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Of Pennsylvania’s conscientious objectors: The ‘other side’ of the Civil War

James O. Lehman and Steven M. Nolt published “Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War.” The 2007 book explored the Mennonites and Amish response to the Civil War. Background posts: Stack of books on York County’s Civil War past getting higher and ‘One of the shells found its mark’ and Unsung farmhouse loud symbol of a shaping moment for York.
York County resident Jonathan R. Stayer, who is also head of the reference section of the Pennsylvania State Archives, has called on local Civil War researchers to remember those who sought exemption from military service on grounds of conscience.
York County’s conscientious objectors numbered 156 in 1862, he e-mailed, sixth highest among Pennsylvania’s counties.
“Even tiny Adams County was home to at least 129 conscientious objectors,” he wrote. “The reason? Both counties were (and are) home to significant communities of Mennonites and Dunkards (Brethren), and to a lesser extent, Quakers.”
He called attention to James O. Lehman and Steven M. Nolt’s “Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War,” which local Civil War blogger Scott Mingus has since reviewed.
Here are excerpts from Stayer’s e-mail:

“Pennsylvania’s constitution permitted military exemption to conscientious objectors (and it still does, by the way), and so far as we know, our Commonwealth is the only state to have an extant file of Civil War conscientious objector depositions (see: http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/sd/r19sd1.htm#19.15 and http://www.genpa.org/CivilWarCO.html). Pennsylvania had the largest number of conscientious objectors of any state (North or South) during the War.
“I must admit that I am a bit biased on this subject, for I am the great-great-great-grandson of Adam Stayer, a Dunkard of South Woodbury Township, Bedford County, PA, who filed a conscientious objector deposition in 1862. Interestingly, although all of my ancestral families lived in Pennsylvania during the Civil War, I have no direct ancestors who served in that conflict because most of them were members of Historic Peace Churches–Mennonites/Amish, Dunkards (Brethren) and Quakers.
“This really is the ‘other side’ of the Civil War.”