November 2021 Program - The Churches and Chaplains of York County During the Civil War
By Scott Mingus, Cannonball Blog
Faith traditions played a strong role in society during the Civil War, both on the home front and among the military forces. York County's many churches provided moral and religious support for soldiers and civilians, shelter for the sick and injured, and, at times, political rhetoric for or against the Lincoln Administration. After the president authorized the chaplaincy early in the war, several well-known York County preachers signed up to serve local regiments.
This archived presentation may be watched here.
Summary of the November 7, 2021 program, “The Churches and Chaplains of York County During the Civil War” by Becky Anstine:
This program is best viewed on the History Center’s You Tube website linked above. Scott’s presentation was interesting and informative. He started with a brief look at York prior to the Civil War. The county was moving from an agriculturally based society to an industrial community. Churches were still a major influence on the community – a view of the skyline of the city was dominated by the steeples of at least a dozen churches.
The churches’ stands on slavery had started evolving as early as 1837 when the Church of the Brethren voted to revoke the church memberships of slave owners. During the 1840s, the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans began to take stands against slavery. The Catholic church condemned slave trade but did not order the release of slaves. Churches ranged from being ambivalent to anti-Lincoln. In some cases, a clergyman such as the Presbyterian minister Rev. Charles J. Hutchins left the church because his views on abolition clashed so much with his congregation. At the start of the war, there were no official chaplains assigned to various units. They came to York from as far away as Pittsburgh to serve at the barracks on South George Street, at the First Baptist Church, and at the York Fairgrounds on East King and Queen Streets. In 1861, President Lincoln ordered chaplains be paid by the government. Chaplains for the 87th Pa. Vol. included local men such as James A. Brown, John F. Baird and David Christian Eberhart.
Chaplains also served in the hospital that was set up in Penn Commons. Among the local chaplains who offered their assistance were: John A Geer (Methodist Episcopal), Rev. Charles West Thompson (St. John’s Episcopal), Thomas Street (Presbyterian), S. Morgan Smith (York Moravian). The churches in Hanover were also deeply involved in relief activity and included Rev. William K Zeiber.
The involvement, opinions, and actions of the various churches and chaplains in York County had not been deeply researched, written about, or organized until Scott Mingus delved into this aspect of York’s participation in the Civil War. Watching the recording of his presentation gives a deeper insight of how this conflict affected the religious community of York.
Scott Mingus is a retired scientist and executive in the global pulp & paper industry. The Ohio native was part of the research team that developed the first commercially successful self-adhesive US postage stamps. He has written 23 Civil War and Underground Railroad books. His biography of General William “Extra Billy” Smith won multiple awards, including the Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. Literary Prize for Confederate History. He has also written several articles for Gettysburg Magazine and other historical journals. Scott has appeared on C-SPAN, C-SPAN3, PCN, and other TV networks.
Mingus and his wife Debi live in York County, PA. For more than a decade, he has written a blog on the Civil War and Underground Railroad history of York County (www.yorkblog.com/cannonball). He has written six scenario books for Civil War miniature wargaming.