"Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure": Northern civilian perspectives on death and eternity during the Civil War.
Eternity (Public opinion)
United States history (Civil War, 1861-1865)
United States history (Social aspects)
|Author:||Scott, Sean A.|
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Social History Publisher: Journal of Social History Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: History; Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Journal of Social History ISSN: 0022-4529|
|Issue:||Date: Summer, 2008 Source Volume: 41 Source Issue: 4|
|Topic:||Event Name: United States Civil War, 1861-1865 Event Code: 290 Public affairs|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
Although the death angel severely afflicted the Alfords of Daviess
County in southwestern Indiana during the Civil War, it could not have
chosen a family as well-grounded in their religious beliefs or as
confident in their future reunion beyond the grave. In the mid-1840s,
Franklin Alford had helped found the Christian Church in the town of
Alfordsville, and he and his wife Mary devotedly reared their seven
children in the faith. They also instilled an intense patriotism in
their sons, and the oldest, twenty-two year-old Warren, enlisted with
the 14th Indiana in the spring of 1861. In his letters, Franklin
frequently emphasized God's protective care for his son, and Warren
responded by acknowledging his submissiveness to the sovereignty of God
over his life. "We have reason to believe that our life and our
health is peceous [precious] in the sight of our heavely Father,"
Warren professed from Cheat Mountain in western Virginia, "and we
do not dout for one moment but he will bring us back home safe if it is
for the best." However, if God saw fit for him to perish, he
expected to meet his family in heaven. "Let us live so that if we
neaver meat on eart[h,] ... we may be prepared to live togethe[r]
aroun[d] the throne of God where parting and crying will be no
As the spring of 1862 approached, Franklin remained hopeful that his separated family, which now included the absence of twenty year-old Wayne and eighteen year-old Lafayette serving with the 6th Indiana, would someday be reunited at home. "I feel asshured that if it is the Lords will," he related to Warren, "we... [will]all meet again in the family circle with the propper use of our bodys and minds." If parental pride happened to well up in his heart it could be forgiven, for his sons not only conducted themselves as courageous soldiers but consciously strived to live as Christians in the army. The past winter, Wayne and Lafayette, while affirming their intent to maintain a godly testimony, also expressed a readiness to the if necessary. "Our desire is that we may be soldiers and Christians while it is ours to live," Wayne wrote for the two of them on January 30th, "and if we never meat on earth let us live so that we may meat in heaven." Their days were numbered indeed, for that spring Lafayette contracted a campdisease and died at home in May. Still fighting in the Shenandoah Valley, Warren took the news in stride, insisting to Wayne on June 13th that "we sorrow not as those that have no hope." Wayne, however, never received the letter, for he died of typhoid fever the next day. Unbeknownst to Warren, he had been confined to a field hospital at Corinth, Mississippi, since the beginning of June, too ill to be transported back to Evansville where his parents might have visited him. Warren tried to remain optimistic and consoled his parents with the thought that God had permitted the deaths of his brothers. "We are brought to see the powerful hand of god upon our family," he maintained, "but I hope we will bair the trials as best we can." The promise of an eternal home, he reminded them, gave consolation and hope that their family would be reunited again. "If this earthly house of our tabernacle is desolved ... [and] we have done our heavenly fathers will," a stipulation they knew Lafayette and Wayne had attempted to fulfill, "we [have a] house high up in the Heavens not made with hands their to dwell for eaver and ever." (2)
Forever arrived all too soon for Warren, for in September he was counted among the victims of the bloodiest single day of the war, suffering a mortal wound at Antietam and dying two days later. After receiving the awful tidings, Franklin journeyed east to retrieve the body of his eldest son, a trip on which he must have carried a burden of unspeakable grief. Unfortunately, only one letter from home was preserved beginning with the death of Lafayette, a missive dated two days after Warren's passing in which Franklin lamented the outbreak of a controversy at church. This lone piece of evidence seems to indicate that he had remained faithful in performing his Christian duties, inevitably saddened over his loss but not despairing. In all likelihood, he still might have affirmed the outlook he expressed at the close of a letter to Warren in late January. "In hope that God in his abundant mercy may bless us all in time and save us in eternity for the sake of Christ is the prair of your humble father." (3) Time, at least during a five-month period in 1862, had been incomprehensibly brutal, snatching away three sons in the prime of their lives. Eternity, however, offered the prospect of a glorious future and the complete restoration of familial bonds.
Several historians have identified the Civil War as marking the initial stages of a transition from a primarily religious understanding of death to a more secular approach to dying. According to this standard interpretation, the Puritans represented the apogee of a sacred emphasis on death. However, because they could never know with complete assurance whether or not God had elected them to salvation, most Puritans confronted death with great fear regarding their eternal status. By the antebellum era, Lewis O. Saum suggests, Puritanical dread of death for spiritual reasons had degenerated into out-and-out fatalism. While some individuals continued to affirm their religious convictions in their last earthly moments in order to leave evidence of dying in the faith, most merely desired to die happy and face the end with stoic dignity. According to Saum, many antebellum americans simply regarded death as the termination of worldly troubles. Furthermore, the few souls who clung to a religious conception of death seldom spoke of heaven with any specificity but satisfied themselves with the thought that family members would never be parted there. James J. Farrell concludes that the gradual acceptance of Darwinism and the rise of liberal Christianity in the postwar period not only caused Americans to contemplate death less frequently but nearly rendered obsolete any tendencies to speak of it as having spiritual meaning. Because scientific naturalism placed death within the normal patterns of nature and theological liberalism quenched the fires of hell, few people had any reason to fear death. Indeed, by the end of the nineteenth century, it seemed evident that death had lost its cultural dominance, prompting one writer to trumpet "the dying of death." At the same time, heaven gained in popularity due to the work of fiction writers, whose depiction of it as a place that preserved the best aspects of earthly life led to widespread acceptance that heaven resembled the Victorian home. Coincidentally, the theology of liberal Protestantism emboldened some individuals to claim that all men would go to heaven at death. Nevertheless, few people had taken the time to develop a systematic approach to eschatology, thereby allowing numerous conceptions of eternity to flourish in the popular imagination. (4)
Because countless families directly experienced the effects of the Civil War's devastating slaughter, death dominated the thoughts of many Americans throughout the war. While some Northerners might have regarded death as having little value for religious instruction or embraced other secular frameworks for dealing with it, (5) numerous civilians continued to find spiritual meaning in death. (6) Furthermore, the success of the Second Great Awakening in undermining the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and elevating man's role in securing his own salvation allowed religious Northerners to approach death with greater confidence in their attainment of a heavenly home. To be sure, individuals often held conflicting visions of heaven and emphasized different conditions that had to be fulfilled to gain it, but this lack of consensus did not diminish their enthusiasm for describing it. Far from dwindling in importance, a spiritual attitude toward death sustained Christians to deal with the staggering loss of life brought about by the Civil War. Inspired by the works of James M. Mcpherson and Steven E. Woodworth, who have documented how Christian soldiers viewed dying, this study demonstrates that a religious understanding of death enabled northern civilians to handle the grief caused by the unprecedented carnage of war by focusing their attention on the hope of a joyous, eternal reunion. (7)
For many nineteenth-century Americans, death represented the end of a person's time on earth and the beginning of an eternal existence. Time itself was a man-made construct used to mark the passage of hours, days, and years. Nevertheless, time ultimately belonged to God, who, although timeless in nature and unbounded by its constraints, determined its duration. As Michael O'Malley has demonstrated, many Americans from the Puritans through the antebellum period viewed time as a gift from God to be used productively in light of a coming judgment when man would give account of his use of time. Time, therefore, was both cyclical and linear, for man observed its seasonal patterns during life while anticipating a future period when physical time would give way to an infinite eternity. Throughout the antebellum period and continuing into the war, northern civilians typically used the occasions of New Year's, birthdays, anniversaries, and the last day of December to reflect on their past achievements and future prospects. As 1863 commenced, Samuel Hibbard, a Methodist circuit rider in Michigan, affirmed that God alone knew "what joys, what griefs, what lives & deaths" the new year held in store. On December 31, he solemnly recorded that 1863 had "gone into eternity," and all actions and events could never be changed, including sins committed and missed opportunities to serve God. Most time-conscious religionists could agree that engaging in reflection and introspection for the purpose of drawing one's thoughts to God were appropriate uses of time. After perusing some of his earlier diaries on successive birthdays in 1863 and 1864, Indianapolis banker Calvin Fletcher described his life as a "Journy" through which God had providentially directed him, contemplated his spiritual progress along the way, and affirmed his hope of obtaining "a better future." Almost inevitably, the ubiquitous subject of death found its way into moments of personal retrospection about time on earth. When Emily Beeler Fletcher, Calvin's daughter-in-law, began keeping a journal in May 1863, she opened with a brief reminiscence about her wedding nearly fourteen years before, marveling that time had "passed so swiftly away ... like a dream that has fled." After recalling this blissful memory, she abruptly yet almost intuitively transitioned into a listing of all her relatives who had died in the interim, including her father, mother-in-law, a son, and three siblings by marriage. (8)
