Religion in the Civil War: The Northern Perspective | National Humanities Center

TeacherServe Essays

Religion in the Civil War: The Northern Perspective

Author: Moorhead, James Howell

After Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in April 1861, the vast majority of Northern religious bodies—with the exception of the historic “peace” churches which on principle adhered to pacifism—ardently supported the war for the Union. Of these groups, Protestants still enjoyed a significant numerical and cultural dominance in the 1860s. Catholics and Jews provided notable (and heretofore insufficiently researched) support for the war; but Protestants, given their numbers and position in American life, contributed religious or theological justifications of the war that had wider social and political impact. To examine Protestant attitudes in the 1860s is thus to learn much about the popular mood and motivations of Northerners as their “boys” marched off to war. We will look at three of these attitudes of Northern Protestants: the special place of Americain world history, a Northern victory as a prelude to the millennium, andthe issue of slavery.

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History / Education Studies / American History / American Civil War / Christianity / Protestantism / Slavery /