They read the same Bible and prayed to the same God, but they faced each other in battle with rage in their hearts. The Civil War not only pitted brother against brother but also Christian against Christian, with soldiers from North and South alike devoutly believing that God was on their side.
Steven Woodworth, one of our most prominent and provocative Civil War historians, presents the first detailed study of soldiers' religious beliefs and how they influenced the course of that tragic conflict. He shows how Christian teaching and practice shaped the worldview of soldiers on both sides: how it motivated them for the struggle, how it influenced the way they fought, and how it shaped national life after the war ended.
Through the diaries, letters, and reminiscences of common soldiers, Woodworth illuminates religious belief from the home front to the battlefield, where thoughts of death and the afterlife were always close at hand. Woodworth reveals what these men thought about God and what they believed God thought about the war.
Wrote one Unionist, I believe our cause to be the cause of liberty and light . . . the cause of God, and holy and justifiable in His sight, and for this reason, I fear not to die in it if need be. With a familiar echo, his Confederate counterpart declared that our Cause is Just and God is Just and we shall finally be successful whether I live to see the time or not.
Woodworth focuses on mainstream Protestant beliefs and practices shared by the majority of combatants in order to help us better understand soldiers' motivations and to realize what a strong role religion played in American life throughout the conflict. In addition, he provides sharp insights into the relationship between Christianity and both the abolition movement in the North and the institution of slavery in the South.
Ultimately, Woodworth shows us how opposing armies could put their trust in the same God while engaging in four years of organized slaughter and destruction. His compelling work provides a rich new perspective on religion in American life and will forever change the way we look at the Civil War.Author:
Steven E. WoodworthPublisher:
University Press of KansasPublished:
8.76h x 6.02w x 0.82dISBN:
9780700612970Review Citation(s): Books & Culture
07/01/2003 pg. 19