Without doubt, most northern civilians understood and accepted the reality that death predominated while earthly time existed, and they underscored the necessity of using their limited time on earth to prepare for the next world. "Time is passing on & we are all rushing on to eternity," Drusilla Dean of Silver Creek, Iowa, reminded her former neighbors in Steuben County, Indiana. "We may pass the thoughts of death & eternity from our mind for a few days," she admitted, "but then we will have to mourn for unimproved time for all Eternity." Most Christian denominations attempted to inculcate its members with the recognition of life's brevity, so it is not surprising that a line from the Methodist, burial service became something of a cliche during the war. "Truly in the midst of life we are in death," Eunice Brown mused in March 1864 after several unexpected deaths in the community of Connersville, Indiana. "None of us can count on the morrow as we know not what a day may bring forth," she added, paraphrasing Proverbs 27:1. She regarded these sudden losses as both a sobering warning and an instructive reminder to take stock of her spiritual condition. "I fear that we do not let such realities impress our minds as much as they are intended. They should by [be] leading us into the narrow path which leads to eternal life." After a spooked horse kicked a neighbor in the head, crushing his skull, Hoosier Mollie McPheeters observed, "O, how quick can the brittle thread of life be broken and the soul ushered into eternity. How true the saying That in the midst of life we are in the midst of death." Since death inevitably encompassed life, according to the aphorism, Mollie understood the seriousness of making preparation while time remained. "Knowing that life is so uncertain and death sure, how very important that we prepare, while in health, for this change, so that whether it comes sooner or later we may be ready." (9)
Although many nineteenth-century Americans maintained a belief in fatalism and referred to death as some impersonal force that chose victims at random, religious individuals, in contrast, rejected the concept of fate because they believed that a personal, sovereign God determined each man's day of death. As she struggled to raise her family while her husband Taylor served with the 22nd Iowa, Catharine Peirce of Des Moines maintained that her many trials would make it easier "to leave this world when God sees fit to call us off." On another occasion, she sought to understand why God selected certain individuals for death but permitted others to live. It bewildered her that "so stout and health[y] a girl" as her friend Kate should "be taken and such delicate creatures as I be left. Seemes quere but we do not know the ways nor the will of the lord and therefore must abide our time." Virginia Alford, cousin of the Alford brothers, affirmed "that it is the Lord that gives us theas friends that we love so dear and ... [it] is the Lord that takes them away." In July 1864, the entire North lamented the loss of one of its heroes, General James B. McPherson, who was shot in the back attempting to return to his lines after refusing to surrender to a group of Rebels during the battle of Atlanta. Iowan Mary Vermilion considered
McPherson's death a hefty price to pay for the capture of that city. "We could not well spare such a leader at this time," she claimed. "I wish he could have lived to finish his work. But it is right as it is, or God would not have taken him." (10)
Other Northerners favored the use of a metaphor for the second coming of Christ to convey the idea that God, rather than the grim reaper, decided the time of man's passing. Since no human could forecast when either one would occur, the expression "the Son of Man cometh" became a frequently-used figure of speech to describe the unexpected nature of death's arrival. (11) In April 1863, Cincinnati resident Josephine Foster referred to the passing of an aunt as a reminder for her brother, Brigadier General William Haynes Lytle, to be prepared for death at any moment. " 'Be ye also ready for ye know not the day, neither the hour, when the Son of Man cometh.' " Less than six months later, Lytle was killed at Chickamauga during an unsuccessful counterattack that he ordered in an effort to arrest a panicked Federal retreat. At least one individual took this metaphor for death literally and claimed that Christ actually came for his own at their departure from life. Following the death of a soldier from their hometown, Alexander McPheeters apprised his son John, a surgeon with the 23rd Indiana, that it mattered little "where and when" a person died so long as he was "prepared to meet God in peace." "This lesson should be improved by us all," he resolved, "for we know not the day or the hour when the son of man cometh but he cometh to the christian at his death." Despite the popular prevalence of this expression to denote death, a careful reading of Scripture clearly demonstrated its erroneous application. In an 1862 article in the Indianapolis Witness, an unidentified author carefully examined the context of all the passages in the Gospels that contained the phrase "the coming of the Son of Man." According to the writer, the verses under consideration never equated death with a metaphor for Christ's second coming, and the context proved that the disciples never understood Jesus to apply it thus. Nevertheless, the figure of speech suited the purposes of several Northerners who wished to convey the suddenness of death and great need to be prepared to enter eternity at any moment. (12)
It would be fallacious to claim that individuals who contemplated the reality of death suffered from a morbid fascination with dying like Mark Twain's Em-meline Grangerford. On the contrary, Christians could face death without fear because Christ had conquered death and the grave through his resurrection. Convinced that she was nearing the end of her earthly days, Margaret Ross of Lebanon, Ohio, forewarned her sister not to mourn when she received word of her death. "Be asured my robe is washed white in the blood of the lam," she professed. "I have nothing to do but gather up my feet like Jacob of old and go in peace." With his health declining, seventy year-old J. W. Osborn of Terre Haute, Indiana, likewise thought that death would summon him shortly, and he expectantly anticipated "the glories that await the finally faithful." "Having submitted myself to His keeping," he testified, "I know that there is none that can wrest me out of the hand of my Almighty Father. Therefore I am content whether I live a few months or a few years longer, or whether 1 depart, all is well." For elderly Christians to refer to death without trepidation might cause little surprise, but young people espousing the same sentiment is noteworthy indeed. Already a wife of three years in 1863, seventeen year-old Viana White informed her husband George, a soldier with the 19th Michigan, that although she hoped to witness the war's conclusion, it mattered little whether or not she outlived the fighting. "When the lord sees fit to call me away from this troblesom world," she affirmed, "I am redy to go." (13)
Because God providentially controlled all things, including the timing of a person's death, he most certainly could protect his children from harm if he so desired. As sovereign Creator of the universe, God cared for the material world even to the minutest detail. Franklin Alford noted that God cultivated the "tender grass" and kept his watchful eye on the fowls of the air so that not even a sparrow could "fall to the ground" without his knowledge. Since God showed such concern for his physical creation, the Scriptures taught, then he would take even greater interest in man because he possessed an eternal soul. For this reason, many civilians recognized that God could providentially protect their loved ones in battle. Therefore, in order to avoid the appearance of presumption, individuals often qualified their requests to ensure that they conformed to the will of God. "1 hope and pray that it may be gods will to spare your life and all the rest of the poor solgers," an Ohio resident informed a member of the 67th Ohio. The author clearly understood that God's will trumped any human contrivances to preserve life, for even the most extreme precautions would prove futile if they failed to coincide with divine decrees. "If your life is saved it is through gods kind will," the person continued, "for thousands of men could not save your life... [apart from] the lords will." In contrast to those who only hoped for Gods protection, other individuals possessed faith that God would shield their loved ones from injury. "1 have sutch confidence . . . [that] you will be permited to come home safe that I feel like praseing God in advanse," a father exclaimed to his son serving with the 17th Indiana. Indianapolis attorney John L. Ketcham expressed a similar sentiment but cautioned his son Willie to avoid risking his life needlessly by "attempting desperate things." "Trust all to God and be hopeful, cheerful, brave, but not rash," he counseled. "Dont throw away a precious life." Alexander McPheeters likewise warned his son John that having the hedge of God's protection should not entice him to recklessness. "You are immortal until your work is done," he insisted, "but this will not justify unnecessary exposure." (14)
Individuals who suffered the loss of a family member had their faith in God's sovereignty tested. Although coping with the death of a loved one was never an easy task, believing that a person could die only if God permitted it provided a measure of consolation. After his son Lycurgus of the 22nd Iowa died at a field hospital near Vicksburg in June 1863, James Remley was "deeply afflicted" but purposed to "bear it as [a] Christian." Expounding a theodicy based on Romans 8:28 that befitted his station as a Baptist minister, he professed, "We console ourselves with the reflection that God does all things right, that he is too wise to err, and too good to do wrong, that he will cause all things to work together for the good of them that love him and are called according to his purpose." George Woodruff, lawyer and Sunday school teacher from Marshall, Michigan, also endured an extremely trying period during the summer of 1863. In June his wife succumbed to illness after a five-year battle, and less than a month later his son suffered a mortal wound on the third day at Gettysburg and died July 4th. Woodruff confessed that the news of his son's death "went to my heart with a crushing weight. Was not my affliction in the death of his mother enough," he sorrowed. Despite the emotional depths to which his spirit had fallen, Woodruff was relieved when he learned that the letter bearing the unpleasant tidings of his wife's passing had not arrived prior to the battle, and the boy had gone to his grave untouched by that added grief. Contemplating this remarkable providence, he reflected on God's kindness and consoled himself that "such a mercy [would only] be extended to one who was .. . an object of his ... aid." By Thanksgiving Day, the passage of time and God's grace had helped heal his broken heart, and Woodruff regarded his trial as spiritually beneficial. "I am thankful that the Lord has done to me what seemed to Him good'" he testified. "If the bitter load of grief shall make me walk more humbly do justice & love mercy--& make me holy," he added, then "I will rejoice in the remembrance of my tribulations." (15)
