Date of Award
Ph.D. in History
John R. Neff
University of Mississippi
This study uses the concept of civil religion as a framework through which to examine the origins and early development of the Lost Cause in the South Carolina Low country. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as American colonists severed their ties with Great Britain and established an independent republic they likewise began forming a civil religion or a set of beliefs regarding the relationship between God and their incipient polity. Prophetic in nature the central tenets of this civil religion held that the Almighty proved actively involved in human history and that Americans represented an especially chosen people charged with carrying out the God’s will on earth. Throughout the decades of the antebellum era as sectional animosity surrounding the propagation of slavery escalated white Carolinians effectively appropriated the ideologies associated with the American civil religion in an attempt to rebuke northern recriminations as well as develop a divergent sectional identity that would lend credence to a growing separatist movement. After the election of Abraham Lincoln religious and secular leaders within South Carolina invoked the southern civil religion to justify and frame secession while simultaneously forging an ideological and cultural consensus. At the outbreak of the Civil War Confederate leaders continually espoused and disseminated the civil religion an effort to imbue their burgeoning nation with secular and spiritual significance while also providing citizens a lens through which to view and comprehend the conflict’s ever-changing course. As the war progressed and white Carolinians were forced to endure escalating levels of loss and privation leaders within the state refined the Confederate civil religion in an attempt to steel their citizens resolve and assuage a sense of malaise that grew increasingly more prevalent over time. In the wake of defeat the civil religion that provided white residents of South Carolina with a degree of succor during the war would form the foundation of the Lost Cause and continue to supply ex-Confederates with a sense of solace as they navigated the tumultuous social economic and political conditions of the postwar world.
Davis, Andrew Patrick, "A balm for the times: the origins and evolution of the lost cause in the South Carolina low country, 1830-1876" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1746.