Influence of Religion: Women Nurses in the Civil War—part two

Civil War Church

Part two of a series

In the book, Religion and the American Civil War, the authors discuss how religion became important in America during the early republic and into the early 1800s.  This became particularly true as the United States evolved from an agrarian society into an industrialized society.  Both North and South were extremely concerned that many people were losing their souls while in search for wealth.  This concern spurred many religious questions, because Americans had defined its nation in religious terms.  Both sides of the Civil War merged with God and State.   Christian nurturing was part of Christian war making.  Women often tried to make sense of the Civil War through religion. Religious conviction was enduring war’s pain.

Both Northern and Southern ministers emphasized that women’s responsibility was to find meaning in the areas as prescribed by their sex, their obligations to other, and their own families.  Women’s path to salvation was in meeting their womanly duties.  In Gospel of Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum South, the Mitchell Snay states that especially in the South, evangelical Protestantism dominated the religious life of most Southerners. Like the North, repentance and conversion gave order and meaning to lives.

Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout and Charles Reagen Wilson, Religion and the American Civil War, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 21-27.

 Mitchell Snay, Gospel and Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum South, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 3.

3 Responses to Influence of Religion: Women Nurses in the Civil War—part two

  1. I appreciate your discussion of the important role of religion in the worldview at the time of the Civil War. We should understand, though, that the prevalence of religion was not a consistent, monolithic force during our nation’s history. Many people today mistakenly believe that virtually all of our forebears adhered devoutly to their faith, as opposed to the current population in which religion has undergone a great decline or, even more delusional, is under attack. The truth is that religion has undergone many ebbs and flows in the past. Thus, the startling revivals that occurred during the War: if most people were so faithful in the first place there would be no need for revival. God’s Spirit has moved among us dramatically at certain times such as the Great Awakenings and the Charismatic movements of the past century (and not so dramatically in the everyday lives of believers), and then human nature inevitably moves in with its own agenda or drifts away. The point is that there was never some mythical past when the American people as a whole walked in faith, in spite of politicians and pundits who use that misconception in exhorting us to “go back” to a supposedly more innocent time. Just as the present is more complex than that, so is the past.

    1. I agree with your comment. Again, the influence of religion was an expectation and ideal of the time. I think there was a lot of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Antebellum and Civil War time was not as simple a time as many people think. Thanks for your comment.

      1. You are so right about the “saying” part. Religious language seems to have been a proper part of oral decorum. One thing, though: the people back then, whether religious or not, really knew their Bible!

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!