Roman-Catholic Americans in the North and Border States during the Era of the American Civil War

Kurtz, William Burton, Department of History, University of Virginia
Gallagher, Gary, Department of History, University of Virginia
Varon, Elizabeth, Department of History, University of Virginia
Fogarty, Gerald, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Kett, Joseph, Department of History, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the lives of Catholics in the United States during the era of the American Civil War (1840-1880). Unlike the institutional focus of the last book-length study written specifically about Catholics during the conflict, this study explores more fully the lives of all Catholics in the "loyal states" (those in the North and the slaveholding Border States that did not secede) both laymen and priests, men and women, Irish and German, foreignand native-born, intellectuals and laborers. It examines two important questions. First, how did Catholics react to and participate in the United States' war effort from 1861-1865? Second, what effect did Catholic Americans' participation in the war have on nativism and anti-Catholicism in the United States? In short, American Catholics during the war had a variety of experiences in and opinions about the conflict and related issues such as slavery. These differences helped to divide the Catholic community against itself. Because many Americans focused on the activities of anti-war or neutral Catholics and because Catholics did not adopt a unified pro-war position as did many Protestant denominations, wartime Catholic patriotism was largely forgotten. The perception that Catholics were not completely loyal to American republicanism and its institutions ensured that anti-Catholicism and nativism thrived in the second half of the nineteenth century. After the Civil War, Catholic apologists haphazardly constructed a positive memory of the Catholic Church during the war to try to combat non-Catholic American's religious prejudices. Ultimately, these efforts had little influence on non-Catholic Americans' perceptions of American Catholicism and served primarily to remind future Catholics of their predecessors' role in saving the Union.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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