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Crucible of Faith & Freedom: Baptists and the American Civil War.

Crucible of Faith & Freedom: Baptists and the American Civil War. By Bruce Gourley. Macon, GA: Nurturing Faith, Inc., 2015. 132 pp.

With the approach of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War in 2011, Bruce Gourley, a respected scholar of Baptists during the Civil War, prepared a series of articles originally published by Baptists Tbday and condensed from a website he created called "Baptists and the American Civil War: In Their Own Words." The website included approximately 1,800 articles drawn from letters, journals, church minutes, associational records, denominational newspapers, and sermons to comprise a "daily digital journal" that revealed the progression of Baptists' (and others') thoughts and words on a day-today basis throughout the war. Crucible of Faith & Freedom is a collection of those articles.

Gourley begins with a short introductory essay giving an overview of the background to the Civil War. Each chapter that follows is a month-by-month summary of events. Starting in January 1861 and continuing through April 1865, Gourley starts each month with an introduction to the political and military situation and follows with quotations from primary sources that reveal the Baptist perspective on events as they occurred.

As he digs through the primary sources to uncover oft-overlooked stories, Gourley sprinkles interpretative comments along the way. As he does so, he exposes what he calls "the transformative force of the Civil War" in both the United States and the world, and in Baptist life. He demonstrates how the war was a spiritual and religious conflict as well as a philosophical and military one. He pays special attention to physical destruction wrought to Southern Baptist churches, the origins of African-American denominations in the South, and how Northern Baptist congregations supported both their troops and the cause of emancipation. One sampling of his work is his introduction to the readers of Joanna Moore, the first American Baptist home missionary appointed to the South. Moore served for forty years, coming to be known as the "Swamp Angel of the South."

One of the great features of Gourley's work is how he effectively utilizes historical present tense to put his readers into the time period. Another excellent characteristic of his work is the balance between quotations from white and black Baptists and Baptists in both the North and South. He also includes a balance of information from both primary and secondary sources and a helpful short bibliography. He concludes with a powerful epilogue about the current status of racial concerns in the United States.

Some Civil War historians may quibble over a few of Gourley's minor interpretive comments, and there is a rare error of detail or two such as identifying Hosea Garrett as president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas rather than the Baptist State Convention, but this book is a good addition to Baptist literature and that of the Civil War. It can be read by laypeople, clergy, and students alike and could be a good springboard for more in-depth studies by scholars, as well as discussion starter for the role of religion in this still highly relevant era of American and religious history. This reviewer will be using it as a supplement in his Baptist history, American church history, and Civil War and Reconstruction classes.--Reviewed by Michael E. (Mike) Williams Sr., professor of history, Dallas Baptist University

Michael (Mike) E. Williams, Sr. Book Review Editor

Michael (Mike) E. Williams Sr. is professor of history at Dallas Baptist University, 3000 Mountain Creek Parkway, Dallas, Texas 75211-9213.

Phone: 214-333-5276 * Fax: 214-333-6819

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Author:Williams, Michael "Mike" E., Sr.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2016
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