Publication Date

Fall 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Libra Hilde


Christianity, Civil War, Lost Cause, progressivism, Reconstruction, Richmond

Subject Areas

American history; History; Women's studies


This thesis analyzes the political nature of religion before, during, and after the Civil War in Richmond, Virginia, the capitol city of the Confederacy. I contend that the relationship between the state and the church, politics and faith, public space and sacred space was forever changed by the war and its origins. Sacred space and sacred actors became political space and political actors before the war in the debates over slavery, during the war in defense of the Confederacy, and continued in this role in its aftermath. Their faith in God and his providence for the South aided Southerners as they dealt with defeat and guided them as they encountered the effects of a rapidly changing world. Religion and faith offered the citizens of Richmond, and the South, a means of navigating these changes and a space in which to do so. Though the South remained politically divided with debilitating class conflict, religion afforded Southerners a sense of unity. Convinced of their righteous position, Southerners’ defense and remembrance of the cause in God’s name remained political and allowed them to avoid political scrutiny. Driven by a new sense of political agency and guided by their Southern faith, members of the war generation, especially in urban and industrial centers like Richmond, negotiated the world of the old and new, the past and present. Men used the circumstances of the time to chart a new future for themselves in the enterprises of the New South, while many women drew upon their wartime experiences to continue in more overt public and political roles. Religion afforded Southerners the ability to be both ardent defenders of the Lost Cause and participants in social and economic change.