I just finished re-reading a couple of chapters in Gaines Foster’s book, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-1913 (Oxford University Press, 1987). It is close to thirty years old, but I think it holds up incredibly well next to more recent interpretations of the evolution of the Lost Cause. Foster’s emphasis on the “second stage” of the Lost Cause’s role in smoothing over social and racial tensions in the South at the turn of the twentieth century remains quite compelling.
Foster begins chapter nine with a wonderful example of an ex-Confederate who not only rejected the tenets of the Lost Cause, but argued that his compatriots had essentially rejected the teachings of Christ. J.T. James of Louisiana referred to himself as “An Ex-Officer of Lee’s Army, Cleansed and purged of Southernism in 1868 by the blood of Christ–and a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”
James believed that Confederate veterans:
…should be carefully instructed concerning the evil of the war he helped to wage–a war to destroy the American Union, and bind the most abject slavery on the country in this Christian era, and make the South a living hell for millions of poor souls and bodies: a war in which he helped the devil in his great effort to destroy the Church of Christ in the South and make a Sodom and Gomorrah.
We tend to assume a good deal of agreement among ex-Confederates as to how the war should be remembered throughout the postwar years. This is a reminder that such an assessment is not entirely true. The reference appeared in a circulated tract, entitled “Counsel for Old Confederates.” I would love to read more of it, but I can’t locate it online.