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In the Civil War era, Americans nearly unanimously accepted that humans battled in a cosmic contest between good and evil and that God was directing history toward its end. The concept of God’s Providence and of millennialism—Christian anticipations of the end of the world—dominated religious thought in the nineteenth century. During the tumultuous years immediately prior to, during, and after the war, these ideas took on a greater importance as Americans struggled with the unprecedented destruction and promise of the period.

Scholars of religion, literary critics, and especially historians have acknowledged the presence of apocalyptic thought in the era, but until now, few studies have taken the topic as their central focus or examined it from the antebellum period through Reconstruction. By doing so, the essays in Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era highlight the diverse ways in which beliefs about the end times influenced nineteenth-century American lives, including reform culture, the search for meaning amid the trials of war, and the social transformation wrought by emancipation. Millennial zeal infused the labor of reformers and explained their successes and failures as progress toward an imminent Kingdom of God. Men and women in the North and South looked to Providence to explain the causes and consequences of both victory and defeat, and Americans, black and white, experienced the shock waves of emancipation as either a long-prophesied jubilee or a vengeful punishment. Religion fostered division as well as union, the essays suggest, but while the nation tore itself apart and tentatively stitched itself back together, Americans continued looking to divine intervention to make meaning of the national apocalypse.

Contributors: Edward J. Blum, Ryan Cordell, Zachary W. Dresser, Jennifer Graber, Matthew Harper, Charles F. Irons, Joseph Moore, Robert K. Nelson, Scott Nesbit, Jason Phillips, Nina Reid-Maroney, Ben Wright

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807151921
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Publication date: 11/04/2013
Series: Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ben Wright is assistant professor of historical studies and the University of Texas at Dallas.

Zachary W. Dresser is visiting assistant professor in the department of religion and culture at Virginia Tech.

Table of Contents

Foreword Mark A. Noll vii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction Ben Wright Zachary W. Dresser 1

1 The Prophecy of Edmund Ruffin: Anticipating the Future of Civil War History Jason Phillips 13

2 Spirit Politics: Radical Abolitionists and the Dead End of Spiritualism Robert K. Nelson 31

3 "This Flattering Millennium Theory": Denominationalism against Millennialism in James Fenimore Cooper's The Crater Ryan Cordell 52

4 Millennialism and the Church of England's Mission to Fugitive Slaves in Canada Nina Reid-Maroney 72

5 Colonization and the Limits of Antislavery in Upcountry South Carolina Joseph Moore 90

6 The Great Indian Pentecost: Providential Revisions, Indian Evangelization, and the Taking of the American West Jennifer Graber 110

7 Providence Revised: The Southern Presbyterian Old School in the Civil War and Reconstruction Zachary W. Dresser 129

8 Emancipation and African American Millennialism Matthew Harper 154

9 A Sharecropper's Millennium: Land and the Perils of Forgiveness in Post-Civil War South Carolina Scott Nesbit 175

10 Two Divisions of the Same Great Army": Ecclesiastical Separation by Race and the Millennium Charles F. Irons 194

11 "To Doubt This Would Be to Doubt God": Reconstruction and the Decline of Providential Confidence Edward J. Blum 217

List of Contributors 253

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