The Catholic Church and the American Civil War


#1

Greetings in Christ the King,

 My history teacher has recently begun a lesson on the American Civil War, he brought many artifacts he had found on digs and is quite the interesting person. One of these items was an old crucifix. 
 Since I go to public school, there was little specific information about The Church's influence during the war. From what I've heard, the Union was fairly bigoted (burning and desecrating Catholic Churches, arresting priests) due to the strong puritan influence. The Confederate States boasted of religious tolerance and several priests enrolled as chaplains in the Confederate Army.
 Other than these snipits, I don't know very much about Catholic leanings in the war. If anyone has any information, I would appreciate the help. Thanks.

Yours in the Immaculate Heart,
RRT


#2

An all-Catholic regiment fought for the Union at Gettysburg.

In doing my family genealogy, I discovered the following.

In Ireland in 1846, my great grandmother was the 16 year old pregnant wife of a Catholic potato farmer living in a little mud hovel, after the Protestant landlords, who had stolen the land by force of English arms, forced the Irish to begin cultivating profitable potato crops. The Potato Blight wiped out the crop, Parliament passed the famous Four Pound Clause which imposed an enormous tax on landlords if they didn’t evict their Irish Catholic tenants, and so, within a year, virtually every Catholic potato farmer and his wife and children in Ireland were driven off their ancestral lands, onto the roads. 1.5 million died walking the roads of Ireland. 500,000 died on packet ships bound for America.

My great grandmother’s Catholic husband died walking the roads of Ireland, giving-up his food for my pregnant great grandmother, to keep her and the baby alive. The baby was born blind, because of the extent my great grandmother nonetheless starved.

My great grandmother was one of the lucky ones. She sailed a packet ship to Canada, made it off alive, thumbed her way to Philadelphia, and managed to get her blind daughter into a school for the blind in Philadelphia.

In America, she had to confront anti-Catholic hatred again in the late 1840s and 1850s. Because the Irish Catholics were kept desperately poor in Ireland by the Protestant English landlords, when they came over here they thought that “slave wages” in America were a princely sum. So, they were willing to work for much less than Protestant labor in America. Business after business laid-off high-priced Protestant labor and hired cheap Catholic labor instead. Newly unemployed Protestants formed the group called the “Know Nothings,” and began stringing-up Catholics from lamp posts all over the Catholic neighborhoods in Philadelphia and burning down Catholic churches. My great grandmother was seen going to Mass every day before work, at Old St. Mary’s (which had been burned to the ground by Protestant thugs, and then rebuilt, in the previous decade). The belief in the family is that an effigy of her was left hanging from a lamppost outside her home. Whether or not this was true, she and her second husband left for Catholic Maryland, and lived there as refugees during the Civil War.


#3

Here is an essay on the topic of religion during the civil war and the influences of religions on the two sides
brucegourley.com/writings/Religion%20and%20the%20American%20Civil%20War.doc

Werner


#4

The south was probably more bigoted simply because it was more culturally homogeneous
Although it did have some small Catholic populations in Louisiana, Florida, and in the Low country (I don’t know what the three of them talked about after mass)

In the North the Irish were the latest immigrants and thus the low -men on the social totem pole. Since the rich could buy exceptions to the draft or send someone in their place the burden of the draft fell disproportional on the little guy.
The New York draft riots centered in the poor neighborhoods

There may have been more overt un-Catholicism in the north but that would be because that was where the Catholics were. After all you’re more likely to react to the guy moving into your neighborhood rather than someplace hundreds of miles away.

Some units such as the 69th NY were very heavily catholic (they even had the shamrock and harp on their regimental flag)
I imagine that the southern German immigrants also contributed heavily to the Wisconsin regiments

There was an interesting event during the Mexican-American War. The 1840 were the height of the anti-catholic “know nothing” party in the US. The Mexicans tried to play the religion card and encourage Catholics to desert the US army. They even formed a unit called “St Patrick’s Brigade” out of Catholics deserters.


#5

I remember seeing a tribute to the Irish who fought for the Union at Gettysburg.
After the battle at Gettysburg, nuns from Emittsburg Md. (St. Elizabeth Seton’s order) traveled to the town to care for the wounded and dead for both sides.
That legacy is captured in some of the stained glass windows in the local churches.


