Monday, June 02, 2014

Background on This Republic of Suffering.

I am reading This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard University. The book has won a couple of prizes for historical writing. I have already posted once on the book. (Twice.)

In the process of reading the book  I got to wondering about the mail. The Union allowed soldiers to mail letters without stamps, simply writing "Soldier's Letter" on the envelope. 

Free mail delivery was instituted in the bigger cities of the Union in 1863. About 8 million letters were delivered per month in the northern states which had a population of 23 million.Thus there was one letter for for people per month -- even if half of the letters were from Union soldiers, they would have been writing a couple of letters per month on average. (Most of the letters remaining between soldiers and home were those sent be soldiers) Postal service in the Confederacy was more expensive and less frequent.

Gilpin Faust suggests that the soldiers were quite religious. It has been suggested that in 1860 church membership was only 37% of the population.

Of course, many soldiers would have shared basic Protestant beliefs even if they were not members of churches.

People from different regions of the country tended to belong to different denominations.

I seem to remember that Confederates often seemed to believe that slavery was endorsed in the bible, and were dubious about the  religious beliefs held by northern abolitionists. 

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