Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era - Cover
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Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era

edited by Ben Wright
foreword by Mark A. Noll

Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War

296 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 1 halftone

ebook available

Civil War | Southern History

  Hardcover / 9780807151921 / November 2013
In the Civil War era, Americans nearly unanimously accepted that humans battled in a cosmic contest between good and evil and that God was directing history toward its end. The concept of God’s Providence and of millennialism—Christian anticipations of the end of the world—dominated religious thought in the nineteenth century. During the tumultuous years immediately prior to, during, and after the war, these ideas took on a greater importance as Americans struggled with the unprecedented destruction and promise of the period. 
 
Scholars of religion, literary critics, and especially historians have acknowledged the presence of apocalyptic thought in the era, but until now, few studies have taken the topic as their central focus or examined it from the antebellum period through Reconstruction. By doing so, the essays in Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era highlight the diverse ways in which beliefs about the end times influenced nineteenth-century American lives, including reform culture, the search for meaning amid the trials of war, and the social transformation wrought by emancipation. Millennial zeal infused the labor of reformers and explained their successes and failures as progress toward an imminent Kingdom of God. Men and women in the North and South looked to Providence to explain the causes and consequences of both victory and defeat, and Americans, black and white, experienced the shock waves of emancipation as either a long-prophesied jubilee or a vengeful punishment. Religion fostered division as well as union, the essays suggest, but while the nation tore itself apart and tentatively stitched itself back together, Americans continued looking to divine intervention to make meaning of the national apocalypse. 
 
Contributors:
 
Edward J. Blum
 
Ryan Cordell
 
Zachary W. Dresser
 
Jennifer Graber
 
Matthew Harper
 
Charles F. Irons
 
Joseph Moore
 
Robert K. Nelson
 
Scott Nesbit 
 
Jason Phillips
 
Nina Reid-Maroney
 
Ben Wright

Ben Wright is a doctoral candidate in history at Rice University.

Zachary W. Dresser is visiting assistant professor in the department of religion and culture at Virginia Tech.

Praise for Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era

Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era likewise represents a substantial range of cur­rent scholarly approaches to religion before, during, and after the Civil War. The chapters reflect current methods andapproaches; several authors are conversant in digital humanities and supply questions and methodologies that were unknown or impractical a few years ago. Their subjects range far beyond the cultural elites and mainstream Protestant denominations that preoccupied some earlier scholarship.”—Journal of American History

“What students and scholars gain from Apocalypse and the Millennium is a more complete picture of American religious life on the eve of, during, and following the Civil War. . . A must read for any scholar interested in understanding how religion shaped the views and actions of Americans living during the Civil War era.”—Civil War Book Review

“These eleven case studies . . . fill an important historiographical void. . . . Upon completing Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era, readers will hold a much greater appreciation for the genuine millennial themes that echo throughout such nineteenth-century American cultural icons as Julia Ward Howe’s “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and James Fenimore Cooper’s The Crater.”—North Carolina Historical Review

“[An] outstanding collection of essays. . . More than any other work to date, this volume of essays from some of the best scholars of religion during the nineteenth century will do much to remedy . . . historical obliviousness.”—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“Thoughtful and well-researched essays. . . . provide an insightful look at religion in the Civil War era.”—Civil War History

Links for Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era

An Interview with Ben Wright and Zach Dresser (The Civil War Monitor)

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