While God Is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers
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 sharpinsights 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.
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While God is marching on: the religious world of Civil War soldiersUser Review - Book Verdict
Woodworth (history, Texas Christian Univ.; Jefferson Davis and His Generals) has written an extensively researched volume that through diaries, letters, and reminiscences explores the relationship of common Civil War soldiers, both North and South, to Protestant Christianity. Although both Union and Confederate soldiers professed belief in the Bible as truth, the doctrine of Providence, and the hope of a heavenly afterlife, they differed in their religious interpretations of motivation and justification for the sectional conflict. Woodworth provides a historical overview of the soldiers' religious heritage and chronicles in detail the impacts upon and development of religion in camp and on the battlefield. Thoughtful attention is given to the relationship between Christianity and the Abolitionist movement and the moral question of slavery. This treatment is not encyclopedic it does not address unusual religious practices or the practices of Catholics or Jews (who constituted a small minority of the soldiers) but it is a much-needed addition to Civil War scholarship. Recommended for academic and public libraries with strong history collections. Kathleen M. Conley, Illinois State Univ., Normal ...
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