Almost right after the guns fell silent, a counter-factual and ultimately pernicious narrative of the Civil War took shape that proved to be one of the longest lasting and most tenacious historical fallacies to shape how Americans understood and contextualized their past. The Lost Cause interpretation, originally intended to rationalize objections and resistance to Reconstruction and to validate Southern white supremacy, grew to take on national significance for over a century after it first appeared in the 1870s. In a deeply personal assessment of how the Lost Cause shaped his own life and career, retired brigadier general and United States Military Academy Emeritus Professor Ty Seidule challenges the myths and lies of the Confederate legacy in his book Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner's Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause (St. Martin's Press, 2021).
From his childhood growing up in Alexandria, Virginia and in Georgia, to his college years at Washington and Lee University and his early career as an officer in the United States Army, to his tenure as first an associate professor in history at the United States Military Academy to his service as chair of the department there, General Seidule offers a candid look, informed by historical case studies and evidence, of how the Lost Cause continues to exert power over Americans to this day, and why this must end.
Bob Wintermute is professor of history at Queens College, CUNY.