Within his book, McKnight takes the space to recount the situation of the churches in southwestern Virginia during the Civil War. He mentions Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Church and the Primitive Baptist Church of Copper Creek, highlighting the war's impact on those congregations. What did church life look like during the Civil War in southwestern Virginia? What theological discussions or difficulties arose during this period? What do you do with church members who are divided by Confederate and Union loyalties or sympathies? These are only a few of the questions that McKnight sought to address. I have included that section of the book below as well as a lecture he recently delivered before the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia. In the lecture, he provides a brief overview of those things written in Contested Borderland and encourages those who want to know more to read the book. I have also included a short paragraph from Omer C. Addington's 1989 historical sketch of the Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Association at the beginning for further illustration of church life and life in general during the Civil War period in southwestern Virginia.
During the autumn of 1864, the people of Southwest Virginia were suffering from hunger and for the need of clothing and shoes, because the Confederate Congress had a law that people had to give a percentage of their provisions to the Confederate government to feed the army. Marauders came through the country raiding and stealing from the people. This left residents of Southwest Virginia destitute. There was no association held in the Stoney Creek district this year (1864) on account of there are no provisions to feed the people." (Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Association by Omer C. Addington)
The area's spiritual life also suffered because of the war. As Stephen Ash illustrated in "When the Yankees Came," churches either voluntarily or were involuntarily shut down once the war drew close. The minute book of Scott County's Stony Creek Primitive Baptist Church indicates that no services were held within that association from the middle of 1862, about the time of the Kentucky campaign, until the summer of 1865. The Primitive Baptist Church at Copper Creek, also in Scott County, met intermittently throughout the war, with interruptions from late 1862 until June 1863 and periodic meetings after March 1864. After the war ended, the Copper Creek congregation undertook the considerable work of rebuilding its church. Since the Primitive Baptists had staunchly supported the Confederates during the war and had even placed the Civil War within the faith's concept of ultimate predestination, the reconstruction of the congregation had to take place on both a temporal and a spiritual level.
During the July 1865 meeting, the Copper Creek church moved that a resolution be presented to the association insisting "that no Ministers of the gospel...be allowed to preach in his church...who have aided in the rebellion against the United States." With this administrative adjustment accomplished, the July 1866 meeting addressed a more pressing theological issue. Since Copper Creek church had played a major role in the structuring of the association's rules early in the war in regard to the hostilities, the congregation moved to rectify what the result of the war had proven to be an erroneous doctrine.
Theologically speaking, Virginia's secession and the resultant war had initially been accepted by Primitive Baptists as divinely ordained events since that sect's strict Calvinist theology saw all things as God's work. Following the path that they perceived as being laid out by God, the congregations within this association had enacted a series of church rules to strengthen local support of the Confederate cause. Most of the alterations the association implemented involved bringing the coexisting spiritual and political movements closer together. When the Confederacy fell in 1865, those same churches were shaken at a doctrinal level. God had either made a mistake in blessing the Confederacy or man had misread his signs. The members of the faith chose to accept responsibility and began work to rebuild the church as it existed in the prewar period. Members of the Copper Creek church accepted that the previous advice given by the association in regard to members who dissented from the political opinions of the church "is contrary to the orthodox principles of the Baptist[s]" and "unscriptural, uncharitable, and full of bigotry." They rescinded the wartime directive. On the question of church members who left the Confederacy to join the Union army, the members decided that "the mere act of going from one state to an other to avoid treasonable service against the United States Government does not bring any member of our church into disorder." They sought to draw their congregation even closer to its prewar position within the nation determining: "To be loyal to the Federal Government and the Union of the United [States] is just and right[,] that to support, protect and defend the Federal Government against foreign enemies and domestic traitors is a moral obligation binding upon all good citizens and it has received the sanction of the only true God of Heaven and Earth by bringing the so called Southern Confederate Government to nothingness. Therefore to be loyal to the Federal Government does not bring any member of our church into disorder." It appears that the Confederacy that the Primitive Baptists supported, rather than being divinely ordained by God, had duped itself and its citizens. (Brian Dallas McKnight, Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2006, pp. 230-331.)