Probably few people handled the distress caused by the death of a loved one as well as James Remley or George Woodruff. Oftentimes, the ability to give intellectual consent to God's sovereignty did not provide immediate comfort or completely ease the pain of a loss. "It is hard ... to part with him," the parents of George Covington admitted after his death in 1864- "But it is the will of our Heavenly Father who knows what is best, and He always does right. We believe this and it consoles us in some measure," they truthfully acknowledged. Although individuals might have sincerely desired to submit to God's will, sometimes their afflicted hearts needed time to mend before they could align with their mental wishes. Nearly a year after the deaths of a son and son--in--law in the war, Eleanor Bereman of Mt. Pleasant, lowa, still struggled to come to terms with her loss. "Oh that I could say the will of the Lord be done more fully than I do," she confessed. Other persons seemed almost powerless to master their grief and remained disconsolate, unable to find relief in the doctrine of God's sovereignty. "I know it is my duty to resign to the will of God," Jane van denTak of Holland, Michigan, conceded after obtaining her fallen brother's personal effects. "The Lord reigns as well on earth as he does in heaven," she willingly asserted, and although some might have considered his death "an accident," she recognized that the attributes of "the Almighty ruler" rendered such an explanation infeasible. Despite understanding and affirming the actuality of God's sovereignty, she struggled to find solace and confessed, "It is very hard for me to have comfort from that [doctrine]." (16)
Since death might visit soldiers sooner rather than later, civilians often stressed the urgency for them to prepare while time remained. Elvira Aplin of Burton, Michigan, yearned "to hear that the soldiers begin to care for their souls" because they might "exchange worlds at any moment." After her son Arthur died in the summer of 1864, she counseled her son George to make "his peace with God" while time remained. "Do not wait till you are wounded, or on a sick bed, before you attend to these things," she advised, "for you may never have such an oportunity." When her brother George Howell of the 22nd Michigan became discouraged shortly after enlisting, Almira Dart directed his attention away from earthly matters. "Live so you will be prepared to die," she admonished, "for you know not how sudenly you may be called into eternity." Receiving word that a soldier had examined his spiritual condition and settled his eternal state made the prospect of parting in this life more bearable. "If our friends fall in this war we know they die in a glorious cause," Sarah Dooley maintained, "and if we only had the asurence they was prepared for a better world we could give them up." (17)
The deathbed was a prominent facet of mid-nineteenth-century American social culture, both in the North and South. Indeed, many people of all denominations and religious backgrounds considered dying to be an art and sought to leave this world in a way that exemplified the "Good Death." Since the fifteenth century, religious manuals outlining the Ars Moriendi, or art of dying, had instructed people how to meet death without fear. In the ideal scenario, a person would die at home surrounded by family and friends, who offered encouragement and watched to see that their loved one did not tremble at death but exhibited "Christian fortitude and resignation" to the very end. According to Drew Gilpin Faust, firsthand observation of these last moments on earth allowed family to glimpse the person's "spiritual condition" at the point of death and gauge the prospects of heavenly reunion. Obituaries in religious newspapers helped promote the model Christian death, serving both to honor the deceased for having left a commendable testimony while challenging the living to emulate such saintly examples. After noting her church membership and consistent "daily walk and conversation," the obituary for thirty-five year-old Martha Shanks of Indiana recounted her final earthly hours. "To the last, she was entirely composed, giving charges to her family and counseling and biding farewell to her friends until she fell asleep in Jesus." Far from being limited to middle-class white culture, the Ars Moriendi tradition had even transcended racial boundaries. According to the Christian Recorder, the official organ of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the death of eighty-five year-old Mary Bass, a Methodist church member for over forty years and faithful congregant of Terre Haute's A.M.E. church for more than twenty, epitomized the Good Death archetype. "Up to the day of her death she maintained there ligion which she professed," her obituary read. "The nearer she drew to the grave, the stronger became her faith in the Saviour. She died as she prayed she might, surrounded by her children and grand children." This testimony of persevering faith gave her family confidence that she had gone "to join the company of those who walk in white, being found worthy." (18)
Unlike these ideal examples, many soldiers perished far from home, thereby disrupting this standard ritual of death. To be sure, a few individuals dismissed social conventions altogether and stressed that preparation for eternity was all that counted. "If you are ready to go," Almira Dart claimed, "it will not...matter how nor where you die." Most families, however, sought a detailed account of how a loved one had died, and they relied on soldiers for this much-anticipated intelligence. Indeed, over the course of the war, the composition of condolence letters became something of a stock-in-trade for some soldiers. Typically, these letters included references to the deceased's love for country, family, and God. After Clement Webb of the 13th Michigan died at Murfreesboro in February 1863, a sergeant in his company assured his wife Clarissa that "the captain fought the good fight, both of a soldier of the cross and a[n] officer [of the Union]." Before passing away, Webb had expressed his wish "to see his famely," especially his "little ones." As the two soldiers conversed about religion, Webb had acknowledged that "he loved his Christ," and although the rigors of army life had made it difficult for him to be as faithful as he would have liked, he fully expected to reach "that shining shore." Besides soldiers, chaplains and hospital workers also helped meet the demand for descriptions of the Good Death. After her husband Simeon expired at a St. Louis hospital in January 1863, Elizabeth Stevens of Oskaloosa, lowa, received word from a stranger, possibly a U.S. Sanitary Commission worker, that Simeon had been "prepared" to die, "for in all conversation his thoughts were of his family and his God." By emphasizing the patriotism, familial devotion, and religious piety of the dying soldier, condolence letters fit the expectations of grieving relatives rather than depicting the horrors and suffering of battlefield deaths. Despite this sanitizing tendency, condolence letters allowed family members at home to participate vicariously in a soldier's final moments. (19)
The privilege of being present to hear the final words of the dying had always been a central component of the deathbed scene. Family members cherished last words for their heartfelt truthfulness and edifying qualities. This concluding utterance afforded the living a meaningful memory that not only characterized the life of the deccased but provided valuable instruction and application for the remainder of earthly existence. Families made every possible effort to discover the final remarks made by soldiers, and, once ascertained, they willingly shared them with all interested parties. When Lycurgus Remley passed away, he had his brother George, a member of the same company, at his side to record his dying words. Lycurgus "requested me to tell you that 'he died in hope of a blissful immortality,'" George Remley dutifully notified his mother Jane. "All along through his illness he expressed complete resignation to the will of God knowing full well that whatever He did would be for the best," George assured her. Knowing that Lycurgus had died well encouraged his friends and helped them cope with his passing. "The consciousness of having done his duty together with a well founded hope in Christ doubtless made his deathbed pleasant even though far from home," a classmate from the University of lowa assumed. The multiple losses suffered by the Lough family allowed them to exchange last word narratives for the consolation of all. After the death of his nephew James in late 1864, David Lough recounted the passing of his son Albert, a sergeant with the 3rd lowa who had been sent home and died of disease in January 1862. Upon realizing that he would die shortly, Albert claimed to "see angles reaching out their...hands to receive my spirit" and affirmed "his confidence in Jesus as his Redeemer." Likewise, David had learned, James had invoked publicly "our Heavenly Father the God of Battles" to succor him during his final moments, and this display of devotion confirmed his preparation for death and left his family a comforting remembrance. (20)
Many soldiers, in contrast, died anonymous deaths on the battlefield with no comrade able to note the details of their passing. Sarah Dooley wished that her son Rufus had been present to hear the dying words of his older brother Atellus, who fell at Baton Rouge in the summer of 1864. She hoped Rufus somehow would be able to ascertain whether or not Atellus had thought of his family in his final moments and "appeared willing to die." Lacking these particulars, Sarah assured herself that if Atellus had retained full command of his faculties he would have "reflect[ed] and prepare[d] to meet his God." Indeed, the absence of a definitive account of a soldier's final moments on earth seemed to encourage wild conjecturing. If Martha John wondered what might have transpired when her son Samuel was killed on a scouting mission in July 1861, her friend A. D. Lynch of Indianapolis filled in every conceivable gap by imagining that Samuel had thought of God, his family, and his country during his final moments. Although no family member was present at Samuel's side, Lynch envisioned that angels, Samuel's guardian spirit, or possibly even his "sainted father" had noted his last words and carried them to "the throne of God." Unsatisfied by such otherworldly speculations about anonymous deaths, some families searched for tangible signs that pointed to a soldier's spiritual preparation. After his son fell at the battle of South Mountain in September 1862, Edward Meyer, Episcopal minister in Lansing, Michigan, discovered that the Bible found on his son's body had been marked at II Kings 22:19-20. The text read, "Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD,...I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace." Meyer regarded this passage to be "so strikingly true" of his son's "character, course & ending to seem sent providentially for our consolation." (21)
