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Answering the Call: Religion & Chaplains during the Civil War
Exhibit Home | Antebellum Period| Chaplaincy | List of Union and Confederate Chaplains | Photo Album | Music | Links

This special exhibit explored the role of religion and the establishment of chaplaincy (military, hospital, prison) during the Civil War. Recognizing the Sesquicentennial of the war, this exhibit opened on Saturday, May 28, 2011, and closed at the end of October 2012. Virtual exhibit pages and links will be activated during 2013.

This exhibit — Answering the Call: Religion & Chaplains during the Civil War — explores the impact of religion and chaplains on the soldiers, their families, and the battlefields. Our research unearthed little-known information about the role of religion in the Antebellum debate that led to the war, and then the role of chaplains, missionaries and ministers during the conflict years on the battlefield and the home front, and in camps, hospitals and prisons.

The Rev. Daniel S. Doggett, minister of the Broad Street Methodist Church in Richmond, VA, observed in 1862 that historians “who undertake the task of committing to posterity the record of our times will be guilty of startling dereliction if the manifest and acknowledged hand of God be discarded from their pages.”

Religion was both a powerful unifying and fragmenting force during the antebellum and war years. All of the major Protestant denominations split; some reunited immediately after the war ended, others did not. The Presbyterian Church was the last to split and the last to reunite; it divided along geographic lines in 1861 and did not rejoin until 1983.

In his second Inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln said,“Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained.... Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other....
The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Nearly 3,700 commissioned chaplains and hundreds of camp missionaries, along with the U.S. Christian Commission, U.S. Sanitary Commission and the American Tract Society, provided spiritual comfort and interpretation, counseling, medical assistance, and much more.

There have been many attempts over the past 150 years to explain and offer insight into the Civil War. This exhibit cannot and will not present all the issues. We hope that the rare artifacts, photographs, and paper ephemera here will shed a little more light on the roles of chaplains and religion as we commemorate this profound event in American history.

During the winter, additional information, photos, documents and links will be added to these exhibit pages.

Religion and the Road to War (Antebellum)

Manifest Destiny: Igniting the Conflict

Colonization, Abolition, Freedom

Chaplaincy Overview

Chaplains & Hospitals

Chaplains & Prisons

Chaplains & Black Troops

Selected Individuals
Chaplain Lachlan C. Vass
Chaplain John Richards


Music - Hymns & Spiritual Songs



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