American Civil War Home Chatroom Transcript (Oct. 29, 2006) "For God and Country: The Role of Religion in the Civil War": an online chat with author Michael Aubrecht (continued)


10/29/2006 10:06 pm (et) MAubrecht: The last subject that I would like to briefly share with you tonight deals with the good and bad of religion in war. I have strived above to present 4 uplifting subjects, but there is also a "darker-side" to faith, and negative repercussions that can result from it. I like to call this: THE DOUBLE-EDGE SWORD OF THEOLOGY. This is more of an opinion piece and I don't want to preach or get political. However, it plays a part in our conversation and should be addressed.

10/29/2006 10:06 pm (et) MAubrecht: I did a Q&A with "The Free Lance-Star" that dealt with this specific topic. Over the course of the interview I was asked to correlate the roles of religion "then vs. now" and what the "pros and cons" are. The article was entitled "Religion, war can be a risky combination" and was penned by a great reporter (and co-worker) named Michael Zitz. I will be quoting him throughout this section, but in the effort to save time, I'll be mixing him and me - instead of quoting everything separately.

10/29/2006 10:07 pm (et) MAubrecht: Faith and fearlessness are admirable traits, but they also can be dangerous. Historically, religion has always played a part in every major conflict, whether for good or evil. The GOOD is that faith in one's God can provide a great sense of strength and comfort to soldiers and civilians. The BAD is that it can also be distorted for the justification of aggression and atrocity. Simply stated, it can be a blessing as well as a danger.

10/29/2006 10:07 pm (et) MAubrecht: I think that it's pretty fair to say that both the acts of religion and war should always be practiced for the betterment of mankind. Unfortunately, sometimes it backfires. My own definition of 'human nature' includes mankind's "innate ability to foul things up. I think one of our most important tasks is to learn from our own mistakes." In essence, the role of religion in the Civil War (IMO) directly impacted the events that were witnessed - both good and bad.

10/29/2006 10:08 pm (et) MAubrecht: In regards to Stonewall Jackson, the strength of his faith, and his belief in Presbyterian doctrine that states that our deaths are predestined, played a role in how he conducted himself on the battlefield. This resulted in both triumph and tragedy. He himself repeatedly stated, "My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time of my death." He added, "I do not concern myself about that, but to always be ready, no matter when it may overtake me." This (IMO) is a wonderful way to live, but I see it as being somewhat problematic in a war zone.

10/29/2006 10:08 pm (et) amhistoryguy: logs off.

10/29/2006 10:09 pm (et) MAubrecht: The belief that his time of death was already determined, enabled him to stand, unflinchingly, amid the chaos on the battlefield (often, it inspired his troops to achieve victory against all odds), but in another way, this "divine inspiration" was self-destructive and contributed greatly to Jackson's untimely demise. He also may have felt protected as he stated, "Our God was my shield. His protecting care is an additional cause for gratitude."

10/29/2006 10:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: enters the chatroom.

10/29/2006 10:09 pm (et) MAubrecht: In other words, his feeling of invincibility (as a soldier for the Lord), combined with no logical fear of death (on the battlefield) made him incredibly courageous, and a little careless at times. I consider Jackson as similar to George Patton in some respects. He was a ferocious warrior who preached the swift and total destruction of the enemy. Although he took no pleasure in waging war, he believed that the quickest way to end a conflict was to give no quarter to the enemy. He urged his superiors to attack when at all possible and his intentions were to cripple the opposition into surrender.

10/29/2006 10:10 pm (et) MAubrecht: Faith made him somewhat cautious, as he often depended on prayer when making decisions, but it also made him careless, as it instilled a false-sense of security at times. This (IMO) may have played a role in his accident at Chancellorsville. The bottom line is that a commander of his ranking should not have been anywhere on the field where he might be susceptible to "friendly-fire" - or any fire for that matter. By putting himself in harm's way, Jackson unwillingly jeopardized the entire command.

10/29/2006 10:10 pm (et) MAubrecht: Now, this "casual" attitude may have been due to a feeling of providence that Jackson often boasted of - and after reading piles of post-war transcripts, I have come to the conclusion that his staff believed it too. This goes back to the "hero-worship" syndrome that may have clouded all of their judgment. That is what makes his accidental wounding so ironic - and sad. A man so loved by his troops - ultimately "killed" by his troops (pneumonia finished him off).

10/29/2006 10:11 pm (et) MAubrecht: Still, it is this historian's firm opinion that Thomas Jackson was a great man and that religion was THE foundation for what made him such a brilliant and fearless leader. I would not have published an entire book on the subject if I didn't think that Christianity was the cornerstone in the foundation of what made "Stonewall" a "stone wall". He lived every day for the fulfillment of his duty. In the end, perhaps this Christian soldier's biggest victory was not in defeating his foes on the battlefield, but in convincing others to serve both God and country. Ironically, Christianity may have also played a role in his death as it made him feel "untouchable."

10/29/2006 10:12 pm (et) MAubrecht: That is why I refer to faith as a "double-edged" sword in times of war. Religion can bring comfort to those left at home, and those deployed abroad. It can inspire the brave to be braver, instill a sense of mercy for those you oppose, and spread a renewed lifestyle to one who was previously unfamiliar with the teaching of Christ.

