Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North

Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North

Steve Longenecker
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North
    Book Description:

    In the borderland between freedom and slavery, Gettysburg remains among the most legendary Civil War landmarks. A century and a half after the great battle, Cemetery Hill, the Seminary and its ridge, and the Peach Orchard remain powerful memories for their embodiment of the small-town North and their ability to touch themes vital to nineteenth-century religion. During this period, three patterns became particularly prominent: refinement, diversity, and war. In Gettysburg Religion, author Steve Longenecker explores the religious history of antebellum and Civil War Sera Gettysburg, shedding light on the remarkable diversity of American religion and the intricate ways it interacted with the broader culture. Longenecker argues that Gettysburg religion revealed much about larger American society and about how trends in the Border North mirrored national developments. In many ways, Gettysburg and its surrounding Border North religion belonged to the future and signaled a coming pattern for modern America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5522-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    “Some little town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg,” answered Rhett Butler when Scarlett O’Hara, anxious about her beloved Ashley Wilkes, inquired about the location of the great battle.¹ The dashing Mr. Butler can be forgiven for insinuating the insignificance of this modest settlement of over two thousand residents, known primarily for a great collision of armies. Yet this “little town in Pennsylvania,” just seven miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, remains among the strongest Civil War and American memories. In particular, religious sites such as Cemetery Hill and the Lutheran seminary belong to the core of this remembrance, and another Gettysburg...

  6. Divertimento: Samuel Simon and Mary Catherine Steenbergen Schmucker
    (pp. 9-12)

    Samuel Simon Schmucker, according to one modern scholar, was the “most prominent American Lutheran theologian of the early nineteenth century.” In 1826, with most of his career ahead of him, the twenty-seven-year-old came to Gettysburg to serve as the first professor of the new Lutheran seminary. Schmucker had been an outspoken advocate and energetic fundraiser in the founding of the institution, and the board of directors consequently selected this bright young preacher and scholar as their first instructor. Schmucker left his parish in Woodstock, Virginia, and relocated in Gettysburg while his teenaged wife, Mary Steenbergen Schmucker, and infant daughter stayed...

  7. 1 Community
    (pp. 13-33)

    The scenery of Gettysburg and Adams County impressed mid–nineteenth-century visitors and residents alike. A wide variety of deciduous and conifer trees, including oak, hickory, chestnut, walnut, elm, gum, birch, beech, pine, sycamore, poplar, hemlock, tulip, cedar, and maple, populated the forests. Blossoms from tulips, dogwoods, and redbuds, which actually produce a purple flower, colored the spring landscape. South Mountain, the local name for the Blue Ridge and the highest elevation in the county (2,100 feet above sea level), dominated the western horizon. A local booster described this modest line as “blue, distant, sweeping hills” and a sightseer called it...

  8. Divertimento: Salome “Sallie” Myers
    (pp. 34-36)

    Salome Myers was a devout Methodist. On the morning of her eighteenth birthday, Sunday, June 24, 1860, she attended Sunday school, preaching, and a class meeting. In the afternoon Myers returned for more Sunday school. At 6:00 p.m. she made her third trip of the day to church for a “very interesting sermon” on Acts 16:30, “what must I do to be saved?” The following Thursday Myers attended prayer meeting. On Friday she wrote a composition, “When shall we meet again?,” and baked cakes for a missionary fair, which she attended on Friday and Saturday nights.¹

    In her occupational life,...

  9. 2 Refinement: In Theory
    (pp. 37-52)

    Early nineteenth-century Americans grew self-conscious about themselves and their surroundings. As never before, they gauged manners, dress, speech, possessions, bearing, pastimes, and homes for style, beauty, and refinement. Performance and evaluation became part of the daily pattern as they constantly evaluated themselves and others according to the new standards of behavior. Hints of rudeness and vulgarity quickly resulted in failing grades as the broad middle class, including those who sat in pews, now aspired to gentility.¹

    Refinement did not eliminate opposition to the sinful world, a traditional Christian attitude, and many still considered themselves in the world but not of...

  10. 3 Refinement: In Practice
    (pp. 53-69)

    Refinement was more than educated leadership, a marker of denominational transformation, or a foil for nonconformists. In practice, it permeated the daily and weekly rhythms of congregational life.

    The house of refinement was built on a rock of economic growth, sometimes called the “market revolution.” Basically, this involved a shift from a localized, agricultural, barter, preindustrial economy in which relationships mattered to a large, complicated, industrialized, competitive, impersonal, cash-oriented economy. For many, especially in the middle class, a new standard of living, facilitated especially by the widespread availability of consumer goods, was a very tangible and positive consequence of the...

  11. Divertimento: The Codoris
    (pp. 70-72)

    In 1828 George and Nicholas Cordary, single and brothers, arrived in Gettysburg from Hottviller, France, a town in Lorraine near the border with Germany. In 1850 another brother, Antoine, joined them along with his wife, Magdaleine, their married daughter Catherine (age twenty-six) and her husband, Jean Stab, another daughter, Marie (age twenty), and a son, Jacob (age thirteen). George, Nicholas, and Antoine, French Catholic immigrants, generally moved quickly and comfortably into the American mainstream.

