Methodists and the American Civil War

A Drew University Exhibit, Madison, New Jersey
Curated by Christopher J. Anderson, Ph.D.
Methodist Librarian and Coordinator of Special Collections
September 22, 2011 – April 30, 2012

On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address confirmed that American citizens and armies both North and South believed that God was on their side of a national conflict that has been called among other names the Civil War, the War Between the States and the War of Northern Aggression. From 1861 to 1865 several hundred thousand Methodists from the United States and the Confederate States of America preached, fought, and labored for both sides. During the conflict Methodists served as government officials, soldiers, chaplains, nurses, and church leaders while fighting for state’s rights and against the institution of slavery. With adherents in the millions, American Methodists played a crucial role in the struggle for racial and sectional freedoms.

Drew University, founded shortly after the conflict, had several direct connections to the Civil War. Drew landowners, trustees, administration, faculty, and students participated in the conflict. Those links are highlighted in two cases in the University Library. A second section of the exhibition, mounted at the United Methodist Archives and History Center, showcases the historic tensions within American Methodism over racial identities that led to denominational fracturing and ultimately to sectional conflict.

The exhibit highlights ten historic Methodist traditions and includes manuscripts, photographs, printed texts, and material objects from the collections of the Drew University Archives and Methodist Library as well as the General Commission on Archives and History for The United Methodist Church. The exhibit continues through April 30, 2012, and is open to the public in the Methodist Center Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The main Library display is on view during regular library hours. For more information about the exhibit, or to arrange for a class tour or individual tour, contact cjanders@drew.edu or call the Methodist Library at 973.408.3590 weekdays.