In the Review Queue: No Peace for the Wicked: Northern Protestant Soldiers and the American Civil War

by Brett Schulte on June 11, 2009 · 2 comments

The “In the Review Queue” series provides TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog readers with a brief look at books Brett Schulte is planning to review here on the blog.  These will be very similar to Drew Wagenhoffer’s “Booknotes” series at Civil War Books and Authors.

nopeaceforthewickeddavidrolfsIn what was the typical view of Civil War history, Southern soldiers were looked on as more religious than their Northern counterparts.  It’s interesting then, to see this new book on Protestant Northern soldiers.  Author David Rolfs looks to study how these soldiers justified what they were doing by turning to their religious beliefs.  This will be an entirely new topic of study for me and I look forward to learning more about religion and the Civil War.  Does anyone know of a similar study for Northern Catholics?

Information on No Peace for the Wicked: Northern Protestant Soldiers and the American Civil War from the University of Tennessee Press web site is as follows:

No Peace for the Wicked

Northern Protestant Soldiers and the American Civil War

Rolfs, David
Cloth Edition, $38.95Short
Cloth ISBN: 1-57233-662-5
Status: In Print
Library of Congress No.:
Publication Date: 3/25/2009In the spring of 1861, young men throughout the Northern states rallied around the Union flag, eager to punish the Confederate renegades who had brazenly inaugurated civil war by firing on Fort Sumter. Often driven by their Protestant religious beliefs, many northern soldiers believed they were enlisting in a just war to save their Christian government from a “wicked” Southern rebellion.

These Protestant soldiers’ faith was severely tested by the hardships and tragedies they experienced in the Civil War. The vast majority easily justified their wartime service by reminding themselves and their loved ones that they were engaged in a holy cause to preserve the world’s only Christian republic. Others were genuinely haunted by the horrific violence of a seemingly endless civil war, and began to entertain serious doubts about their faith.

The first comprehensive work of its kind, David Rolfs’ No Peace for the Wicked sheds new light on the Northern Protestant soldiers’ religious worldview and the various ways they used it to justify and interpret their wartime experiences. Drawing extensively from the letters, diaries and published collections of hundreds of religious soldiers, Rolfs effectively resurrects both these soldiers’ religious ideals and their most profound spiritual doubts and conflicts. No Peace for the Wicked also explores the importance of “just war” theory in the formulation of Union military strategy and tactics, and examines why the most religious generation in U.S. history fought America’s bloodiest war.

David Rolfs earned his doctorate at Florida State University and is currently an instructor of history at Maclay College Preparatory School in Tallahassee, Florida.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Russell June 11, 2009 at 9:13 am

This should be an interesting book. Every major Christian denomination split along sectional lines, a split that remains to this day. The Catholic Church being the exception.

Many years ago, I was at a CWRT lecture where the speaker gave an interesting story on this subject. Although the Catholic Church did not split, the bishop of New Orleans wrote a letter to the Pope condeming the bishop of Boston for blessing the Union troops from Boston. The bishop of New Orleans had done the same for those in his diocese. A copy of this letter is at the Confederate Museum in New Orleans, which I hope to visit someday.

Reply

Donald Thompson June 12, 2009 at 10:36 am

Brett,

Probably the only book that’s covered the subject in any depth is Benjamin Blied’s 1945 book “Catholics in the Civil War.” There are others, but at best they devote a chapter to the subject.

Thanks,
Donald Thompson

Reply

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