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Publisher's Summary

Was the Confederacy doomed from the start in its struggle against the superior might of the Union? Did its forces fight heroically against all odds for the cause of states’ rights? In reality, these suggestions are an elaborate and intentional effort on the part of Southerners to rationalize the secession and the war itself. Unfortunately, skillful propagandists have been so successful in promoting this romanticized view that the Lost Cause has assumed a life of its own. Misrepresenting the war’s true origins and its actual course, the myth of the Lost Cause distorts our national memory. 

In The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History, nine historians describe and analyze the Lost Cause, identifying ways in which it falsifies history - creating a volume that makes a significant contribution to Civil War historiography.

The book is published by Indiana University Press.

©2000 Indiana University Press (P)2018 Redwood Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"These essays are well reasoned and timely...will be a valuable addition to Civil War collections." (Booklist)

"The Lost Cause...is a tangible and influential phenomenon in American culture and this book provides an excellent source for anyone seeking to explore its various dimensions." (Southern Historian) 

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Putting down "The Great Pro-Slavery Rebellion"

I recall early in my grammar school days, growing up in a largely integrated suburb just outside Washington, DC, in the 1970's, being taught what I can now recognize to be the introduction to Lost Cause propaganda. Curious students, like myself and friends, looking to understand deeper meaning, were easily lured into the trap. It started as an exercise in semantics, that a "Civil War" is one in which the control of a single, existing government was in conflict, therefore not applicable to the events of 1861-1865. Seemed a reasonable enough idea, especially to children of elementary school age. "The War Between the States" was an altogether unappealing alternative, but when it got "The War of Northern Aggression", we were captivated by the idea that we had stumbled upon something new, we were in possession of a long hidden truth. Of course, we must have been lied to by historians. Hadn't we been watching images from Vietnam every night, and Watergate events unfolding? Maybe it was a perfect storm of Confederate apologia and distrust of the American government, but it was compelling to a 10 year old. And it took a long time to discover it was just pure hokum. Unfortunately, many in my own family, Northern by birth, Southern in retirement, still cling to it.

The example provided early in this series of essays on the myth of the lost cause is the best, most honest name yet put forward for the conflict, "The Great Pro-Slavery Rebellion". It's the fact, plain and simple.

Perhaps most importantly, particularly for Southerners who still hold firm to this myth of the lost cause, nobody here (at least not in these essays, or in this review) is claiming that the North had moral superiority in racial matters, other than the single issue of the institution of slavery. And to be fair, a lot of the anti-slavery sentiment was rooted in economic rationale rather than purely moral conviction. Then, as now, racism is a scourge in all areas, regardless of boundaries.

I'd recommend a book by Edward H. Bonekemper III, with a similar title. It carries a lot of the same information, perhaps with a more comprehensive theme, as this audiobook is a collection of a several essays related to specific aspects of the Lost Cause mythology. Both thoroughly debunk any Confederate apologists' argument as to the motivation for war by the South.

1) Slavery was not in decline. In fact, the oft stated rationalization that slavery would die a natural death in its own time is, in its way, even a more damning indictment of the Confederacy. It implies they knew it is immoral, yet wished to wring out as much cash as possible before acceding to decency.

2) States' rights was never an issue the South really cared about. Support for a Fugitive Slave Act requiring non-slave owning states return runaway slaves, against their own convictions, puts a lie to that claim.

3) Claims of superior manpower and machinery in the Union, have been grossly exaggerated. And as is rightly pointed out in the essays, the Confederacy merely needed to maintain its position, without any requirement for attack, to achieve victory, while the Union required a decisive defeat of their opponents. A considerable advantage to start for the South. Confederate victory was attainable, and perhaps probable with the assistance of European alliances. But that would have required abandoning their peculiar institution of slavery as part of the agreement. Even more evidence that it was all about slavery.

4) Robert E. Lee was deified well beyond his merit as a general, at the expense of some of his compatriots (Longstreet) and his opponents (Grant). Lee as a Christ-like figure is an essential centerpiece for this mythology.

These essays are well constructed presentations for the dismantling of the Myth of the Lost Cause.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful