Religion and the American Civil War

By Randall M. Miller; Harry S. Stout et al. | Go to book overview

6
"Wholesome Reading Purifies and Elevates the Man"

The Religious Military Press in the Confederacy

KURT O. BERENDS

Throughout the second half of the Civil War, the religious military press (henceforth referred to as (RMP) sought to provide beneficial reading for the Confederate army. "Wholesome reading purifies and elevates the man," wrote the Rev. John Leyland, editor of The be Soldier's Visitor . "It inspires him with better thoughts and impulses, it encourages him to that which is good, it restrains him from evil." Leyland and other editors defined purity as more than just conformity to the evangelical lifestyle. Purity, for the editors of the RMP, suggested a certain type of soldier. Although the religious character of the soldiers was important for these preachers turned editors, their message contained civil and social implications as well. The pure soldier was the disciplined soldier, attentive to duty and always hopeful of the cause. Of course, for soldiers to be truly pure they must first be saved from their sins. According to the RMP, the large revivals that spread throughout the army created a Christian army--an "elevated" army. Naturally a Christian army fought for an elevated cause--God's cause. The Civil War, according to the editors, was a war not just for political independence but also for religious freedom. Within the RMP, editors created and explained a framework of beliefs--a worldview--that sustained an unvanquished optimism for southern independence. Until the very end, editors professed hope of Confederate victory. Since the Confederacy lost, the optimism and bravado may seem misplaced as if editors had held onto a cause long lost. This interpretation has driven some historians, but it is mistaken; for the writers of the RMP, such

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