Wilmington, North Carolina’s St. James Parish was violated and ransacked twice in eighty-five years by foreign invaders, first in 1780. In 1865, Rector Dr. Alfred A. Watson wrote Northern General Hawley, demanding his church back and citing it as an infringement on the great Constitutional principle of religious freedom. Dr. Watson refused Hawley’s order to offer prayers for Abraham Lincoln, stating that “Because to ask it of me is to ask me to mock my Maker. What is proposed is not to restrain the Church from uttering prayers hostile to the government, but to require the Church to offer prayers specifically in its favor.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Vandals Pickaxe the Pews Again
“After the capture of Wilmington this venerable church, established in 1738, was seized by order of General Hawley for a military hospital, and in giving an account of it the rector, Dr. Watson (afterward Bishop of the Diocese) reported to the Diocesan Convention of 1866 as follows:
“This was not the first calamity of the sort in the history of the Parish Church of St. James. In 1780, during the occupation of Wilmington by British troops the church was stripped of its pews and furniture, and converted, first into a hospital, then into a blockhouse, and finally into a riding school for Tarleton’s dragoons.
In 1865 the pews were once again torn out with pickaxes . . . There was sufficient room elsewhere, more suitable for hospital purposes. Other hospitals had to be emptied to supply even half the beds in the church which were indeed, never more than half filled.”
(Some Memories of My Life, Alfred Moore Waddell, Edwards & Broughton, pp. 58-59)