Tag Archives: Lost Cause

Lee and the Wise Men

(December 27, 2020) After Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on Palm Sunday 1865, probably no man was in a better position to persuade Southerners to accept the verdict of the war. This became clear over the ensuing weeks as the other Confederate armies surrendered. As explained in my December 8th video, no man was more beloved throughout the South during the war than was Lee despite contrary claims by some modern historians. They falsely argue that his reputation was only artificially created by a conspiracy of ex-Confederate officers who weaved a web of so-called lies known as the “Lost Cause Narrative.” Nonetheless, the falsehood of their narrative is revealed by none other than Union General Ulysses Grant who requested a second meeting with Robert E. Lee the day after he accepted Lee’s surrender. Lee’s biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, describes the scene:

Grant began by telling Lee that his interest was in peace and in the surrender of the other Confederate armies . . .  He added that there was no man in the South whose influence with the soldiers and with the people was as great as Lee’s, and that if Lee would advise the surrender of all the armies Grant believed they would lay down their arms. For his part Lee believed that Grant’s proposal was a question for President Davis. He promptly said that he could not advise the remaining Confederate armies without first consulting the President. Grant understood Lee’s viewpoint and did not attempt to persuade him.

Shifting the subject, Lee talked of the paroling of the army and asked that the instructions of the officers who were arranging the details should be made so explicit that no mis­understanding could arise. Lee was seeking assurances concerning two factors. First, that his men would not be imprisoned because Grant’s surrender terms provided that they “will be allowed to return to their homes not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the law in force where they may reside.” Second, that each Confederate claiming to own a horse or mule will be allowed to take the animals home with them. Grant again provided such reassurances.

Thus, by deferring to civil authority, Lee refused to take authority away from President Davis and the remaining Confederate armies to decide for themselves their future courses of action. Nonetheless, it was obvious that Lee had already become the only symbol of resistance that mattered among fellow Southerners. Consequently, all Confederate armies surrendered within two months of Appomattox notwithstanding that tens-of-thousands of Confederates remained under arms after Lee surrendered. Again, Freeman summarizes:

Southern civilians saw in Lee the embodiment of the faith and piety they believed a just Heaven would favor . . . Among such people of faith during the last year of the struggle Lee became a kind of spiritual mediator for his nation. The army, seeing him in battle, put his ability first and his character second. The civilian population, observing him from afar, rated his character even above his ability.

About forty-five days after Lincoln was assassinated, President Andrew Johnson announced that he would grant amnesty to ex-Confederate if they would take a new loyalty oath to the Union and agree to various other stipulations. Many were resentful of the oath because they considered that their parole oaths at the Appomattox surrender—and others elsewhere—covered the matter. Johnson’s new oath, some inferred, suggested that the words given in their parole oaths could not be taken at face value, which they considered as an insult to their honor.

Lee, however, took the oath. He wanted to be an example of reconciliation. One story underscores the point.

When a son of former Virginia governor Henry Wise told his dad that he had taken the oath, the father barked: “You have disgraced the family!”

His son replied, “But General Lee told me to do it.”

“Oh,” said the father, “that alters the case. Whatever General Lee says is all right, I don’t care what it is.”


To understand how crony capitalism got its start and how the postbellum South was put into nearly a century of poverty, read Ulysses Grant’s Failed PresidencyAutographed copies are available from me [phil_leigh@me.com] for $25 with free deliveries in the USA. Unsigned copies are available at Amazon and other books stores for $20.

Exploding the Lost Cause Myth

(December 9, 2020) Academic historians widely deny a tenet of the so-called Lost Cause Myth that the North won the Civil War because of its overwhelming manpower and economic advantages. The South, they eagerly argue, could have readily won the war despite the North’s numerical and resource advantages. Consider the following examples:

In explaining Confederate defeat, the Lost Cause says that the main factor was not qualitative inferiority in leadership or fighting ability but the massive quantitative superiority of the Yankee industrial machine. —— Wikipedia “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.”

Ultimately, in the Lost Cause interpretation, a unified South did not really lose the war but was simply overwhelmed by the manpower and material resources of the North. . . Few scholars today, however, accept it as an accurate portrayal of the history of the era. —— Carl H. Moneyhon

To adherents of the Lost Cause . . .  the Confederacy fought to uphold the supposed virtues of the antebellum South, advanced by leaders who were exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry [and was] defeated by the Union armies not through superior military skill, but by overwhelming force.  Historical scholarship in recent decades has since disabused Civil War students of the merits of this ideology.  —— Danny Lewis, Smithsonian Magazine October 20, 2016

The venerable James McPherson argues that other nations won independence against greater odds than did the Confederacy. Among the examples adduced is the success of the United States during our war for independence. Yet McPherson overlooks the relative casualties.

Soldier deaths during the Revolutionary War totaled 25,000, which was 1% of the population. In contrast, at least 300,000 Confederate soldiers died during the Civil War, which was about 5% of the available white population. (Assuming a larger 400,000 Northern soldiers died during the Civil War their loss ratio would have been only 1.8%.)   Thus, the Confederate death ratio was five times the rate of the Revolutionary War in half the time. Such casualties were unsustainable. If America were to engage in a war today and endure the same proportional losses, the number of dead soldiers would total nearly 17 million.

Another historian suggests that Robert E. Lee planted the seed of the Lost Cause version of the Southern military defeat when the General declared at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 that his men had fought honorably but were overwhelmed by superior Northern resources and numbers. Yet Grant himself apparently agreed with Lee when he described his strategy for winning the war as commander of all Union armies in a July 22, 1865 letter: “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. . .”

Other contemporary Northerners shared the opinion that the South could only be defeated by overwhelming numbers. Henry J. Raymond, who was Chairman of the Republican National Committee, advisor to President Lincoln and Editor of the New York Times wrote in the fall of 1864, “The Rebels have exhibited a most wonderful energy and skill. No people on Earth ever made such a hard fight with such limited means. . .  All candid men, whatever their hatred of the rebellion, are free to admit that the final triumph of our national armies will be due only to superiority in numbers.”

Charles Wainwright who was a leading artillerist with the Union army opposing Lee wrote at the latter’s surrender: “The Army of Northern Virginia under Lee . . .  today . . .  has surrendered. During three long and hard-fought campaigns it has withstood every effort of the Army of the Potomac; now it is obliged to succumb without even one great pitched battle. . . The rebellion has been worn out rather than suppressed.”

When newspaperman William Swinton, who often accompanied the Union Army of the Potomac, published Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac a year after the war ended, he wrote of Lee’s surrender: “the army of Northern Virginia fell before the power of the North, yet what vitality had it shown! How terrible had been the struggle.”

Even President Lincoln agreed that the North had overwhelming resources relative to the South. His frustration at the inability of larger Union armies to vanquish smaller Rebels ones in the Eastern Theater is well known. Upon meeting with the commander of the Army of the Potomac and a subordinate on the eve of the Battle of Chancellorsville he said, “I want to impress upon you two gentlemen, in your next fight, put in all of your men.”

Finally, after visiting nine of the eleven Confederate states in 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur J. L. Fremantle of her majesty’s Coldstream Guards departed for home from New York shortly after observing the Battle of Gettysburg. He wrote of his brief time in Philadelphia and New York, “The luxury and comfort of New York and Philadelphia strike one as extraordinary after having come from Charleston and Richmond. . . The streets are as full as possible of well-dressed people and are crowded with able-bodied men capable of bearing arms, who evidently have no interest in doing so. They apparently don’t feel the war at all here; . . . I can easily imagine that they will not be anxious to make peace.”

Evidently Shelby Foote was correct in remarking that the North could have fought the Civil War with one hand tied behind its back. Such a conclusion is forbidden among academia where the agenda is to portray the Confederate military as inferior. Adam Domby, for example, ridicules the Confederate soldier. Nonetheless, the Southerner has a warrior tradition that still lives. Forty-four percent of our nation’s volunteer army come from the South although the region accounts for only thirty-six percent of the national population.







Paradoxes Can Lead to Big Discoveries

(June 4, 2019) “The most exciting phrase in science, the one that heralds new discoveries,  is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “that’s funny.” —— Isaac Asimov

Some of the greatest discoveries came from scientists who decided to investigate an oddity. When bacteriologist Alexander Fleming saw that one of his petri dishes contained an unexpected mold he remarked, “That’s funny.” Upon investigation he learned that the mold was a powerful new antibacterial agent. He named it penicillin.

Similarly, researchers of Civil War and Reconstruction Era history should focus more attention on paradoxes. Instead they almost universally concentrate on two objectives. One is discrediting “Lost Cause Mythology,” which is “an interpretation . . . that seeks to present the war, from the perspective of Confederates, in the best possible terms.” The second is to replace it with “Pious Cause Mythology,” which is historical revisionism based upon the Evil Twin metaphor. It metaphorically interprets the era as a contest between twins in which the North is the “good” twin and the South is the “evil” twin.

One example is provided by the College of Charleston’s Dr. Adam Domby whose biased research ultimately help provoke a mob to destroy the Silent Sam Confederate statue at the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC). Eight years ago when a UNC graduate student, Domby discovered an outrageously racist incident involving one of Silent Sam’s six dedication speakers. Specifically, Confederate veteran Julian Carr (1845 – 1924) bragged of an event that happened only months after Appomattox upon his return to Chapel Hill at age nineteen. He personally horse-whipped an African-American “wench until her skirts hung in shreds [because] she publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady.”

Although the whipping is indefensible, it appears that Domby didn’t bother to learn anything more about Carr. If he had, he would have quickly discovered that Carr became a major North Carolina business leader, philanthropist and supporter of progressive causes.

He was among the first Southern textile mill owners to employ blacks in production work as opposed to maintenance. His donations to black education included the North Carolina College for Negroes, presently known as North Carolina Central University. The school’s black founder praised Carr: “I have never known the first time for him to fail to give to any enterprise which he thought would benefit the colored people or to lend his influence in their behalf. . .  I have known scores and scores of colored people who were the recipients of his kindness and generosity. . . I have never known a colored person too poor or ignorant who went to General Carr for assistance who did not receive the same.” He extended his charity beyond North Carolina as a benefactor for a black training school in Augusta, Georgia. 

