Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Excerpt From Chapter on Civil War

Here is an excerpt from the end of our discussion on the Civil War. If you interested, email me and I will send you the whole discussion (about 28 pages in Word). I will not send you the whole book. You will have to buy that.

One theological issue American Christians faced in the war was how to continue to construe their doctrine of the providence of God. The people prayed for the battles—one group of Americans praying for Confederate victory and another for Union victory on the field of battle. Most of the battles were won by one side or the other. Confederates scored the first victory, then had some setbacks, then regained ground and it was back and forth through 1862, with victories for the South at Seven Days, loss at Stones River, and strategic loss at Antietam. The Confederates did well in 1863 at Chickamauga and Chancellorsville, but also lost major battles at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. Then the tide turned against the Confederacy in 1864 with inconclusive larger battles, but with a loss of the means to continue the war. Both sides invoked the same God, asking him to help their cause and at the end of the day recognizing, whatever the outcome, that his will was done. Over and over they did this. John Adger, Southern Presbyterian, once the war was over, went to great lengths to insist on “the justice of the Southern cause,” but also conceded that “there was one error . . . into which we acknowledge that some Southern ministers sometimes fell.” That error was to believe that God must surely bless the right. What the Southerners had learn through the disposition of the war was that often let :the righteous . . . be overthrown.” Godly ministers may pray, but the outcome is left with God. His conclusion was, “Yes! The hand of God, gracious though heavy, is upon the South for her discipline.” It was not simply faith in the Bible that was at stake for war America, but faith in God himself.
A related issue had to do with military protocol in relation to civilians. The army leaders on both sides had been trained at West Point, believed the same doctrines of war, understood the same tactics and strategies in battle. One of their deepest held convictions was that war was for soldiers, not for civilians. This conviction held for the first year-and-a-half. In October 1862 William Tecumseh Sherman, attempting to hold on to his victory in Memphis sustained a series of guerilla attacks from Confederate fighters. In response he destroyed the town of Randolph, Tennessee. When the next attack came he destroyed all homes, farms and crops along a fifteen-mile stretch south of Memphis. “When a Memphis woman objected, Sherman replied that God Himself had destroyed entire populations for far lesser crimes.” This would be especially the lesson learned late in the war through Sherman’s march to the sea, exercising a final “vengeance upon South Carolina” for starting this whole mess.
One more thing needs to be said before we make a few notes about the economic impact of the war and then move on. The Civil War was, as we indicated earlier, the second defining moment in America’s history, which is why we have given it so much attention in our narrative. A third will come in the next century, and we will also give it a close look. A newcomer to the United States may have made the most telling comment on the nature of slavery and the war. His name was Philip Schaff, and he was a native Swiss who had studied in German, then accepted a call to teach at the German Reformed seminary in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. In 1861 he penned a review article in the Mercersburg Review in which he called for the gradual, voluntary end to slavery, but noted also that, “The negro question lies far deeper than the slavery question.” Schaff, it turns out, was quite prescient. The Civil War did solve the slavery issue, once and for all, but neither the war, nor twelve years of “Reconstruction,” that is, oversight from the Federal government over the governing policies of the eleven rebel states, nor decades of Jim Crow and prejudice solved the “negro problem.” We will have to see whether that does get some kind of solution later in our story.

Chad Owen Brand

No comments:

Post a Comment