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Victims of the Lost Cause Part I.

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  • Victims of the Lost Cause Part I.

    This is the first in a set of serialized posts which feature Civil War commanders – both Union and Confederate – whose military reputation and battlefield records were tarnished by an emerging literary faction known as the Lost Cause in an effort to control how the history of the war was to be written and popularly viewed. The impact of the Lost Cause was astounding and far reaching, as evidenced by a small but vocal minority in academia that espouses those beliefs today.

    At its core, the Lost Cause as a movement emerged in the wake of Confederate defeat in the Civil War. How could a superior civilization containing a superior military culture and tradition, blessed by God, lose in a struggle against such what was such a clearly inferior foe as the North? The Lost Cause provided an easy answer, one that many shocked Southerners could cope with. The North had not militarily defeated the South on the battlefield, it only had out produced it and had bled it to death with superior manpower. God had not abandoned the South, nor had Confederate commanders been out-generaled by their inferior (both morally and in martial skill) Union counterparts. Instead, a small group of disloyal or incompetent Confederate officers, seeking the promotion their own self-interests, either betrayed or somehow through their own inability had failed the Cause in its key hour. By contrast, commanders like Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston were Gods of War incarnate, undefeatable except for the failings of the above mentioned subordinates and the un-chivalrous methods of the opponents they faced.

    Sadly, these were not the only tenants of the Lost Cause, which included stating that the war was not over Slavery but rather States’ Rights, the focus of the study of the war on Virginia and Virginians, and that Southern defeat in the war was inevitable (the first and third of which still pervade in popular discussion). However, the focus of this series will be what I have described in the preceding paragraph. Military reputation, battlefield records, and morale character were viscously attacked, in the case of Confederate officers because of the post-war political views they held, and in the case of Union generals the prominence and accomplishments they had acheived, and on cases on both sides, where the officer in question were born.

    Many commanders’ reputations were damaged by the actions of Lost Cause authors. Prominent Confederates included James Longstreet, William Mahone, John Mosby, P.G.T. Beauregard, Richard Ewell, JEB Stuart, and John Pemberton. Prominent Union targets were Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George Thomas, and Benjamin Butler. I hope in good time to do an individual post on each of the names I have listed, giving detailed but concise descriptions of each ones’ combat record, their connection to the Lost Cause and how it in attacked the general described and how those attacks in turn affected the reputation of the person. I will then offer a refutation and rebuttal of most of these attacks in an academic manner, examining sources, opinions of authors and experts, and the sources of such attacks.

    I welcome all comments and criticism.
    Last edited by semperpietas; 30 Dec 12, 23:18.
    "Hit hard when you start, but don't start until you have everything ready." - Lt. Gen. James Longstreet

    Pyrrhus Travels West:
    Hanno the Infamous, General of Carthage, Rb Mhnt of Sicily

  • #2
    I think that when you say " a vocal minority" espouse this theory, you are understating it. I think it is not only conventional wisdom but something more. Many history channel documentaries and school text pols conclude that (1) the south never had a chance due to overwhelming northern manpower and industry (2) the union generals were outclassed by their confederate counterparts and (3) that the union was losing the war until Gettysburg.

    I think their is also a tendency to swing too far the other way and claim that union manpower and industry played a small role. The truth lies in the middle.

    I think Grant was the biggest victim of the Lost Cause; at least up until the last 15 years or so when historians began to write more on him. Still today, many civil war "historians" will assert that he is was a butcher while avoiding the term. They claim that Grant used a warplan of attrition to whiddle down the ANV. They will try to cover it by lauding Grants understanding that he had such numerical superiority and using it.

    Of course, Grants intent was to destroy the ANV by drawing it out to battle through maneuver. Attrition resulted due to the number of battles in succession. They ignore the flanking maneuvers and the intended movements of Butlers army.

    In the end, many of the lost cause arguments rely on a miopic view of the war. By ignoring the Western Theater, they are able to ignore not only Grants work there, but a general trend of superior union generalship. If they viewed the war as a whole, it would be clear that the union was winning before Gettysburg.

    This, in turn, leads to the second victim...JEB Stuart and the claim that his actions during the Gettysburg campaign cost Lee the victory and- as mentioned above- the war

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by mikeck View Post
      I think that when you say " a vocal minority" espouse this theory, you are understating it. I think it is not only conventional wisdom but something more. Many history channel documentaries and school text pols conclude that (1) the south never had a chance due to overwhelming northern manpower and industry (2) the union generals were outclassed by their confederate counterparts and (3) that the union was losing the war until Gettysburg.

      I think their is also a tendency to swing too far the other way and claim that union manpower and industry played a small role. The truth lies in the middle.

      I think Grant was the biggest victim of the Lost Cause; at least up until the last 15 years or so when historians began to write more on him. Still today, many civil war "historians" will assert that he is was a butcher while avoiding the term. They claim that Grant used a warplan of attrition to whiddle down the ANV. They will try to cover it by lauding Grants understanding that he had such numerical superiority and using it.

      Of course, Grants intent was to destroy the ANV by drawing it out to battle through maneuver. Attrition resulted due to the number of battles in succession. They ignore the flanking maneuvers and the intended movements of Butlers army.

      In the end, many of the lost cause arguments rely on a miopic view of the war. By only looking at the Eastern Theater, they are able to ignore not only Grants work there, but a general trend of superior union generalship. If they viewed the war as a whole, it would be clear that the union was winning before Gettysburg.
      When I referred to "a small vocal minority", I meant among Academia and writers (I will edit the post to clarify). I duly noted the notion that many lost cause ideals still pervade popular discussion, (didn't mention school textbooks, though I recall a graph from my junior high school's text book which marked advantages and disadvantages of both sides, and at the top of the advantages for the Confederacy being "Better Generals"). I also noted that the Lost Cause influenced how we view the war (from the central view "Eastern Theater", which almost always means Virginia POV).

      I concur that Grant was probably the biggest victim of the Lost Cause, at least for the Union side, and attacks on him reflected in general history are many criticisms that are either Lost Cause originals, or were taken and blown out of proportion by the Lost Cause movement. It is something I hope to expand upon soon in it's own post.
      "Hit hard when you start, but don't start until you have everything ready." - Lt. Gen. James Longstreet

      Pyrrhus Travels West:
      Hanno the Infamous, General of Carthage, Rb Mhnt of Sicily

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by mikeck View Post

        This, in turn, leads to the second victim...JEB Stuart and the claim that his actions during the Gettysburg campaign cost Lee the victory and- as mentioned above- the war
        Thank you for reminding me of JEB Stuart and that his reputation too suffered from Lost Cause claims that he cost Lee the victory. I think Longstreet is generally blamed more by Lost Causers as having "lost" the Battle for Lee. But you bring up a valid point.
        "Hit hard when you start, but don't start until you have everything ready." - Lt. Gen. James Longstreet

        Pyrrhus Travels West:
        Hanno the Infamous, General of Carthage, Rb Mhnt of Sicily

        Comment


        • #5
          Excellent Topic!

          Should make for a very interesting thread.

          I'll be following this closely.
          Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by R. Evans View Post
            Should make for a very interesting thread.

            I'll be following this closely.
            What Bob said!

            Regards,
            Dennis
            If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

            Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

            Comment


            • #7
              Lost Cause = Sour grapes

              Hitler had the same mentality of victimhood and you see all the trouble it caused..
              Human beings are the only creatures who are able to behave irrationally in the name of reason.

              Comment


              • #8
                I look forward to discussing this at length. Santa was very kind this year & brought me 8 new Civil War books, including Charles Reagan Wilson's "Baptised in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920". I'll be sure to pick it up next & start reading it.
                The muffled drums sad roll has beat the soldier's last tatoo. No more on life's parade shall meet that brave and fallen few.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Great idea. Just hope it does not start a huge argument and people keep it civil.
                  Is she crying? There's no crying in baseball.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by KICK View Post
                    Lost Cause = Sour grapes

                    Hitler had the same mentality of victimhood and you see all the trouble it caused..
                    Do you like to lose something that you went for
                    and lost?
                    In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.
                    Robert E. Lee

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by B7B Southern View Post
                      Do you like to lose something that you went for
                      and lost?
                      It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.
                      — Charles Darwin

                      AKA get over it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Panzer Sturm View Post
                        It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.
                        — Charles Darwin

                        AKA get over it.
                        Get over what?
                        In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.
                        Robert E. Lee

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by B7B Southern View Post
                          Do you like to lose something that you went for
                          and lost?

                          Hitlers reason for the Germans losing the 1st WW was that the German Army was stabbed in the back

                          Lost Causers reason for losing sounds eerily similar..

                          its always someone else's fault
                          Human beings are the only creatures who are able to behave irrationally in the name of reason.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by KICK View Post
                            Hitlers reason for the Germans losing the 1st WW was that the German Army was stabbed in the back

                            Lost Causers reason for losing sounds eerily similar..

                            its always someone else's fault
                            That is not what the Lost Cause means. That is what is used
                            to slam those that are either born or love the South today for
                            something that happened 150 years ago.
                            In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.
                            Robert E. Lee

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Guys, let's not get into a fight before Chase has laid out anything other than the premise of the thread.
                              Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

                              Comment

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