Spotsylvania Baptists built this church in 1844 and named it Salem, a Biblical word meaning peace. Two decades later, Salem Church was engulfed by war. Initially the church had just 29 members, but by 1859 the number had risen to 77, 20 of whom were black. Black worshippers entered the church through a separate door - still visible to your left - that led to a separate gallery. White members entered through the main entrance, women to the left, men to the right.
The Civil War wreaked havoc on Salem Church. Members returning in 1866 found bloodstained floors, bullet-scarred walls, and more than 100 bodies buried on the grounds. Undeterred, they refurbished the property and resumed worship services here. In time the church's needs outgrew the building, and its members erected a new building next door. They donated the older structure to the National Park Service in 1961.
(Caption, main picture): Battle damage is still visible on the east wall, in front of you. A thunderbolt rather than a cannonball created the crack that appears in this 1884 image of Salem Church. This photo was taken about 200 feet to your right.
(Caption, upper right picture ): The Reverend Melzi Chancellor ministered to both Salem Church and Wilderness Baptist Church at the time of the war. His house, known as Dowdall's Tavern, sixe miles west of here, became a landmark on the Chancellorsville Battlefield.