Discussion Spirituality And Religion

Joined
Mar 19, 2019
I am not sure where else to put this thread. Is there a forum for discussions of the role of spirituality and/or religion in the civil war? I don't want to start an argument. I just want to discuss how people viewed the war with respect to their own or someone else's religious beliefs or lack thereof.


Do you listen to history podcasts? If so, then just as an FYI, Season #2 of the “Unobscured” podcast hosted by Aaron Mahnke just started this week, and the entire season is about the Spiritualist Movement of the 19th century. I assume that it will discuss the Fox sisters, the Lincoln family’s seances in the White House, etc. This is a history podcast that includes interviews with academics. (Season #1 was about the Salem Witch Trials.)
 

BillH

Private
Joined
Sep 14, 2017
Location
SW Idaho
Halfway through a biography of Jackson and I cannot imagine how anyone could get into much of a discussion about him without talking about his religious beliefs, how seriously he took them, and how they might have influenced his decisions and his life. I don't do a lot of biographies but I'd imagine this would hold true for a number of both large and small names in CW history.
 
Joined
Mar 1, 2019
This is indeed a crucial subject, and under-explored except by a few specialists. As LSBush says, diaries and letters are replete with soldiers' religious concerns, questioning (or asserting) the "rightness" of their cause in God's eyes, requests for prayer from family and friends, mentions of "good preaching" or of irresponsible, "shirking" pastors, etc. Many generals likewise. (The third verse of "Stonewall Jackson's Way" is testament not only to Jackson's own uncanny and uncompromising Christian faith but the way his troops respected it.) The best of the chaplains, north and south, were kept very busy ministering to battle-hardened, yet spiritually hungry young men. Mark Noll has written about the "theological crisis" of the war, since both sides claimed deep attachment to their cause as somehow ordained or blessed by God. It's a deeply American story, and a complex and important one.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
No such thing as an atheist in a foxhole, that's how I see it through my little military experience. The "majority" of people get religion when death is imminent, so I assure you that Salvation was the primary role of spirituality during the CW from both sides.

I suppose the war was viewed by "some" northern boys as a holy crusade to free the slaves from all the servitude they had to endure. Perhaps like Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Halfway through a biography of Jackson and I cannot imagine how anyone could get into much of a discussion about him without talking about his religious beliefs, how seriously he took them, and how they might have influenced his decisions and his life. I don't do a lot of biographies but I'd imagine this would hold true for a number of both large and small names in CW history.

Not arguing, but you can say that about any other well known religious fanatic Edited. Imo, discussing any war general's religious views who fought and died, killed people and was part of a losing effort to sustain slavery is highly subject to ridicule and critique. Nobody can prove whether or not Jackson was sincere or not, for all we know he could have been a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's just a touchy subject.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
No such thing as an atheist in a foxhole, that's how I see it through my little military experience.
I know plenty of atheists who have been in combat. People react differently to combat. Yes, some become more religious. And some move the other way.

That said back then, especially with the religious revival of the early 19th century, I would expect most soldiers to be religious when signing up. In some units religion played a huge part. In others not so much.

And Religion is for some generals a huge factor in how they did their jobs.
 

BillH

Private
Joined
Sep 14, 2017
Location
SW Idaho
Doesn't have to be a touchy subject at all. Have you read any biographies of Jackson? I don't see him as a "fanatic" in the same way one might Jones or Koresh. I'd say he was the real thing, a devout Christian who tried to live out his faith. He was a deacon in a Presbyterian church, started a ministry to teach reading and Bible study to blacks (both free and slave) that continued long after his death if I remember correctly. Doubt that "sustaining slavery" had anything to do with why he fought. Try reading Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne, I think it will give you a better picture of a very interesting man.
 

Southern Unionist

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 27, 2017
Location
NC
I don't see how anyone can understand much about the war, secession, or slavery without taking a serious look at the role of religion. A large percentage of Southern preachers (I don't know any way to pin down a number) spoke regularly and enthusiastically about the supremacy of the white race being a core concept of Christianity in their view, which made slavery seem much more tolerable to many, including political leaders. Some ministers in fact actually argued that God had given the white man the responsibility for looking after black people and supervising them, since they allegedly didn't have sense enough to handle freedom. While this was going on, plenty of Northern churches were preaching that slavery was a sin and a moral outrage. Most Protestant denominations ended up splitting north-south over the issue.

The KKK claimed to be built on a religious foundation, claiming to be following the Bible's teachings on separation of the races, and some unsubstantiated claims pertaining to the skin color of various individuals mentioned in Old Testament stories.

And then there's the role of the pacifist denominations in influencing / delaying succession votes. There were enough Quaker and Moravian votes in NC to help swing close votes in the legislature, for a while.

