Reconstructing the South: A Theoretical Reflection on the Iconography of New South Mythmaking
journal contributionposted on 01.02.2008, 00:00 by Craig Thompson, Kelly Tian
The Myth of Lost Cause arose from the material and social devastation wrought by the Civil War, as white Southerners sought to rationalize, justify, and glorify their crushing military and political defeat and the bleak aftermath that faced them. As the lost cause myth became more thoroughly elaborated in the post-Reconstruction South, it also temporally reconfigured collective memories of the Old South’s destruction. Southern historians and political leaders all espoused the idea that the Old South’s architectural and artistic history had been brutally pillaged by Union occupiers determined to punish the South for its temerity: a regional myth that continues to have currency in the region. According to leading historians, however, there is scant evident that such widespread plunder occurred during Congressional Reconstruction (Foner 1988). However, by chronologically displacing the destruction of the Old South from the Civil War to the Reconstruction, the South was able to assume the position of being innocent victim of Union brutality and, hence, minimize its culpability in sparking the conflagration.