Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War

Article excerpt

Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War, by Harry S. Stout. Viking, January 2006. $29.95

Surprisingly little has been written on the religious aspects of the Civil War or on the importance of this conflict in the history of American morality. Therefore, Stout's volume is a monumental addition to the fields of Civil War studies and American religious history. While Stout's conclusions aren't exactly revelatory, his careful synthesis of military events and the accompanying moral questions is commendable. Working chronologically, Stout maps moral and religious changes onto the military history of the war. He discusses the evolutions of the Northern and Confederate jeremiads and the persistence of a sense of chosenness and divine guidance in the rhetoric of both sides. Stout speaks of the "just war" throughout his discussion and points to the Emancipation Proclamation as the moment at which the conflict descended into total war. …

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