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Gettysburg Religion

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

Steve Longenecker

Publication Year: 2014

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.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: The North's Civil War

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The Civil War was my first interest in history, and Gettysburg is among my favorite childhood memories. The first book I remember was a child’s biography of Robert E. Lee. I was a preschooler just before Christmas, and my mother was out for some reason. My father was looking aft er me and my younger brother, and we must have been a handful because at one point he said wait a minute, went...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Many kind persons provided invaluable assistance for this project. One of the most pleasant tasks in the completion of the book is expressing appreciation for their contributions.
The staff of the Adams County Historical Society on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary merits special appreciation. I spent many pleasant...

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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...

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Samuel Simon and Mary Catherine Steenbergen Schmucker

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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...

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1 Community

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pp. 13-33

The scenery of Gettysburg and Adams County impressed mid– nineteenthcentury 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 ...

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Salome “Sallie” Myers

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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 aft ernoon 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?” Th e following ...

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2 Refinement: In Theory

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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...

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3 Refinement: In Practice

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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,...

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The Codoris

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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 ...

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4 Diversity: Ethnicity and Doctrine

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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 ...

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Abraham and Elizabeth Brien

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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 Mary-land 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...

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5 Diversity: Race

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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 ...

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Mary and Joseph Sherfy

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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...

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6 War

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pp. 131-170

"War Commenced,” announced The Compiler, and “Commencement of Civil War!” exclaimed The 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...

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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. Th e 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 ...

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Thaddeus Stevens

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pp. 179-182

The best-known resident of early-nineteenth-century Gettysburg was Th addeus 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 aft er 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...

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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 ...


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pp. 187-226


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pp. 227-240


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pp. 241-246

Further Reading

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pp. 247-250

E-ISBN-13: 9780823255221
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823255191
Print-ISBN-10: 0823255190

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: Cloth
Series Title: The North's Civil War

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Religion and culture -- Pennsylvania -- Gettysburg Region -- History -- 19th century.
  • Religion and culture -- Pennsylvania -- Gettysburg -- History -- 19th century.
  • Gettysburg Region (Pa.) -- Church history -- 19th century.
  • Gettysburg (Pa.) -- Church history -- 19th century.
  • Gettysburg (Pa.) -- Religion -- 19th century.
  • Gettysburg Region (Pa.) -- Religion -- 19th century.
  • Pennsylvania -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Religious aspects.
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