The Lost Cause of Civil War History.

Discussion in 'The Thunderdome' started by MaconVol, May 3, 2012.

  1. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    I have had a Civil War and Reconstruction course this semester, and we have been studying the Lost Cause. For those that don't know, the Lost Cause was started by Confederates who wanted to change the perception of the South after it was defeated in the Civil War. Those who took part often tried to misconstrue the idea that the South was wrong in its stances during the time leading up to and during the war. They tried to leave the impression that the Confederate's cause was noble, and that they were defeated by the Union because of force, not skill(partly true). This has led to an awful lot of confusion for historians who are trying to get the perception of how the war should be remembered.

    What are y'alls thoughts on this? I for one, think it is complete bs that they did this, but Iguess if I was in their shoes, I would have done the same. Thoughts?

    It is believed that Jubal Early was the first one to really do this with his 'My Account on the War".
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
  2. JohnnyQuickkick

    JohnnyQuickkick Great Man

    Class @ UT? I took CW&R as an elective back in 2002 or so... best class I ever took over there. I don't remember studying the Lost Cause. It's pretty clear to me (and most everyone, I guess) that whatever different people try to say the war was about, (states' rights and the like) it was about slavery and that institution was morally wrong, but I think it may get overlooked that most Confederate soldiers were just fighting for their homes and probably weren't all that wrapped up in the Cause.
     
  3. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    I am taking it at Tennessee Tech through the RODP system. My teacher is actually a professor at Memphis though. I agree about the war's main cause being slavery. We studied slavery and states' rights at the beginning of the semester.
     
  4. volfanjo

    volfanjo Chieftain

    We all need justification for our actions and like to think our ancestors did things for noble reasons. Obviously the great irony of people defending the Old South is that most of us were excluded from the patrician lifestyle of the plantation. And for those of us in East Tennessee we were ambivalent to all of it, or in some cases, actually antagonistic to the Southern cause.
     
  5. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    If im correct, wasn't East Tennessee mostly a Unionist Territory, and Middle and West Tennessee Confederate?
     
  6. VolDad

    VolDad Super Moderator

    I doubt revisionist history was limited to the Civil War.
     
  7. JayVols

    JayVols Walleye Catchin' Moderator

    John Wilkes Boothe did the greatest injustice to the South by assassinating Lincoln when he thought he was exacting some measure of vengance. The death of Lincoln left a power vaccuum that was filled by the Radical Republican Reconstructionists led by folks like Thaddeus Stephens and Charles Sumner who wanted to punish the South. Lincoln favored a more forgiving Reconstruction and moving forward as a united nation. The Radicals pushed for military occupation where US generals were placed as political leaders of their district and re-wrote southern states' constitutions. This created more animosity and ill will than necessary, imo. The lone state to escape occupation of 2nd Reconstruction was Tennessee because they quickly ratified the 14th Amendment granting citizenship rights to African Americans.

    I feel the way 2nd Reconstruction went down created a larger chip on many states' shoulder. The Lost Cause efforts are born out of this animosity. I think there's still spillover animosity today from 2nd Reconstruction not consciously but more of an ingrained and institutionalized animosity passed from generation to generation.

    If Lincoln wasn't assassinated, he had the political power to enforce his brand of reuniting the nation. I feel there would be much less harsh feelings had this played out. Yes, it is my belief that the majority of the ill will/animosity fostered by many in the south even today is a result of Radical Reconstruction, particularly 2nd Reconstruction. The aftermath of the war caused more issues than the results of the war itself.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
  8. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    I am writing a paper as we speak about your 1st paragraph. I have already written everything except for about Wilkes Booth.
     
  9. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    The Lost Cause isn't really revisionist history, imo.y
     
  10. JayVols

    JayVols Walleye Catchin' Moderator


    I would submit the war wasn't about slavery issues per se but rather about freedom issues. For the South, it was the freedom to live the way they saw fit. That included slavery which was viewed as an economic necessity.

