The Fighting Baptist Chaplain

President’s Day is Monday, February 19th. The first president of our country was George Washington. Of course, our title, “The Fighting Baptist Chaplain,” doesn’t seem to fit with the first president, but it does. John Gano (pictured) was one of six  Baptist Chaplains of the Revolutionary War who was assigned to Washington’s troops.

“Gano was ordained as pastor of the Scotch Plains, New Jersey, Baptist Church on May 29, 1754. In 1760, he became the founding pastor of what became two years later the First Baptist Church in the City of New York. During the American Revolution, Gano served as a soldier and a chaplain for the Continental Army, and was chosen by General Washington to say a prayer marking the official end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783. (Wikipedia, George Washington)  In a letter to the Boston Watchman published on July 11, 1889, General Richard M. Gano, the great grandson of John Gano, wrote, “General Washington on one occasion said to Chaplain Gano, “I am convinced that immersion is the baptism taught in the Scriptures, and I demand baptism at your hands.”  Also, ‘according to tradition, towards the end of the war, General Washington began to contemplate following the Lord in believer’s baptism.  (Beler, American in Crimson Red, pg. 294)  Beller continues with a description of a painting of Gano and Washington in the lobby of the John Gano Chapel on the campus of William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri depicting John Gano baptizing George Washington. E. T. Sanford of Manhattan’s North church commissioned the portrait in 1908. Underneath the painting is this inscription:

Chaplain John Gano

Ordained to the Gospel Ministry May 1754

Chaplain for George Washington in the Continental Army

Believed to have baptized George Washington

History records Gano as “Fighting Chaplain” of the Revolution

Chaplain of Kentucky State Senate

Advocate for Education

Founder of Brown University (then Rhode Island College)

Have you ever thought this? Why are some facts missing from history books? It sure seems like someone doesn’t want the public to know certain things. A case in point is the history of the Baptists in the United States like this John Gano. How many Baptists have heard of our early Baptist forefathers? Who has heard of John Clarke, Isaac Backus, Shubal Stearns, Samuel Harris, James Ireland, Daniel Marshall, John Gano, Thomas Baldwin, and Isaac McCoy? Silas Mercer, James Furman, John Leland, Obadiah Holmes, John Weatherford, and John Waller are also great Baptist pioneers. Why don’t you know about them? Someone didn’t want you know about them. Someone didn’t want you to know the rich Baptist heritage of America. These are some of the flaming patriots of notable fame just as important as Patrick Henry or others of notoriety. Of course, I didn’t mention Roger Williams of Rhode Island. He is one of the few Baptists who found his way into the history books. Surely, his mention was a pitiful concession by some.

This President’s Day, why not review some real history of the founding Baptists pioneers who shaped the early formation of this great country.

“The greatest American Baptist historian was the comparable Isaac Backus. Backus obtained the papers of Comer and Callender. He diligently gathered the testimonies  of our suffering ancestors. Backus published his Church History of New England in 1804 and gave the triumphant details of the Baptist struggle in Puritan New England. Our nation is eternally indebted to Elder Backus for gathering the tremendous archive known collectively as the Backus Papers. Must of these papers have yet to be examined by sympathetic eyes.” (Beller, America in Crimson Red, xviii)  Will you examine our country’s Baptist heritage with sympathetic eyes?