04 May 2012

Were Confederate Leaders Christian Warriors?

Onward Christian Soldiers by John Paul Strain
Depending on your understanding of the term, yes, some were. Most notably, Lee, Jackson, Stuart, Polk come immediately to mind. Kevin Levin seems not to think so. But many respected historians do:

Confederate General Daniel Harvey Hill commented of Jackson in an 1863 letter: “The striking characteristic of his mind was his profound reverence for divine and human authority. I never knew of any one whose reverence for Deity was so all pervading, and who felt so completely his entire dependence upon God.” Well-known American Presbyterian cleric Moses D. Hoge was more succinct on the subject. “To attempt to portray the life of Jackson while leaving out the religious element would be like undertaking to describe Switzerland without making mention of the Alps.” ~ James I. Robertson, Jr.
 And . . .

Jackson was fanatical in his Presbyterian faith, and it energized his military thought and character. Theology was the only subject he genuinely enjoyed discussing. His dispatches invariably credited an ever-kind Providence. Assigning his fate to God's hands, he acted utterly fearlessly on the battlefield -- and expected the same of everyone else in Confederate gray. Jackson's God smiled south, blessing him with the strength of Joshua to smite the Amalekites without mercy.  ~ Stephen W. Sears

So just forget the various "narratives" and spin - just research the facts. This ain't rocket science.

Kevin also seems to be a bit skeptical of "the popular narrative that the Confederacy was fighting to maintain a pre-modern society that had already taken hold in the North." Yet that is precisely what one of Kevin's favorite historians suggests. As a matter of fact, David Blight goes even further stating:

The conservative movement in America, or at least its most radical wing, seems determined to repeal much of the 20th century and even its constitutional and social roots from the transformative 1860s. The Civil War is not only not over, it can still be lost. (See here.)

And . . . 

Why doesn't the Confederacy just fade away? Is it because we are irresistibly fascinated by catastrophic loss? Or is it something else? Is it because the Confederacy is to this day the greatest conservative resistance to federal authority in American history? (See here.)

And so, the irresistible fascination continues. (Sigh.)


Douglas Hill said...

I can't resist adding the closing to R.E. Lee's summary of Stuart's life: "...To military capacity of a high order and all the nobler virtues of the soldier he added the brighter graces of a pure life, guided and sustained by the Christian's faith and hope."

Do us proud in McDowell, Rick. I know you will.

13thBama said...

I love J.P. Strain's work. I have a few Giclees in my house.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Doug - not to mention the voluminous evidence - Jones's sentimental, yet still useful, "Christ in the Camp" and Bennett's "The Great Revival in the Southern Armies." I'm dumbfounded someone would be skeptical. Then again, I shouldn't be, given the current environment.

Michael Bradley said...

You should read a recent book about the western Confederate armies, "Onward, Southern Soldiers" by Traci and Gordon Belt. This book will expand the conversation to the Army of Tennessee with General/Bishop Polk.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Professor Bradley - good to hear from you. I'll be sure and put that one on my ever-growing list.

Anonymous said...

What America is coming to? I was astounded after reading "Land of Diminished Distinctions". One thing that can't be argued about the Confederacy is that distinctions still existed, now anything goes; how Christian is that?