New Men: Manliness in Early America

By Thomas A. Foster | Go to book overview

12
“Play the Man… for Your
Bleeding Country”
Military Chaplains as Gender Brokers
During the American Revolutionary War

JANET MOORE LINDMAN

In December 1783, the Presbyterian cleric George Duffield preached a sermon before Congress to celebrate the American triumph in war and the return of peace. His oration lauded the heroic action of American colonists against the tyranny of Britain. Though America had “contributed her liberal share” to the empire and never withheld “her blood or her treasure when requisitions were made,” England still wished to keep her under “servile submission.” To obviate this possibility, American men reacted with a militant spirit in 1775:

The peaceful husband forsook his farm; the merchant relinquished his
trade; the compassionate physician forgot his daily round; the mariner
laid aside his compass and quadrant; and the mechanic resigned his imple-
ments of employment … all prepared for war, and eagerly flew to the field.1

Anxious to serve, American men willingly left their livelihoods to take up arms. As “faithful watchmen,” American soldiers “blew the trumpet on the walls of our Zion” to defend their native country—gendered female—with military aggression—gendered male—against a common enemy. Duffield’s sermon weaves together gender, religion, and politics to commemorate the American victory. His seamless history, however, omits the civil upheaval caused by the American Revolution, as white men fought against England as well as among themselves to realize national independence. Nor does it allude to the changing nature of manhood as the revolutionary era instigated a new level of political engagement for white men of lower and middling status.2 By the 1770s, a white man’s rank was not only based on his role as

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