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While God Is Marching on: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (Modern War Studies) Paperback – October 2, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In While God is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers, Steven E. Woodworth casts light on one of the grayest areas in the battle between the Blue and the Gray: religion. Most soldiers who fought in the Civil War were Christians, praying to the same God and fervently believing that Jesus blessed their cause. Woodworth examines letters, diaries and other documents to assess the breadth and depth of religious faith among Civil War soldiers. In doing so, he contributes something important to the study of American religious history; while countless books have illuminated the role of religion in antebellum and postbellum America, all too few have analyzed its importance during the war itself. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of many more such studies.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Woodworth (history, Texas Christian Univ.; Jefferson Davis and His Generals) has written an extensively researched volume that through diaries, letters, and reminiscences explores the relationship of common Civil War soldiers, both North and South, to Protestant Christianity. Although both Union and Confederate soldiers professed belief in the Bible as truth, the doctrine of Providence, and the hope of a heavenly afterlife, they differed in their religious interpretations of motivation and justification for the sectional conflict. Woodworth provides a historical overview of the soldiers' religious heritage and chronicles in detail the impacts upon and development of religion in camp and on the battlefield. Thoughtful attention is given to the relationship between Christianity and the Abolitionist movement and the moral question of slavery. This treatment is not encyclopedic it does not address unusual religious practices or the practices of Catholics or Jews (who constituted a small minority of the soldiers) but it is a much-needed addition to Civil War scholarship. Recommended for academic and public libraries with strong history collections. Kathleen M. Conley, Illinois State Univ., Normal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; First Edition edition (October 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700612971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700612970
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,281,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Taylor TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about an important but overlooked area of many a Civil War soldier's life - religion.

Woodworth's book is a refreshing and balanced view of the typical Northern and Southern soldier's religious views and life during the Civil War. While officers and generals are mentioned, the great majority is devoted to the foot soldier and noncommissioned officers.

The book contains several anecdotes of soldiers' faith in Jesus Christ from both North and South: how they were able to reconcile their religious beliefs with fighting a war, comments on the dangers and moral lapses of camp life, how a dying soldier was able to confidentally face eternity based on their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and other fascinating aspects of religious life during the Civil War.

While there were Jews, atheists, agnostics, and other types of beliefs in both armies, the emphasis is on the Christian faith.

Read and enjoy. Highly recommended if you are interested in learning more about the faith of several Civil War soldiers!
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Our society has a very different attitude and belief system making it almost impossible to understand the religious world of the Civil War. Nor am I sure that we can talk about it without being judgmental and condescending or bemoaning America's loss of faith. This is a subject that most histories ignore or quickly mention on the way to something else. I feel they do so at of fear, not wishing to touch such a highly charged subject. Having read Woodworth, I felt he would do give me a good balanced history of religion during the war.

He did much more than that! Very carefully, he navigates between the poles never seeming to lean in either direction while give us a full history of Christianity leading up to and during the war. This produces a very fair balanced history that every one can read and enjoy. Woodworth, for the most part, lets the participants tell the story. Using a combination of letters, diaries and books, he shows us what they thought and felt. With this foundation, he guides us from the person to society and showing us the application. Each important term, the practice of religion and its' place in American life is fully covered in Part I. Part II covers the war and the application of Christian principles during the war. The belief system, the sermons and prayers are both a solace and a trap for the South as the war is being lost. The last twenty-five pages alone are worth the price of the book. They deal with the South coming to terms with defeat and reconstruction in contrast to the North's feelings of God's favor in granting them victory.

I have seen request for information of religion in ACW armies and now have the answer. This book covers a huge gap in Civil War history and needs to be read by all who wish to really understand the armies that fought the war.
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Format: Paperback
Woodworth brings to light important aspects of source material from common Civil War soldiers that most historians disregard or dismiss with a quick sentence or two. The extensive quotation of what soldiers said about their faith in letters and journals gives an authentic picture of what real individual soldiers of the time thought and believed. Woodworth may have had his own biases in selecting the material presented, but I greatly appreciate what he has done in letting the soldiers speak for themselves. I have a special interest in Christianity during the Civil War, and this is the best book on the subject in the past half century or more.
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Woodworth painstakingly explores every unsuspected nuance of the spiritual life of soldiers, fighting in a horrible, unexplainable civil war. His facts and our assumptions clash amidst epic spiritual movements long forgotten, where doctrines and duties caused God's children to kill each other by the thousands, making the whole affair even more mind-boggling. We learn through his faithful documentation that God-fearing Christians on both sides struggled daily, not with their with political causes as much as with questions of their own spiritual journey and Salvation.. and how strangely, the war had positive effects on many of its participants, who in the end, believed their side might lose because of wretchedness or arrogance. There are many deep surprises within this volume... the least of which, for me was the utter failure of organized religion, the ascendancy of the YMCA, and the genuine intellect of the common foot soldier.
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As a Theologian and Civil War Buff, I found this volune insightful. The author, using the diaries of Civil War soldiers, presents
the theologiy and religous reflections of the time. He has an exceptional understaning of Christian theology with a leaning toward a conservative or Fundmentlist stance in the materials chosen. He also uses insights and interpretations from non soldieers: family letters and news articles. Once finds inspiration and hopefulness in the midst of death and destruction in this volumne.
Sexuality is presented, but there is no mention of adultary nor children conceived outside marriage. An added merit to the book is the interpretations and insights of theology that the authros draws. I foun this the best resource I have encourted on the religious world of the civil war soldier.
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