tv The Civil War CSPAN August 17, 2016 6:58pm-8:01pm EDT
policies and legacies all this month in primetime and every weekend on american history tv on c-span3. thursday on american history tv primetime the 40th anniversary of the national air and space museum, the celebration took place in july with the current museum director, retired general jack bailey, and a look at exhibits on the start of aviation and into space exploration. it begins tomorrow night at 8:00 eastern. the civil war institute at gettysburg college in gettysburg pennsylvania recently held a conference on reconstruction and the panel of the civil war. a panel of historians talk about how southerners created their own narrative during reconstruction to explain why the civil war was fought and why the south lost. their talk is about an hour.
>> all right. good evening. i'm peter carmichael. i am a professor of history at gettysburg college and also the director of the civil war institute. it's my pleasure this evening to be moderator and panelist for this session on the anatomy of a lost cause. joining me, to my immediate right is keith bohannon. keith is an assistant professor of history at west georgia university. keith has very long experience in the historical profession. he started off as a seasonal historian, actually as a volunteer at kennesaw national military park when he was a teenager. a teenager. and during that time, he also did extensive research in georgia archives. there simply is not another person who knows more about georgia during the civil war than keith bohannon. he finished his ph.d. at penn state, started under gary gallagher, who then moved on to the university of west virginia
and then mark nealy was keith's adviser. to the right of keith is katy meier. daty is an assistant professor. she just received her promotion -- excuse me, i said assistant. i meant to say associate professor, associate professor at virginia commonwealth university. katy is a graduate or i should say a student of gary gallagher at the university of virginia, where she completed her dissertation, became a book called "nature's civil war," and it's published by university of north carolina press. if any of you have any interest at all in the experience of the civil war soldier, you must read katy's book. it's a path breaking book. it's a book that harkens back to the scholarship of bill wily. she also considers a range of other factors that he did not consider such as the impact of the environment on the lives of civil war soldiers and how those
soldiers through self-care were able to preserve their own lives often against the good judgment of military authorities. "nature's civil war" is an outstanding book, and i recommend it to all of you. so, we have an outline behind us. and it's an outline you're going to see on a few occasions this evening. we're going to try to be fairly structured so that we can capture or hit the big talking points of the lost cause, and with that foundational information, we'll then turn it over to all of you so you can ask us any questions that you might have. again, i am moderator and panelist. we thought maybe i should put an extra chair over by katy and then i could ask the question and run over to that chair and answer it, but i promised i would reserve the hardest questions for myself. okay? all right. so i'm actually going to get it started here. i think the first thing is to begin with what do we mean by a
myth? and it's crucial that we don't see myth or equate myth with falsehood. we should understand that myth, especially in the case of the lost cause, myth is a way of perceiving a truth. and it also provides a vehicle for spiritual and moral meaning. a way of perceiving truth. one thing that i don't think would be very satisfying this evening is if we were to line up all the tenants of the lost cause and knock them all down. falsehood, falsehood, falsehood, falsehood. certainly, there are lots of exaggerations. but within those exaggerations, there are not just kernels of truth which we need to recognize, but what is i think the real task at hand is how did white southerners and why did white southerners come to embrace things for many of us seems absolutely not just ridiculous but put them in sort of a fantasy world. and we know that many of these former confederates were
extraordinarily smart and intelligent individuals. so the task at hand, like any good historian, is to be empathetic, put ourselves in their place, and try to understand how they could perceive truth through something that we, again, it's like any kind of factual merit. the origins of the lost cause. the term lost cause was not created by historians. it in fact emerged during the war but became more popular after 1865. how did that term come to the surface? i can tell you, it didn't happen like this. you didn't get a bunch of former confederates gathering at some resort in a room and say, okay, we need to come up with a way to explain why we lost this war. lost cause. got it. let's put lost cause down. now, let's get the tenets of the lost cause. of course none of that happened. it happened in a much more spontaneous way, and in fact, it comes out of the war itself, as
i mentioned. you can see the lost cause or elements of the lost cause in general orders number nine. general orders number nine, as many of you know, was lee's farewell address to his troops at appomatox courthouse. it was an address that he did not compose. it was an address that one of his staff officers, charles marshall, a graduate of indiana university i might add, he wrote the draft. lee did come in, and he did make some corrections. i think there were some elements of general orders number nine that lee thought was a little harsh toward the union army. i have put in bold just a few sections, and i'm going to go through this quickly. rest assured, we're going to come back to general orders number nine. in this document, in this document, you can again see some of the essence, the essence of
the lost cause interpretation as to why the confederacy failed. of course, i can't see it well from here. so the very first paragraph is crucial. printed in bold. compel to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. second paragraph, and this speaks to this issue of honor. lee, and i should say marshall as well, very sensitive to how confederate soldiers were going to respond to this defeat, and as our previous panel spoke to the issue of subjugation. the word subjugation time and time again, you will find in the letters of confederate soldiers throughout the war. fearful that defeat to the yankees, that that would mean a debasement of them as men, and that loss of mastery. robert e. lee and marshall are clear here, they want to restore the reputations of their men. they want their men to be able to go home and to say to their family members that they did what?
