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The Civil War in Southern Appalachian Methodism

Durwood Dunn

Publication Year: 2014

The Civil War in Southern Appalachian Methodism addresses a much-neglected topic in both Appalachian and Civil War history—the role of organized religion in the sectional strife and the war itself. Meticulously researched, well written, and full of fresh facts, this new book brings an original perspective to the study of the conflict and the region.
    In many important respects, the actual Civil War that began in 1861 unveiled an internal civil war within the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South—comprising churches in southwestern Virginia, eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and a small portion of northern Georgia—that had been waged surreptitiously for the previous five decades. This work examines the split within the Methodist Church that occurred with mounting tensions over the slavery question and the rise of the Confederacy. Specifically, it looks at how the church was changing from its early roots as a reform movement grounded in a strong local pastoral ministry to a church with a more intellectual, professionalized clergy that often identified with Southern secessionists.
    The author has mined an exhaustive trove of primary sources, especially the extensive, yet often-overlooked minutes from frequent local and regional Methodist gatherings. He has also explored East Tennessee newspapers and other published works on the topic. The author’s deep research into obscure church records and other resources results not only in a surprising interpretation of the division within the Methodist Church but also new insights into the roles of African Americans, women, and especially lay people and local clergy in the decades prior to the war and through its aftermath. In addition, Dunn presents important information about what the inner Civil War was like in East Tennessee, an area deeply divided between Union and Confederate sympathizers.
    Students and scholars of religious history, southern history, and Appalachian studies will be enlightened by this volume and its bold new way of looking at the history of the Methodist Church and this part of the nation.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication, Quote

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xvi

In a recent essay in the Journal of American History analyzing the current historiography on the causes of the American Civil War, historian Michael E. Woods notes that a broad consensus about the centrality of slavery as the primary reason for disunion clearly reigned in the first decade of the twenty-first century. ...

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1. Holston Methodism

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pp. 1-30

In the late fall of 1787, Thomas Ware, an itinerant Methodist preacher originally from New Jersey, made a slow and danger-filled journey to new settlements of American pioneers living near the Holston and French Broad Rivers, in what today is East Tennessee. He was traveling to this new Holston country, as it was called, at the urgent request of some settlers there who deplored “their entire destitution of the gospel.” ...

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2. Slavery and Free Blacks

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pp. 31-56

Central to the problem of understanding the relationship between slavery and Methodism in Holston is the dearth of documentary evidence, especially at the local or grassroots level. Only a relatively small number of quarterly conference minutes remain extant for Holston out of these all-important records kept so meticulously by diligent church members in the nineteenth century. ...

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3. Identity through Dissent

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pp. 57-82

John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859 flashed like a meteor in American history, searing the growing alienation between Southerners and Northerners and making the Civil War seemingly inevitable. Brown achieved his purpose in his crusade against slavery by creating conflicting images of himself in the respective minds of the South and the North. ...

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4. Confederate Ascendancy

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pp. 83-110

East Tennessee’s stubborn, indeed, intractable, Unionism from the onset of the secession crisis in 1860 throughout the Civil War prompted one historian to label this section as the Confederacy’s madman in the attic. The Reverend William G. “Parson” Brownlow, chief spokesman of the region as editor of its most widely read newspaper, the Knoxville Whig, would quickly have taken exception to this designation, ...

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5. Union Triumphant

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pp. 111-140

In February 1862, J. Austin Sperry, editor of the pro-Confederate Knoxville Register and archrival of Parson Brownlow on both professional and personal terms, expressed his seething anger at the Confederate authorities, especially Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin, for allowing Brownlow to leave Knoxville and proceed safely to Union lines. ...

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Epilogue: Unreconstructed

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pp. 141-148

With very few exceptions, the most important group in the Holston Conference during the Civil War opposing the overwhelmingly pro-Confederate sentiments of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South—the local preachers—left no records to indicate their feelings or attitudes about the internal civil war in which they were engaged. ...

Appendix A: Numbers of Traveling Preachers and Local Preachers, Holston Conference, 1838−1860

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pp. 149-150

Appendix B: Local Preachers Elected to Deacon’s or Elder’s Orders in the Holston Conference, 1824−1860

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pp. 151-170

Appendix C: Membership in the Holston Conference, 1824−1860

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pp. 171-172


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pp. 173-226


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pp. 227-248


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pp. 249-264

E-ISBN-13: 9781621900160
E-ISBN-10: 1621900169
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621900016
Print-ISBN-10: 1621900010

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 20 photos
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: First [edition]..

OCLC Number: 880836098
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Civil War in Southern Appalachian Methodism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Methodist Episcopal Church -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • Methodist Episcopal Church, South -- History.
  • Methodist Episcopal Church. Holston Conference (Tenn.) -- History.
  • Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Holston Conference (Tenn.) -- History.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Influence.
  • United States -- Church history -- 19th century.
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