Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

God's Almost Chosen People: A Religious History of the American Civil War

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

God's Almost Chosen People: A Religious History of the American Civil War

Article excerpt

God's Almost Chosen People: A Religious History of the American Civil War. By George C. Rabie. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010, Pp. 586. $35.00.)

The Civil War has been called "the 'holiest' war in American history," but few histories of the war make much reference to the religious aspect of the struggle. In writing God's Almost Chosen People: A Religious History of the American Civil War, George C. Rabie has set Out to provide that missing perspective. This is not an easy book to deal with; in his enthusiasm to show us the missing forest, Rabie often seems to get lost among the trees. He has documented his history with an almost endless stream of citations from personal diaries, letters, sermons, and other papers that provide insight into the experience of the soldiers in the field and the housewife in her kitchen on both sides of the struggle, but all too seldom steps back to summarize and provide a framework in which to place the rich, indeed overwhelming, source material. The loose chronological order in which the material is arranged often seems to work against the attempt to provide perspective since the conviction of God's providence was strong on both sides, and excerpts from diaries and other personal writings become numbingly repetitive after a while. Yet when the numbness wears off, the depiction of a thoroughly CaIvinist nation emerges. Can it be that Americans of every church and sect were equally convinced that God's mysterious purpose was being worked out on the battlefield? Rabie believes so; it would be interesting to see whether a different selection of sources suggests otherwise.

Whether God indeed worked a purpose out in the bloody conflict seemed increasingly evident to many northerners and increasingly mysterious to many southerners as the war came to an end, yet the conviction that sufficient repentance, humility, and faith would bring victory to one's chosen side seems to have prolonged the struggle. …

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