God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War

God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War

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by George C. Rable
     
 

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Throughout the Civil War, soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict saw the hand of God in the terrible events of the day, but the standard narratives of the period pay scant attention to religion. Now, in God's Almost Chosen Peoples, Lincoln Prize-winning historian George C. Rable offers a groundbreaking account of how Americans of all political and

Overview

Throughout the Civil War, soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict saw the hand of God in the terrible events of the day, but the standard narratives of the period pay scant attention to religion. Now, in God's Almost Chosen Peoples, Lincoln Prize-winning historian George C. Rable offers a groundbreaking account of how Americans of all political and religious persuasions used faith to interpret the course of the war.

Examining a wide range of published and unpublished documents--including sermons, official statements from various churches, denominational papers and periodicals, and letters, diaries, and newspaper articles--Rable illuminates the broad role of religion during the Civil War, giving attention to often-neglected groups such as Mormons, Catholics, blacks, and people from the Trans-Mississippi region. The book underscores religion's presence in the everyday lives of Americans north and south struggling to understand the meaning of the conflict, from the tragedy of individual death to victory and defeat in battle and even the ultimate outcome of the war. Rable shows that themes of providence, sin, and judgment pervaded both public and private writings about the conflict. Perhaps most important, this volume--the only comprehensive religious history of the war--highlights the resilience of religious faith in the face of political and military storms the likes of which Americans had never before endured.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Apart from Charles Regan Wilson's classic Baptized in the Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920, Civil War historians have often neglected the story of religion in their chronicles of America's sectarian conflict. In this brilliant and groundbreaking book, University of Alabama historian Rable draws upon newspapers, sermons, diaries, letters, and journals to show that many people on both sides of the conflict turned to faith to help explain the war's causes, course, and consequences. Rable demonstrates that both Northerners and Southerners tried to make sense of the brutal war by thumbing through their Bibles, listening to their preachers, and interpreting battles as a fulfillment of a divine plan. Thus, Stephen Alexander Hodgman, a Northerner who had lived in the South for 32 years before the war, declared that God had not just sealed the doom of slavery, but that the war had helped prepare the way for the reign of Christ. Because of its thorough research and its chronicle of the lives of ordinary people, Rable's engrossing study of the role of religion in the Civil War will stand as the definitive religious history of America's most divisive conflict. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
An excellent analysis. . . . Stands out for its accessibility and thorough research. . . . Highly recommended for readers of Civil War history or American religious history.—Library Journal

Teachers, scholars, and parents should welcome this work and its contribution to Cherokee scholarship.—Journal of Appalachian Studies

The most comprehensive and deeply researched account of the role of religion in the American Civil War to date. . . . No other study has canvassed such a collection of source materials on the topic. . . . God's Almost Chosen Peoples should become the starting point for any future studies of religion and the Civil War.—Civil War Book Review

Rable handles these topics with skill. His book sets a high standard for historians who might want to delve deeper into the relationship between war and religion. . . .Important, pathbreaking book. Highly recommended. Most levels/libraries." —Choice

This work harbors an inner virtue worthy of its subjects. . . . Rable has recorded [religion's] voice with both particular singularity and universal resonance, providing a full soundtrack to the largely silent film that has been Civil War religious history.—Southern Historian

[This] book will enjoy wide circulation among scholars and will long stand as the starting place for anyone interested in this topic.—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Rable's sweeping book synthesizes a massive amount of primary source material and provides a narrative that unfolds as intensely as the war it chronicles.—Journal of American History

Brilliant and groundbreaking. . . . Rable's engrossing study of the role of religion in the Civil War will stand as the definitive religious history of America's most divisive conflict.—Publishers Weekly, starred review

This long overdue book will interest those who care about American religious history, the Civil War, and church history in general.—Mid-America Journal of Theology

Encompasses a wide range of religious expression in the United States at the time. . . . Contains many anecdotes that illustrate how religion played an essential part in the war.—University of Alabama News

Religion in the Civil War has been an understudied subject, but Rable's thorough study goes a long way toward rectifying the neglect. . . . A heroic feat of research.—James M. McPherson, New York Review of Books