Most soldiers were buried where they fell, but families with economic means sometimes had the body of a fallen soldier brought home for burial. The relatively new practice of embalming facilitated the shipment of cadavers to grieving families who desired to observe traditional mourning practices that battlefield deaths had denied them. The opportunity to pay last respects at public funerals gave great satisfaction to those who regarded the deaths of soldiers as having a redemptive effect on the nation. Indeed, scores of Northerners flocked to the funerals of Union officers, and such public ceremonies enabled ministers to memorialize individuals while reinforcing the necessity of dying for a righteous cause. At the December 1863 funeral of Colonel William Creighton and Lieutenant Colonel O. J. Crane of the 7th Ohio, who both fell at the battle of Ringgold, Georgia, patriotic applications far outnumbered references to religious devotion. Although the Methodist preacher Adam Crooks mentioned Creighton's childhood baptism, he focused on the colonel's patriotic sacrifice and comforted his family with the thought that he fell "covered with glory," and now future generations could visit his grave and remember the noble cause for which he had died. Reverend C. C. Foot did not hesitate to relate the regrettable fact that Crane "had never made a public profession of faith in Jesus," yet he chose to admonish his listeners to pay their debt of gratitude to the windows and orphans of soldiers who had given their lives for the nation's freedom rather than warning them to prepare their souls for death. According to Susan-Mary Grant, some Northerners considered the gravestones of soldiers and the cemeteries that housed their remains to be holy places, for these burial grounds were visible reminders that helped validate the enormous sacrifice in human life while also providing the living with a basis for an American national identity. (22)
While not immune to the influences of patriotism or indifferent about the location of their loved one's body, family members of Christian soldiers seemed to place less importance on these temporal issues, for their belief that the departed had gained entrance into heaven enabled them to focus on eternal priorities. "I have no doubt but Lycurgus has gone to heaven," his mother jane Remley maintained. "I always believed him to be a devoted christian." Armed with this assurance, Christian civilians often seemed to accept more willingly the termination of earthly bonds. Upon receiving word that her brother had perished from complications caused by an arm amputation, Jane Mauck of Mt. Carmel, Illinois, mourned his passing but "not as those who have no hope." "We have every reason reason to believe that he was God's own," she affirmed, and "god has taken him Home." Several members of the Chapin family accepted with Christian fortitude the deaths of three of their own during the war. John Chapin regarded the sermon entitled " 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord'" to be entirely fitting for his brother Coy's funeral in April 1863. "It is not terrible to die when we can leave such a heritage behind us as our brother has left," he professed. When John Blinn perished at a field hospital, his mother Dorothy did not despond but confidently asserted that "God has taken him to himself." Alice Chapin estimated that her cousin John's funeral was the largest she had ever attended and inferred that those who had come to pay their last respects took "took "comfort...to know he died a happy Christian rejoicing in the Savior." Helen Kemper anticipated that George Chapin would survive the war because he modeled "the religion of the glorious Savior" by displaying a consistent Christian testimony. When her hunch proved false, the remembrance of his godly reputation and certainty of his admittance into heaven assuaged her grief at his loss. "Oh with what joy immeasurable can his friends resign him, when compared with those who have to give up their friends in despair." (23)
During the war, scores of Northerners revealed their expectant longing for heaven. Although only a few volumes on the afterlife were published in the years preceding the war and throughout its duration, these scant numbers do not reflect accurately the growing interest in heaven exhibited by many religious individuals, a trend that accounts for the subsequent surge in the popularity and publication of books on heaven during the 1870s. According to Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, the modern vision of heaven became ascendant during the middle decades of the century. However, the traditional image based on the ideas of the Protestant Reformers endured nonetheless. The latter proposed a theocentric model of heaven that presented God receiving praise from the redeemed for all eternity. With no sorrow, sickness, or dying, heaven was the antithesis of earth, and even familial relationships diminished in importance. God was the focus of heaven and the reason for its existence, and the thought of enjoying eternal communion with him stimulated the believer to seek its shores. In contrast, the modern representation of heaven mirrored the best of life on earth, and reunion with family replaced devotion to God as the primary objective of heaven. This anthropocentric conception narrowed the distance between heaven and earth because it envisioned the saints lovingly nurturing their families and engaging in the same activities that characterized everyday life. In essence, the modern view of heaven made earthly bonds sacred. Heaven resembled the Victorian home on a grander scale, and the family, not God, "served as the foundation of heavenly life." (24)
Despite the prevalence of the modern image of heaven during the Civil War, the traditional model that emphasized man enjoying endless fellowship with God occasionally appeared. Although adherents of this view looked forward to rejoining family, they recognized that heaven existed for the primary purpose of worshipping the God of the universe for all eternity. According to the New Testament, those who died in the Lord went immediately to be with him, and this promise assured grieving families that Christian soldiers had been ushered into the presence of God. After the death of George Chapin, Helen Kemper confidently asserted that he had departed to be "forever present with the Lord." Sarah Chapin assured her nephew Amory Blinn that his father's preparation for death had enabled him to live "with his savior." To be sure, a Christian's earthly communion with Christ, no matter how inspiring, paled in comparison to the joys of heaven. Although "Jesus communicates with his friends by his word" and "sympathizes" with a believer's infirmities during the earthly sojourn, Ohioan Eliza Fanning noted, this fellowship could not approach the rapturous delight "that await[s] the christian in heaven where he shall see the redeemer face to face and enjoy his presants forever." Indeed, being with Christ would elicit praise from the saints, and David Lough expected to "join in songs of everlasting praise to Jesus who has redeemed us." Emily Elliot perceptively comprehended how the traditional interpretation envisioned a proper balance between family and God. After the death of her husband Denton, a lieutenant colonel with the 103rd Ohio, she expressed hope of "see[ing] him in heaven" but fully expected that "Christ will occupy my thoughts there." (25)
The modern depiction of heaven, in contrast, primarily emphasized that parting from family members would cease in heaven, and many individuals exhibited an intense desire to go there for the sole purpose of reuniting with loved ones. Civilians often conveyed their wish to see soldiers return home safely, but if prevented from doing so, they intended to greet each other in heaven. "May God grant that we may meet again...in this world," Minnesotan Lizzie Bowler prayed, "and above all prepare us both for the future world that we may not be separated there." Those left behind to mourn often assumed that their dearly departed were eagerly anticipating the time when they would he brought together again. Lizzie Griffith of Chicago asserted that those who "have gone first ... are only waiting for us on the other shore." Because of their difficulty in comprehending the intangible nature of heaven, some people found that the prospect of joining loved ones made going there more appealing. "Heaven look[s] much brighter to me," Amanda Hudelson of New Castle, Indiana, admitted after the death of her mother, "and more interest have I to live so as to gain that bright shore to meet my dear father and mother there." Likening herself to the desciple Thomas, who had to see and touch the risen Christ before he could believe in the resurrection, Alice Chapin needed a personal connection to make heaven's existence seem more concrete. "I never had so tender a yearning for heaven until I had a link to ... what had been earthy," she confessed after the death of her infant son. "I can realize there is a heaven much more since I have friends... there." (26)
Besides rejoining adult family members in heaven, parents expected to reunite with their children who had died in infancy or early childhood. By the early-nineteenth century, the decline of Calvinism had enabled many northern civilians to conclude that God, because of his love, would permit children who died before they developed a consciousness of sin or reached an age to differentiate between right and wrong to enter heaven. (27) In February 1863, J. R. Jones, of Fairview, Indiana, tried to comfort some Quaker friends with the thought that their baby "has gone to a better world." Some parents attempted to convince themselves that death benefited their children by allowing them to escape the troubles and trials of life. Quaker Anna Starr of Richmond, Indiana, consoled herself that her two deceased infants had "been removed in mercy ere one blot of sin, had stained their infant purity." "Their eternal gain," she reckoned, should cause "our loss ... [to] loose its sharpest stings." A female friend of Schuyler and Lucia Hendryx regarded the death of their infant daughter as a "solemn admonition" to draw "nearer to the Saviour" by dwelling on their heavenly "treasures," for the child, she believed, was now an angel in heaven. In the mid-nineteenth century, writers for popular serials such as Godey's Lady's Book and novelists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe promoted the idea that deceased infants became angels in heaven who helped rescue and purify the souls of family members on earth. Convinced that her daughter Eva had "gone to sing songs around the throne of god in heaven," a mother in Flint, Michigan, determined "to live in such a way" that she could "meet that little angel in heaven" when she died. (28)
Although many people seemed content to accept that heaven was a better world for the simple reason that it afforded familial reunions, others specifically delineated some of its additional advantages. In particular, individuals often alluded to the absence of earthly conditions that stemmed from man's fall, especially the eradication of sin, sorrow, and sickness. If Kelsey Adams of the 21st Wisconsin fell in battle, his sister Lucretia hoped to meet him "in Heaven where sin & sorrow are not known & partings never come." Helen Kemper contrasted earth's mortal scenes of turmoil and strife" with the heavenly abode, "free from sin and sorrow." After his brother Jesse died from measles that he had contracted while in the army, Charles Hamilton of Ripley County, Indiana, vowed to "strike glad hands with him on the sunny banks of deliverance where sicness sorrow pain & death are felt & feared no more." Untainted by sorrow and death, heaven inevitably eliminated war from its confines. Eliza Porter of Lattaville, Ohio, consoled herself that her departed friends "have gone to a land where its sons goeth not forth to war" because "eternal peace and joy prevail" there. (29)
