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Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 Paperback – August 1, 1983

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Destined to be the definitive essay on the relation between religion and southern regional patriotism." --Journal of Southern History

"This interesting and valuable study breaks new ground in Reconstruction and New South history. . . . What makes this volume significant is both the demonstrated usefulness of the theory of civil religion in the hands of a historian and the fresh substantive contribution to the history of the South's tragic experience." --American Historical Review

"If the South cannot escape its history, perhaps it is because it does not want to. Wilson's magnificent book on the religion of the Lost Cause drives that point home forcefully. . . . He skillfully weaves together the strands of thought that produced the Lost Cause and shows that evangelical ministers had a large hand in the process." --Theology Today --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Charles Reagan Wilson documents, for the first time, that for over half a century there existed not one, but two civil religions in the United States, the second not dedicated to honoring the American nation. Extensively researched in primary sources, Baptized in Blood is a significant and well-written study of the South's civil religion, one of two public faiths in America. In his comparison, Wilson finds the Lost Cause offered defeated Southerners a sense of meaning and purpose and special identity as a precarious but distinct culture. Southerners may have abandoned their dream of a separate political nation after Appomattox, but they preserved their cultural identity by blending Christian rhetoric and symbols with the rhetoric and imagery of Confederate tradition.

"Civil religion" has been defined as the religious dimension of a people that enables them to understand a historical experience in transcendent terms. In this light, Wilson explores the role of religion in postbellum southern culture and argues that the profound dislocations of Confederate defeat caused southerners to think in religious terms about the meaning of their unique and tragic experience. The defeat in a war deemed by some as religious in nature threw into question the South's relationship to God; it was interpreted in part as a God-given trial, whereby suffering and pain would lead Southerners to greater virtue and strength and even prepare them for future crusades. From this reflection upon history emerged the civil religion of the Lost Cause. While recent work in southern religious history has focused on the Old South period, Wilson's timely study adds to our developing understanding of the South after the Civil War.

The Lost Cause movement was an organized effort to preserve the memory of the Confederacy. Historians have examined its political, literary, and social aspects, but Wilson uses the concepts of anthropology, sociology, and historiography to unveil the Lost Cause as an authentic expression of religion. The Lost Cause was celebrated and perpetuated with its own rituals, mythology, and theology; as key celebrants of the religion of the Lost Cause, Southern ministers forged it into a religious movement closely related to their own churches. In examining the role of civil religion in the cult of the military, in the New South ideology, and in the spirit of the Lost Cause colleges, as well as in other aspects, Wilson demonstrates effectively how the religion of the Lost Cause became the institutional embodiment of the South's tragic experience. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press (August 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820306819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820306810
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,569,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Michael K. Turner on May 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Charles Reagan Wilson's work brilliantly describes the civil religion (as described by Geertz) of the "Lost Cause" that was pervasive in the Reconstruction and Early Modern South.
Wilson argues that this civil religion was a combination of Christian and Confederate symbols. According to Wilson this civil religion was formed out of Confederate ministers attempts to reconcile defeat in the war with the Will of God and (as the ministers believed) Confederate righteousness.
Significant in this study is Wilson's look at the role that White Supremacy played in this civil religion. He looks extensively at the role of racism as embodied in groups such as the KKK.
All in all, the work is a brilliant look at ideas pervasive in the reconstruction and early modern south, ideas which have been influential in formation of the modern New South.
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I know, the title of this book sounds like a slasher film, right? So what's it really about? To use the words of the author, historian Charles Reagan Wilson, it's about "the afterlife of a Redeemer Nation that died" but that nonetheless continued "as a sacred presence, a holy ghost haunting the spirits and actions of post-Civil War Southerners." After the War, it was painfully obvious to Southerners that they were never going to constitute a separate political state. However, they could possess "a separate cultural identity." And that's what they set out to establish and define. At the heart of this separate cultural identity was religion. Wilson says that his book is a study of the link between religion and history in the American South from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I. Then and there, "Southern civil religion . . . tied together Christian churches and Southern culture." Pick up any academic reading list for Religion and the American South, and you're bound to see the title of this book. Baptized in Blood has earned its place as a landmark volume. Because of its quality and its unique contribution to the historiography of the topic, this book deserves five stars.
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Format: Paperback
Wilson's Baptized in Blood is a brilliant book, one of which I was required to read for a graduate history course on religion in the American south. Although I was born and grew up in the south, I nevertheless was a foreigner there. There was much in the psychology of southerners which made no sense to me. Reading Baptized in Blood was an extraordinary eye-opener! Though I am yet and always will be a stranger in the land of my birth, through the cogent narrative Wilson provides, I understand more deeply now the mythic, psychological origins of the many peculiar and bizarre thoughts, feelings and behaviours of southerners. Southerners REALLY and TRULY BELIEVED that GOD was on their side, in the prosecution of the civil war, and have had to reconcile their defeat as best they could. The inability to let go of that loss goes far in making southerners what they are.
Baptized in Blood is well worth the reading of anyone who seeks to understand the post-civil war period, and/or the social and political psychology of the American south.
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Want to understand the issues over the confederate flag & how the Soutjh viewed it & pastor's preached it about it, Southern historians reconstructed history ???then this is a must read!!
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The story of the Lost Cause is the untold story of the aftermath of the Civil War. It is the key to understanding the hold of white supremacy in the South for the last 150 years. Charles Reagan Wilson describes and documents the hold that this philosophy still has on our history, and the distortions that have become a belief system for hundreds of thousands of people, who learned this "white-washed" history from kindergarten through university. It is the tragic story of the struggle of our country to come to terms with the slaves who were brought here in chains. They have been part of our history since slave ships first arrived in Jamestown in the 1690's.

The book is riveting. The scholarship is meticulous. I could not put it down. I recommend it without reservation to anyone who wants to understand the history of our country.
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