that they in fact served honorably to the very end, and the capitulation was forced upon them because further resistance would have been pointless bloodshed. general orders number nine. it is what i would consider to be one of the most important lost cause documents of the war. edward pollard gets a fair amount of credit and probably too much credit for popularizing the lost cause idea. it's crucial to, i think it's important to remember that southern women played a vital role in advancing the lost cause ideas, and they did that through commemorative activities, especially when it came to the reburial of confederate dead. and many southern women claim that this act, this re-internment of confederate
dead, of creating cemeteries just for them was an apolitical act. they said, we're women, we can't be political. that's impossible. but, of course, what they did was intensely political. so more than pollard, actually, we should give credit to those southern women in those first years after the war from 1865 to 1867, the ladies memorial association in particular, they did good work in advancing that lost cause message. carey janney who will be speaking to us this week, she wrote a book on the lady's memorial association, a book worth checking out, and i believe it's a book that's back in our library. so the popularization of the lost cause in the immediate post-war years, again, all this would strike you sort of odd that i keep saying lost cause. why in the world did defeated confederates employ this language? lost cause. lost cause. it makes, in fact, no sense. because it's a really strange
way of saying that we have been subjugated. almost like an acknowledgment of it. but i would say the use of the lost cause was a foil. lost but not really lost. defeated but not dishonored. and so the language of the lost cause, it, in fact, helps southerners deal with the burden of defeat. you're going to see my ineptitude with technology. for the whole world and c-span to see. who here we go. i have to get through this outline. you'll see the second one comes before the first one, and then there we go. there we go. you'll get some more opportunities to laugh at this when it comes up again. there we go. all right. so, we have to ask ourselves why was the lost cause necessary? why the lost cause was necessary, i believe you should turn to the great southern
historian c. vann woodward. i see all of you out there and i'm not trying to shame my cwi audience, but move your hands for me right now. i do this with my students when they have their pens out there and i'm saying, look, when i suggest that this is something you should write down, even if you're really not doing it, just go through the motion. i would like to see everyone move their hands right now and write down c. vann woodward. c.p vann woodward. c.vann woodward is a must. a brilliant historian of the south, and in and among his many writings, he wrote about the burden of southern history, and in the burden of southern history, he identified the exceptionalism of that history for white southerners. and for white southerners, they had the burden of or i should say the guilt of holding slaves. they had the burden of secession. they had the burden of a war that sacrificed so many lives. and they had the burden of
military occupation. they had to explain not just to themselves but they had to explain to the entire world, and that's crucial and something that i don't think we have heard a lot of around here, and that is reconstruction is something that should not be studied in isolation. this is not just a regional issue. this is an issue that needs to be globalized. white southerners in the post-war period were speaking to the world. they were speaking to a world in which they very much wanted to membership of, a world in which had moved away from slavery, and now they had gone to their death as a nation and as a people to defend an institution that most of the world, of course, had turned its back upon. and so ultimately, why they turned to the lost cause in this explanation is that they had to make the loss of this life, they had to make it sacred. had to make it sacred. and once again, i impress upon all of you as deplorable as many of these ideas are, as
ahistorical as many of them are, we need to position ourselves from the perspective of those former confederates. imagine that bloodletting, that that nation endured, and now coming out of that knowing that who's going to write the history of this war? going to be the victors, of course. all right. now, with that said, let's start to work our way through our outline. i'll turn it over as a moderator, i think i took too much time, but i will give my other panelists an opportunity to speak. we'll have some give and take as we work our way through there, and then like i said, we'll get back and have questions for you all. so the first question. what's the place of slavery in the old south? i'll leave it to either one of you. go right ahead.
