Diary of Orrin Brown, Chattanooga, Tennessee
We got up this morning and found a cool chilly wind blowing, we were not any of us detailed to work today. I feel pretty well better than I have for several days, there is new troops coming in and going out to the front all of the time, they all draw their arms here we were calld up to head quarters about sundown and gave our names to draw our arms were marched to the assnell drew our arms and got back to camp at about 9 Oclock. The Christian Commition agent came into Camp today and gave us the Northwestern and Western Christian Advocat, the Christian Times and he gave some of us books.
Religion and religious belief played an important part in the U.S. Civil War. On its face, the war was begun on States’ rights vs Federal prerogative, similar to the ever-present organizational spectrum from the Reformed church’s Congregationalists on one hand to the centralized Roman church. Yet it was the philosophical and moral conundrum of slavery that brought the conflict to the state of crusade for many. As a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary noted:
After Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in April 1861, the vast majority of Northern religious bodies—with the exception of the historic “peace” churches which on principle adhered to pacifism—ardently supported the war for the Union…
The sense that God was decisively at work in the crisis of the Union also profoundly altered the way in which church leaders dealt with the problem of slavery. At the war’s outset, Northern churches were far from unanimous in their attitude toward human bondage… At the start of the war, the avowed aim of Northern policy was to save the Union, not to free the slaves; but mixed results on the battlefield prompted a reassessment of goals… Some churches were demanding emancipation as early as the fall of 1861 while others were months or even years behind; but whether early or late, religious groups concluded that the war had signaled God’s intention that slavery die and that it die now….
The pouring out of blood was cleansing the nation of its sin and preparing it for moral rebirth.