Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War

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During the American Civil War, the Mennonites and Amish faced moral dilemmas that tested the very core of their faith. How could they oppose both slavery and the war to end it? How could they remain outside the conflict without entering the American mainstream to secure legal conscientious objector status? In the North, living this ethical paradox marked them as ambivalent participants to the Union cause; in the South, it marked them as clear traitors.

In the first scholarly treatment of pacifism during the Civil War, two experts in Anabaptist studies explore the important role of sectarian religion in the conflict and the effects of wartime Americanization on these religious communities. James O. Lehman and Steven M. Nolt describe the various strategies used by religious groups who struggled to come to terms with the American mainstream without sacrificing religious values—some opted for greater political engagement, others chose apolitical withdrawal, and some individuals renounced their faith and entered the fight.

Integrating the most recent Civil War scholarship with little-known primary sources and new information from Pennsylvania and Virginia to Illinois and Iowa, Lehman and Nolt provide the definitive account of the Anabaptist experience during the bloodiest war in American history.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Shenandoah Mennonite Historian - Al Keim

I found this book fascinating. It is an easy read, with lots of arresting stories of faith under test. Its amazingly thorough research, which comes through on every page, makes the book convincing.

Lancaster New Era - Jack Brubaker

Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War is well worth exploring.

Truth (Elkhart) - Marcia Fulmer

Fascinating even to the lay reader.

Brethren Life and Thought - James L. Benedict

A valuable book that gives Brethren a source to turn to when considering the experiences of our own spiritual ancestors.

Journal of American History - Thomas F. Curran

Enriches our understanding of the impact of the Civil War on Mennonites and Amish, and on American religious groups in general. In addition, the authors have enhanced our knowledge of the influence that religion had on the war.

Ohio History - Sean A. Scott

By highlighting the struggles of these religious outsiders who strived to keep the church distinct from the world, Lehman and Nolt have produced an insightful study that further elucidates the centrality of religion for a proper understanding of the Civil War.

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society - Stephen Towne

Civil War scholars can learn much from this book.

Mennonite Quarterly Review - Jennifer Graber

In this well-written and researched volume, Lehman and Nolt offer a much-needed analysis of the Mennonite and Amish experience of the Civil War.

Church History - Edward J. Blum

Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War is solid... the research is meticulous and admirable.

Journal of Illinois History - David W. Rolfs

Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War should attract the attention of both serious religious scholars and anyone else interested in gaining a better understanding of the Anabaptists' wartime experience.

Journal of Southern History - James H. Tuten

Lehman and Nolt have produced a valuable study that reminds scholars of, and would demonstrate for students of the Civil War or religious history, the religious pluralism in the nation and, to a lesser degree, in the South.

Indiana Magazine of History - Thomas D. Hamm

An impressive work in every way: gracefully written, broadly researched, careful and measured in its conclusions. It is likely to become the definitive work on its subject.

Michigan Historical Review - Perry Bush

In this fascinating study, Lehman and Nolt perform a miraculous feat: they find a small unexplored backwater in the immense sea of literature on the American Civil War.

York Sunday News - Scott L. Mingus

A fascinating book... wonderfully written, flows well and offers fresh information and a new perspective on the home front in the Civil War that is rarely (if ever) covered in other works.

Federation of Genealogical Societies - Rev. Dr. David McDonald

Without question, this work by Lehman and Nolt should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in 'peace churches,' or pacifists, regardless of the time period.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801886720
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Series: Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 368,623
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

James O. Lehman is director emeritus of libraries at Eastern Mennonite University and an archivist for the Virginia Mennonite Conference. He is the author of several books, most recently A Century of Grace: In the Community and around the World. Steven M. Nolt is a professor of history at Goshen College and coauthor of Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits and Plain Diversity: Amish Cultures and Identities, both published by Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Maps     vii
Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction. Religion, Religious Minorities, and the American Civil War     1
Politics and Peoplehood in a Restless Republic     17
Our Country Is at War     30
Conscription, Combat, and Virginia's "War of Self-Defense"     56
Negotiation and Notoriety in Pennsylvania     76
Patterns of Peace and Patriotism in the Midwest     97
The Fighting Comes North     123
Thaddeus Stevens and Pennsylvania Mennonite Politics     143
Did Jesus Christ Teach Men to War?     163
Resistance and Revenge in Virginia     184
Burning the Shenandoah Valley     197
Reconstructed Nation, Reconstructed Peoplehood     216
The Sonnenberg Petition     235
Mennonites Identified on Roll of Exemptions     237
List of Abbreviations     241
Notes     243
References     315
Index     341
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