>> well, i would say that slavery permeated every aspect of society in the old south. one of the things i like to talk about with my students is that figure that's thrown out where one-quarter of the white population in the old south was slaveholding by the eve of the civil war, does not mean that the rest of the three-quarters of the population was not invested completely in slavery. for instance, those who wanted to move up economically in society would aspire to slave owning because most of the wealth of southerners before the civil war was held in slaves or in land, especially cotton land. and in addition, i would speak to the idea of slave rebellion. whites in the south and the north feared, lived in fear of a reversal of the social order in which blacks were subjugated. and the specter of slave rebellion was something that
every southerner would fear, so in my current home state of virginia, those of you, i'm sure in the audience, know about nat turner's rebellion in the period of the 1830s. nat turner, a slave, had hacked women and children in their beds at night to death. so there was this idea that even if you were not a slave owner yourself, if suddenly the enslaved population rose up and there was a reversal and they perpetrated to whites what was being done to them in the brutal institution of slavery, this meant that possible violence could be done. so all of that to say everyone was invested in the social order of subjugating blacks in slavery in the south. >> one of the people who really popularized some of the main tenets of the lost cause was an ex-confederate general named john b. gordon. we will be talking more about him in a few minutes. in 1903, just a few months
before his death, gordon's reminiscences were published and his depiction of slavery in there, which only takes up a very small portion of the book, it mainly recounts his war career, but the portrayal of slavery that he gives the reader is very typical of what you see in countless lost cause books. slaves are devoted and loyal to their masters. the white and black races in the south know each other and understand each other, and it's only during reconstruction when northerners come down to manipulate and take advantage of freed people that the problems arise. gordon also points to how slavery had existed in almost every state at the time the constitution was ratified. and that its disappearance in the north occurred not because of the anti-slavery sentiment, and again, let me stress, this
is what gordon is saying. this is part of this lost cause mythology. he claims that the end of slavery in the northern states came about not because of it being perceived as immoral. it had to do more with industrialization and a climate that wouldn't allow for slavery. >> let me just add one other element to that, that's relations among whites in the old south. we have heard a lot about the power of race and creating a bond that transcended class. there's no doubt about that. i think at times we overemphasize that power of race because it often reduces, especially poor whites, as to almost unthinking historical actors. they understood that the planner had white skin. they had white skin, but the real differences between them, class differences and social differences, and so to think that all of these men when it came to the war, they simply lined up and followed the elite
class to their death just because they had white skin is a gross oversimplification. and what we really miss is that there was a firm belief, especially again by those who were of the educated and of the elites, that within the south slavery created a system that protected white workers, not just raised them up, but protected them from an economic system that was brutal and unforgiving to workers across the globe. again, the global perspective is essential here. especially in the 1840s and the 1850s. all you have to think about is dickens' england, not a merry time, is it? a place in which industrialization is ripping the shreds out of the english working class, and we're already seeing, or i should say southerners and northerners were already seeing in the united states that this cherished free
labor ideology in which all men rise up by their boot straps wasn't a reality for all white men. so the intellectual class of the south pointed to the north. they pointed to europe, and they said, look. they have no protection as workers. when they get too old or get injured, they get kicked to the curb. but in the south, our laboring class, cradle to grave protection. now, let me be clear. that's a very self-serving, very idealistic, extraordinarily paternalistic view of that system, but it was there view, and you can't just dismiss it out of hand. with that view was a firm commitment to hierarchy. you have heard a lot about mastery. if you believe in mastery, you believe in hierarchy, and you believe all men are created equal. regardless of their skin color. even with the lost cause, that sort of utopian view they have of their society, it's a utopian view in which stratification is absolutely essential for a
society to advance in terms of republicanism, christianity and progress. the south wants to be part of the world of nations. they want to be recognized as a prosperous and advanced civilization, but they say to the rest of the world, we've got the answer, and it's slavery. that's what's going to allow us to avoid all of the chaos that was of course erupting in england and in places in the united states. all right. so we'll move to what caused the civil war? go right ahead. >> want to go first? >> you can go. >> to get back to gordon, i think his reminiscence illustrate one of the main tenets of the lost cause. but in some ways he deviates.