    The North had a different view of freedom. Many poorer whites (laborers) along with free blacks were immigrants or 1st or 2nd generation immigrants from areas where freedom and equality were not the norm. The South using slaves to perform the same basic type of labor that they performed cheapened their freedom to a degree. If slavery was condoned in a nation that valued freedom, just how free were the laborers in the North? The wealthier business owners also felt that slavery endangered their economic freedom. The general feeling was that it was an unfair economic advantage for the South because they didn't have to pay their labor. This jeopardized their livelihoods despite their industrial advantage in that southern men of commerce had an unfair advantage due to lower production costs. If the South were to industrialize, they could undercut Northern industries on the price of manufactured goods due to cheap slave labor.

    Just some alternative ways of looking at the situation.
     
  11. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    I argued a point similar early on in the class and the teacher told me that I was wrong and it was more about slavery than rights. The funny thing is that it is supposed to be an opinion based class for the most part, but i had points taken off for arguing that rights was more of a cause.
     
  12. JayVols

    JayVols Walleye Catchin' Moderator

    Closer to 50-50. There were very staunch Unionist areas like Greene County. Much of the perception you speak of is a result of the vote for secession. Sullivan County is the lone county in Northeast Tennessee to vote in favor of leaving the Union. When Tennessee did seceed, around half (give or take) supported the state's decision even if they voted to remain in the Union.
     
  13. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    By the way, I wish i would have posted this earlier. You make some great points Jay.
     
  14. JayVols

    JayVols Walleye Catchin' Moderator

    Better you than me. Lol. I hated papers.
     
  15. JayVols

    JayVols Walleye Catchin' Moderator

    Read the book The Story of American Freedom by Eric Foner. The whole justification for the war being more about freedom than simply slavery is eloquently laid out in his pages. It sounds like your professor hasn't read Foner and his brilliantly laid out arguments, or he isn't a "fan" of Foner's work.

    Unfortunately, college isn't about what you believe. It's about giving the instructor what they believe. I learned that lesson early in my freshman year.
     
  16. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    We have used some of Foner's work. Not that book though.
     
  17. MaconVol

    MaconVol Chieftain

    I am not a big fan of those types of books. We have read some in this course, and to me all they are, are these historians getting on a trip about one thing and making point after point arguing for it, while the exact opposite can be argued and made sound just as good. I guess im just a sucker for solid facts and it seems like there aren't that many when discussing the war, other than the obvious ones, like who won etc....
     
  18. JayVols

    JayVols Walleye Catchin' Moderator

    Thanks. I guess with a degree, 18 years of teaching with continuing education, and 17 years of re-enacting, one is bound to pick up something. Even if it's just by osmosis.
     
  19. JohnnyQuickkick

    JohnnyQuickkick Great Man

    I don't disagree with any of this, but the root of the issue is still slavery existing in the South. I do think that people overstate the moral superiority of the North. The economic issues were very much at the heart of it too.
     
  20. JayVols

    JayVols Walleye Catchin' Moderator

    Addendum to earlier reply: substitute freedom for rights. I'm convinced that the majority of poorer whites in the North really didn't have overwhelming sympathies for slaves. It was more of a concern for their own freedom. In reality, there wasn't a great deal that separated slaves and Northern laborers in how they were viewed socially. They felt that their freedom was not as significant as the higher class Northerners because a bunch of slaves performed the same basic labor in the South. This diminished their freedom in their own eyes. There also was the fear that they, too, could become slaves to industry much like Southern agricultural slave labor. These sentiments do not die with the abolition of slavery. They endure into the age of the Robber Barons during the Guilded Age and on into the Progressive/Union movements. I think an argument can be made that this sentiment endures today. Unskilled and to an extent skilled laborers fear for their freedom especially their economic freedom in 2012. With the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and a glut of cheap immigrant labor from Mexico and other Latin American nations, their fears aren't totally unjustified.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2012

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