In addition to boasting perfect conditions untouched by sin or war, heaven was described by Christ as a place filled with mansions outfitted for the saints. James Remley asserted that his son Lycurgus had "no doubt gone home to his Heavenly father to those mansions which Jesus has prepared." Catharine Peirce hoped that good behavior and the steadfast endurance of earthly cares would merit her a heavenly home of her own. Prior to the war, her husband Taylor had moved the family so frequently that in almost twenty years of marriage she had not lived in the same house for more than three years. His service during the war even necessitated that she and her three children board with her brother's family. "We never have had a permanant home on this earth," she reflected pensively, "and if we never have I hope we will live so that we can enjoy our rest after this life is done." Implicit in that "rest" was the possession of a heavenly home. "I think if I bare my share [of trials] with patiance that maybe I may get my reward," she alleged. In order to gain that desired end, she concluded to "try to make peace with God and man...so that I may grow rich in kingdom come." Rather than being completely finished, some of the mansions in heaven, according to Franklin Thorpe of Springfield, Illinois, were still under construction, and he imagined that his departed family members lent a hand in "preparing places for us." His outlook typified the modern depiction of heaven as an active, bustling city where citizens engaged in constructive service rather than relaxed in restful repose. (30)
Evidence confirms that a person's understanding of salvation shaped his or her notion of heaven. According to Richard Rabinowitz, orthodox believers insisted that salvation came by grace through faith in Christ, but moralists affirmed that salvation could be gained through character reformation. Northerners who ascribed to a God-centered view of salvation more often pictured God as the focal point of heaven since he alone enabled them to enter heaven's gates, but people who believed that salvation could be earned by good works had little reason to think that God should predominate there. In fact, few individuals explicitly linked their admission to heaven with salvation by grace alone through faith. Alice Chapin confessed, "I feel indeed that if I am ever permitted to join the hosts of the redeemed in heaven it will be all of Grace." Her mother-in-law Sarah Chapin hoped to be "reunited" with "those who have gone before" exclusively "through [the] riches of free grace." David Lough stressed that only "a living faith upon Jesu...will sustain us when we come to die" and enable a person to reach "the blissful shores of a never ending eternity." (31)
More civilians, in contrast, emphasized the necessity of virtuous living in order to gain entrance into heaven. Although some of this number, if asked to clarify their opinion, might have disavowed the idea that moralism alone could provide access to heaven, their correspondence nevertheless gives the impression that human endeavor, rather than the imputed righteousness of Christ, was sufficient grounds for securing their residence in heaven. From the context of their letters, reaching heaven seemed contingent on manifesting faithfulness on earth. However, lacking specific instructions on what exactly faithfulness entailed, these exhortations resembled little more than platitudes. For instance, Mary Chittenden of Bartholomew County, Indiana, counseled her son George to "strive to live in the enjoyment of vital piety...[so] that if you should never return we may have an assurance if faithful that we shall meat beyond the reach of war." Helen Sharp of Kirkwood, Iowa, admonished her husband John of the 2nd Iowa to "live right so that if you do fall you will fall Zionward and we will try to meet you in heaven." Although the prescription for procuring heaven seldom advanced beyond the admonition to live faithfully on earth, individuals sometimes specified, still without adequate detail, that obeying God's decrees mattered most. "I want you...to observe all that the Lord has commanded," Franklin Alford charged Warren in October 1861, "so that if you should fall we may be in possession of a well grounded hope of your title [to] a ma [n]sion in the spirit land." (32)
Because of the prevalence of the belief that God would welcome into heaven all who strived to live faithfully, it is not surprising that some Northerners claimed that fallen soldiers had earned their ticket to heaven and would receive special recognition there. A female resident of Oskaloosa, Iowa, wondered why the community paid special tribute to a slain soldier who had been a prominent lawyer before the war. In her estimation, all patriotic soldiers, regardless of their social status, would receive equal honor in heaven. "In the great hearafter their will be written with that shining list those that loved their country and liberty better than life." Rhoda Eggleston assured her son Hubert, fighting with the 6th Minnesota, that he would earn eternal rewards for giving his life for his country. "If you fall in this contest you can lay by the soldiers garb for a crown of glory at Christs right hand." Ohioan Harrison Kellar supposed that his son John. stationed with the Union Light Guard in the nation's capital, needed only to live an exemplary life to merit his heavenly recognition. "Surely my boy if you maintain your integrity Greatness is before you," he claimed, "for if not in this world God will honor you with a seat near by the Throne." Such a presumptuous assertion bordered on the blasphemous for some individuals, especially those disinclined to support the war. In the summer of 1864, Emeline Ritner of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, concluded that a "very good neighbor" was a Copperhead. "I heard the other day that Mrs. Morley said she didn't believe one of the soldiers would ever go to heaven," she prated. "If she was not my nearest neighbor and 1 knew it was so [that soldiers could enter heaven], I would never have anything to do with her again." (33) Even heaven, at times, was not too hallowed to escape being politicized by war.
Although a few individuals conjectured that self-sacrificing patriotism had guaranteed soldiers their reward in heaven, other Northerners did not disregard the Scripture's injunction that all men would stand before God as Judge of the universe. Hoosier Margaret Denny reminded her brother John that the dead would be resurrected at Christ's second coming and "be called to account for all the deeds done in the body whether good or bad." Some civilians emphasized that this certainty of future judgment should influence people's actions and cause them to modify their behavior in order to avoid divine punishment. Appalled by the deportment of some members of the 10th Michigan who acquired a reputation "for drunkenness and disorderly conduct" while home on furlough in the spring of 1864, Elvira Aplin hoped the offenders would "retrieve their carachter ... and repent of their evil deeds" before returning to the field and facing Rebel bullets that might "send them to their last acct." Because Christ had paid the penalty for sins and placated God's wrath through his death on the cross, those who trusted in him had no reason to dread the approaching judgment. Instead, the righteous could anticipate receiving rewards for their faithful service. Anna Seawright of Dayton, Indiana, promised her brother James Rizer that by giving his "soul, and body to God" in the present life, his "sentence" in eternity would be "joyful" and his "rewards ... glorious." The wicked, in contrast, had every reason to tremble. Citing a proverb of Solomon, Frances Ely of Decatur County, Indiana, observed, "The 'Good Book' assures me that...'the wicked shall not go unpunished,' and I have faith to believe it will be even so." (34)
Most people regarded the existence of a separate place of eternal punishment for the wicked as a serious matter. According to Steven E. Woodworth, many soldiers even refrained from referring to hell by name, choosing instead to hint at it "in oblique and indirect terms." Northern civilians likewise handled such a grisly topic with utmost delicacy, revealing the initial stages of what James H. Moorhead identified as "a growing silence on the subject" of hell that characterized the pulpit during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. For staunch Unionists especially, disloyalty to the government certainly deserved everlasting punishment, although God alone would determine when he would mete out his justice on traitors, whether through the course of the war as many northern ministers claimed or in eternity. Whatever the case, man should not seek to perform God's duties as Judge. When George Aplin jokingly threatened to shoot any "northern Rebels" he encountered while home on furlough, his mother Elvira reminded him that it mattered little whether or not Copperheads received the hanging she felt they deserved. "We shall have to let them work out their own distruction, which they will do in Eternity if not in Time." Comparing Copperheads to tares in a parable of Christ's, she confidently assumed that hell awaited northern traitors after the Judgment. "Our Savior said let the wheat and tears grow together in this world, [for] the harvest time would come when the tares should be bound in bundles and be burned with unquenchable fire." A resident of Kokomo, Indiana, made clear his opinion concerning the eternal abode of those who refused to support the Union. "The true soldiers that die or are killed in this war will go to heaven," he averred, "but the copperhead that dies on a feather bed will surely go to hell." (35)
Although many Northerners pondered eternity throughout the Civil War, the diversity of opinions that characterized descriptions of the afterlife and the heavenly abode reveal a topic that was anything but orderly. Since the system-atic study of eschatology did not gain widespread appeal until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the exact sequence and precise details of what transpired after death remained open to interpretation. Margaret Denny looked for the unheralded return of Christ, who would "come as a thief in the night" to resurrect the dead and immediately summon them to the Judgment. Mary Mumford, in comparison, specified that only those who "sleep in Jesus will Christ bring with him" at the resurrection, implying that the unregenerate dead would not be raised at the Second Coming. In addition to questions over the scope of the resurrection, some individuals differed over the nature of the saints in eternity. A female resident of Fremont, Ohio, suffering from ill health possessed "the consolation of knowing that I shall be like him" at death. (36) She presumably expected to receive a glorified, physical body in heaven just as Christ's post-resurrection body exhibited corporeal attributes. Since sickness and pain could not exist in heaven, the earthly body with its many infirmities had to be made new, a process that awaited the resurrection of the dead. In the interim, a Christian's soul resided in heaven, although Northerners, as the evidence has shown, disagreed over the specific activities of the heavenly city.