he starts off in his explanation, this is in his reminiscence of why the civil war took place, by saying that slavery was the immediate fomenting cause of the conflict. and it's fair to say that if there hadn't been slavery, there wouldn't have been a war, but then he shifts, and in shifting, he gets to this point that confederate leaders made after the war. davis and alexander stevens in their writings, and then gordon says that it's really the heart of the conflict, that's the phrase he uses, rests with different constitutional interpretations of what the power relationship should be between the federal and state governments. and southerners feared an increasingly powerful national government in the 1850s that would restrict the spread of slavery and that when southerners acted to protect their interest and seceded, the
secession was a constitutional legal action that they were taking. >> i'll be speaking a little more about jubal early, who was known as one of the chief architects of important lost cause ideas. he has a great quote about the cause of the civil war from his memoirs. i'll read that. he says, during the war, slavery was used as a catch word to arouse the passions of a fanatical mob and to some extent, the prejudices of the civilized world were excited against us. but then he goes on to argue, this was not the real cause of the war. war was over, quote, the inestimatable right of self-government against the domination of a fanatical faction at the north and slavery was the mere occasion of the development of the antagonism between the two sections. so what i think early
illustrates very well here is that there was a shift in what leading confederates were arguing caused the war. if you look at their writings in 1861 versus their writings in 1865, you notice a distinct switch from an emphasis on slavery to an emphasis on states' rights or the right of self-government as the cause of secession. and there are, of course, numerous documents we can look at to compare these differences, such as the declarations of secession in 1861, which all highlight slavery. alexander stevens, the vice president's cornerstone speech, et cetera, and then you can compare it to stevens' post war writings where he completely reverses his position. >> which like two volumes. >> it takes two volumes. >> yes, to undo what you said with the cornerstone of the confederacy. the cornerstone of the confederacy speech, again, should reveal to us that it was a very fine line that the slave holders had to walk to be able to gain the support of yeoman
farmers and not slave holders that even in the messages of secession, you see the very heated racial language. you see them being very clear that there's radical factions against the south, but when it came to the moment to go to war, that racial rhetoric for the cause of slavery gets downplayed tremendously. we should also remind ourselves again, i think it's so crucial, and i'm drawing heavily from a famous historian who said the yeoman farmers and nonslave holders, he said they were not political marshmallows. they were used. they were sponges that could be used by the slaveholder class. i think the fact there was so much dissension in the confederacy speaks to that. if in fact those men were so drive by racial ideology they couldn't see their own interests, you would have a hard time explaining the dissent that occurred which then leads to us our next questions which is how
did the southern home front respond to military invasion? according to the lost cause. >> gordon talked about the self-sacrifice of white women on the southern home front in sending their men off to war and then enduring enormous hardships and shortages. he talks about the loyalty of slaves to their masters during the four years of conflict. those at home as well as body servants accompanying their masters off to war. gordon's really in his reminiscence talks -- you hear much about reunion. and he has kind things to say about most union generals, including grant, for his magnanimity at appomattox towards lee's men. but there are a couple union
generals that gordon is not kind to in his writing. and those are david hunter and phil sheridan. that's because of what gordon witnessed in the shenandoah valley in 1864 and the devastation wrought by the army's troops under those two men and what gordon describes as the indescribable suffering of the women and children in the shenandoah valley. >> gordon served under jubal early. much i would say from early's perspective would be similar to gordon's, but jubal earthy was not nice to anyone. jubal early was disgusted by the invasion of the home front. he, you know, deemed what the union had done atrocity, he was particularly fixated on hunter and what hunter had perpetrated against the women of the shenandoah valley. he has some choice quotes about this. he says the scenes on hunter's route from lynchburg had been truly heart rending.
houses had been burned. helpless women and children left without shelter. even the negro girls had lost their little finery. so there is jubal early standing up for the enslaved that hunter had so viciously perpetrated these attacks against. this is not to make little of this. the devastation to the valley was something that early was very impassioned by. and this motivated his ire during the war and after the war. his famous orders to burn chambersburg, he wrote in his memoirs that he did not regret that at all because he felt this was retribution that was deserved because of what the union had done in the valley. it was definitely an igniting piece emotionally in his lost cause. >> so, i'm curious how the two of you tried to teach this to students, because there's a tension here that katy, you have pointed to, and that is you can't deny the fact that there was a hard war strategy that was
waged against the south. right? you can't deny the fact that the military age of the south, their military age population. you can't deny the fact that there was tremendous unity, in fact, unity across class boundaries. so how do you bring this complexity without at the same time reaffirming a lost cause perspective that i think i hope all of us here are somewhat uncomfortable with. how do you teach it? how do you talk about it? >> well, i don't really see attention because going back to what you initially started with, we need to understand that the lost cause had a purpose. that it came from a place of authenticity, even if it developed into a mess. jubal early is an excellent example of the emotional toll that war exacts. and in this case, i'm not talking about, you know, what the veterans panel was speaking of earlier.
i'm talking of this anger and rage and the creation of enemies. that's what war does. and this is what enemies look like. jubal early calls david hunter, david hunter's deeds were those of a malignant and cowardly fanatic who is better qualified to make war against helpless woman and children than upon armed soldiers. early is not just making that up. he feels that's what he's seen when he marched through the valley. so i think that we can give the whole truth, and i think in giving the whole truth, it provides the kind of education you need to understand why the lost cause exists. >> and pointing out again to reiterate something keith said at the beginning at the lost cause myth has kernels of reality in it. we looked at general orders number nine. the army of northern virginia was outnumbered in all of its major battles, as were the other confederate armies.
