Apostle of the Confederacy: J. William Jones and the question of Ecumenism and denominational identity in the development of Lost Cause mythology.
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Moore, Christopher C.
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This dissertation explores the life and career of former Confederate chaplain, Baptist minister, and Lost Cause advocate, J. William Jones. The thesis of this work is that Jones served as an apostle of the Confederacy, and that an exploration of this apostleship reveals the limitations of ecumenism in the development of the Lost Cause. Jones envisioned his postwar career in terms of a two-pronged apostolic mission. First, he believed it his duty to direct Southerners toward ex-Confederate exemplars. In Jones’s mind, Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and Jefferson Davis embodied Southern piety. By focusing Southerners’ attention on these paragons, Jones provided for his audiences incarnations of Southern virtue. These incarnations were indispensable for Southerners who were searching for God, and trying to reconcile their divine chosenness with defeat. A second aspect of Jones’s apostolic mission was the preservation of a distinctly Southern narrative of the Civil War. Jones had been personally commissioned by Lee to compose a faithful account of the conflict, and Jones did so through a religious lens. Through his books, articles, and editorial work, Jones portrayed Confederate troops as superior in every way—and certainly more virtuous—than their Union counterparts. He focused on Confederate revivals in order to demonstrate God’s favor for the Southern cause. He also bolstered numerous Lost Cause tenets: e.g., that the South had been overwhelmed by limitless Northern resources, and that Southerners had fought for independence, and not for the preservation of slavery. An analysis of Jones’s apostolic mission provides important insights about the role of denominational identity in the development of the Lost Cause. While current scholarship has highlighted the ecumenical nature of the movement, this study demonstrates that Lost Cause architects like Jones were deeply committed to their chosen denominations. In fact, one of Jones’s greatest impacts on the Lost Cause was his ability to apotheosize Confederate leaders in such a way that transcended sectarian scruples. The Lost Cause did not soften denominational loyalties for the sake of Southern solidarity, but honored the sectarian identities of its adherents while lauding virtues that were particular to no one denomination.