The Mennonite Response to the American Civil War

Will Shroyer Taylor University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Kevin Johnson Taylor University
As the civil war divided the Union in 1861, Mennonites stood on the sidelines. Mennonites practiced “two-kingdom” theology, which taught that after baptism, their identity was no longer in the worldly realm but in God’s kingdom. Two kingdom theology positioned the Mennonites in an apolitical, nonresistance stance, as bystanders to the deadly hostility of the civil war. However, as the Union became embroiled in deadly conflict, Mennonites encountered a dilemma. Demarcating a doctrinally consistent boundary between patriotism and faith in the face of lethal conflict challenged Mennonites to adapt their two-realm doctrine. Eventually, abolition served as the catalyst challenging Mennonite nonresistance conviction. Forced to succumb to nationalistic pressures or stand idle in the fight against slavery, Mennonites ultimately sought to resist the Confederacy and pursue an end to the evil of the slavery it advocated. As far as Mennonites in the South were able, they resisted enlistment in the Confederacy. Southern Mennonites who were unable to avoid conscription refused to cooperate when drafted. In the North, the Mennonite experience of the war was characterized by cooperation in place of resistance. Although some Mennonites were unable to reconcile their convictions by entering military service, they also recognized responsibility for their citizenship and found alternative ways to support the Union such as paying a computation fee or voluntarily contributing to the war effort. Nevertheless, some individual Northern Mennonites suppressed their qualms against military service and took up arms in a holy crusade for abolition. Overall, Mennonites in the civil war found ways to rise to the defense of the American nation in a manner consistent with their faith.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

11:15 AM
Jordan Hall 278