The Myth of the Lost Cause

Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won
Narrated by: C.J. McAllister
Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins
Categories: History, Military
4.5 out of 5 stars (419 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The former Confederate states have continually mythologized the South's defeat to the North, depicting the Civil War as unnecessary, or as a fight over states' Constitutional rights, or as a David v. Goliath struggle in which the North waged "total war" over an underdog South. In The Myth of the Lost Cause, historian Edward Bonekemper deconstructs this multi-faceted myth, revealing the truth about the war that nearly tore the nation apart 150 years ago.

©2015 Edward H. Bonekemper III (P)2016 Regnery Publishing
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The Civil War was about Slavery. Period.

Oh, and Ulysses S. Grant was a way better general than Robert E. Lee. And Longstreet wasn’t the reason the south lost the war. It was Lee’s fault, pure and simple. This is what Edward Bonekemper sets out to prove in writing this book. And he does a good job.

Bonekemper first talks about what slavery was like in all its horror. People as property and thought of in terms of money and what use could be gotten from them. People not allowed to marry, learn, or ever work for themselves. Families were torn apart and sold separately. Slaves were beaten mercilessly to keep them in line. Slave owners were in a constant state of fear over potential slave uprisings. To quell this potential conflict, slave owners tried to keep their slaves in a constant state of ignorance and fear. The myth of a happy slave was just that, a myth. One of the reasons the Confederacy was so reluctant to use slaves in battle was because most slaves would run or turn on their owners at the first chance. The south could not risk slaves being armed.

Bonekemper also takes on the myth that slavery was dying a slow death and would have gone away on its own, given time. He dismantles all of the arguments of this myth and tells of a revisionist history that was allowed to take root after the Civil War in order for and attempt at reconciliation to take place. Then he details all of the states’ arguments for seceding after Lincoln was elected President. Each state only had one reason: slavery. Slavery was also the reason the south could not be recognized by European governments. The peculiar institution was more important than winning the war. A seminal moment for me was a discussion prior to Lincoln’s election when the southern states tried to get a 13th amendment passed to protect and prolong slavery in the United States. This struck me as particularly ironic as, of course, the 13th amendment that was ultimately passed freed the slaves.

After the myths of why the states seceded are dismantled, Bonekemper takes an in depth look at Robert E. Lee and talks about why he was elevated to a hero of mythical proportions. Bonekemper also completely deconstructs major battles and shows that Lee’s leadership style itself was mostly at fault for many losses. He talks about how Lee fought an offensive war when all he needed to do was fight a defensive war and how he gave vague orders and never followed them up when the on field battle situation changed. Lee also used aggressive tactics which wasted men’s lives and would not leave his native Virginia to help the other Confederate generals no matter how much they needed his back up.

Bonekemper goes into Grant’s style and how he was a brilliant tactician and made use of whatever he had on hand to get the job done. Grant’s outmaneuvering of the southern forces in many battles is detailed and the myth of Grant as the stupid, drunken general given command as a last resort was also ripped to shreds.

This listen includes a thorough discussion of the sustained propaganda campaign against Longstreet to prop up the myth of Lee. Letters are detailed and battles are again desconstructed which prove there was a campaign to elevate Lee and that it was decided that Longstreet would be the sacrificial lamb to blame for the lost war.

This book was really a very interesting listen. So much of what Bonekemper details makes sense. So many things click into place when he is going through his arguments. I can’t recommend this book enough to get a different perspective for any Civil War buff.

CJ McAllister does a nice job narrating this material. Some of the discussion of the slave treatment is hard to listen to so I can only imagine that it was difficult to narrate and he did a good job both with this material and with the numerous battles that were discussed.

I received this audiobook for free through Audiobook Boom! In exchange for an honest review.

9 people found this helpful

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Well researched destruction of the myth.

I picked this up because I Thought it sounded interesting. It was. It is a very well researched and argued destruction of the Lost Cause Myth, that the War was about states rights, not slavery, and the south had no chance of winning. Both are resoundingly disproven, and only someone completely myopic could argue the results. This book is a must read for any Civil war buff, or anyone interested in history for that matter.

9 people found this helpful

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Want to understand the Civil War? Read this book.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Myth of the Lost Cause to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version of this book. But I believe this one would have the same disadvantages as most history audiobooks do. First, no maps. Descriptions of battles and tactics, no matter how good, will not have the same impact without maps to look at. This could be remedied by listening to the book while looking at maps online. Second, no footnotes. As a historian, I like to be able to find the original sources for the many quotes and other facts given in the text. There are so many in this book that I would really like to see in their original context. I would recommend getting the print version just to look at the maps and footnotes, while listening to the audiobook.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ulysses S Grant was my favorite character. The reexamination of Grant's performance in the Civil War made an excellent case for the argument that Grant was a superior general to Robert E. Lee. Especially the in depth look at the Vicksburg campaign.

