Christian History Timeline: Christianity and the Civil War

Christian / Church Events

1830–1831: Charles Finney spurs great revival in Rochester, NY; crime drops and taverns go out of business

1833: American anti-Slavery Society forms, committed to non-violent moral opposition to slavery

1835: Finney’s Lectures on Revivals published; Alexander Campbell defines restorationist theology

1867: General Howard helps found Howard Theological Seminary for African-Americans

1865: Estimates of 150,000 conversions in the Confederate Army, and perhaps as many in the Union Army; Hudson Taylor begins China Inland Mission

1837: Presbyterian Church splits into Old and New School branches; Theodore Weld writes The Bible against Slavery

1840: Missionary David Livingstone sails for Africa

1843: William Miller’s predicted date for Christ’s return passes; Adventist churches begin to form; abolitionists within Methodism separate and form Wesleyan Methodist Church

1844: Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, assassinated; YMCA founded

1845: Southern Baptist Convention forms as Baptists separate over slavery

1847: John Humphrey Noyes moves his perfectionist colony to Oneida, NY; Mormon migration to Utah

1854: Immaculate Conception of Mary dogma; Charles Spurgeon comes to New Park Street Church

1855: Dwight L. Moody converted

1857: North-South division of Presbyterians completed; Jeremiah Lanphier begins weekly prayer meetings in New York City

1858: China opened to Christian missions; “Third Great Awakening” of daily prayer meetings across the U.S.; estimated 1,000,000 converted

1861: U.S. Christian Commission founded; Scripture and tract distribution to soldiers begins (over 11,000,000 the first year)

1862: Revivals begin in regiments from Georgia; Julia Ward Howe writes “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

1863: The “Great Revival” throughout the Confederate Army; revivals begin in the Union Army; U.S. Christian Commission reports over 18,000,000 tracts and Scripture portions distributed to soldiers

1864: Revival in General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia interrupted by Grant’s attack; “In God We Trust” first put on U.S. coin; Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors condemns socialism, liberalism, and rationalism

Political / World Events

1830: Daniel Webster debates states’ rights in Senate

1831: William Lloyd Garrison launches abolitionist periodical The Liberator; Nat Turner’s slave revolt

1832: New England anti-Slavery Society formed; Andrew Jackson reelected

1833: Founding of Oberlin College, abolitionist stronghold and first co-ed college; slavery abolished in British Empire

1833–37: Financial panic in the U.S.

1834: anti-abolition riots in the North

1836: Martin Van Buren president

1837: Elijah P. Lovejoy, editor of abolitionist paper, murdered; telegraph invented; Victoria queen of England

1838: Underground Railroad established

1840: Benjamin Harrison elected president; first postage stamps (3 cents)

1841: John Tyler becomes president

1844: James K. Polk elected president

1846—48: Mexican-American War

1847: Frederick Douglass launches North Star newspaper

1848: Zachary Taylor elected president; Marx’s Communist Manifesto

1850: The Compromise of 1850 enacted; Millard Fillmore president; U.S. population—23 million (3.2 million slaves)

1852: Franklin Pierce elected president; Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin

1854: Birth of the Republican Party

1856: James Buchanan elected president

1857: Dred Scott decision: Supreme Court rules that a “Negro” descended from slaves is not a citizen

1858: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

1859: Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species; John Brown’s raid

1860: Abraham Lincoln elected president; South Carolina secedes from Union (Dec. 20)

1861: Jefferson Davis elected President of Confederacy (Feb. 9); Fort Sumter fired upon (Apr. 12); Tennessee 11th and final state to secede (June 8); in first battle of Bull Run (Manassas), Confederates rout Union forces

1862: Union wins control of Mississippi River; Battle of Antietam yields single bloodiest day in American history—22,719 killed, wounded, or missing (Sept. 17)

1863: Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation; 50,000 casualties at Gettysburg; Gettysburg Address (Nov. 19); Lincoln proposes national day of Thanksgiving

1864: Lincoln reelected; Sherman’s march through Georgia

1865: Lee surrenders at Appomattox (Apr. 9); Lincoln dies (Apr. 15); Andrew Johnson becomes president; 13th Amendment abolishes slavery; Ku Klux Klan organized

1866: First formal observance of Lincoln’s birthday; Congress passes Civil Rights Bill

1867: Congress passes 3 Reconstruction Acts; vote given to all males over 21; Russia sells Alaska to U.S.

1868: President Johnson impeached; Ulysses S. Grant elected president; 14th Amendment grants citizenship to African-Americans.

By Keith J. Hardman

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #33 in 1992]

Dr. Keith J. Hardman is chair of the department of philosophy and religion at Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and the author of Charles Grandison Finney, 1792–1875: Revivalist and Reformer (Syracuse, 1987).
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