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George C. Rable

Author of Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!

9+ Works 397 Members 4 Reviews

About the Author

George C. Rable is Professor and Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History at the University of Alabama

Works by George C. Rable

Associated Works

A Southern Woman's Story (1959) — Introduction, some editions — 132 copies
Writing the Civil War : The Quest to Understand (1998) — Contributor — 115 copies
Refugee Life in the Confederacy (1964) — Introduction, some editions — 21 copies


Common Knowledge

Legal name
Rable, George Calvin



When I purchased this book, I was in great hopes that I would learn more of the role members of my Stone-Campbell religious heritage had during the American Civil War. From 1850-1860, the Disciples of Christ were one of the (if not THE) fastest growing religious groups in the United States, and in membership was only behind the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans among protestant denominations.

The paucity of references to Disciples of Christ (four times in 400 pages of text) and DOC clergy or laypersons (only James A. Garfield was mentioned), and DOC sources (only four items in the bibliography, which is over 90 pages in length), makes me wonder if the oversight by the author was intentional or just due to incomplete research.

In spite of the lack of information relating to the Stone-Campbell religious heritage, I did manage to learn some things that help me understand how the American Civil War must have certainly influenced my religious heritage. For example, the Confederates associated the Federals with abolitionists who were widely considered to be communists or atheists. Also, the Confederates widely believed that the South was being invaded by godless abolitionists of the North.

I agree with some other reviewers that that the author repeated himself too much. I am made to think that he needed to go through another round of revision to tighten up his writing.

The book is heavily documented, with 75 pages of notes. The bibliography is excellent (save for comment above). Eleven photos are included. There is a brief, but incomplete index. Persons interested in learning about the American Civil War should appreciate and benefit from the book, with exceptions noted.
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SCRH | 1 other review | Jul 23, 2013 |
Sometimes it's hard to say something about excellence. I picked this work up mostly on the basis of the author's fine work on the political workings of the Confederate republic, though with the suspicion that this was going to inevitably something of a turgid slog. What Rable gives you is a brisk narrative, that while it effectively covers perspectives from most of the major religious denominations in 19th-century America, particularly concentrates on how revealed religion was yoked to civic religion. The result being, to be very superficial, that as Union victory became apparent, devout believers in the Confederacy were left to wonder how providence had found them wanting and to turn inwards, with Union triumphalism being somewhat tempered by the seeming inexplicable assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln, it should be noted, is a key player in this narrative, more so than Jefferson Davis, as he struggled to maintain belief in the reality of divine silence. If there was one particular point of interest I was struck by how despite Lincoln's wrestling with finding a practical solution to African-American slavery, he apparently loathed those apologists for slavery that invoked biblical sanction for the peculiar institution. Abolitionist rejection of this sanction being the root of the Southern accusations of Northern heathenism.

Another theme that makes this book very valuable is that Rable devotes as much time to how the War Between the States impacted the various churches, particularly the contrast between how the various Protestant denominations tended to crack under the political pressure, Catholicism came out of the war rather strengthened in terms of public perception as partakers of American civic religion. This is not to mention the further development of the independent African-American churches.

Finally, for all the public invocation of the role of God in the acts of men, Rable illustrates that often that the biggest struggle of America's churches was to remain vital in the midst of civil war, that most irreligious of environments. Default religious enthusiasm often being surprisingly weak in the ranks of the fighting men; a possible commentary on the institutional and social weakness of the chaplaincy in both armies (despite the much invoked religiosity of assorted Confederate military chieftains).
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Shrike58 | 1 other review | Jun 27, 2011 |
An unpopular book, not surprisingly, inasmuch as it discusses the "revolt against politics" in the Confederacy. The two strains that still plague the South could not be resolved -- the nationalists who supported Davis and what Rable calls the Libertarians doomed the South to disaster. It's a cliche to say that the South died of states' rights and it is not exactly blossoming now. No one below the Mason-Dixon Line understands history apparently -- there were plenty of examples of that lacking in 1860-65 and many more today.… (more)
Bpolybius | May 13, 2011 |
CWPT | Mar 11, 2008 |



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