Saturday, March 14, 2020

Booknotes: Catholic Confederates

New Arrival:
Catholic Confederates: Faith and Duty in the Civil War South by Gracjan Kraszewski
(Kent St UP, 2020).

Gracjan Kraszewski's Catholic Confederates: Faith and Duty in the Civil War South seeks to answer a number of big questions, direct and comparative, about southern pro-Confederate Catholics. Among them are: "How did Southern Catholics, under international religious authority and grounding unlike Southern Protestants, act with regard to political commitments in the recently formed Confederacy? How did they balance being both Catholic and Confederate? How is the Southern Catholic Civil War experience similar or dissimilar to the Southern Protestant Civil War experience? What new insights might this experience provide regarding Civil War religious history, the history of Catholicism in America, 19th-century America, and Southern history in general?"

More from the description: "For the majority of Southern Catholics, religion and politics were not a point of tension." That general notion jibes with my own small reading about Confederate Catholics, which is pretty much limited to Louisiana. "Devout Catholics were also devoted Confederates, including nuns who served as nurses; their deep involvement in the Confederate cause as medics confirms the all-encompassing nature of Catholic involvement in the Confederacy, a fact greatly underplayed by scholars of Civil war religion and American Catholicism." Of course, the book doesn't just address nuns, but also bishops, priests (including military chaplains), and laypeople. The study begins with a survey of the responses among southern bishops to secession and Civil War.  "Kraszewski argues against an “Americanization” of Catholics in the South and instead coins the term “Confederatization” to describe the process by which Catholics made themselves virtually indistinguishable from their Protestant neighbors."

"The religious history of the South has been primarily Protestant. Catholic Confederates simultaneously fills a gap in Civil War religious scholarship and in American Catholic literature by bringing to light the deep impact Catholicism has had on Southern society even in the very heart of the Bible Belt." Catholic Confederates looks to be a useful addition to the now rather extensive Civil War literature addressing religion and religious issues, North and South. Nice job on the striking cover art, too!

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