Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the
New South. By Gaines M. Foster. (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1987. Pp. viii+3o6. Acknowledgments, introduction, illus-
trations, photographs, notes, appendices, selected bibliography,
Ghosts of the Confederacy is the latest in a surge of historical works on
that nebulous postbellum phenomenon, the Lost Cause. Charles R.
Wilson, Thomas L. Connelly, and Barbara L. Bellows have examined
religious and other symbolic aspects of the Lost Cause mentality. In this
present volume, Gaines M. Foster, professor of history at Louisiana
State University, surveys the attempts of the Confederate generation to
come to terms with its past.
The book is divided into three sections. From 1865 to 1885, Foster
argues, southerners rejected a belligerent attitude in defeat, memori-
alizing their dead and moving toward reconciliation with the North.
More demonstrative commemorations, still generally lacking in malice,
emerged between 1883 and 1907, spurred by the birth of such organi-
zations as the United Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of
the Confederacy, and the Southern Historical Society. Foster concludes
that from 1898 to 1913 the celebrations of the Confederacy declined to
a point of inconsequence, largely as a result of trivialization, social strati-
fication within the UCV and UDC, and a lack of interest among sons of
Meticulously researched in archives from Texas to Virginia, this vol-
ume is a solid addition to Lost Cause literature. Foster has produced
the most thorough account to date of the attitudes and socio-economic
factors that shaped organized remembrances of the Confederacy by
those who survived it. Admirable scholarship aside, however, Foster
has reached conclusions that are in many cases debatable. Two of the
more prominent are his views of southern reconciliation and the wan-
ing of the Lost Cause.
If in fact the South readily accepted defeat during the decades im-
mediately after the war, then pronouncements by former Confederates
welcoming reunion would have had a ring of truth. Yet socio-political
trends tended to echo Jefferson Davis's cry of 1861 that what the South
really wanted was to be left alone to make its own rules, this time, to be
sure, within the Union. As Wilbur J. Cash observed, changes took place
in the States of the old Confederacy, but usually within terms dictated
by the past. Moreover, unless one accepts Foster's equation of the Lost
Cause with attempts by former Confederates at self-justification, the
history of that phenomenon did not end in 1913. If viewed as a state of
mind, the Lost Cause thrived in the new South until recent years.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed July 31, 2015.