Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Ernest F. Freeberg

Committee Members

Stephen Ash, Daniel Feller, Mark Hulsether


This dissertation examines the Civil War memory of the three historic peace churches (the Society of Friends, the Mennonites, and the German Baptist Brethren) in the years between 1865 and 1915. It argues that these three groups, in their Civil War remembrance, challenged the culturally prevalent definition of heroism as militaristic in nature, an expression found in military monuments, Decoration Day observances, and Blue-Gray veterans’ reunion. The study looks at periodicals, books, and biographies produced by these three religious bodies (and letters and diaries written by individual members) in the fifty years after the war to uncover both their narratives of nonresistant wartime experience and their commentary on the war’s aftereffects on Gilded Age and Progressive Era America. In their wartime narratives, the peace churches remembered the warm reception given to them by President Abraham Lincoln, positioned suffering nonresistant conscripts as “Christian soldiers,” and occasionally used hagiographic language in order to elevate peace heroes to martyr status. In their postbellum commentary, nonresistants characterized the Civil War as a “de-moralizing” historical event resulting in countless national sins and also sought to present a “demilitarized” historical account of the war which removed the celebration of martial values.

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