Carr also helped black educator Willam Gaston Pearson who was born a slave in 1858 and worked as a youth at the Carr Factory. Carr recognized Pearson’s potential and financed his education at Shaw University where he graduated in 1886 at age 28. Thereafter, Pearson began teaching in Durham. In 1922 he became principal of Durham’s Hillside Park High School. In 1931, Hillside was accredited by the Southern Association of Secondary School and Colleges, a major achievement for a black school during the Great Depression. Pearson also made other major business, religious, and educational contributions to the Durham community.

Carr’s enigmatic attitude toward race is a taboo subject among Pious Cause historians who contend that Southern whites were unforgivably racist until at least the 1970s. Earlier historians were more broadminded and at least willing to address the dichotomy. One example was Herbert Agar who concluded in 1950 that whites partially blamed black voters for the hardships of Reconstruction that might have been less severe without the Carpetbag regimes.

It was wicked to force the Negro to rule the disfranchised white man [during the Carpetbag era] when everybody knew the position would be reversed as soon as Northerners grew sick of governing their fellow Americans with the sword. It was wicked to turn the Negro free . . . without thought for his future except that he must be bullied into voting Republican. It was extra wicked to commit both these cruelties simultaneously. . .

There is a limit beyond which only the mad moralists and the truly corrupt will go. It was the fate of the Negro . . .  to be sacrificed to an alliance between these two. He didn’t want to run the South . . . But his Northern friends wanted to prove their political theories, or they  simply wanted his vote. The moralist thought he could eat freedom . . .  the others didn’t think at all, beyond the next election. But . . . he gave them his vote, since they asked for it. And the white South has not forgiven him in eighty years . . .*

Booker T. Washington, who would become one of the most prominent of all freedmen, may have anticipated Agar’s analysis. He felt that his race was given more rights than it knew how to use constructively and paid a penalty for decades thereafter. When Radical Republicans abruptly gave blacks full citizenship privileges the ex-slaves didn’t have time to develop leaders or a code of ideals and goals. Washington wrote, “In many cases it seemed to me that the ignorance of my race was being used as a tool with which to help white men into office, and that there was an element in the North which wanted to punish the Southern white men by forcing the Negro into positions over the head of the Southern whites.”**

Any historian wanting to honestly understand Southern race relations should be curious enough to investigate Carr’s inscrutable relationship to blacks. It may have been far more common than modern academics want to admit. Undeniably he was once a devil, but later a major benefactor, highly praised by perhaps North Carolina’s leading black educator of the first half of the twentieth century. Evidently, the riddle doesn’t interest Professor Domby who is working at a tax-supported college on his new book: The False Cause: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory.

* Herbert Agar The Price of Union, (Boston: Hougthon Mifflin, 1950)466-67

** Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery, 84

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Pious Cause Mythology

(November 28, 2017) Since most modern historians have redefined “Lost Cause Mythology” as a derogatory phrase synonymous with racism, a contra-term is required for the false belief that nineteenth century Republicans entered the Civil War to free the slaves and crafted Congressional Reconstruction to chiefly to promote racial equality. One choice might be “Pious Cause Mythology.”

Regarding Reconstruction, one “Pious Cause Mythologist” suggests that anyone claiming Republicans retreated from Reconstruction during  President Grant’s Administration is repeating a dubious “trope.” Since he often labels his critics as “Lost Cause” proponents and racists, he should consider evidence from a Reconstruction-era black leader that validates the very “trope” he doubts.

Specifically, in September 1874 Mississippi carpetbag Governor Adelbert Ames asked President Grant to send federal troops to protect black voters in the state’s November election. Grant declined and Mississippi Republicans lost the election decisively. Ames ever-afterward blamed the defeat on Grant’s failure to so that the elections could be held under the glitter of federal bayonets.

Four decades later mulatto Mississippi Congressman John Lynch explained why Grant didn’t act when Lynch disclosed that the President told him in November 1874 that Mississippi was politically sacrificed to Ohio. Specifically, Grant told Lynch that Ohio Republicans worried they would lose their own autumn elections if the President intervened in Mississippi. Like many Americans, Ohioans watched with concern eighteen months earlier when Grant used federal troops to forcibly install a fraudulently elected Republican regime in Louisiana.

Consequently, Ohioans successfully urged that he keep federal troops out of Mississippi. There is good reason to believe that the Ohio worries were justified because the Buckeye state’s legislature adopted a resolution condemning Grant for interfering a second time in Louisiana after December 1874.

In sum, Lynch was a contemporary black leader whose disclosure revealed that President Grant’s retreat from Reconstruction in Mississippi was purely political. Moreover, it was done for the benefit of Northern Republicans at the expense of the Party’s Southern (mostly black) wing.


Learn more about Reconstruction with:

U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency, by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction, by Philip Leigh