(February 24, 2021) After teaching military history at West Point for many years, retired General Ty Seidule is on a mission to discredit Robert E. Lee. Seidule also appears to be among the Washington & Lee graduates who want the institution to drop the Lee name. The W&L administration, for example, recently sponsored a Seidule Internet presentation to the faculty, students and alumni. (A link to similar presentation he made earlier this month is provided at the end of this post.) Although I’ll be doing more work on Seidule, today’s video is to underscore his erroneous assumption that anyone who disagrees with him is a benighted so-called Lost Causer.
According to Seidule the Lost Cause Myth is an invention of postbellum Southerners and encompasses two points, among others: (1) General Grant was a butcher, and (2) the Southern armies lost because they were overwhelmed by superior resources.
First, it was not postbellum Southerners that labeled General Grant a butcher. It was the Northerners themselves as they reacted to the General’s large losses in May and early June of 1864 when he first met Lee in battle. Grant began his forty-day campaign with an approximate two-to-one numerical advantage. He had 124,000 troops compared to 66,000 for Lee. At the end, Grant had suffered 55,000 casualties, which was also about twice those of Lee. Losses for the two sides during the battles at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor correspond closely to the federal disasters at Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg.
Second, although Seidule dismisses the theory that Confederates lost the War because they were overwhelmed by superior resources as mere Lost Cause poppycock, General Grant contradicts him. On July 22, 1865 he wrote War Secretary Edwin Stanton to explain how he (Grant) won the late war: “The resources of the enemy, and his numerical strength, were far inferior to ours. . . I therefore determined . . . to hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources, until by mere attrition, if in no other way, there should be nothing left to him but . . . submission. . .”
Additionally, at best, Seidule draws a false equivalency between the causes of the War with the causes of secession for the first seven cotton states, which did not include Lee’s Virginia. They are not the same because there would have been no War if the cotton states had been allowed to leave in peace. By relying upon primary sources historian Jack Davis concludes: “The widespread Northern myth that the Confederates went to the battlefield to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries, in the tens of thousands, reveal again and again that they fought and died because their Southern homeland was invaded, and their natural instinct was to protect home and hearth.”
Finally, Seidule reveals that his conclusions are dominated by a Pious Cause Mythology that argues the North fought to prevent the spread of slavery into the Federal territories. In reality it fought to quarantine blacks in the South. . . and it succeeded for a century. In 1854 Abraham Lincoln admitted as much: “The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these [Western] territories. We want them for the homes of free white people. This they cannot be . . . if slavery shall be planted within them.” Pious Cause Mythologists are blind to the fact that every state—save one—that gained statehood after Texas in 1845 joined the Union when only about one percent of their respective populations were black. The one exception—right up to Alaska and Hawaii—was West Virginia, which joined as a slave state when Lincoln was President.
I am targeting a new short professionally produced video at refuting Seidule more broadly. If Cancel Culture can strike Lee’s name from W&L, Southern history will likely ever after be corrupted with lies and distortions from the cultural elite aimed at demonizing the region’s Confederate ancestors.
You can support the video’s production, by making tax deductible donations to the Abbeville Institute. To those of you able to donate $700 or more, your help is vital. Please contact me directly at:
*(AT) = @