10/29/2006 10:12 pm (et) MAubrecht: BUT… it can be used to spread evil ideology, inflame division, and justify acts of atrocity. It can also be perverted, or politically skewed, for the recruitment and execution of an unrighteous cause. We have seen this before, and we still see it today. Holy Wars are rarely "holy" at all.

10/29/2006 10:12 pm (et) MAubrecht: In regards to America's Civil War, I think that religion played a more positive than negative role.

10/29/2006 10:12 pm (et) MAubrecht: Although the period represented one of the darkest times in our country's history, it also witnessed a great revival and later, the positive healing power of faith. That is why I have dedicated my writing career to studying and presenting it as I think we can all learn by these believer's examples, regardless of the color of their uniform. We should all strive to share the stories of their faith, sacrifice, and glory for future generations. They certainly earned it.

10/29/2006 10:13 pm (et) MAubrecht: May God bless ALL of them.

10/29/2006 10:13 pm (et) MAubrecht: Also, in closing, I wanted to add that there is a new museum that is being established by Liberty University that will focus specifically on the religious aspects of the war…

10/29/2006 10:13 pm (et) MAubrecht: It is called The National Civil War Chaplains Research Center and Museum. Their mission is to educate the public about the role of chaplains and religious organizations in the Civil War; to promote the continuing study of the many methods of dissemination of religious doctrine and moral teachings during the War; to preserve religious artifacts; and to present interpretive programs that show the influence of religion on the lives of political and military personnel. I'll be sharing more on this project as it progresses and you can read about it over on my blog…

10/29/2006 10:14 pm (et) MAubrecht: I thank you all, and I'd like to post the TRIVIA QUESTION now, and after that we can chat about whatever you like. The first person to email the correct answer to me at will get the books. I'll reply to the winner later to get a mailing address. Here we go. Good luck.

10/29/2006 10:15 pm (et) MAubrecht: WHAT INSPIRED QUOTE FROM THOMAS JACKSON is inscribed over the Jackson Arch entrance to the present-day VMI Barracks? (Hint: This particular principle is attributed to the Reverend Joel Hawes and first appeared in an 1851 work, "Letters to Young Men, on the Formation of Character")

10/29/2006 10:15 pm (et) MAubrecht: Congrats in advance to the winner. Ok. I'm finished. Any thoughts, questions comments? XXXXXXXXX

10/29/2006 10:15 pm (et) ks: Another MODERATOR'S note...this one to YOU, Michael. ;) Next time you send me an advance text copy, don't give me the trivia question and answer. That way *I* can play. ;) BTW great job!

10/29/2006 10:15 pm (et) ks: ?

10/29/2006 10:16 pm (et) MAubrecht: hahaha! I forgot about that...

10/29/2006 10:16 pm (et) MAubrecht: Yes, your question ks?

10/29/2006 10:16 pm (et) amhistoryguy: ?

10/29/2006 10:16 pm (et) ks: Notice how I'm presuming there will be a NEXT time. ;)

I'm not one to typically delve into "what ifs", but this one interested me. You stated earlier about Jackson seeing the CW as a "holy war". How do you think he might have responded to the LOSS of that holy war? Of course I realize some might state that they'd possibly not have lost had Jackson lived. Let's not make that the premise for this question. :) What's your considered opinion on how Jackson would have responded to the loss of the war?

10/29/2006 10:17 pm (et) MAubrecht: Great question - let me type...

10/29/2006 10:19 pm (et) MAubrecht: My latest project is called "Nathan Bedford Forrest: Saint & Sinner." It is more dark and edgy than my previous books and after studying the post-war mindset of Forrest, I have started to look at my first 2 subjects (Jackson and Stuart) and wonder how they would have dealt with defeat. Not well I think. I believe he would have come around (I mean even Jubal Early did eventually) but Jackson (IMO) would not have embraced unity w/ the north - at least initially. And I firmly believe that he would have tried to talk Lee out of surrender.

10/29/2006 10:20 pm (et) MAubrecht: BTW: sorry for the typos - obviously my prepared stuff had the benefits of spell checker.

10/29/2006 10:20 pm (et) ks: I tend to believe that as well about him trying to talk Lee out of surrender.

10/29/2006 10:20 pm (et) MAubrecht: am?

10/29/2006 10:21 pm (et) amhistoryguy: While religion certainly played a huge part in the war, secession and war also seems to have in some ways divided religion too. The division of the country was mirrored within a number of religions as well, was it not? Otherwise would not have religion attempted to end the war.

10/29/2006 10:22 pm (et) Basecat: ?

10/29/2006 10:22 pm (et) MAubrecht: I think that unlike today, religion was entrenched in every aspect of 19th-Century society. It had to be considered in all decisions. I haven't studied divisions within denominations, and that could be a great topic. I will say that many of them probably looked at their neighbors as equals in the church regardless of political affiliations (just a guess).

10/29/2006 10:23 pm (et) NJRebel: ?

