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The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History Paperback – October 18, 2010

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The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History + Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War (A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era) + For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; Reprint edition (October 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253222664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253222664
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The South lost the Civil War, but southerners have certainly held their own in the postwar battle to shape historical interpretations of the conflict. Southern politicians, war veterans, and historians successfully promoted the "Lost Cause" view of the origins and results of our national nightmare. The South, so the story goes, wanted to preserve its unique culture, and slavery was not a fundamental basis of that culture. Led by valiant gentlemen-officers (e.g., Robert E. Lee) and brave, defiant common soldiers, the Confederacy struggled against insurmountable odds, eventually succumbing to numerically but not morally superior forces. This collection of essays by nine Civil War scholars shows how the myth was consciously propagated by southerners, often in an attempt to rationalize the physical and social carnage left by the war. These essays are well reasoned and timely, given current controversies raging over the display of the Confederate battle flag. This will be a valuable addition to Civil War collections. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"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

"Well reasoned and timely." —Booklist

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By E. Payne on September 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Well, the neo-Confederates are out in force condemning this collection of essays. It seems well to note that Southerners did a very good job of capturing the high ground from which Americans viewed Civil War history for nearly a century. Even though I'm a native Mississippian, I've never understood those who claim that the war was not about slavery. On the contrary, it had everything to do with slavery. The Mississippi declaration of secession began by noting "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery..." That seems pretty straight forward to me. Reasonable people can argue about whether secession was, in the strict legal sense, constitutional. And it can be pointed out that while Lincoln made strong use of slave-owner Thomas Jefferson's assertion that "all men are created equal" that ideal is taken from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. But right up until the first shots were fired, arguments about constitutional powers, sectional differences, and property rights were all framed within the context of a dispute over the institution of slavery.

This collection contains several interesting essays, some weaker ones, and one misfire. Unfortunately, the misfire leads off the collection: Alan T. Nolan's "Anatomy of the myth." While Mr. Nolan accurately summarizes key feature of Lost Cause historiography, his tone is needlessly shrill. It seems silly to have to point out that "Gone with the wind"--both book and movie--are works of fiction. They were widely embraced by a white American populous of the 1930s seeking an escapist depiction of a romantic past in the midst of the Great Depression. Focusing on GWTW as a flawed depiction of historical events is about as useless as doing the same with "Braveheart" or the latest "Robin Hood.
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58 of 73 people found the following review helpful By D. Keating on May 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Having just finished this book, I see why some of the essays have caused some controversy. It takes a hard look at the facts of the war, versus what has been presented as accurate history by many Southern leaders and writers. Simply put, some of the authors openly question many commonly held views, particularly those proposed by people interested in justifying the South's loss, or reasons for leaving the Union.
Overall, the essays are solid: some great, some good, and a few are only okay. I found Alan Nolan's, Gary Gallagher's, and Jeffrey Wert's essays to be most compelling. They are all well written, researched, and argued. Also, the topics they cover are interesting. Although I do not agree with Alan Nolan's low opinion of General Lee as a soldier, the rest of his essay takes many of the myths of the "Lost Cause" head-on, and dispells them convincinly.
Two of the essays I did not find very exciting: Keith Bohannon's, or Charles Holden's. The topic were too narrow for my taste. The other essays are all good, and helped add to my understanding of the war.
I recommend this book to anyone who is a Civil War "buff", or student of the war. If you think that the war was not fought over slavery, but only states rights, you should explore the discussion of this topic in numerous essays.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Root on November 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book very much. Nolan's essay is more or less a second introduction, stating, but not examining the elements of the myth. Most of the essays are very focussed and academic, which sometimes means rather dry. They sometimes examine elements of the myth by implication rather than directly. On the whole, very interesting.

I don't really have much to add to what has been said, but I did want to make available the table of contents:

Introduction by Gary W. Gallgher

One: The Anatomy of the Myth by Alan T. Nolan

Two: Jubal A. Early, the Lost Cause, and Civil War History: A Persistent Legacy by Gary W. Gallagher

Three: "Is Our Love for Wade Hampton Foolishness?": South Carolina and the Lost Cause by Charles J. Holden

Four: "These Few Gray-Haired, Battle-Scarred Veterans": Confederate Army Reunions in Georgia, 1885-95 by Keith S. Bohannon

Five: New South Visionaries: Virginia's Last Generation of Slaveholders, the Gospel of Progress, and the Lost Cause by Peter S. Carmichael

Six: James Longstreet and the Lost Cause by Jeffry D. Wert

Seven: Continuous Hammering and Mere Attrition: Lost Cause Critics and the Military Reputation of Ulysses S. Grant by Brooks D. Simpson

Eight: "Let the People See the Old Life as it Was": LaSalle Corbell Pickett and the Myth of the Lost Cause by Lesley J. Gordon

Nine: The Immortal Confederacy: Another Look at Lost Cause Religion Lloyd A. Hunter


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dave B on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The South's long and intense effort to salvage its self-image by rewriting the history of the Civil War is understandable but has become tiresome. This book reviews these efforts and refutes the inaccuracies in detail, in the first "essay" of several by real Historians. The rest of the "essays" (chapters) are each by other individuals and delve more deeply into individual cases both personal and regional. I found the increasingly close relationship between two sets of beliefs, "Religion" and "The Lost Cause" to be especially enlightening, particularly in view of current politics. A long-needed dose of reality and perspective concerning the causes and ongoing outcomes of the War.
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