Have you listened to any of C.J. McAllister’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This is the first time I have heard C.J. McAllister narrate an audiobook. I found his voice to be clear and strong. He doesn't rush through the text like some narrators. He allows an appropriate amount of time for pauses between sentences and paragraphs, giving me a moment to take in what I have just heard. I also appreciate that he didn't attempt to do southern accents while reading quotes from the various southern politicians and generals that are quoted in the book. I find that sort of thing to be unnecessary in a history book. Overall, I think McAllister is one of the better narrators I have listened to. If he were to narrate other books on topics I enjoy, I would be more inclined to pick them up.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would have really enjoyed listening to this in one sitting. It isn't one of those dry history books that you need to take a break from frequently. The text is well written, and its delivered in a manner that makes it easy to get caught up in. If I should ever find myself on a 9 hour car ride, I may give this one another spin.

Any additional comments?

As a historian, I often find myself engaged in the same argument over an over again: What was the cause of the Civil War? I have my share "go to" resources to back the argument that the principal cause of the war was slavery. But Bonekemper goes above and beyond the call of duty by finding documents, quotes, facts, and figures all aimed at disproving the persistent claim that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War, as well as other spurious claims that together make up the Lost Cause myth. With this book, I now have a seemingly unending supply of evidence to reach for whenever I end up in yet another Civil War argument.

19 people found this helpful

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Indisputable proofs, flawless argumentation.

I am about four hours into this audiobook. And I am a rabid champion of the State's rights and found some resonance with the arguments I had heard, to the effect that the Civil war was far more about the rights of the States than it was about slavery (while at the same time finding slavery absolutely deplorable). About one hour in, I had every myth exploded and many times over disproven.

Which ever side you lean towards, you must account for the facts presented herein if you want to hold your beliefs honestly.

The Civil war WAS primarily about slavery.
If you hesitate to affirm that proposition wholeheartedly, read this book to erase any doubt in your mind. Or write a book answering to the facts presented here, and once you have finished, read your book and see to what extent you have evaded reality, tortured language and twisted history to make your case.

The narrator did an excellent job as well.

I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator, or publisher.

22 people found this helpful

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If you believe...

... that the south seceded for anything other than slavery, that Robert E Lee was a great general, or that Ulysses S Grant was a butcher, you must listen to this book. It is high time for our nation to learn and deal with the full truth of the Civil War.

13 people found this helpful

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Why orginal documents are so critical.

From the start of the 19 century to today I believe that it has been more accurate to say history is written by the loser. This had been the case both world wars and the American Civil War. The Lost Cause myth has been the main example of this fact for the later war.

Bomekemper's book is a counter to this myth and does a fantastic job using original documents and raw statistics to do so.

Well worth the read.

13 people found this helpful

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Excellent

The authors thorough debunking of the "Myth" is good. But the discussions of Lee and Grant really added to my understanding of the War. By the end he has convincingly made the dual cases that Grant, not Lee, was by far the better general and that Lee indeed may have done more harm than good to the Lost Cause. The discussion of Vicksburg alone was worth the read. Highly recommend this book.

9 people found this helpful

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An outstanding rebuttal

Any additional comments?

This is a thorough and devastating reply to the white-washing of the civil war. Mr. Bonekemper methodically dismantles the assertion that slave-holding states seceded for reasons other than the extention of slavery and the sanctification of white supremacy. The book is exhaustively researched and it's assertions are supported on every point with citations to original documents and contemporary accounts while illustrating countless attempts to replace the brutal facts with the incredible narrative that slaves were grateful for their subjugation and that the war was a case of a benign southern utopia victimized by northern aggression.

Facts are things. Facts have consequences. In times like these, while we all suffer from an active conspiracy against fact, a war on truth, it is useful to remind ourselves what a reasoned argument sounds like.

The single flaw in the Audible version of this work is the wooden narration. While this work is detail-heavy, I did not find it to be overly dry. But the robotic reading did not help in this regard.

2 people found this helpful

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Outstanding details and overview of civil war

Please have students I. High schools read and discuss this book as a foundation of our countries history .
Learn geography , the history of the states, the history of slavery from this book. This is easy to read and understand and remember,
Good job!
I
Highly recommend reading this book to all students!

