Ohio History Journal

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Ohio Army Chaplains and the

Professionalization of Military

Chaplaincy in the Civil War


While the study of military chaplains is fascinating if only because of the

apparent incongruity of peacemakers serving in an institution of warmakers,

military chaplaincy during the American Civil War is of particular interest

because of the insight it offers into the development of the office of chaplain.

While chaplains had been appointed by Congress as far back as 1775, their role

and status were not clearly defined, and their qualifications for appointments

were not well established. The wartime appointment of chaplains on such an

unprecedented and massive scale raised a host of issues concerning the role of

the chaplain in war, his status as a participant in battle, and the evolution of

chaplaincy as a profession. Evidence suggests that the Civil War chaplains

from Ohio played a typical and substantial role in the professionalization and

definition of American military chaplaincy.

Civil War chaplaincy has been studied from Union and Confederate stand-

points, from the viewpoint of particular religious denominations, and from the

experiences of individual chaplains. To date no one has studied the subject

from the perspective of one state's experience. Ohio appointed approximately

one-tenth of the 2,500 Union army chaplains who served in the Civil War.1 By

concentrating closely on the experience of these approximately 240 Ohio men

and then generally comparing their experiences with those of chaplains in other

northern states, it is possible to produce a reasonably accurate and typical pic-

ture of what chaplaincy was like in the Federal armies from 1861 to 1865.2






Richard M. Budd is a Ph.D. candidate in military history at The Ohio State University.

1. Herman A. Norton, Struggling for Recognition: The United States Army Chaplaincy, 1791-

1865. History of the United States Army Chaplaincy, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C., 1977), 108.

2. For a comprehensive view of Union chaplains see Warren Bruce Armstrong, "The

Organization, Function, and Contribution of the Chaplaincy of the United States Army, 1861-

1865" (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1964). For the official accounts see Roy J. Honeywell,

Chaplains of the United States Army (Washington, D.C., 1958) and Norton, Struggling for

Recognition. For a recent listing of articles on Union chaplains see Edmund S. Redkey, "Black

Chaplains in the Union Army," Civil War History, 33 (December, 1987), 332-50.

For a detailed examination of Confederate army chaplaincy, which offers many interesting par-

allels to the Union road toward professionalization, see Herman A. Norton, "The Organization and

Function of the Confederate Military Chaplaincy, 1861-1865" (Ph.D. diss., Vanderbuilt University,