Brethren and the Civil War


In a recent newsletter, Shenandoah District included the following reflection on the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and how Brethren at the time responded:

On May 19-22, 1861, the Brethren held their Yearly Meeting at Beaver Creek (now a congregation near Bridgewater, Va.). This is a particularly historic and meaningful gathering that deserves commemoration because it occurred in our district during the turbulent, opening days of the Civil War.

Through the winter and spring, 1861, as the nation spiraled toward disunion, the Dunkers debated whether to change the location of their meeting. As nonresistants and opponents of slavery, Brethren were a conspicuous minority in a slave-holding region preparing for war. Northern Dunkers feared that travel south was too risky, but Virginia Brethren countered that it was just as dangerous for them to journey north and the meeting proceeded as planned.

The turnout was large, but only four northern congregations sent representatives. The editor of the local newspaper, the “Rockingham Register,” visited and wrote a lengthy and very interesting report.

Consider sharing this information with your church as a Brethren-style remembrance of the Civil War sesquicentennial, a basis for preaching, a Minute for Mission, a Sunday school topic, or some other form of commemoration. Interested persons can consult the Annual Conference minutes and Roger Sappington’s book “The Brethren in the New Nation.” For further information, including early 19th-century hymns that are still familiar and in the blue hymnal, contact Steve Longenecker, Professor of History, Bridgewater College, slongene@bridgewater.edu .