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236 | 12 “Play the Man . . . for Your Bleeding Country” Military Chaplains as Gender Brokers During the American Revolutionary War Janet Moore Lindman In December 1783, the Presbyterian cleric George Duffield preached a sermon before Congress to celebrate the American triumph in war and the return of peace. His oration lauded the heroic action of American colonists against the tyranny of Britain. Though America had “contributed her liberal share” to the empire and never withheld “her blood or her treasure when requisitions were made,” England still wished to keep her under “servile submission .” To obviate this possibility, American men reacted with a militant spirit in 1775: The peaceful husband forsook his farm; the merchant relinquished his trade; the compassionate physician forgot his daily round; the mariner laid aside his compass and quadrant; and the mechanic resigned his implements of employment . . . all prepared for war, and eagerly flew to the field.1 Anxious to serve, American men willingly left their livelihoods to take up arms. As “faithful watchmen,” American soldiers “blew the trumpet on the walls of our Zion” to defend their native country—gendered female—with military aggression—gendered male—against a common enemy. Duffield’s sermon weaves together gender, religion, and politics to commemorate the American victory. His seamless history, however, omits the civil upheaval caused by the American Revolution, as white men fought against England as well as among themselves to realize national independence. Nor does it allude to the changing nature of manhood as the revolutionary era instigated a new level of political engagement for white men of lower and middling status.2 By the 1770s, a white man’s rank was not only based on his role as “Play the Man . . . for Your Bleeding Country” | 237 head of household, master, husband, father, or property owner, but also on his position relative to British imperial policy and the onset of war. Men were judged by their political position; even the most retiring and pacifist had to take a public stand. Not participating in debates or policies to protest English legislation, such as the non-importation agreements, impugned many men’s reputation. Once the war broke out, American men were expected to partake in the manly exercise of military service.3 Though Duffield contends that American men were quick to respond to the threat of subjection with martial commitment, his conception of masculinity did not fit all white men. Though traditional manhood was based on property, mastery, and dominance, these were not the only ways for white men to enact male identity in eighteenth-century America. Beginning in the middle of the century, the emergence of evangelical revivalism led to a new form of manhood, one based on Christian concepts of humility, piety, and sobriety. This evangelical masculinity stood in stark contrast to a traditional one that valued economic autonomy, political power, physical strength, and military expertise. American evangelicals counseled withdrawal from secular society in favor of prayer, contemplation, and circumspect behavior, as male converts to evangelical Christianity trod a new path toward manhood. The exemplar of this ideal was the minister, who provided male leadership within the church but also endorsed and acted out Christian principles of prudence, temperance, and meditation as well as abstention from sinful activities and worldly pursuits. When the war against Britain began, this exemplary role was taken on by military chaplains, pious believers who abhorred violence and dissension and yet wished to serve their country as men. Their participation in the war comprised both a negation and affirmation of traditional manhood. Two different modes of white masculinity came together in the role of the military chaplain during the American Revolutionary War. Clergy who served as chaplains with the American forces censored the customs of military life at the same time that they bolstered traditional manliness through religious leadership and rhetoric.4 They melded republican ideology with holy text to support the patriot cause. Drawing on biblical and contemporary concepts of manhood, the American chaplain acted as a conduit of white male aspirations for political freedom and military success, as well as a morally justified war against their British enemy.5 Chaplains functioned as gender brokers in this military context, fusing the seeming contradiction of traditional male traits, such as contention and combativeness, with the female characteristics of clerical service: nurturing the sick, consoling the dying, and tending to the 238 | Janet Moore Lindman dead.6 As moral guides and intimate counselors, chaplains personified the tensions between a traditional and evangelical model of manhood...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814728222
Print ISBN
9780814727805
MARC Record
OCLC
695991321
Pages
304
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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