Local Churches Backed Civil War Effort against Slavery

Article excerpt

Byline: Diana Dretske

During the Civil War (1861-1865) northern churches were instrumental in shifting the goals of the war.

At the start of the war, the North's purpose was to save the Union. But as Federal troops began to suffer and lose on the battlefield, that goal shifted.

Protestant ministers, in particular, sought a religious explanation for military failure. Many concluded that the war signaled God's desire for slavery to end.

However, at the beginning of the war, few northern churches denounced the practice of slavery as a sin. They quoted the Old Testament of the Bible to show that slavery was a morally legitimate institution.

In Lake County, two churches stood out immediately against slavery, the Millburn Congregational Church led by Father William Dodge and the Ivanhoe Congregational Church.

In Millburn, Father Dodge was an outspoken abolitionist and his mostly English and Scottish immigrant congregation rallied around him. In fact, his congregation agreed in writing to assist escaped slaves - an illegal activity under the Fugitive Slave Act.

In Ivanhoe, one church member, Addison Partridge, fought in the war as a First Lieutenant in the 96th Illinois Regiment. Partridge returned home in 1863 and brought with him, and out of slavery, James Joice. In 1865, Joice returned to the South to retrieve his family and brought them back to live in Ivanhoe.

Interestingly, the opinions that northern churches had of the war seemed to directly parallel those of Abraham Lincoln. …