Spiritualism, however, as popularized by eighteenth-century Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, deviated from the biblical view that the spirits of deceased saints resided strictly in heaven. Spiritualism maintained that a person's spirit could pass between heaven and earth with great ease because only a short distance separated the spirit world from the terrestrial realm. A November 1862 editorial in The Crisis, a spiritualist newspaper published in LaPorte, Indiana, attempted to convince mourners that the intervention of the spirit world could cause heaven to be nearer and ease the pains of earthly loss. "The only way to bring heaven down to earth is to bring the employments of the angels to our doors. Where ... would be our sorrows, if we could but feel that the Lord and His holy angels were near us inspiring every good thought and action." Those who embraced spiritualism, the writer asserted, could gain "peace within, and a quiet sphere of peace flowing out" from them. This purported ability of the spirit of a dead loved one to leave heaven periodically and observe family at home provided encouragement and consolation to devotees of the spiritualist philosophy. Despite her orthodox views concerning salvation and the Christian life, Alice Chapin apparently imbibed deeply from the fountain of spiritualism as well. As she gazed upon the grave of her infant son while writing to her husband, she wondered if his spirit might be nearby. "I almost feel as though his dear little spirit was hovering round me trying to draw his mother upward ... to that happy resting place his unfettered soul is now so delightfully enjoying. " By regarding the nature of man as tripartite, she envisioned her son's body lying cold in the grave, his soul experiencing the joys of heaven, and his spirit lingering close beside her, actively drawing her mind to heavenly things. On another occasion, spent in George Chapin's old bedroom, she speculated about the present location of his spirit. "Perhaps his spirit may be hovering round the home where his friends still so fondly cherish his memory," she divulged to Lucius, "or maybe with you his lonely brother who still mourn[s] his loss." (37)
In the end, knowing and understanding every particular facet of eternal life was not the primary goal for most northern civilians. Heaven was the prize, and taking the necessary steps to get there mattered most. Many people recognized that the process began by first coming to terms with the reality of death and accepting that God determined the hour of man's departing. Since no one could predict the arrival of that final day, advance preparation had to be made. During the war years, most Northerners still agreed that only Christians could enter heaven, (38) but they often differed over how a person became one. Individuals who maintained an eternal perspective anticipated the day when the trials and struggles of earthly life would pass away and they would experience the ecstasies of heaven, particularly the blessed occasion of a blissful reunion with departed loved ones. But until that day arrived, family members had to press on through difficult times, trusting in God's sovereignty and satisfied that the deceased had completed life's course and been prepared for eternity. For patriotic Northerners like the Covingtons of Cincinnati, who sacrificed their son George on the altar of the nation, this knowledge alone was sufficient. "He died for his country and died a Christian," they related to John Wilder, George's commanding officer who had shown him kindness in the moments before he passed away. "After all, dear Colonel, could we ask for more. Life is fleeting, uncertain, unsatisfying. To die in the service of one's country and to die a Christian is all that in life is worth striving for." (39)
I would like to thank Robert E.May and the anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this article. Unfortunately, Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (New York; 2008) was not released in time for me to integrate its findings in this place.
(1.) The title quotation comes from "Mother S[arah] Chapin" to "My Dear son," June 5, 1864, Lucius Chapin Papers, Box 2, Indiana Historical Society (IHS), Indianapolis; Franklin Alford to Warren Alford, August 5, 1861; Warren to parents, September 25, 1861, Alford Family Paper, IHS.
(2.) Franklin Alford to Warren Alford, March 2, 1862, Alford Family Papers, IHS; Wayne and Lafayette Alford to Mary Alford, January 30, 1862, ibid.; Warren to "Dear Brother," June 13, 1862, ibid. In the published volume of the Alford family correspon dence, Richard S. Skidmore attributes this letter as being written to George Washington Alford, Warren's brother residing at home. For several reasons, I believe that the recipient was Wayne. First, Warren never addressed letters to a specific younger sibling at home but sometimes included them under the term "family" or "brothers and sisters." Second, Warren indeed had written to Wayne in the past, a fact verified by Wayne in a missive dated April 25, 1862. Finally, since Wayne died before he could have received Warren's letter, it is possible that it would have been saved with Wayne's personal effects and given to the family, hence its survival when other letters between the two soldiers were not preserved. See Skidmore, ed., The Alford Brothers: "We All Must Dye Sooner or Later" (Hanover, IN, 1995), 288. Dr. James Laverty, a family friend of the Alfords, served as a medic with the 6th Indiana and updated Franklin on Wayne's declining health. Laverty to Franklin, June 1, 1862; Warren to parents, July 9, 1862, Alford Family Papers, IHS.
(3.) Franklin to Warren, September 21, 1862, January 27, 1862, Alford Family Papers, IHS.
(4.) David E. Stannard, The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and social change (New York, 1977), 72-95; Lewis O. Saum, The Popular Mood of pre-Civil War America (Westport, CT, 1980), 78-104; James J. Farrell, Inventing the American Way of Death, 1830--1920 (Philadelphia, 1980), 4-7, 44-98. For a case study of death's transformation in the public consciousness in the town of Schenectady, New York, see Robert V. Wells, Facing the 'King of Terrors': Death and Society in an American Community, 1750-1990 (New York, 2000). James H. Moorhead, World Without End: Mainstream American Protestant Visions of the Last Things, 1880-1925 (Bloomington, IN, 1999), 17, 58-61.
(5.) Lewis O. Saum, The Popular Mood of America, 1860-1890 (Lincoln, NE, 1990), 104-33. Without diminishing religious sensibilities, other historians have chosen, to empha size secular motivations for dealing with death. According to Earl J. Hess, some North erners tolerated the high cost of war because their ideological attachment to the principles of liberty and republican government made dying acceptable. See Liberty, Virtue, and Progress: Northerners, and Their War for the Union (New York, 1988), 32-55. Sentimentalism offered another grid through which Northerners could comprehend death, and sentimental literature often, contained religious themes and references to eternity. See Mary Louise Kete, Sentimental Collaborations: Mourning and Middle Class identity in Nineteenth-Century America (Durham, NC, 2000), and Alice Fahs, "The Sentimental Soldier in Popular Civil War Literature, 1861-65," Civil War History 46 (2000): 107-31.
(6.) Throughout this article, the label "Northerner" applies to civilians living in the Union states of the Civil War West--Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. This geographic region was chosen for manageability and easier access to sources. In all likelihood, opinions on death and eternity espoused by residents from New England, New York, and Pennsylvania would not differ markedly from those discussed here, although the inroads of religious liberalism might be more prominent in the views of New England elites. Although female perspectives outnumber those of males, gender differences seem to have had little effect on a person's understanding of death and the afterlife. Furthermore, many of the letter writers and diarists cited appear to come from middle class backgrounds, although the high literacy rates of nineteenth-century Americans enabled members of the lower class to express their ideas quite effectively, albeit often with creative spellings. Consequently, class categories seem irrelevant, for many nineteenth-century Americans accepted the reality of death and recognized the need to prepare for eternity.
(7.) For an antebellum example that shows believers' more positive attitudes toward death as a result of the theological changes that resulted from the Second Great Awakening, see Nicholas Marshall, " 'In the Midst of Life we are in Death': Affliction and Religion in Antebellum New York," in Mortal Remains: Death in Early America, eds. Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein (Philadelphia, 2003), 176-80. James M. McPher son, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (New York, 1997), 68-71; Steven E. Wood worth, While God Is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (Lawrence, KS, 2001), 40-51 Despite an increased scholarly focus on the social history of the home front, recent studies have omitted any discussion of how northern civilians coped with death. For example, see Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller, eds., An Uncommon Time: The Civil War and the Northern Home Front (New York, 2002), and Joan E. Cashin, ed., The War Was You and Me: Civilians in the American Civil War (Princeton, NJ, 2002).
(8.) Michael O'Malley, Keeping Watch: A History of American Time (New York, 1990), 8-23. Mark M. Smith demonstrates that similar views of time held sway in the antebellum South as well. See Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South (Chapel Hill, NC, 1997), 41-43, 57-59. The Civil War disrupted the normal rhythms of time that helped order society on a daily basis as "battle time" temporarily displaced clock time. See Cheryl A. Wells, Civil War Time: Temporality and Identity in America, 1861-1865 (Athens, GA, 2005). Diary of Samuel Hibbard (microfilm transcripts), January 1 and December 31,1863, in Robert C. Hibbard Collection, Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections (WMU), Kalamazoo; Calvin Fletcher diary, February 4, 1863, February 4, 1864, in Diary of Calvin Fletcher, ed. Gayle Thornbrough, 9 vols. (Indianapolis, 1972-83), 8:42, 323-24; Journal of Emily Beeler Fletcher, May ll, 1863, IHS.
