Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Bibles in Battle

New Testament. New York, 1863. American Bible Society. Courtesy of the Museum of Biblical Art.

On April 6 & 7, 1862, opposing Confederate and Union forces met in the woods and fields of rural Tennessee. The ensuing battle would become the bloodiest to date in the United States. Casualties totaled over 23,000 dead and wounded—more than the number killed during all 8 years of the Revolutionary War. Even today, the Battle of Shiloh conjures up images of intense suffering.

For soldiers facing injury, illness, and possible death, the Bible could be a source of comfort. Bibles were distributed with items such as food and blankets by the Sanitary Commission, a relief organization organized to aid Union soldiers. One prisoner of war, Thomas P. Meyer, received a King James Bible while he was held captive at  Belle Island prison in Richmond, Va.  Other soldiers inscribed their names or listed battles in which they had fought inside their copies of the Bible, as this short video from the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum shows.  The Museum of Biblical Art is currently featuring an exhibition on soldiers’ Bibles from the Civil War to the present day.

While armies fought on the field, orators waged a war of words for public opinion. Two of the most famous abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and  Abraham Lincoln,  both have connections to the King James Bible. A personal copy owned by Douglass is the subject of an earlier post, and Lincoln (and later, President Obama) were sworn in to office on a King James Bible.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website. She is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers