Apostle of the Lost Cause
J. William Jones, Baptists, and the Development of Confederate Memory
“Delightfully written, Moore’s book demonstrates how J. William Jones crafted a narrative that vindicated Confederate defeat as God’s plan to leaven the United States with the best Confederate moral and martial virtues. Future generations would come to see the Confederate cause as just, and through memory, the Confederacy would endure as a nation within a nation.” —Edward R. Crowther, editor of The Enduring Lost Cause: Persistence and Change, 1865-2015
Perhaps no person exerted more influence on postwar white Southern memory than former Confederate chaplain and Baptist minister J. William Jones. Christopher C. Moore’s Apostle of the Lost Cause is the first full-length work to examine the complex contributions to Lost Cause ideology of this well-known but surprisingly understudied figure. Commissioned by Robert E. Lee himself to preserve an accurate account of the Confederacy, Jones responded by welding hagiography and denominationalism to create, in effect, a sacred history of the Southern cause.
In a series of popular books and in his work as secretary of the Southern Historical Society Papers, Jones’s mission became the canonization of Confederate saints, most notably Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis, for a postwar generation and the contrivance of a full-blown myth of Southern virtue-in-defeat that deeply affected historiography for decades to come. While personally committed to Baptist identity, Jones supplied his readers with embodiments of Southern morality who transcended denominational boundaries and enabled white Southerners to locate their champions (and themselves) in a quasi-biblical narrative that ensured ultimate vindication for the Southern cause.
In a time when Confederate monuments and the enduring effects of white supremacy are in the daily headlines, an examination of this key figure in the creation of the Lost Cause legacy could not be more relevant.
CHRISTOPHER C. MOORE is an instructor of history and religion at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, North Carolina. His research has appeared in Fides et Historia and Southern Historian.