(9.) Drusilla Dean to [George and Elmina Lounshury], August 14, 1861, George W. Lounsbury Collection, IHS. James J. Farrell traced the adage, "In the midst of life we are in death," to the Methodist "Order of the Burial of the Dead" published in 1836, and Steven E. Wood worth discovered it in The Soldier's Prayer Book distributed by the Episcopal church. See Farrell, 40-41, and Woodworth, 47-48; Eunice Brown to "Dear Brother," March 28, 1864, Eunice A. Brown Letters, IHS; Mollie McPheeters to John McPheeters, May 31,1864, John S. McPheeters Correspondence, IHS.
(10.) Catharine Peirce to Taylor Peirce, August 2, 1863, November n.d., 1864, in Richard L. Kiper, ed., Dear Catharine, Dear Taylor: The Civil War Letters of a union Soldier and His Wife (Lawrence, KS, 2002), 136, 294; Virginia Alford to Warren Alford, January 26, 1862, Alford Family Papers, IHS; Mary Vermilion to William Vermilion, July 27, 1864, in Donald C. Elder III, ed., Love amid the Turmoil: The Civil War Letters of William and Mary Vermilion (Iowa City, 2003), 288.
(11.) It is difficult to tell how and when people became accustomed to employing this phrase to describe death. The rise of Adventism during the antebellum period may havereturned the expression into the popular vernacular. However, its usage to designate death goes back at least to the fifteenth century. Thomas a Kempis applied Matthew 24:44 to refer to death in his classic devotional The Imitation of Christ in book one, chapter 23. See The Imitation of Christ, trans. Leo Sherley-Price (New York, 1986), 58. During the Civil War, Southerners also used "the coming of the Son of Man" to connote death, especially when admonishing Confederate soldiers to consider their mortality. See several electronic documents available through "Documenting the American South" from the University of North Carolina's Rare Book Collection, accessible at http://docsouth.unc.edu.
(12.) Josephine Foster to William Haynes Lytle, April 3, , Lytle Papers, Box 32, Cincinnati Historical Society (CHS); Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, Fred ericksburg to Meridian (New York, 1963), 739-40; Alexander McPheeters to John Mc Pheeters, July 3, 1863, John S. McPheeters Correspondence, IHS; Indianapolis Witness, March 5, 1862.
(13.) Margaret Ross to "My Dear Sister," November 1, 1861, Cassady-Nelson Family Papers, Ball State University Archives (BSU), Muncie, Ind.; J. W. Osborn addendum to letter from Alice Chapin to Nellie, July 4-5, 1864, Blinn Papers, Box 6, CHS; Viana White to George White, April 30, 1863, George M. White Collection, Box 1, WMU.
(14.) Franklin Alford to Warren Alford, January 12, 1862, Alford Family Papers, IHS; unsigned letter to Silas Borton, November 16, , Borton Family Papers, Box 1, Bowling Green State University Archives (BGSU), Ohio; Henry Tutewiler to Henry Tutewiler, Jr., March 3,1865, Henry W. Tutewiler Papers, IHS; John L. Ketcham to Willie Ketcham, February 15, March 27, 1865, John L. Ketcham Papers, Box 2, IHS; Alexander McPheeters to John McPheeters, June 10, 1863, John S. McPheeters Correspondence, IHS.
(15.) James Remley to George Remley, July 4, 1863, in Julie Holcomb, ed., Southern Sons, Northern Soldiers: The Civil War Letters of the Remley Brothers, 22ndlowalnfantry (DeKalb,IL, 2004), 82; George Woodruff diary entries, August 28, November 26, 1863, George Woodruff Journal, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
(16.) S. E and Mary Covington to "Dear Friend," June 19, 1864, John T. Wilder Collection, Indiana State Library (ISL), Indianapolis; [Eleanor Bereman] to [Samuel Bereman], June 5, 1864, in Charles E Larimer, ed., Love and Valor: The Intimate Civil War Letters Between Captain Jacob and Emeline Ritner (Western Springs, IL, 2000), 283; Jane van den Tak to Sophia Buchanan, May 13, 1863, Rev. Abel Bingham Papers, Box 11, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant.
(17.) Elvira Aplin to George Aplin, July 28, August 14, 1864, Aplin Family Papers, Box 3, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Almira Dart to George Howell, September 28, 1862, Howell Family Papers, Bentley; Sarah Dooley to Rufus Dooley, August 30, 1862, Rufus Dooley Papers, Box 1, IHS.
(18.) Saum, The Popular Mood of Pre-Civil War America, 94-103; Reid Mitchell, The Va cant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home (New York, 1993), 142-43; Drew Gilpin Faust, "The Civil War Soldier and the Art of Dying," Journal of Southern History 67 (2001): 6-8, 12-13; Indianapolis Witness July 20, 1864; Christian Recorder, December 12, 1863. The 1860 census lists Mary Bass, mulatto, as only seventy-five years old.
(19.) Almira Dart to George Howell, September 28, 1862, Howell Family Papers, Bent-ley; Faust, 16-17, 19; Lathan B. Byron to "Mrs. C. C. [Clarissa] Webb," February 22, March 4, 1863, Phyllis Burnham Collection, WMU. For the role of nurses in writing condolence letters, see Jane E. Schultz, "Healing the Nation: Condolence and Correspondence in Civil War Hospitals," Proteus 17:2 (2000): 34-38. In his study of northern chaplains, Warren B. Armstrong only mentions in passing that chaplains composed condolence letters. See For Courageous Fighting and (confident Dying: Union Chaplains in the Civil War (Lawrence, KS, 1998), 38. Henry Glover to Elizabeth Stevens, January 23, 1863, in Richard N. Ellis, ed., "The Civil War Letters of an Iowa Family,"Annals of Iowa 39 (1969): 578-79.
(20.) Faust, 13; George Remley to Jane Remley, June 16, 1863, Charles Borland to George Remley, June 29, 1863, in Holcomb, 74, 80; D. A. Lough to William Lough, November 30, 1864, Lough Family Papers, Box 2, CHS.
(21.) Sarah Dooley to Rufus Dooley, August 9, 1864, Rufus Dooley Papers, Box 1, IHS; A. D. Lynch to Martha John, July 19, 1861, John Prince Durbin John Papers, Depauw University Archives, Greencastle, Ind.; Uubeknownst to Lynch, John W. Falconer had observed the passing of Samuel John, and his firsthand description related to his father somehow found its way into Samuel's hometown paper a week after Lynch had written her imaginative narrative intended to comfort Martha John. Falconer reported that Samuel "was standing at my right side, his shoulder touching mine, and he was shot through the body. He called 'John, John, I am killed, 1 am killed!' 1 laid him on his side, saw his eyes turn glassy; his face grow pale and his lips blue and the blood gush from his mouth. He whispered not to leave him--these were the last words he spoke.... He went into the fight with the full expectation of coming out safely. In five minutes he was a corpse." See Franklin (Indiana) Democrat, July 26, 1861; Edward Meyer to M.T. Reynolds, March 12, 1864, Edward Meyer Collection, Bentley.
(22.) Gary Laderman, The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883 (New Haven, 1996), 98-99, 109-16, 127-30; Daily Cleveland Herald, December 9, 1863. Lacking a Scripture text or religious application, the sermons delivered on behalf of Creighton and Crane demonstrate the shift to presenting memorial biographies that focused on worldly achievements rather than spiritual preparation. For a synopsis of theelements of the traditional funeral sermon, see Robert V. Wells, 54-57. To be sure, not all funeral sermons gave priority to patriotism. For instance, J. B. Bachman's tribute to J. M. Springer, chaplain or the 3rd Wisconsin who died in the battle of Resaca while attemping to rally a faltering company after the captain and two lieutenants had been killed, primarily emphasized the necessity for Springer's former congregation to prepare to meet him in heaven. See Wisconsin State Register, July 9, 1864. At the funeral of Charles Mc Glone, 3rd Ohio Cavalry, the Episcopal rector C.F. Lewis of Wakeman, Ohio, completely repudiated the patriotic funeral discourses that predominated during the war. He insisted that "the virtues proclaimed from the lips of many a Protestant minister in eulogy over the dead, is but too frequently highly imaginative, purely fictitious, in one word false." Mentioning McGlone only once in the entire address, Lewis maintained that hypocritical paeans to the dead tendered no spiritual benefit to the living, who needed to hear sermons that would cause them to focus on their soul's salvation and heed the scriptural command to prepare for the coming judgment. See Norwalk (Ohio) Experiment, June 30, 1862. Susan-Mary Grant, "Patriot Graves: American National Identity and the Civil War Dead," American Nineteenth Century History 5 (Fall 2004); 93-97.
(23.) Jane Remley to James Remley, June 29, 1863, in Holcomb, 79-80; Jane Mauck ad dendum to letter from William Mumford to Samuel Mumford, June 15, 1864, Samuel Mumford Papers, IRS; John Chapin to Lucius Chapin, April 19, 1863, Lucius Chapin Papers, Box 1, IHS; Dorothy Blinn to Amory Blinn, July 29, 1863; Alice Chapin to Cousin Nellie, September 7, 1863, Blinn Papers, Box 5, CHS; Helen Kemper to Lucius Chapin, Chapin Papers, Box 2, IHS.
