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The Lost Cause Goes West: Confederate Culture and Civil War Memory in California

Waite, Kevin

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Dr Kevin Waite
Associate Professor UKRI Research, Development and Engagement Fellow


California once housed over a dozen monuments, memorials, and place-names honoring the Confederacy, far more than any other state beyond the South. The list included schools and trees named for Robert E. Lee, mountaintops and highways for Jefferson Davis, and large memorials to Confederate soldiers in Hollywood and Orange County. Many of the monuments have been removed or renamed in the recent national reckoning with Confederate iconography. But for much of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, they stood as totems to the “Lost Cause” in the American West. Despite a vast literature on the origins, evolution, and enduring influence of the Lost Cause myth, little is known about how this ideology impacted the political culture and physical space of the American West. This article explores the commemorative landscape of California to explain why a free state, far beyond the major military theaters of the Civil War, gave rise to such a vibrant Confederate culture in the twentieth century. California chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) carried out much of this commemorative work. They emerged in California shortly after the organization's founding in Tennessee in 1894 and, over the course of a century, emblazoned the Western map with salutes to a slaveholding rebellion. In the process, the UDC and other Confederate organizations triggered a continental struggle over Civil War memory that continues to this day.


Waite, K. (2020). The Lost Cause Goes West: Confederate Culture and Civil War Memory in California. California History, 97(1), 33-49.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Feb 21, 2020
Publication Date Apr 30, 2020
Deposit Date Oct 10, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 15, 2020
Journal California History
Print ISSN 0162-2897
Electronic ISSN 2327-1485
Publisher University of California Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 97
Issue 1
Pages 33-49


Published Journal Article (439 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Waite, Kevin (2020). 'The Lost Cause Goes West: Confederate Culture and Civil War Memory in California'. California History 97(1): 33-49. © 2020 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.

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