>> i know the movie hasn't been released yet. the free state of jones. i don't even know what the title of the movie is. >> i think that's it. >> usually hollywood screws that up even. good. what's it going to be? >> 24th of june. >> 24th of june, yes. so i'm very impressed with i believe it's the director who did serious, serious reading about it and is very articulate. i don't agree with all of his findings at all, but that's why historians have jobs. because we have interpretive differences. we're sort of like lawyers. right? we have to keep proving our cases, so i'm fine with his different interpretation. what i heard from him and from some of the clips, we see a confederacy that is badly divided and that division results in poor whites and former slaves or runaway slaves coming together as almost a band of brothers. so i'm curious about your thoughts about -- go ahead. >> i was going to say, but at the same time, when you -- you
also have to ask the question, which scholars often don't. if you focus on guerillas, this unionist resistance on the home front, deserters, how are those people able to operate for so long? and it's because 80% plus of the military age population is in the armies. >> that's a really good point. >> so if that's the case, what does that say about the loyalty to the majority of people in jones county? >> 80% mobilization is just mind-boggling. that level of investment. >> it is, i agree with you. then i think what we lose with that statistic is that mobilization, what's behind it? it's not just all -- >> it's conscription and coercion in addition to volunteering. >> tremendous amount of coercion, tremendous amount of force and violence is there. i think what all this points to is when you start to unpackage the lost cause and you start to then get to see these various experiences and all of these
different stories, they have to be recovered in some way. catherine clinton who had the last comments in our previous session about the return of confederate soldiers, i thought she said it beautifully about why these stories from the dark side, they demand and deserve our attention. just with the lost cause, for anyone to simply reject it, not to take it seriously, because within that you can understand and you can appreciate why men and women during the war and the immediate aftermath of the war, why it was so easy for them to make this bloodletting, this loss of life, why they thought it had to be made sacred. and to dismiss that out of hand as historians is problematic, and i think that it's also problematic even today. we're far too quick to see any expression of confederate heritage as an expression of racism or an expression of someone who is just not historically well informed. if you're ever going to create a real conversation with people who have different perspectives, the very first step, of course, is not to dismiss their views
out of hand. it's easy to sometimes do that with the lost cause. i mean, keith and i have worked at national parks and engaged a range of visitors who had really curious views. and i think we learned quickly on to sit there and try to tell them that their understanding as to why the south lost or the slavery wasn't important, i came to see that a frontal attack wasn't going to work with them. but what was going to work with them was to say, you know what, i understand you had ancestors who fought on the confederate side. i understand why you feel when i say slavery caused the war, i'm damning your ancestors, but i'm not. if you say that, you might get the conversation going. >> i think john's book on the confederate battle flag is an excellent example of dealing with this issue in a nuanced and kind of changeover kind of way. >> a very good book. we'll move to why did the confederacy fail? >> we have answered this
question with the first document we looked at up there, with the general orders number nine. and jubal early said lee's army had been gradually worn down by the combination of numbers, steam power, railroad. so he's combining the north industrial might as a cause for confederate defeat with the overwhelming number of soldiers in the union army. and there's little acknowledgment in most of the lost cause writings that union victory came about because of superior generalship on the part of northern officers. >> can you all help me here with gettysburg because in the lost cause and gettysburg is pivotal in trying to explain away the confederate defeat. can we talk a little bit about gettysburg and how its place in this theory of confederate defeat. >> i'll start a little bit and
then i'll turn it over. >> should we -- >> keith is going to give a tour on this, right? >> yes. >> i will be as well. >> he can give a little preview. but what i would say about that is, again, jubal early was one of the leading figures who was damning james longstreet, and i have a choice quote from him again because he's a very quotable fellow. i am firmly convinced that if general lee's plans had been carried out in the spirit in which they were conceived and there he reese talking on the second kay of gettysburg, a decisive victory would have been obtained which perhaps would have secured our independence. so, again, this is a post-war construction, and indeed, the focus on longstreet is really in the 1870s after james longstreet had publicly made statements about robert e. lee that -- >> and after robert e. lee's death. >> and after robert e. lee's death, good point. and jubal early, one of his chief projects was to idolize robert e. lee and protect his image. so that angered him.
and, you know, helped to kind of shift the focus to longstreet. but in addition, as many of you know, longstreet had committed apostasy by becoming a republican. >> he was his own worst enemy. tripped over himself all the time. >> right, which was just another reason to attack him. so it's really in the 1870s that this shift goes to -- well, maybe gettysburg wag the moment and maybe james longstreet was the reason. and a.p. hill and dick yule come into -- under fire as well. >> tell us about lee here. and just how the lost cause, how it venerates the message. >> i think the first thing we should point out is that it's not solely a lost cause, construction of the veneration of lee. i mean, there's a staggering amount of evidence from the war that lee's victories in the first two years of the conflict had an enormous impact on confed
rat morale, and so that's a point i would bring up first. >> yeah, absolutely. and, again, early and many other ex-confederate generals made it their project to venerate lee. for early, i think it was personal, because when he had faced defeat in the shenandoah valley in 1864, lee had to remove him from command but did so very gently and kindly in a letter saying, you know, the public has lost faith in you, but i haven't. you have done a great job for the confederacy, and after the war, before lee's death, lee and early exchanged numerous letters that i think early treasured. you know, lee was so important to him. and in those letters, lee said, let's put the emphasis on manpower and materiel to show the world the real reason we
lost. so this became a pet project between the two of them, and i think this kind of melded and early put a lot of effort into venerating lee. >> and lee, just to clarify, lee was writing early and gordon and quite a few other generals in the years immediately after appomattox to try to obtain copies of their reports, and lee was also particularly interested in getting strength figures to help bolster the argument that his army had always been grossly outnumbered by the armies at the potomac. >> which is an important part about lee. he was working behind the scenes and if he hadn't been working behind the scenes and if he in fact gone public. >> in what respect? >> in his views, if he had written his memoir like he intended to do. >> confederates were urging him. >> we all know, when you go >> we obviously all know when you go public and engage in that kind of debate, no one ever looks good. so in a way, lee's standing behind the scenes and dying in 1870, to a degree, that preserved his reputation.
>> but he's also extraordinarily busy as a president of a struggling college. that's one of the big factors that prevented him -- >> of course. >> and failing health from writing the book. >> of course, but he also thought entering the fray was distasteful. he didn't want to engage in that kind of thing. as you know, he never wanted to return to the battlefields. here's where the lost cause comes in. it appears he's just above the fray. but he was engaging in correspondents behind the scene. he made it very clear the wrong side had won this war. he was very dissatisfied with republican rule. he was no friend of black folks both during or after the war. of course, the lost cause, it's able to smooth all those edges over, but i think keith's point is an important one to remind ourselves of. that he was during the war, r.e. lee, the idol of his people. then after the war, he became the quintessential christian gentleman. and a great general.
there, again, it's a tough thing to teach to your students. because did he not carry himself that way? some will say, my god, how can a professor of history say that when r.e. lee was a slaveholder? again, that would be missing the point here. the point is that how he carried himself at the time, how he was perceived by not just confederates but by many northerners as well, they elevated at a point that he was christ-like. and so that's why gettysburg, again, is so crucial here, because gettysburg, you have to find scapegoats because r.e. lee has a military record with one asterisk on it, and it's gettysburg, right? so now early makes a hell of a lot of accepts as does pendleton among others as to why they have to destroy not just longstreet's
reputation but others because they have to show the world they weren't outgeneraled. because of course this also means what? the war doesn't exist beyond the appalachia mountains. does it? it exists only in virginia. if it exists only in virginia, you can focus on lee as the great general who was never out generaled, simply worn down by superior numbers and oh, wait, we have gettysburg and with gettysburg, we have the great turning point in the war. if only longstreet or yule or stewart or name others had only done what lee wanted, things would have been different. and that part of the lost cause, it's still very much with us. keith and i are going to talk about this on monday. not all of you, of course, will be on the tour, but to me what's striking is that longstreet's reputation has been redeemed, hasn't it? through killer angels and through the movie and through very good scholarship. there's more balance with longstreet. what's still extraordinarily troubling to me is that there still is a lost cause hold on this whole subject, because now
people will speak about james longstreet and say, if lee had only listened to longstreet. if he had only done that. if he had disengaged and taken a defensive position and let the yankees hurl their legions against lee's army, things would have been different. they would have won a great battle in pennsylvania and marched on to washington, d.c. when i hear that hallucination, i want to interrupt folks and say, do you know what you're saying? and we do this far too often i think as civil war students. we depoliticize these what-ifs of the civil war. what you're saying is you want confederate victory. you want one of those nations and ultimately you want one of those nations committed to slavery. so just stop the what-ifs. especially richard yule. that drives me nuts.
>> the legacy. >> all right. so we sort of covered it early in gordon. and so let's do the last question. what is the legacy of the lost cause? what is the legacy of the lost cause? >> this is a complex question. we could spend a couple hours just grappling with this. i'll take -- i'll make one point here. i mean, in terms of physical reminders, where i'm from, every county seat, every courthouse square, has a confederate monument. and most of these were erected within a nearer timeframe to 1890s up through 19 teens, they were erected for multiple reasons. they were erected to commemorate the staggering loss of life that had taken place in those four years. but they're also reminders to everyone in those communities, onmipresent, day-to-day
reminders of who holds the reins of power, and they're being erected during a time when some pretty terrible things are taking place. being erected in the 1890s to the beginning of the 20th century when you have the imposition of disenfranchisement. african-americans being stripped of the vote. you have jim crow laws being passed that enact legalized segregation, and you have lynchings. those monuments today are problematic as we know. if you follow headlines, particularly since the horrific incidents in charleston, these monuments are becoming contested, more so than they have in the recent past. >> i'm going to ask what do you think? how do you teach -- she's at bcu in richmond. monument avenue, a monument that has jackson, lee, stewart, and arthur ashe. >> on monument avenue. >> on monument avenue, yes. >> on all on one major
thoroughfare. >> i'm sure this issue comes up with your students. how do you handle it? >> well, i mean, i teach a mixed population, a diverse population of students, because bcu is an urban campus. so i have students who come up to me in class and say that their families have a picture of jesus on their fridge next to a picture of robert e. lee. i teach a large number of students of various ethnicities and races and genders, like i said, a very mixed group. so there are mixed ideas. i think about what they believe should be done with monuments. so, i mean, i honor that, frankly. i don't tell them that i have the right answer, but rather that we have to have conversations as communities. and i'm heartened that we are having conversations as communities because as we know, the lost cause interpretation has, you know, it started in the
south. it spread through popular culture to the whole country in the 20th century. and when we compare the centennial to the sesquicentennial celebrations, we see an emphasis on emancipation coming back that had been obscured for so long. so i think it's very healthy that we have conversations. what i tell my students is the job of historians is to provide context for the monuments so we know they are jim crow era artifacts, and i think keith did a beautiful job of explaining there were many motivations behind putting these monuments up. the idea of honoring the dead, the fallen, et cetera. in addition to honoring white superiority over blacks, so these are all ideas that are encompassed in these statues. when they stand out there by themselves, people may not know the story or only parts of the story, so finding ways to
provide context, if possible, is extremely useful. >> joe titus who is on the staff here is working on an interpretive marker for the south carolina monument here at gettysburg. what she's doing and i know there are other communities doing this even in georgia is to put up interpretive markers next to the monuments. >> ole miss is doing that. >> to provide that context. first of all, for those who want to remove the monuments or take them to cemeteries or just destroy them, that makes utterly no sense to me, because it seems to me that if you want people to appreciate and to understand what union armies accomplished, not just of course union victory, but also emancipation, we have to encounter, we have to contend with what they were up against. and we also have to, as keith pointed out so nicely, that these monuments, they say much more about the age of jim crow than they do about the civil war. it's horrifying to me to think that many of these individuals
just want to wipe the slate clean when in fact if we had other interpretive markers there, that people could have to read so they could understand and appreciate why these monuments were unveiled, i think that that would do a great deal in trying to understand and make history relevant, which everyone is crying out for. i think there is a way of doing it. and above all else, i hope we can all agree upon this. i want to preserve my right to be offended. i mean it. i want my right to be offended to be preserved. i'm offended -- [ applause ] >> i'm offended by many of those confederate monuments, but i know that taking them off that commemorative landscape is just an absolutely grave mistake. and so if you get an opportunity, jill has done some wonderful work. at some point, we need to get her to lead a tour of the battlefields as they relate to the centennial in the 1960s, and i'll end with this and we'll turn to questions. katy mentioned the 150th.
and i will -- i think we all should be extraordinarily proud and feel a great sense of gratification about where we have come in a very short period of time. getting to go back to what catherine clinton said about all these voices. i think all those voices are coming up to the surface now. they're all being discussed. we're really engaging history in a way that you did not see in the centennial. what we have done here and what others have done throughout this 150th anniversary, it's truly remarkable. truly remarkable. all right. we have some questions from the audience, i believe, that are going to be read to us. and there's jill coming up to the mike. >> did southern religious traditions and rhetoric have an effect on the south's ability to accept contradictory elements of the lost cause? >> that's a good one.
