Lost Cause Historical Practice

Some people claim that the term “Lost Cause Myth” and “Lost Cause Historiography” are inventions devised by certain “anti-southern” folks who are also usually described as “left-wing academics.” One example of such a complaint can be found here.

And yet that very example suggests why there’s something to the understanding of the “Lost Cause Myth” as an exercise in avoidance and amnesia as practiced by certain people. Look, for example, as this quote from Grant’s Memoirs about his meeting with Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1865:
OVB Appomattox Grant

Now let’s look at what Grant actually said:

What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.

(emphasis added)

I wonder why that was omitted.

UPDATE: The blogger in question rather begrudgingly admitted his mistake in a non-apology apology. However, using his own standards for editing quotes, I’ve rendered his admission as follows: “So, yes, I did omit much of this particular quote…. I should have included an ellipsis to indicate this was not a complete quote. That was admittedly sloppy on my part.”

That’s better.

15 thoughts on “Lost Cause Historical Practice

  1. Bob Nelson April 11, 2014 / 1:50 pm

    It’s called “creative editing.” I edit quotes all the time for my “Today” posts but make sure not to omit passages that skew the meaning. Maybe the Old Virginia Blog just needs some better proof-readers. LOL

  2. rortensie April 11, 2014 / 2:05 pm

    And what of the “lost” myth that developed after the death of Johnston at Shiloh; however, I have only seen it briefly mentioned whereas the Lost Cause expounded in the pages of the Southern Historical Society Papers by Jones and others after the war tended to dominate the myth.

  3. Bob Nelson April 11, 2014 / 2:47 pm

    Maybe you and I could volunteer to do some pro bono work for them as proof-readers or editors. LOL

  4. pam April 11, 2014 / 2:55 pm

    Exactly. That is what I remember most about that statement….that it was “one of the worst for which a people ever fought..”

  5. John Foskett April 11, 2014 / 2:58 pm

    In addition to inadvertently (and uncomprehendingly) proving a point that he’s trying to disprove, the unfortunate blogger fails to understand the historical headwaters of the Lost Cause School and the fact that it originally was aimed in part as an attack on the Longstreets and the Ewells of the Confederate planet.

  6. Roger E Watson April 11, 2014 / 3:06 pm

    Because it doesn’t fit their narrative. The war was not about slavery. Slavery is BAD. Our ancestors had nothing to do with slavery. Therefore they were not bad. Sounds pretty simplistic to me.

  7. M.D. Blough April 11, 2014 / 5:19 pm

    From the hotlinked post on the Old Virginia blog, “This is just a sampling of sentiments from Lee’s former enemies. Scores more could be included. Yet, despite this type of evidence, you still have WBTS bloggers and historians suggest the “Lost Cause myth” (which, of course, involved Lee’s memory and reputation) was, more or less, a fabrication by Southerners to save honor. In at least some aspects, the “myth” was anything but.” That is some remarkable bootstrapping. Even if the quotes of admiration about Lee did not involve the cited example of “creative” editing, how do we get from that to a defense of the Lost Cause camp? I suggest the author be referred to William Garrett Piston’s “Lee’s Tarnished Lieutenant” about the deliberate post-war campaign of character assassination led by Early against Gen. Longstreet because of the latter’s acceptance of Reconstruction.

  8. C. Meyer April 11, 2014 / 8:50 pm

    Remember Grant would have given his sword to the other side if he thought the war was over slavery.

    • tmheaney April 11, 2014 / 10:29 pm

      No, that was a “quote” invented after the war by the Democratic Party as part of a political campaign. It appeared in their 1868 _The Democratic Speaker’s Handbook:Containing Every Thing Necessary for the Defense of the National Democracy in the Coming Presidential Campaign, and for the Assault of the Radical Enemies of the County and its Constitution_ (page 33). It would be difficult to conceive of a more dubious source. If you can find an actual source, I’d love to read it. (http://books.google.com/books?id=47YGAAAAMAAJ&lpg=PR1&ots=biR4ddww0t&dq=The%20Democratic%20Speaker's%20Hand-Book%3A%20Containing%20Every%20Thing&pg=PP1#v=snippet&q=sword&f=false)

      • Brooks D. Simpson April 11, 2014 / 11:12 pm

        My sense is that Corey knows that, but you know what they say about humor and the internet.

        • John Foskett April 12, 2014 / 8:21 am

          It can be tricky to decipher. For example, what if i posted that Lee assessed McClellan as a far tougher opponent than Grant?🙂

          • tmheaney April 12, 2014 / 9:20 am

            Brooks is right. I’m slow in realizing that Mr. Meyer’s post was tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps a bit of premature-replyizaton on my part.

          • Nancy Winkler April 12, 2014 / 9:46 am

            And that little gem came just after Antietam. Grant was years away from Lee yet.

          • John Foskett April 12, 2014 / 10:55 am

            If you’re referring to the McClellan quote, it was made well after the war.. It apparently came from a conversation Lee had with his cousin Cassius in 1870. Unfortunately, there’s no first hand account. I believe that it was reported later by Cassius’s son, who was repeating what his father told him – in other words, it’s clearly hearsay. If accurate, I’ve always seen it as a bit of patently false self-promotion by Lee. Consistent with the Lost Cause mythology, it fed the “explanation” of ultimate defeat as attributable solely to a deficit in resources and manpower, while also feeding the notion of Lee’s brilliance in the Seven Days and surviving at Antietam. Lee had to know better, because he outgeneraled McClellan on the Peninsula (and would have done even more had it not been for “Stoned-wall”), while Grant on more than one occasion outgeneraled Lee during the Overland Campaign, but was repeatedly stymied by the sluggish reactions of his subordinates, preventing a fatal crisis for the ANV occurring much sooner than in fact took place.

    • C. Meyer April 12, 2014 / 3:00 pm

      Yes, it was a tongue-in-cheek comment.

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