Although the correlation between Region and Warfare was not indicative of America’s Civil War of 1861-1865, it helped define and even spur both sides of The Conflict to achieve victory and withstand the “horrors” of a War, which saw the loss of over 600,000 -plus lives. Some cite that Religion was the “spark” to the War. Since The Crusades of The Middle East and The Reconquista of Spain during the early to late Middle Ages, Man and War were linked to Religion as a rallying point and matter of consensus with regards to who was “Right” and who was ultimately the “Protector” of such.
Such belief systems, although somewhat denounced by The Christian Bible, became the focal point for just about every War or Conflict Man began. Linking Religion in Society, Government and Politics – even Armies, was standard for Centuries. It was so in mid-19th Century America. The causes of The War are vast and debated (and will continue as such for many Generations). But forefront, was The Abolitionist Movement in The North. Although the liberation of Black Slaves was seen as early as Colonial Times in The North, The Southern portion of The United States clung onto it, more so out of economic reasons than moral ones. Northern Abolitionists spared no expense in exposing the moral corruption that Slavery caused. Slave Insurrections were common, as were agitators from The North, such as the self-styled Religious fanatic known as John Brown. Although his 1858 goal to bring down The South and their “ungodly ways” ended in The Hangman’s rope for Brown, his message was loud and clear.
With The War, both sides relied heavily on Religion. Indeed, America was still very much a staunch bastion if Protestantism. Catholicism existed, but it was not the dominate Religion in 19th American life. For a “Religious” North, God was on their side. The South had violated a “Sacred Oath” when State after State left The Union. They had fired upon Federal Troops and illegally commandeered Federal Property. Later, Slavery was added, citing that The South was an affront to God (much as The Egyptians were viewed for their forced Servitude of The Hebrews in The Old Testement of The Bible). The South too, looked to God as well. Seeing it “their” Sacred right to leave a Government no longer established with God – and tyrannical to boot, much like their Grandfathers who fought the tyranny of England, they had every right to leave a “Godless” Union. Besides, “God was on their side”. This belief extended to Battle Standards and Flags from both sides, repleat with such religious Symbolism as The Cross and Lamb. Phrasing such as “God is On Our Side”, “In God We Trust” – to Biblical passages were quite common.
A classic example often cited is Confederate General Thomas Jonathan Jackson (aka “Stonewall”). So religious, he did not abide cursing in his Ranks, and shunned fighting a battle on “The Sabbath”. His men often chided him, giving him the additional nickname of “Old Blue Light”. Often, Jackson would pray during battle, almost creating a “supernatural” appearance, with his tall and gaunt figure standing amidst the “smoke of battle”. Many Officers, both North and South shared a similar belief. Paradoxes aside, both North and South fielded Chaplains. “Men of The Cloth”, these Men were needed to maintain morality and faith in each Sides views regarding God and the “cause” (as so each saw it). The North had a more organized Chaplain Corps. Than in Southern Armies. Both Protestant and Catholic Churches were well represented.
Nursing Staff in Hospitals were often Staffed with Religious Orders of Women. This was much more evident with The Catholic Religion than Protestant . These Women served an important position in the physical and “spiritual” recovery of Wounded Soldiers. Another “first”, was the distribution of The Bible in combat. The American Civil War was the first Conflict to see the mass production and distribution of “Pocket Testaments”. The American Bible Society, once the foremost provider of The Bible to Slaves, was now mass producing them for Soldiers. The practice is still done today.
Religion walked hand in hand with Patriotism during The War. Often Religious Hymns (which are now well known), were born out of The War. The best example being “The Battle Hymns of The Republic” -considered the standard for Civil War Patriotism and Religion – combined. Many Hymns were given re-wording to reflex The Wars sentiment .
When the “cause” of The Civil War changed to the freeing of Slaves on The South, Religion served as a foundation for “why” The North needed to win. Southern Slaves had embraced Christianity and The Bible, using both to survive the horrors of captivity. When The Emancipation Proclamation was enacted by US President Abraham Lincoln, he called for Black-American Volunteers for a diminished Union Army. Religion being a focal point of The Proclamation, he would receive 180,000 such Freemen to fight for “Father Abraham”. The War set the tone for Religious sentiment for all future American Conflicts to come, despite Social “climate”. Although somewhat “repressed” in today’s Military Society, it is still a vital component to a Soldier.