First of all, what is spiritualism? The ability for an intuitive (or a sensitive) to connect with the spirit world in some form. Spiritualism originally started in Europe, however, there was a huge spiritualist movement in America during the civil war era. Why, you ask?Well, for two reasons.
For one, many mediums came forward during this time to offer their support to the soldiers, troops, and generals. There were a few that were known to offer their abilities to “read” the minds of the opposition; offering a means of intelligence to their chosen side. Some also used clairvoyant travel in the hopes of uncovering the opposition’s strategies.
Also, both the North and the South felt the physical and economic destruction of the war. A part of this, was the death of mass numbers of soldiers. The war took our brothers, fathers, and sons away from us. By practicing spiritualism, it was the hope that the soldier’s families could connect with their deceased loved ones again. The spiritualism newspaper, “The Banner of Light” was created in the 1860s to bring awareness to this new trend, to offer insight to the general population about the war effort, and also featured local mediums who attempted to connect families with their deceased soldiers. Many families wanted their questions answered: Was he healthy when he died? Did he feel pain? Where is he now and how is he doing since he died?
It has also been noted that Spiritualism was slightly more popular in the North during this time. It has been said that during his years in office during the Civil War, a medium often sent Lincoln messages “from the other side” and that would in turn help him with his militaristic strategies. Lincoln was also have said to enjoy seances; which were becoming quite popular with the upper and middle classes. Some were actual believers in seances but others attended simply for entertainment value.
During this time, William Mumler, a photographer, created a name for himself by taking pictures that involved the living seated with the deceased. These pictures were called “spirit photographs” and you would see a ghostly appearance of a loved on in the background. Today, we know that this was done with a few camera tricks but then, people were astonished. Mumler is most known for his photograph of Mrs. Lincoln sitting down with a ghostly figure of the President standing over her.
An interesting fact about the spiritualistic movement was that because the majority of the mediums were women, this gave women a voice. Spiritualism was a religion or a belief system in which there was no doctrine or governing body , so women were allowed to speak their mind in these matters as opposed to other, more formal religions.
Thanks all for reading, Blessings