10/29/2006 10:23 pm (et) MAubrecht: basecat... then NJ.

10/29/2006 10:24 pm (et) Basecat: Michael...First off fine chat. It's a topic that really is not delved into as much as it should when dealing with the Civil War. Have read Woodworth's book on Religion during the war, and would like to know if you recommend any other titles that deals with this aspect of the war?

10/29/2006 10:25 pm (et) MAubrecht: Yes absolutely. First, the Richard Williams book that I mentioned above "Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man's Friend" and…

10/29/2006 10:26 pm (et) NJRebel: Re your comment about religions and the denominations... from what little I have researched, I think you will find the splits start denominationally about fifteen years prior to 1860.

10/29/2006 10:26 pm (et) MAubrecht: "Christ in the Camp" is another good one.

10/29/2006 10:26 pm (et) mobile_96: ?

10/29/2006 10:27 pm (et) MAubrecht: NJ - there were "theological" splits from the colonial-period on. It seems that politics infiltrated even the New World's churches as they had back in England. Yes mobile...

10/29/2006 10:28 pm (et) mobile_96: did you find denominations split politically?

10/29/2006 10:29 pm (et) MAubrecht: I think that many split on social issues more than anything.

10/29/2006 10:30 pm (et) MAubrecht: But like I said, I have yet to study that. What a fantastic topic though!

10/29/2006 10:30 pm (et) MAubrecht: I can say that I have studied the origins and history of the Presbyterian Church, and that they have had divisions over both politics and social issues - AND I fear that they are not done.

10/29/2006 10:31 pm (et) MAubrecht: Anyone else?

10/29/2006 10:31 pm (et) MAubrecht: Once again, I would like to thank ks, and shotgun, and basecat for inviting me to speak here tonight. I had a great time and hope that we can do it again. Perhaps next time I'll show you a side of JEB Stuart that you may not be aware of - his spiritual one. Thanks again. Will this still be up tomorrow ks. I'd like to read it and mention it on my website at: (see how I shamelessly plugged my site.)

10/29/2006 10:33 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Thank you MAubrecht

10/29/2006 10:33 pm (et) mobile_96: And I thank you also

10/29/2006 10:33 pm (et) ks: Thank YOU, Michael. It's impressive to hold people's interest through 2.5 or so hours. Your work and enthusiasm for the subject is obvious.

10/29/2006 10:33 pm (et) NJRebel: Michael, great and informative....looking forward to more chats

10/29/2006 10:33 pm (et) MAubrecht: You are all most welcome. And I didn't mean to cut anyone off. I just saw a pause and looked at the clock. I can stay. Oh, and congrats basecat on winning the trivia question!

10/29/2006 10:34 pm (et) Vickie: thank you MAubrecht

10/29/2006 10:34 pm (et) ks: LOL! bluelady's the trivia queen, but logged off in time to give you a chance, Basecat. :-D

10/29/2006 10:34 pm (et) Basecat: Michael...THANK You. Very informative and interesting chat.

10/29/2006 10:34 pm (et) MAubrecht: Thanks Vickie. It was my pleasure.

10/29/2006 10:35 pm (et) Basecat: I guess I resolved to be the trivia winner I knew I could be...LOL..;)

10/29/2006 10:35 pm (et) MAubrecht: Thanks Steve - I email you on the books. I'll personalize them for you.

10/29/2006 10:35 pm (et) ks: At one point as there were many questions I even wondered if we should have continued proceeding with all you'd prepared for tonight. No matter how interesting the topic, you can only expect to hold people at the screen for a limited amount of time IMO.

10/29/2006 10:35 pm (et) mobile_96: good thing you had faith in yourself Base

10/29/2006 10:36 pm (et) MAubrecht: Ha-ha - nice... the answer was: "You may be whatever you resolve to be".

10/29/2006 10:36 pm (et) ks: Let me quickly add, glad you forged ahead. Worked out well.

10/29/2006 10:36 pm (et) MAubrecht: I think now that I have one under my belt, perhaps the next time (as I invite myself) I'll only do 3 topics with more time to chat back and forth. 10-pages of material is a bit much.

10/29/2006 10:37 pm (et) Basecat: Mobile...IIRC, that was number one in Stonewalls famous book of maxims...

10/29/2006 10:37 pm (et) ks: Agreed. And as for inviting yourself, believe I already mentioned "next" time in my comments. ;)

10/29/2006 10:38 pm (et) MAubrecht: Will this still be up tomorrow? And may I post a transcript on my site (spell checked of course) :)

10/29/2006 10:38 pm (et) Basecat: It will be up, and am sure Shotgun will make a copy for the archives as well.

10/29/2006 10:38 pm (et) ks: Yes, it will still be up tomorrow. We don't clear the posts until Sunday night.

10/29/2006 10:39 pm (et) MAubrecht: Great! Well I have to say that I have had a wonderful time and look forward to doing this again. Also looking forward to some of you guys/gals doing one. I know there is more knowledge in this chatroom than in most classrooms.

10/29/2006 10:41 pm (et) MAubrecht: Have a great evening all. Good night.