Gettysburg ReligionRefinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North

Gettysburg ReligionRefinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North

Steve Longenecker

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780823255191

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

This book argues that the religious history of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area, the Border North, was particularly modern for its time and reveals much about larger American society. Refinement, for example, was pervasive and typified American religion. The diversity of Gettysburg religion, including multiple denominations, ethnicity, doctrinal disagreements, and higher education (a seminary and a college), created variety remarkable for a small antebellum town but characteristic of modern America. Race added more diversity to the community and predicted national trends beyond the Civil War when all blacks became emancipated and controlled their own religious organizations but otherwise remained second-class citizens. When the two armies collided in Gettysburg, life turned upside-down for this lively, diverse religious community, but afterwards congregations repaired their facilities and resumed their quest for improvement. This, the book argues for moderate rather than seismic change during the Civil War era with the most conspicuous adjustment coming with the growth of civil religion, which after the war became permanently embedded in the modern American nation-state. In this way, too, Gettysburg religion belonged to the future. Finally, the book gives special emphasis to everyday religious activity and idiosyncrasies that make human behavior so interesting. Thus, this little town and the region teach fascinating lessons about American life.