(24.) Phillip Shaw Paludan gives the impression that antebellum America gave little thought to heaven. According to his figures, seven books on heaven went to press from 1852-1860, and only two were published during the war itself. However, he sees a distinct shift beginning immediately after the war's conclusion when the output over the next five years almost equaled the number produced during the previous fourteen years. The outburst occurred from 1871-1876 when over eighty volumes inundated the market. See "A People's Contest" The Union and Civil War 1861-1865 (New York, 1988), 367. When accounting for the gradual development of the modern view of heaven over a half-century, Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang note that the period from 1830 to 1875 witnessed the publication of over fifty books about heaven, not including works of fiction such as Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's bestseller. The Gates Ajar. See Heaven: A History (New Haven, 1988), 178-80, 228-29, 272-75, 287. In the half century after the Civil War, popular evangelical revivalists such as Dwight L. Moody and J. Wilbur Chapman embraced the sentimentalized picture of heaven as home. In most cases, these revivalists considered living with Christ and reuniting with family as equally worthy motivations to draw people to heaven. See Jonathan M. Butler, Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling: Heaven and Hell in American Revivalism, 1870-1920, Chicago Studies in the History of American Religion, eds. Jerald C.Brauer and Martin E. Marty (Brooklyn, 1991), 143-47. Ann Douglas addresses how mid-to-late nineteenth-century consolation literature pictured heaven "as a continuation and glorification of the domestic sphere." See "Heaven Our Home: Consolation Literature in the Northern United States, 1830-1880, "American Quarterly 26 (1974): 501-02.
(25.) Helen Kemper to Lucius Chapin, June 26, 1864, Lucius Chapin Papers, Box 2, IHS; Sarah [Chapin] to Amory Blinn, February 28, 1864, Blinn Papers, Box 6, CHS; Eliza Fanning writings, n.d., , Eliza Fanning Correspondence, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library, Fremont, Oh.; D.A. Lough to William Lough, November 30, 1864, Lough Family Papers, Box 2, CHS; Emily Elliot diary, October 31, 1864, quoted in Woodworth, 45.
(26.) Lizzie Bowler to Madison Bowler, October 23, 1864, James M. Bowler and Family Papers, Box 1, Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), St. Paul; Lizzie Griffith to Amory Blinn, March 27, 1864, Blinn Papers, Box 6, CHS; Amanda Hudelson to Jane Hudelson, January 10, 1865, Hill-Hudelson Family Papers, Box 2, Earlham College Archives, Richmond, Ind.; Alice Chapin to Lucius Chapin, May [illeg], 1863, Lucius Chapin Papers, Box 1, IHS.
(27.) James H.Moorhead, " As Though Nothing At All Had Happened': Death and Afterlife in Protestant Thought, 1840-1925," Soundings 67 (1984): 455. In her examination of how New England parents came to accept infant admission into heaven, Sylvia D. Hof-fert finds that popular writers even claimed that infants acted as agents of redemption, and their residence in heaven secured a place for other family members because of the "purifying influence" of the child. See "A Very Peculiar Sorrow': Attitudes Toward Infant Death in the Urban Northeast, 1800-1860," American Quarterly 39 (1987): 605-07, 611-13, and Private Matters: American Attitudes toward Childbearing and Infant Nurture in the Urban North, 1800-1860 (Urbana, IL,1989), 177-80, 183-87. Although the concept that infants became angels seems to have been accepted widely, no individuals cited here indicated a belief that dying infants automatically guaranteed a spot in heaven for the rest of the family by drawing first their attention and then their souls to an eternal abode.
(28.) J. R.Jones to "Dear Brother & Sister," February 22, 1863, Susan B. Unthink Papers, ISL; Anna Starr to William Starr, October 5, 1861, William C. Starr Papers, IHS; M. Buffington to Schuyler and Lucia Hendryx, January 25, 1865, Schuyler V.R Hendryx Papers, MHS; Hoffert, Private Matters, 183-85; N. Lounsbury to George and Elimina Lounsbury, February 16, 1864, George W. Lounsbury Papers, IHS.
(29.) Lucretia to Kelsey Adams, April 3, 1863, Kelsey M. Adams Civil War Letters, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison; Helen Kemper to Lucius Chapin, June 26, 1864, Lucius Chapin Papers, Box 2, IHS; Charles Hamilton to James and Agnes Crandall, April 5, 1863, John Watts Hamilton Collection, IHS; Eliza Porter to Caleb Core, November 15, 1864, addendum to November 8 letter, Core-Porter Letters, Ohio Historical Society (OHS), Columbus.
(30.) James Remley to George Remley, July 4, 1863, in Holcomb, 82; Kiper, 3-4; Catharine Peirce to Taylor Peirce, March 15, 1864, and October 25, 1863, in Kiper, 186-87, 145-46; Franklin Thorpe to "Dear Brother," November 6, 1864, Reuben Green Papers, IHS; McDannell and Lang, 287.
(31.) Richard Rabinowitz, The Spiritual Self in Everyday Life: The Transformation of Personal Religious Experience In Nineteenth Century New England (Boston, 1989), xxxviii-xxx. Although Rabinowitz limits his study to New England, the categories "Orthodox" and "moralist" apply throughout the North. Alice Chapin to [Lucius Chapin], letter fragment, n.d., Lucius Chapin Papers, Box 2, IHS; sarah Chapin to "My Dear Niece," June 19, 1864, Blinn Papers, Box 6, CHS; D. A. Lough to James Lough, October 21, 1864 and D. A. Lough to William Lough, November 30, 1864, Lough Family Papers, Box 2, CHS.
(32.) Mary Chittenden to George Chittenden, August 11, 1861, George F. Chittenden Papers, Box 1, ISL HelenSharp to John Sharp, April 23, 1862, in George Mills, ed., "The Sharp Family Civil War Letters," Annals of lowa 34 (1959): 495; Franklin Alford to Warren Alford, October 29, 1861, Alford Family Papers, IHS.
(33.)Hattie to William Kemper, July 11, 1864, G.W.H. Kemper Collection, Box 4,BSU; Rooda eggleston to Hubert Eggleston, August 28, 11863], Hubert N, Eggleston Papers, MHS; Harrison Kellar to John Kellar, December 17, 1864, Kellar Family Papers, OHS; Emeline Ritner to Jacob Ritner, June 26, 1864, in Larimer, 295.
(34.) Margaret Denny to John Denny, March 20,, James M. Van Hook Papers, Box 1, ISL; Elvira Aplin to George Aplin, May 1, 1864, Aplin Family Papers, Box 2, Clements; Anna Searight to James Rizer, January 15, 1862, Military Collection, Box 2, Tippecanoe County Historical Association Archives, Lafayette, Ind.; Frances Elv to Edna Van Pelt, March 21, 1862, Mathias Van Pelt Family Papers, Box 2, IHS.
(35.) Woodworth, 46-47; Moorhead "As Though Nothing At All Had Happened': Death and Afterlife in Protestant Thought, 1840-1925," 457. As hell gradully faded from the public consciousness in America during the latter decades of the nineteenth century, debates over the scope and nature of eternal punishment raged in Britain. See Geoffrey Rowell, Hell and the Victorians: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Theological Controversies concerning Eternal Punishment and the Future Life ([oxford, UK, 1974). Elvira Applin to George Aplin, n.d., , Aplin Family Papers, Box I, (dements; unsigned letter to John [Griffin], October 10, 1864, John Griffin Papers, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield.
(36.) Margaret Denny to John Denny, March 20, , James M. Van Hook Papers, Box 1, ISL; Mary Mumford addendum to letter from William Mumford to Samuel Mumford, June 15, 1864, Samuel Mumford Papers, IHS; E. A. Rice to Robert H. Rice, January 25, 1863, Dr. and Mrs. Robert H. Rice Collection, Box 1, Hayes.
(37.) In the preface to Heaven and Hell (1758), Swedenborg claimed that he had personally visited the spirit world. See McDannell and Lang, 186-89. The Crisis, November 1, 1862, in John H. Armstrong Family Papers, Box 3, IHS; Alice Chapin to Lucius Chapin, May [illeg], 1863, Lucius Chapin Papers, Box 1, IHS; Alice to Lucius, n.d., Chapin Papers, Box 2, IHS.
(38.) Universalism had made inroads farther west by the Civil War. For example, the Universalist newspaper Star in the west, Published in cincinnati, carried an article that argued against the "eternal death" of the soul in a place of physical torment. By interpreting Ezekiel 18:20, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," to mean that any person living in a "state of sin" was simply morally blind and therefore already enduring punishment by having to exist in a "state of death" on earth, Universalists dismissed the need for any future, eteranal damnation. See Star in the West, January 12, 1861.
(39.) S.F. and Mary Covington to "Dear Friend," June 19, 1864, John T. Wilder Collection, ISL.
By Sean A. Scott Purdue University
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|