While opinions may vary on the moral and religious merits of various things that were being taught, it is historical fact that such things went on, and played a major role in the period. Sermon transcripts have survived, documents pertaining to denominational splits have survived, and we have legislative voting results broken down by county and district, with known demographics. Politicians spoke and wrote on the morality of slavery using language that closely matched what was being commonly said in whichever denomination of church they regularly attended and had their membership. The influence is hard to miss.

Pull out the thread of religion, and the whole fabric of the Civil War story starts to unravel. It is woven through everything.
 

poorjack

Corporal
Joined
Jul 17, 2015
Location
NC
As the saying goes, there are no atheists in foxholes. I've read plenty of original documents and memoirs to know that religion played a huge part during the War. During the latter years, religious revivals were fairly common as those who play cards, gambles, cursed and "other" deeds repented since they were keenly aware of the next battle could well be their last.

One incident that sticks with me and I think it's from Four Years Under Marse Robert by Maj Robert Stiles, there was such a revival just prior to the 1864 spring campaign in the Confederate camp. The converts wanted to be properly baptized and the entire group formed up and marched down to the Rappahannock for a baptism ceremony. The Federal pickets saw a column of Confederates and raised the alarm. The Federals formed up and hurried to oppose the "crossing". When they got to the river, they realized it was a baptismal ceremony. The Federals laid down their arms and joined in as part of the congregation.

Another one Stiles talks about was held during a terrible lighting storm where a large branch fell from a tree and killed several in the congregation. There were many converts during that one.
 

lupaglupa

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
I am not sure where else to put this thread. Is there a forum for discussions of the role of spirituality and/or religion in the civil war? I don't want to start an argument. I just want to discuss how people viewed the war with respect to their own or someone else's religious beliefs or lack thereof.
I think you are right to see this as a good topic for further discussion and right to think it might start arguments! But faith was central to so many soldiers lives; it's not a topic that should be ignored.
 

Blessmag

Captain
Joined
Jun 19, 2010
Location
Minnesota
I attended seminary and for my Baptist history class' term paper, I wrote about missionary activity of Baptist Associations north, border states and southern states. Found out what chaplains did and how the local churches desired to assist the soldiers. Source documents were association minutes on microfiche.
Received a 98 on the paper.
 

TnFed

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 18, 2018
They were certainly from a more religious time. Of course not exactly pacifist denominations. I am reminded of Colonel Ben E. Caudill of the 10th Kentucky Mounted Rifles CSA. He was a regulat Baptist Pastor. Which did not stop him from fighting and shooting his unionist neighbors. I was ordained myself by his g grandson, another Regular Baptist. While I share their religious views. I tend to favor the boys in blue myself.
 

Viper21

Brigadier General
Moderator
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 4, 2016
Location
Rockbridge County, Virginia
I would like to know what people like Lincoln and Jackson believed and how their beliefs affected their actions. Could they have been among the most successful because of their reliance on a higher power?
Jackson was a deeply religious man. He was Calvinistic in his beliefs. Nothing drove him more, than his faith.

The following quote is attributed to Jackson:

"Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave."
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
The nineteenth century was certainly a very religious time and there are many examples of the role religion played in daily life. My great grandfather (on my father's side; not the Winn side) was a Baptist minister and served the confederacy in several of the large hospitals in Richmond. My John Winn's first marriage was performed by Moses Hoge who was a prominent Richmond Presbyterian minister with strong confederate leanings. His wife accompanied Jackson's wife when she went to be with Jackson after his wounding.

I think it's something that deserves some discussion as one can't really understand the people of the nineteenth century without some understanding of religion (especially various protestant religions). However, if there's a new forum it would have to be very closely monitored so as not to turn into just a lot of proselytizing or arguing over doctrine and such.
 

BillH

Private
Joined
Sep 14, 2017
Location
SW Idaho
Interesting article a few years ago in The Atlantic. "Did religion make the Civil War worse?"

https://www.theatlantic.com/politic...e/401633/?utm_source=share&utm_campaign=share
I think there has been a tendency in recent years to concentrate on some of the preaching from the Southern ministers, while looking the other way from some of the equally, uh, "fiery" messages delivered in the North. Just so, many mock the song "Dixie" without noting anything untoward about "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Like so much of Civil War history and politics, Civil War religion and spirituality cannot be distilled down to convenient twitter-length proclamations and bumpersticker-like clubs. Nor can we just look at 1860-65, the roots of these differences go far further back.

I have to laugh sometimes, we often collect huge libraries of CW books, then get caught up on the smallest points online. And then we apply our own 21st C ideas to 19th C history... to all, grace, and peace.
 
Top