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Lincoln's Cabinet: Catholics during the Civil War & Reconstruction

Political Science and Lincoln Junkies, rejoice! A treasure trove of information awaits you.

books and ebooks

Forces at work prior to and during Civil War

Beginning in the 1820s, large scale immigration from Ireland and other countries began to reshape and redefine the American Catholic Church. Enlightenment was on the wane; the Republican era was at its end; the parish mission and evangelical Catholicism were in ascent. (Dolan, p44, 2002)

World events were a driving factor in immigration; the Industrial Revolution displaced a large segment of the population, and the Potato famine drew millions of Catholic Irish Immigrants to the U.S. - swelling the Catholic population of many larger cities, especially New York and Philadelphia.

The biggest issues for Catholics of the time period leading up to the U.S. Civil War were slavery and the supreme authority of the Catholic church over the laity. 

The Transcendental Movement and Realism were in ascendancy in Social and Literary circles. Henry David Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience in 1849, and Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1851 as a serialized book. Other books written during this time period by lesser known authors include:


After the Civil War, the focus turned towards the temperance movement, the rights of women, and anti-immigrant feelings. 

Tribute to Catholic Irish Brigades

Key Players in the Civil War who were Catholics

Notable Catholics of the American Civil War.

William T. Sherman

  • Union General
  • Served under Ullysses Grant in 1862 & 1863

Michael Corcoran

  • Colonel of the 69th New York State Militia
  • Captured at Bull Run, Prisoner of war for one year

Thomas Francis Meagher

  • Organized what would become the Irish Brigade