Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Woody Holton


While enduring the hardships of battle, many Revolutionary War soldiers recorded more about their personal religious lives than perhaps any other single topic. They especially enjoyed cataloging events they ascribed to divine intervention, listing their daily religious routines, and commenting on first time encounters with religious others. New and extreme circumstances tested the religious preconceptions of those who enlisted in ways that they had rarely encountered in civilian life. Their religion took on new importance for them as soldiers relied on it both as an interpretive lens and as a source of stability amid a chaotic war. My dissertation examines how the exigencies of the Revolutionary War affected the religious lives of Whig soldiers across denominations and colonies. It will argue that ordinary soldiers’ religious worldview caused them to interpret the war in ways distinct from that of their ministers and commanding officers, who have often overshadowed them in analyses of the Revolutionary movement. Moreover, it demonstrates how race influenced a soldiers’ religious thought and even identifies a distinct strand of abolitionist sentiment among religious troops. This dissertation also reveals how soldiers were forced to travel beyond their hometowns where they encountered other religious beliefs and practices for the first time in a positive way. Such interactions laid the experiential groundwork for the religious pluralism that was to come in the new nation. Neither wholly political nor militaristic, the war, for many soldiers, was a formative religious experience.

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