Themes of Baptized in Blood

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Success Found in Defeat Charles Reagan Wilson’s Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 was greeted upon its release in 1980 with praise for breaking “new ground in Reconstruction and New South history” (Jones 263). The work has been called a sensible and not condemnatory interpretation of southern post-Civil War mythmaking based on the observation that “Southerners cannot escape their history,” and neither pacified nor at peace “did not really want to” (Jeansonne 2205). The subject matter was indeed familiar, but Wilson adopted a new approach to deciphering how Southerners, despite failing in their attempt to establish a separate political identity, managed to achieve “the dream of a separate cultural identity.” He admittedly relied upon sociologist Robert N. Bellah’s influential 1967 article “Civil Religion in America,” in order to present his own “relatively new and untested concept” of the existence of a dual civil religion, an American and Southern version (Jones 263). He proposed that it was the existence of this Southern civil religion that allowed Southerners to cope with “apparent defeat” (Wilson 73) and in seeking reconciliation and vindication, “link a sense of Southern destiny with the Northern sense of American mission” (Jones 263). Wilson revealed that a “blend of evangelical Protestant religion emerged” to meet the “profound concerns of postwar Southerners” (Jones 264). They understood that the outcome of the Civil War had “clearly given them a history distinct from that of the North” (Wilson 13). By creating a romantic myth of the Lost Cause, much like the “creation of an independent Highland tradition” in Scotland (Trevor-Roper 16), the Southerners successfully separat... ... middle of paper ... ...d some might argue that it still lives on, as a powerful, sacred presence. Works Cited Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1991. Grissom, Michael Andrew. Southern by the Grace of God. Gretna: Pelican, 1999. Jeansonne, Glen. “Baptized in Blood.” Library Journal 105 (1980): 2205. Jones, Donald G. “Baptized in Blood.” American Historical Review 87.1 (1982): 263-4. Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979. Stalin, Joseph. “The Nation.” Nationalism. Ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994. 18-21. Trevor-Roper, Hugh. “The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland.” The Invention of Tradition. Ed. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. 15-41. Wilson, Charles Reagan. Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865- 1920. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1980.
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