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Historians Examine Amish, Mennonite Response to Civil War Conflict

Posted on October 29th, 2007

James O. Lehman
James O. Lehman, librarian emeritus at EMU and archivist for Virginia Mennonite Conference

Two experts in Anabaptist studies have collaborated on the first scholarly examination of pacifism during the Civil War.

“Mennonites, Amish and the American Civil War,” by James O. Lehman of Harrisonburg and Steven M. Nolt of Goshen, Ind., describes the various strategies used by the sectarian religious groups in responding to the North-South conflict and the effects of war on these communities.

Lehman is librarian emeritus at EMU, archivist for Virginia Mennonite Conference and the author of nine congregational histories and a book on 20th century Mennonite revivalism.

Steven M. Nolt
Steven M. Nolt, professor of history at Goshen (Ind.) College and coauthor of two books on Amish faith and life

Nolt is professor of history at Goshen (Ind.) College and coauthor of two books on Amish faith and life, both published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Bloodiest War in American History

Integrating the most recent Civil War scholarship with little-known primary sources and new information from Pennsylvania and Virginia to Illinois and Iowa, Lehman and Nolt provide a definitive account of the Anabaptist experience during the bloodiest war in American history with 620,000 dead and over a million maimed and wounded.

The authors focus on moral dilemmas Mennonites and Amish faced that that tested the very core of their faith: How to oppose both slavery and the war to end it? How to remain outside the conflict without entering the American mainstream to secure legal conscientious objector status.

The book serves as a good reminder that not all churches immersed themselves in super-charged patriotism for either the Confederacy or the Union.

“The book is an easy read, with lots of arresting stories of faith under test,” said Albert N. Keim, professor emeritus of history at EMU. “Its amazingly thorough research makes the book convincing. After reading it, I was convinced I had just acquired an accurate understanding of my forbears response to the Civil War,” he added.

The 376-page hardback book, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, is available for $39.95 at leading bookstores and at www.amazon.com.

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