As a tribute to its continued importance in the fields of history and Southern Studies, University of Mississippi professor Charles Wilson’s book “Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920” has been reissued 30 years after its original publication.
Time has not diminished the value of “Baptized in Blood” (University of Georgia Press, 1980) because an understanding of the memory of the Civil War still plays an important role in understanding the culture of the South. Wilson’s work provides a unique combination of the concept of civil religion and memory in its analysis of the post-Civil War South.
“Scholarly books usually go out of style so quickly that it is notable when an academic work is still selling copies 15 or 20 years after it is published,” said Ted Ownby, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. “So it is extremely rare for a press to publish a new edition of a 30-year-old work of history.”
The new edition features an expansion of the ideas of the original work, and raises questions that should be interesting to anyone who wants to explore the continuing meaning of the Civil War in the South, Wilson said.
“My book explores the cultural struggles of white Southerners trying to reorient their culture after the Civil War,” he said. “The new edition explores the meaning of Confederate defeat for black Southerners as well. The results of the war brought their freedom so they didn’t mourn the loss of the Confederacy at all.”
Students from outside the South have pointed to “Baptized in Blood” as an important resource that helped them understand why Southerners place such value on flags, monuments and the like, Ownby said.
Wilson is the university’s Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Chair of History and professor of Southern studies. He served as director of the Southern studies academic program from 1991 to 1998 and director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture from 1998 to 2007. Wilson served as co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 1989) and is the general editor of the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (University of North Carolina Press).
He is also author of “Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis,” (University of Georgia Press, 2007) and is editor or co-editor of “Religion and the American Civil War” (Oxford University Press, 1998), “The New Regionalism” (University Press of Mississippi, 1998) and “Religion in the South” (University Press of Mississippi, 1985).
This semester, Wilson is teaching a graduate seminar in Southern studies and an undergraduate class on Southern religious history.
Copies of the new edition of “Baptized in Blood” are available at Square Books in Oxford and the Ole Miss Bookstore.
For more information about the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/south/. For more information about the UM history department, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/history/.