The diversity of religion in a small town that saw one of the most horrific battles of the Civil War – Gettysburg, Pa. – is the focus of a new book by Bridgewater College professor of history Stephen L. Longenecker.
“Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North (The North’s Civil War)” was published by Fordham University Press in January and is Longenecker’s sixth book.
Longenecker, who is also co-founder of the Bridgewater College Civil War Institute, said the book explores the diversity of religion in Gettysburg at the time of the war and how the town exemplifies mainstream society and religious patterns.
“This famous little place and the surrounding region are just full of fascinating surprises,” said Longenecker, who has taught at Bridgewater for 25 years. “The Gettysburg community was much more diverse and complicated than might be expected, and pursuing this project was fun from beginning to end. Rhett Butler’s phrase ‘some little town in Pennsylvania’ doesn’t come close to articulating all the twists and turns in Gettysburg during this period.”
The book, he said, uses this famous town as a setting to ask big questions about American society. He also noted that, as the only local history of antebellum Gettysburg, the book brings to life a fascinating and surprisingly diverse little place.
Edward L. Ayers, author of “In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America,” described “Gettysburg Religion” as an “elegant and graceful study” that “illuminates our understanding of America at the time of the Civil War in a remarkable way.”
Longenecker, who holds a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, is also the author of “Shenandoah Religion: Outsiders and the Mainstream, 1716-1865” and “The Brethren During the Age of World War: The Church of the Brethren Encounter with Modernization, 1914-1950: A Source Book.”
Bridgewater College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Founded in 1880, it was the state’s first private, coeducational college. Today, Bridgewater College is home to approximately 1,850 undergraduate students.