Hi there, welcome to Joe Historian. I’m Joe, and I’m a historian…

Welcome to episode 2 of “Society and the Civil War” – podcasts created by my freshmen students enrolled, learning, crafting, and thinking about Early America.

This week’s episode focuses on something most people don’t think about when they hear the phrase “America’s Civil War” and that would be religion. We’re not as religious as we used to be which does make it kind of difficult for students, or for anyone interested for that matter, to come to grips with the deep religious convictions held by Americans in the mid-19th century. And yet, when it comes to the Civil War, we tend to associate battles, carnage, the loss of over 600,000 soldiers in a four year period – surely such a society that fought itself to such oblivion cannot (pause) truly (pause) be called religious – can it? The fact of the matter is, Church attendance in 1860 approached 90%. Today, it’s less than 40 – 37%, actually, according to Gallup International.

Which makes this next podcast all the more remarkable… Students Gentry Stein, Erica Hunt, Morgan Madden, Katelyn Garey – they focused in on a guy named Francis McFarland. He’s a Presbyterian Minister from Staunton, Virginia… And well, not to ruin it for you, I’ll let them tell you the story about religion and the role it played in the American Civil War. And so, without any further ado – Episode 2 of Society and the Civil War – Francis McFarland: Religious convictions in the Confederacy.


McFarland image

Presbyterian Francis McFarland

Did you catch that? Did you? Francis McFarland, a Presbyterian minister well into his 70s travelling and preaching for Confederate troops belonging to none other than Stonewall Jackson – himself a deeply devout and religious man. Thanks to these students – Gentry, Erica, Morgan, and Katelyn – and their research abilities – not only for connecting McFarland to Jackson, but showing us the work that Civil War clerics performed in keeping up the spirits of their troops, of their towns and communities back home, and finding that deeper well, the one that allows us to keep the faith in the horror that was the American Civil War. Indeed, Francis McFarland, perhaps unsung, but as of now, a podcasted American hero. Thanks for listening to Society and the Civil War.

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