Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Charles Reagan Wilson

Second Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Third Advisor

April Holm

Relational Format



Despite decades of scholarship illuminating divisions within Southern society during the nineteenth century, religious historians still imply that white Southerners collectively supported slavery, secession, and the Confederate war effort, choices they believed to be inherently just and holy. This dissertation challenges this notion by highlighting religious dissent in the South during the antebellum and Civil War eras. It argues that antislavery and anti-Confederate white Southerners imagined their lives and times, and justified their social and political choices, with as much religious urgency as their proslavery and pro-Confederate neighbors. Recognizing Protestant diversity rather than evangelical uniformity, this study insists that there was no religious consensus among whites in the South during the antebellum and Civil War eras. Traditional religious "others," particularly Quakers, are major players in this dissertation, but so too are an array of folk Protestants, ranging from "old ship" Methodists to Primitive Baptists. Often locally-minded, they cared little about the mainline churches' social and political agendas. The geographic focus of this analysis is primarily on western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and southwestern Virginia. This dissertation argues that this section of the upcountry was a distinctive area within the South where a variety of religious dissenters lived and interacted. This facilitated a regionally-specific socioreligious exchange that fostered dissent from the social and political mainstreams in the South during the antebellum and Civil War eras.

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