Friday, July 17, 2009

The Lost Cause

The term "Lost Cause" emerged at the end of the Civil War when Edward Pollard, editor of the Richmond Examiner, popularized it with his book The Lost Cause, which chronicled the Confederacy's demise. The term swiftly came into common use as a reference not only to military defeat, but defeat of the "southern way of life"—a phrase that generally referred to the South of the antebellum period, when plantation slavery was still intact. Since the late nineteenth century, historians have used the term "Lost Cause" to describe a particular belief system as well as commemorative activities that occurred in the South for decades after the Civil War. Commonly held beliefs were that the war was fought over states' rights and not slavery, that slavery was a benevolent institution that offered Christianity to African "savages," and that the war was a just cause in the eyes of God. Commemorative activities included erecting Confederate monuments and celebrating Confederate Memorial Day.

from the Encyclopedia of Alabama


  1. When I was working in Charleston(1991, 1994) I could see that "The Lost Cause" was still very much alive and well in the telling of Charleston history. It is kind of like that image of the tattered rebel on cigarette lighters with the old script banner, Forget, Hell!

    It is funny how this has come to be the mantra of the Republican Party when it comes to the interesting baggage of ideology they now carry, having absorbed so many of the former Dixiecrats into their party in the name of Reagan, who according to Perlstein was exploiting the Southern legacy with his first tentative run for President back in 1968.

  2. Not just Reagan. It was "W" who said "I'll never be out-Bubba'ed again" upon his fundamentalist "come-to-Jesus" experience.

  3. Edward Ball touched on the lost cause in present day Charleston in his"Slaves in the Family" book several years ago.

  4. I thought one of the more curious Charleston stories, was when the little old ladies in tennis shoes (as they were affectionately referred to) at the Gibbes Museum of Art decided to host a Zulu Party. They desperately wanted Zulu doormen for the party. As it turned out, the only two black men were the janitor and the new curator of the Museum. The women of course thought it would all be in good fun (and for charity) if the two men dressed up in furs for the staged event. They were stunned that the two men didn't see the humor in it and refused to play such roles.

  5. Hmmmm.... careful, Gintaras. I'm one of those little old ladies literally in (green) tennis shoes at the moment (although I have to admit that's a great story!).