A groundbreaking account. . . . Examining a wide range of published and unpublished documents . . . Rable illuminates the broad role of religion during the Civil War. . . . The only comprehensive religious history of the war. . . . Will make an important addition to your Civil War library. . . . Excellent.—Lone Star Book Review

Award-winning historian George Rable offers the most expansive and thorough take on the subject to date . . . . The most complex and detailed analysis of religion and the Civil War yet written.—Methodist History

God's Almost Chosen Peoples is one of the most significant books published in recent years on a Civil War subject. Impeccably researched and gracefully written, it fills a significant void in the historiography of the conflict….God's Almost Chosen Peoples should stand for years as the definitive work on religion and the Civil War. The author's research is meticulous, his narrative flowing, and his judgments sound. Dr. Rable's important book is recommended without reservation.—Blue and Gray Magazine

Library Journal
Rable (Southern history, Univ. of Alabama; The Confederate Republic) provides an excellent analysis of how Christians on both sides of the Civil War used religion to interpret their experience of the conflict. Analyzing hundreds of sermons, religious tracts, and articles, Rable shows how belief in Divine Providence informed how even the nominally religious viewed the war: if it was going well for your side it was because Providence favored the righteous, if poorly it was because Providence chastises those whom God loves. Christians, North and South, preached highly politicized sermons, with church and state creating a comprehensive if confused civic religion. Rable focuses his attention on the major Protestant and Catholic denominations but briefly considers Jewish and Mormon interpretations of the war as well. VERDICT There have been some excellent books on this topic, e.g., Mark A. Noll's The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, but Rable's book stands out for its accessibility and thorough research. The author shows himself to be an expert both on the controversies of the conflict and on the theological issues treated by the Christian denominations of the period. Highly recommended for readers of Civil War history or American religious history.—Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary Lib., Oviedo, FL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807899311
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
11/29/2010
Series:
Littlefield History of the Civil War Era
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
586
Sales rank:
1,191,566
File size:
4 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
George Rable, winner of the Lincoln Prize and two Jefferson Davis Prizes, will likely win more awards with this fine volume. This is an even-handed, deeply researched, very intelligent, nicely written account of religion in both presidents' nations—a surprisingly neglected and very important topic.—William W. Freehling, author of The Road to Disunion

Meet the Author

George C. Rable holds the Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History at the University of Alabama. He is author of Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism, The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, and Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!, which won the Lincoln Prize.

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God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
James_Durney More than 1 year ago
At the time of the Civil War America was a Christian Protestant nation. Public religion is both accepted and expected at all levels. While religious freedom is the law, religious tolerance is not public policy. Catholics suffer from the idea that their allegiance is to the Pope not to America. There are very few Jews but they are subject to the standard discrimination against them. The physical attacks Mormons suffered drove them out of the United States. Westward expansion brought America and the Saints back into contact creating a series of problems for both sides. If you were not a religious person privately, publicly you accepted religion and were respectful of it. This was not a problem for the majority. If you were not a church member, you were a believer. God was a participant in the life of people and of the nation. The public request His guidance and seeks His blessing on all undertakings. While people might fail to be good Christians, the majority is aware of their failings and worry about their soul. These attitudes are common to both sides and carried by both sides into the war. This is not "Church History" although the actions of churches are very important to the story. This is not a history of the revivals that swept the armies and the nation, although these revivals are important to the story. This is a comprehensive look at American's religious feelings. This book looks at how these feelings impact people's views on slavery, secession and the war's causalities. Religion sustained the both sides. They see victory as evidence of God's favor and defeat as a reason to pray for victory. Death is God's will and the dead are martyrs to the cause residing with God in Haven. National days of pray are common and the churches support the cause and war to the bitter end. Most of have never been involved in a nation fight for survival, this book looks at the role of religion in this type of war. I have read several books on religion during the Civil War. This is without a doubt the most comprehensive. While well written and readable, this is not an easy read. The subject can be dry and controversial. I suspect that many people will find reasons to be upset with the author's presentation and conclusions. The religious may find an undercurrent of skepticism while others will feel the author excuses the churches. I feel the author made a real effort to present a fair balanced inclusive presentation. This is a very informative book and needs to be read by everyone interest in the subject.