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Interesting Content, BORING Narration

I find the content of this book to be really fascinating and valuable. I wish I had invested in a hard copy to read myself, though. The narration of this audio book is dull and monotone. I find myself continually zoning out and having to rewind. The voice is robotic and if I were lying down, it would lull me to sleep. Disappointing, because the information really is good.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Bookworm
  • 06-26-20

Statues, Race Relations, BLM, KKK: The Background

The author presents a meticulously detailed and convincing case that the protection of slavery and white supremacy were the primary drivers behind the Confederate war effort to thwart Northern abolitionists.
Just one example, Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne and his proposal to arm and liberate slaves. From a military perspective it made sense as number were against the South, yet the proposal was shot down by Southern politicians as incendiary, abolitionist and antithetical to the very cause they were fighting for – to protect slavery.
This is not a light or easy listen – with the author offering multiple, specific examples to bolster his case coupled with a rather flat and monotone narration.
But this book will be of profound interest - and a solid foundation - for anyone interested in the American Civil War; the legacy of the US race relations and wanting to understand the modern-day disputes over statues.
I particularly enjoyed the intriguing analysis on General Lee’s overly aggressive offensives and his obsession with seeking battle when in fact the burden of conquest was on the Union, not the Confederacy. And detailed/fascinating statistics highlighting how Grant was a better general than Lee.

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  • Nephrite
  • 02-19-20

A very worthwhile listen

The Myth Of The Lost Cause: Why The South Fought The Civil War And Why The North Won by Edward H. Bonekemper III

Hello again to you all! Now that we are slowly recovering from our overindulgences during Christmas and the holiday period it is time for me to review one final audiobook before the end of the year. Originally I was planning on reviewing something somewhat more cheerful but I found myself drawn to the topic and gave this book a chance. I’m glad I did!

For those of you unaware, the idea of the ‘Lost Cause’ is the concept that no matter what the South did during The American Civil War they were guaranteed to lose and their rebellion was in fact doomed from the beginning. Tied into this is the idea that The American Civil War was fought over states rights and that southern slavery had very little to do with the causes of the war. The other main conjecture of the ‘Lost Cause’ idea is that General Robert E. Lee was some form of military genius and he only lost the Battle of Gettysburg due to the incompetency of others (namely James Longstreet) and the butchery of Ulysses S. Grant.

As you can guess by the title of the audiobook this book is written by Mr Bonekemper - a noted American historian - to counteract the mythmaking of southern revisionists. The book is a very interesting read for those curious about the American Civil War as it dissects the multiple elements that create the myth using original sources from the period. Another good thing about this book is the language is quite simple and easy to understand with very minimal jargon unlike some history books I’ve listened to over the years. I assume this is because the book was written with intent to counter the arguments made by others and convey its message so therefore had to be understandable by the general public. In my personal opinion he makes his arguments quite convincingly while still making the book enjoyable. Notably the author also specifically name drops a few examples of those individuals who - even if they don’t explicitly support the ‘Lost Cause’ - indirectly continue its themes or messages - such as respected figures like Mary Beard and John Keegan. I definitely recommend this book even if you aren’t particularly enamoured with history. You never know what part of history from all over the world could spark your interest. Be it the local history of Orkney during the world wars or specifically the Italian Chapel or more globally such as the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 or as in this case The American Civil War.

Now for the part I’m not looking forward to. You may have noticed that up to this point I have made very minimal references to the audiobook version of this book? That is for a very good reason. Despite the book itself being rather engrossing and interesting in my personal opinion, the audiobook release is very much a disappointment. The book is narrated by C.J.McAllister who unfortunately takes a well done book on an interesting subject and makes it dull as dishwater! His voice is some form of American (I can’t tell the specific regional accent) and he does quite a decent job when reading the sections Mr Bonekemper quotes from period sources. However the rest of the time it sounds like listening to a robot with an American accent. I finished the audiobook because it is (relatively) short and I personally found the subject and actual book to be quite interesting. I’m not sure however that others would say the same if their only exposure was through the audio version.

Another important criticism - specifically of the audiobook - is that on at least two or three different occasions the narrator can be heard pausing and taking a breath before repeating the last few words of his previous sentence and continuing on. It is very rare in a professionally produced, edited and released audiobook for things like this to slip through the cracks and be left on the final release version to be heard by listeners. This disappoints me greatly on a personal level as I really enjoyed the book otherwise but my recommendation to my readers is to buy and read either a physical version of the book, a digital ebook version or - if one exists - an audio version with a different narrator depending on your preferences.

In conclusion the book itself is a very worthwhile read for those of you who are so inclined (even if it’s not the most seasonally appropriate listening or reading.) However despite highly recommending the book I do think it’s more enjoyable in physical or digital format.

I hope my readers have a Happy Hogmanay and hopefully I can ring in the new year with a first review that’s somewhat more light listening. Who knows...I might be joining a friend soon.

Sayonara! And Auld Lang Syne!

Nephrite