#6

I just found an interesting article that states at an early age President Jefferson Davis attempted to convert to Catholicism. When he was not received in his childhood, he became an Episcopalian of the High Church branch later on.

According to the article:

As unchivalrous and plain indecent as was the treatment meted out to him by his vindictive jailers, President Davis was not without solace during confinement. A rosary sent by some sisters in Savannah reached him. More notably, comfort was extended by the Vicar of Christ himself, Ven. Pope Pius IX. It took the form of a crown of thorns woven by the pope with his own hands and a portrait of the pontiff autographed with the words from Scripture, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

The article can be accessed here:

Catholicism and the Old South

In my own State, a county is named after William Gaston who was a devout Catholic and battled for religious freedoms.

Also:

One of the essential differences, on which the Confederacy may pride itself, as making us a distinct people from the Yankee nation, is the complete absence of religious intolerance; while the prevailing Puritan element which dominates in the country to the North of us, constantly, necessarily, impels it to persecution of Catholics, wherever and whenever that diabolical spirit of intolerance can dare to show itself. We have already seen that a Catholic Church in Florida was wrecked and ruined by regiments from Maine, which provoked a sanguinary fight between them and some Irish troops in the same command. More lately we learn, from the Mobile papers, that during the short occupation of Jackson by Grant’s army, the Catholic Church of that town was burned, while guards were set around the Baptist Church and the printing office of a Protestant religious newspaper. These facts are probably suppressed by the Yankee newspapers, because so large a proportion of their army, present and prospective, consists of Catholics. We shall endeavor to make the disgraceful facts known, however, to the remnant of Irishmen who are still so deluded as to fight for such a people, and to those who might be tempted hereafter to engage in so base a service. They may learn from this what kind of spirit actuates the sons of the Plymouth Rock, and what kind of usage they may expect in the future when the war is over and their services are no longer needed in the field. And experience in the past might have taught them as much before. Wrecking of Catholic churches has been almost as favorite an amusement with Yankees, as ever it was with Orangeman in the north of Ireland. Irish Catholics at the North cannot have forgotten the burning of the convent near Boston, by a mob of Puritan fanatics; and the blackened ruins of that building yet stand as a memento of the deed. They must remember the murderous outrage perpetrated upon a poor old Catholic priest at Ellsworth, in Maine, in 1854; the sacking of Newark church, in New Jersey, the same year; the church burnings of Philadelphia; the anti-Catholic riots of the “Angel Gabriel,” in Brooklyn; the hundreds of instances in which the Cross has been pulled down from the front of their chapels all over these Federal States. They cannot pretend to forget also, that in the Know Nothing days (which for them will soon dawn again) the Irish militia regiments - simply because they were composed of Irish Catholics - were disbanded and disarmed by the Governors of several States - first in Massachusetts, and afterwards in Connecticut and Wisconsin. --Richmond Enquirer , May 29th, 1863

This can be accessed Here.


#7

Hello RomanRite Teen,

An interesting thing happened to me in my youth. I was taking a tour of the St. Francis Catholic seminary in Milwaukee Wisconsin. The director looked up and pointed at a tall tower. He said, "that is where they stood watch for union recrueters during the civil war. When they saw union recruiters coming toward the seminary they rang the Church bell and the seminarians scattered and hid. I asked the director if the Church felt it was imoral for Abraham Lincoln to go to war to free African Americans from grave injustice? I also asked him if so many men entered the seminary to aviod the draft would that not put a disproportionate large number of pacifists in Church leadership roles? Needless to say he did not allow me, a man who blelieves in the use of force to protect the innocent, into his seminary.

To me it is clear that the civil war had a heavy impact creating the disproportionate large number of pacifists in our American Catholic Church clergy which we can still see the effects of today.

Peace in Christ,
Steven Merten
www.ILOVEYOUGOD.com


#8

The South as a whole was more tolerant in all aspects than the North. At the same time Catholics were not really liked on either side. The South was more in touch with people and families and attended church more, they lived off the land and were proud people. The North was more industrial, bigger cites, and the average joe was nothing more than a disposable pawn. I do believe that the North did go through and target specific things like Catholic Churches to burn, and that it was not reported.


#9

Sad. I’m a cradle Catholic and a serious C. War buff, yet the only thing I have ever heard is some horrible anti-Catholic bigotry nonsense that the Jesuits started the war and conspired to have Lincoln assassinated.

Like I said, utter trash.


#10

As a southerner and a life-long resident of the south…lemme just point out that one of the groups that the KKK most hates is our beloved Church. :irish1:


#11

[quote=Catholic Dude]The South as a whole was more tolerant in all aspects than the North.
[/quote]

Dude! They OWNED people in the South!

[quote=Catholic Dude] At the same time Catholics were not really liked on either side.
[/quote]

Bingo!

[quote=Catholic Dude]The South was more in touch with people and families and attended church more
[/quote]

any stats to back that up?

[quote=Catholic Dude], they lived off the land and were proud people.
[/quote]

Pride?..isn’t that a sin :wink:

besides living off the land does not necessarily make one tolerant

[quote=Catholic Dude]The North was more industrial, bigger cites, and the average joe was nothing more than a disposable pawn.
[/quote]

1863 was a lot different than 1913

most people on both sides still lived on farms or small town
in fact, according to the US census o 1860 the top five states with the highest number of farms were (5) INDIANA (4) ILLINOIS (3) PENNSYLVANIA (2) OHIO & (1) NEW YORK

fisher.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/censusbin/census/cen.pl

[quote=Catholic Dude]I do believe that the North did go through and target specific things like Catholic Churches to burn, and that it was not reported.
[/quote]

then how do you kow it happened?


#12

Pius IX, in his role as the autocrat of the Papal States, did have diplomatic relations with the Confederacy and did seem quite friendly with President Jefferson Davis.

But I don’t think that’s the same as saying that the Catholic Church , per se, was “pro-south”.


#13

Steve,

So whats wrong with what I said? Im not racist, but slaves built america up. Also the Bible doesnt condemn slavery, I believe that there comes a point in time where technology takes their place.

I have talked to many people from the south and from what I have seen from them and read the south families were close knit. One thing thats odd about modern day society is that the closer people live to their neighbors the less they know and talk to them. In the rural areas people lived a ways away, but they still kept in touch.

They lived good hard working lives, there is nothing wrong with being proud and thanking God for your family, farm, food, etc.
Those type of people are the core of america, why do you think its called the Bible belt?

About the farms issue, more farms doesnt mean more acres. Yes both sides did have lots of farming, but im pretty sure that the population density was higher in norther cites.


#14

georgiabulletin.org/news/2014/07/priest-killed-in-civil-war-to-be-honored/

You should read about Father Emmeran Bliemel O.S.B.

He got decapitated by an enemy cannonball while praying over a dying Col.

I know he was for a Confederate chaplain, but that’s just because he was assigned to a parish in Tenn. at the time. He was straight off the boat from Germany.


#15

True, but note that the KKK was formed in the wake of the Civil War, not prior to, or during.
By that time, the defeated South probably began to associate Catholicism with the North, due to the large numbers of Catholics who had fought amongst the union troops (in turn, due to the high concentrations of Catholic immigrants (Irish, Italian, Polish, etc.) living in the bigger cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, that made for easy plucking when the Union came around recruiting soldiers. That’s mostly just an educated guess, though.

But yes, anti-Catholicism was certainly right up there with its anti-antisemitism, and blatant, extreme racism.


#16

…and 1863 was even more different than 1763.

By the 1860’s, New York, Boston, Philly, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cinc’y, among others, already had notable Catholic immigrant presences/populations.


#17

I think its important to point out that many, I know I was, have been more or less educated that the ‘north was the good guys-the south was the bad guys.’ It was all about slavery.

Lincoln has been forever venerated in the country but I would read H.W. Crockers book on the “Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War.” This is the same guy who wrote “Triumph” a book about the history of the Catholic Church. I have found much of the veneration of Lincoln is questionable for reasons I won’t elaborate on.

What I think is significant is what Alexis De Tocqueville said when visiting the US and observing blacks and slavery all over the country: [R]ace prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known." --Alexis De Tocqueville, �Democracy in America�

So the Negro [in the North] is free, but he cannot share the rights, pleasures, labors, griefs, or even the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared; there is nowhere where he can meet him, neither in life nor in death.

In the South, where slavery still exists, less trouble is taken to keep the Negro apart: they sometimes share the labors and the pleasures of the white men; people are prepared to mix with them to some extent; legislation is more harsh against them, but customs are more tolerant and gentle.[3]
slavenorth.com/exclusion.htm

Many in the union, or at least those wearing union uniforms acted like terrorists in the south. In my home state of Missouri in particular, we got hit hard.