    Of the three brothers, Antoine, the most recent arrival, found assimilation the most difficult. He achieved less status than his brothers and lingered somewhat on the...

  12. 4 Diversity: Ethnicity and Doctrine
    (pp. 73-98)

    With its first breath the Border North was diverse. Even before William Penn acquired his woods, Swedes and Dutch already inhabited the Delaware Valley, and when Penn arrived, he recruited obscure, oppressed minorities, including non-English, for his self-conscious experiment in tolerance. Native Americans and the involuntary settlement of African Americans further varied the population. By the mid-eighteenth century colonial Pennsylvania boasted of a cultural spectrum broader and brighter than any in the western world. In the next century diversity advanced throughout America, especially with the spread of urbanization and an increase in immigration, but the swath of counties north of...

  13. Divertimento: Abraham and Elizabeth Brien
    (pp. 99-100)

    Abraham and Elizabeth Brien lived on a small farm just south of Gettysburg along the Emmitsburg Road. Abraham was born a slave in Maryland in 1804, but in 1840 he lived in Gettysburg with his first wife, Harriet, and three children. Most likely he was a runaway, but maybe he was emancipated. Prior to purchasing the farm in 1857, Abraham lived in town and worked as a handyman and hostler, that is, someone who tends horses at an inn.

    Elizabeth, Pennsylvania-born, was Abraham’s third wife; he was a two-time widower. The 1860 census lists them with two children: William, fourteen,...

  14. 5 Diversity: Race
    (pp. 101-127)

    The racial climate of the Border North was fickle. Blacks were borderline social outcasts, frozen out of the mainstream by poverty and racism. But the local racial environment also contained conflicting winds that blew from all directions, and some currents tempered the racist environment. White progressives, in particular, offered support, including assistance with the Underground Railroad and outspoken abolitionism, and interracial worship was gracefully accepted, if not widely practiced. On race the Border North was a zone of contrasts, but unlike nearby Maryland, blacks controlled their own religious life.

    On Sunday morningsde factosegregation was the norm in Gettysburg....

  15. Divertimento: Mary and Joseph Sherfy
    (pp. 128-130)

    Mary and Joseph Sherfy lived on a fifty-acre peach farm one mile south of Gettysburg along the Emmittsburg Road. They had six children—three sons (Raphael, John, and Ernest) and three daughters (Otelia, Mary, and Anna)—and Mary’s mother, Catherine Heagan, also belonged to the household, placing a family of nine in this two-story brick farmhouse. The size of the farm was average and the soil not especially fertile. The peach specialty, therefore, demonstrates an entrepreneurial impulse to squeeze as much as possible out of the modest acreage.¹

    The Sherfys were Dunkers. They dressed differently, wore their hair differently, furnished...

  16. 6 War
    (pp. 131-170)

    “War Commenced,” announcedThe Compiler, and “Commencement of Civil War!” exclaimedThe Adams Sentinel. The longtime journalistic foes found something on which they agreed.¹

    Historians trumpet the power of this great conflict to alter America. They note large national changes, including emancipation, physical destruction of the South, the triumph of federalism, the emergence of a modern nation-state, and constitutional amendments that laid a foundation for future social revolutions. Thus, Gettysburg, a typical wartime community, save for its battle experience, is a logical place to find evidence of a remade America. Yet change in local religion was measured. Once the shooting...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 171-178)

    In late fall 1863, as the days grew shorter, the shadows longer, and all but the most stubborn leaves had dropped, Abraham Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg to dedicate a new national cemetery, a seventeen-acre burial ground adjacent to Evergreen for Union—not Secesh—soldiers who had fallen in the summer battle. The new burial ground was a rural cemetery organized by the state of Pennsylvania and locally by David Wills, a prominent attorney, but it was also a national facility, the result of the new role for government as internment of the countless dead overwhelmed the private sector. African-American work...

  18. Divertimento: Thaddeus Stevens
    (pp. 179-182)

    The best-known resident of early-nineteenth-century Gettysburg was Thaddeus Stevens. A prominent lawyer and civic leader in Gettysburg, Stevens achieved national fame in the U.S. Congress during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods after he moved to Lancaster.¹

    Born in New England, Stevens came to York, Pennsylvania, in 1815 to join friends who taught at the York Academy. But he studied law and in 1816 relocated to Gettysburg to practice. Soon the newly arrived, twenty-five-year-old attorney defended a prominent murderer, and although losing the case, Stevens performed so skillfully that his practice blossomed. In 1833 voters elected him to the state...

  19. Coda
    (pp. 183-186)

    Samuel Simon Schmucker resigned as president of the Lutheran Seminary on August 9, 1864. The sixty-five-year-old cited age, but other factors also influenced his decision. Schmucker had lost the doctrinal battle with confessionalists, and his heart-felt, moderate revivalism became a conspicuous minority within the Seminary community. Moreover, the seminary struggled financially, and a controversial president clinging to an unpopular doctrine would not encourage donors. The seminary needed tranquility, and a new president would help. Consequently, Samuel, wife Esther, and Alice, a daughter by a previous marriage, moved from their spacious home on the seminary campus to a newly built, smaller...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 187-226)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-240)
  22. Index
    (pp. 241-246)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-250)