Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Charles Royster


The idea of progress inspired former Confederate officers who entered academia to transform Southern higher education from its antebellum classical and republican orientation to a postbellum focus on science and utility. Defeat taught these academics that Southern institutions had failed to supply graduates with the scientific skills necessary to compete economically, industrially, and militarily with the North. They concluded that the Confederacy's collapse demonstrated the necessity of abandoning the republican conception of progress, characterized by fears of cyclical decay, in favor of the modern idea of progress which emphasized inevitable and unlimited material and social improvement. Confederate-veterans-turned academics believed scientific education promised to create a prosperous New South founded upon industry and technology. Furthermore, they concluded that progress, controlled by an all-knowing Providence, necessitated Confederate defeat in order that the United States could resolve the problems of slavery and secession so the nation might fulfill its destiny of achieving a perpetual and progressive republic. They also applied their faith in science to history in an effort to prove scientifically that the war was not fought for slavery but for democratic principles. This permitted Confederate veterans-turned-academics to honor the memory of the Confederacy, reconcile with the North without recrimination for their failure to win Southern independence, and move forward to build the New South. These academics did not see the Lost Cause and the New South as separate or competing myths or creeds, but instead viewed them as part of a single progressivist ideology. The Civil War generation of academics intellectually defined the Southern idea of progress and passed it on to their students, thereby creating a perpetual expectation for the arrival of the New South.