Skip to Main Content


A guide to resources for the study of religion.

Religion of the Lost Cause: An example from Florida

For class, you read the scholarly journal article:

By following Wilson's footnotes, we see some of the evidence he used to support his argument. These primary sources include historical newspaper articles; meeting minutes from social, professional, and political organizations; songs; descriptions of public ceremonies, often published in popular magazines; autobiographies; and personal correspondence.

In the Special Collections & Archives at FSU Libraries, we have an example of a similar primary source:

Follow the link to see the full, digitized program. As you examine the pages, ask yourself the following questions:

When we encounter a new name or organization in our research, Wikipedia is always a good place to start. There we learn that the United Daughters of the Confederacy is a women's association founded in 1894 to commemorate Confederate Civil War soldiers, fund monuments to them, and promote Lost Cause ideology and white supremacy. Wikipedia offers citations for additional reading.
If we want to learn more from academic sources, we can search for United Daughters of the Confederacy on the FSU Library website. This gives us a selection of books and article both about and written by the UDC. Note the dates of publications to help distinguish between primary sources from the UDC and academic sources written by historians and other scholars. I recommend the book Dixie's Daughters: the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture by historian Karen Cox if you want to read more about the UDC and their promotion of Lost Cause ideology.
The title page of the program says that the address was delivered by The Historian. On the next page, a dedication to the memory of two Confederate Generals, we see that Sister Esther Carlotta is the Historian of the Anna Dummett Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Sister Esther Carlotta doesn't have a Wikipedia page to learn more, so I searched for "esther carlotta" on the FSU Libraries website. I got lucky and found the 2012 Masters Thesis of a history student, Barrett Codieck, which describes Sister Esther Carlotta as a nun in the Episcopal Church in St. Augustine, Florida. She served in the early 1900s as president of the Florida division of the UDC. I also found her mentioned in several historical Florida newspapers, also acting in her role as head of the Florida UDC.
As stated on the title page of the program, this address was delivered on October 7, 1910, to the Anna Dummett Chapter, 1089, of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. We can also safely assume that the audience consisted of members of this UDC chapter. A Google search reveals that the Anna Dummett Chapter was located in St. Augustine, Florida, so we can assume the meeting took place there.
We might be able to find more information, such as the names of people in attendance, in the meeting minutes of the chapter. I couldn't locate these minutes, but the State Archives of Florida has copies of the application materials for all chapters of the UDC Florida Division. The State Archives also has the records of the Anna Jackson Chapter, 224, founded in Tallahassee in 1898.

This program seems to have had another audience in mind. On the cover, it says at the bottom, "Sold for Loring Monument Fund." Apparently copies of this program were for sale to raise money for this monument, so the address may have been read by people not at this UDC meeting. The Loring Monument was indeed built in St. Augustine in 1920, an obelisk dedicated to Confederate General William Loring. Loring's ashes were removed from a New York cemetery and buried under the obelisk when it was first installed. The monument was removed in August 2020, and Loring's ashes were moved to a local cemetery.
In her address, Sister Esther Carlotta argues that the Civil War was not about slavery. Slavery, she claims, would have gone extinct on its own. Instead, Sister Carlotta alleges that the North used slavery as a pretext to deny the South its right to self-government. The author frequently equates the South's fight against tyranny with that of the George Washington and the American Revolution.
In making her argument, Sister Esther Carlotta uses religious language to frame the Confederate soldiers, and calls on Southern women to carry on their memory. She uses words like sacred and pure to describe the cause, entreats the attendees to eulogize and memorialize the dead. She describes the Confederate flag as holy and baptized in blood and tears, and joins Robert E. Lee with George Washington as Avatars of the nation.

Why do you think the author uses this type of language?
Do you think it was effective in 1907?
Is it still effective today?
On the last page of the published address we see the full program for the October 7, 1907 meeting. The meeting started with a song to Maryland, followed by a remembrance of Anna Dummett, for whom the chapter is named. Then a reading about one of General Robert E. Lee's battles. Thiw was followed by an honor roll of Confederate soldiers related to members of the chapter. The roll of members was then called, followed by another reading, this time a poem dedicated to the soldiers of St. Augustine. The Historian, Sister Esther Carlotta, then read her address. Finally, the meeting ended with two anthems, one for the state, "Suwanee River," and one for the South, "Dixie," accompanied by piano and violin.

What do you find interesting about the program?
Does these meeting activities remind you of other kinds of social gatherings?
The inscription at the top of the first page gives us a clue. It reads: "Cordial Christmas greetings to you and my Daughters of Anna Jackson Chapter from your friend and President, Sr. E. C. 1913."
It seems that Sister Esther Carlotta, the author of the Address, sent this program to a member of the UDC Anna Jackson Chapter, here in Tallahassee, for Christmas in 1913. The FSU Library webpage for this document says it comes from the Susan Bradford Eppes Papers, 1850-1949. So we can guess that either Susan Bradford Eppes or one of her family members received the program.
The Susan Bradford Eppes Papers is a collection of personal papers donated to FSU Libraries by Joseph Cushman, a former FSU history professor. Cushman was an officer in the Monticello Association, a group of descendants of Thomas Jefferson dedicated to maintaining Jefferson family graveyard at Monticello, Jefferson's primary plantation. The Eppes family are Tallahassee descendants of Thomas Jefferson, and Susan Bradford Eppes was a long-time member of the association.

How to Read Primary Sources

As we did with the UDC program above, ask yourself these questions as you examine and interpret primary sources.

  • Who is the author or creator of this source?
  • How do the author's background, social status, profession, ideology, personal interests, or historical context influence this source?
  • Who do you think was the intended audience?
  • Why do you think this was source created?
  • What do you know about the time and place in which this source was created?
  • How does the historical context help you to understand the meaning of this source?
  • What other evidence exists to either corroborate this source or to provide alternative perspectives?

Selected Primary Sources

Primary sources can be complex, and require a bit of creativity and background research to interpret. If you're up for a challenge, try one of these sources from famous people in United States history.

Primary Source Collections Online

These databases include digital versions of primary sources that may also be useful for your projects.

Guide Authors

This lesson plan was developed by Adam Beauchamp for an in-person instruction session to 50 students in REL 3152: Race & Religion in the U.S., taught by Dr. Jamil Drake in September 2021.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Florida State University Libraries

© 2022 Florida State University Libraries | 116 Honors Way | Tallahassee, FL 32306 | (850) 644-2706