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The American Missionary Association (AMA) was founded in 1846. The founding members were primarily Congregational church goers and abolitionists. The AMA maintained that denying citizenship to African-Americans (especially those in slavery) was a contradiction of the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and of the teachings of Christianity. Its first efforts were to help newly freed slaves, and it operated hundreds of anti-slavery churches in border states, especially in Illinois. Nathaniel Hitchcock subscribed to the Association in August, 1865, just after the end of the Civil War. At that time, the Association was making a major commitment to serve the newly freed slaves of the American South. It built churches and set up schools for African Americans.
Nathaniel Hitchcock lost his only son, James Childs Hitchcock, during the war. James was captured in 1864 and died several months later at Andersonville prison.