The Catholic Church has always depreciated nationalism & strong central power & was close to supporting the Confederacy during the war.
*
Vivat Dixie!*


#18

One of the results of the Civil war were the splits in the Mainline Protestant Churches, some of which exist to this day. As an example, the Presbyterian Church split into the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA in the south) and the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA in the north). This is why we have the “Southern” Baptists.

Another interesting story is how a Catholic Priest saved the Churches of Atlanta from Sherman’s destruction…

In November 1864, Father O’Reilly learned of Sherman’s plan to burn Atlanta, including several churches of different denominations, as his armies marched southward out of the city. Father O’Reilly realized the grave consequences of such an order. Unable to get to Sherman, O’Reilly approached Major General Henry Slocum, a member of Sherman’s staff he had befriended. He argued with passionate eloquence that burning the churches would be an affront to heaven. He threatened to use his influence with the many Irish troops to foment desertion or mutiny if the churches were destroyed. He used the threat of excommunication against any Catholic soldier who participated in the burning. When Slocum reported the conversation to Sherman, Sherman agreed to spare the churches. Read More…

-Tim-


#19

Ambrose;12854655]

I think its important to point out that many, I know I was, have been more or less educated that the ‘north was the good guys-the south was the bad guys.’ It was all about slavery.

Concur; and thank you for acknowledging this, as many Northerners will deny this till they’re blue in the face…all the while echoing their indoctrination as though it were original thought, elementary, and common sense.

Only naivete can keep one entrenched in the simplicity of the good-bad dichotomy in life. Would but that the world were ever so simple.

Lincoln has been forever venerated in the country but I would read H.W. Crockers book on the “Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War.” This is the same guy who wrote “Triumph” a book about the history of the Catholic Church. I have found much of the veneration of Lincoln is questionable for reasons I won’t elaborate on.

Lincoln was as ‘great’, as he was horrible.

From the preservation of the Union perspective, he was (is?) as good as advertised. Miraculous, even.

From a states’ rights, strict constructionist, fidelity to the integrity of the Constitution perspective, he was an unmitigated disaster.

From the slaves’ perspective, he was certainly beneficial–though no where near to the degree that the Northerner holds him. However, ‘the Slave’, wasn’t the thing to Lincoln, nor ‘human rights’, nor ‘human dignity’–these noble concepts were mostly political tools used to further or buttress what was ‘the thing’ to him–the Union. IOW: Lincoln was much more pragmatist, than idealist.

{JHMO}.

What I think is significant is what Alexis De Tocqueville said when visiting the US and observing blacks and slavery all over the country: [R]ace prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known." --Alexis De Tocqueville, �Democracy in America�

De Tocqueville’s observations were not only incredibly accurate; they proved incredibly prescient, as the phenomenon remains to this day. I grew up on the South, but have lived and traveled extensively throughout the Northern states, and can say without reservation, that the racism I’ve witnessed north of the Mason Dixon line would make the average southerner blush. Boston. Chicago. Philly. Indiana, Ohio, Michigan… These places make the likes of New Orleans, Atlanta, Charlotte (cities to cities), and Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia (states to states), seem down right enlightened in their genuine diversity (as the neo-liberal establishment likes to champion the concept).

I have heard it said that one of the biggest motivations, or selling points to Northerners, for fighting “…to extinguish slavery”, was because as long as the South had slaves, blacks tried to (and did in large numbers) seek to escape the South…to the North. Hence by eliminating the ‘force’ that drove them South to North, they would significantly stem the tide of such flow (hence the true motivation was nothing nearly so noble as ‘freeing slaves’, but at its core, very much racist).

I have never been able to find any hard evidence to support this…hypothesis…but the anecdotal evidence certainly makes it seem rather plausible.

[quote]Vivat Dixie!

Clever! :smiley: Is that a play on K of C’s “Vivat Jesus”?
[/quote]


#20

I watched a documentary some time back in which two letters, one from Lee, and one from Lincoln were brought out for viewing by the person doing the documentary. They were letters to the Pope, and were kept in the Vatican Library. I can’t remember who was responded and what was said, though. Sorry.


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