the Quadrupeds. He received a D.D. from Penn College, (1835), a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin and a LL.D. 1848. He was professor of natural history in the College of Charleston. Published many monographs on scientific subjects, and volumes on the Unity of the Human Race, and a Defense of Luther (1853).

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