>> it's a fantastic question. >> their ability to accept -- i mean, that's a really excellent question. i would say that the religious and cultural context certainly shaped the manner in which the lost cause is framed by various people. for instance, one of the major reasons that the lost cause was developed was that people had to come to terms with the fact that they had lost, and they thought they were morally correct and god was on their side. so they had to cope with those seemingly contrary ideas. so i think they continued to justify and fixate on elements that they could say were morally correct, and some of those were in contradiction with each other. >> yeah. i'll just quickly add i think you're spot on. you know, it's the idea that going into the war they thought god was on their side.
just as northerners did, and at the end, again, this is a great shock, but did former confederates, did they lose their faith in god? did they lose their christianity? they didn't, and, again, our previous panel which i thought was very good, these were some things that i thought needed to be discussed. these men, even though the trauma of war and of defeat, nonetheless, they had faith that they could hang to in a very meaningful and powerful way and religion was one of them because they told themselves we lost but we're not defeated, and god will in fact, will vindicate us. it will happen, and they thought hopefully in their lifetimes, right, but they truly did believe in that and then the next point is that the lost cause in itself became a religion. if you've done any reading about it it's very, very clear. a great book on the lost cause, a starter, a primer, would be gaines foster, "ghost of the
confederacy." >> wilson's "baptized in blood" is a book that looks specifically at a topic that the person asked about the relationship between protestant and evangelical christianity and the lost >> great job. i'm sorry. yes, go ahead. >> did the lost cause rationalization gain international traction in england and france? >> this is -- it's so anecdotal that i shouldn't even repeat it, but i'll just say when we worked at the park, i never met a brit who wasn't a zealot for the confederacy. i never have. i'm sorry. there will be some international incident now that i said this. they have to worry about the eu now. so they're not going to care about this. >> there was a lot of pro-confederate sentiment during the civil war, particularly in england. class is an important factor there, particularly among the upper class. >> i agree. i think part of it even resonates with northerners and southerners today, why it resonates with the brits and
germans, there is something romantic about the confederacy. and of course, i will come clean here. i probably shouldn't, especially on national tv, but i was a confederate re-enactor as a boy. i was born in indiana. my mom claims i was a confederate re-enactor because it was cheaper to get a uniform on the union side. i'm not sure that was it. i knew slavery was a moral wrong, i knew slavery was the cause of the war. but there was just, again, something that -- it was just i'll use the word again. there is a romantic appeal to the confederacy. i suspect that explains a lot about why our friends in england and in germany are infatuated with confederacy. yeah, go ahead. >> how does an examination of the lost cause inform a critical examination of our national myths, such as e pluribus unum. >> wow. geez. >> wow. >> hmm.
>> pete, you take it away. you said you'd take the hard ones. >> yeah. [ applause ] >> no, that's not what i said. i said i would take the hard ones that i asked. that's what i said. >> no. someone rewind the tape. >> can you repeat the question? >> sure. >> we actually need a lifeline is what we need here. >> jim martin, are you in the audience? >> how does an examination of the lost cause of southern myth inform critical examination of our national myths, such as e pluribus unum. >> how does it inform our national myths. i think by the early 20th century the lost cause myth becomes a national myth and lee becomes an icon alongside abraham lincoln. you can look in john brown gordon's memoirs and see that. he has very positive things to say about abraham lincoln
alongside -- >> that's a really good question, it is an excellent response and it needs to remind us how malleable the lost cause is over time. it is always changing. how it can bring lots of contradictory elements together. >> the mantra of heritage, not hate. that's not something that ex-confederates ever said. that's not something you would have heard in the mid 20th century. that's a very recent mantra that, to me, suggests that people are on the defensive. but i hear it all the time. >> daughters of the confederacy daughters of the confederacy in the early 20th century. this is when the national reunification comes about. the lost cause has been sort of submerged in that. the daughters are holding contests about writing about the glories of the old south and r.e. lee and at the same time they're spewing their racial hatred, and they are supporting behind u.s. militarism abroad.
so you see all those what you would think are contradictory elements. they are able to come together. and again, talk to you about the evolution of the lost cause. heritage is not hate is something you didn't hear in the 1920s. it is something you heard in the last 20, 30 years. >> i tried looking at it this afternoon and couldn't find the origin of the term, but i know it's very, very recent. >> and to remind you again, here again the lost cause from the beginning from the ladies memorial associations in 1866 and 1867 saying we're not political, we're not political. of course they're political. heritage, not hate? that's deeply political. deeply political. deeply political. >> yeah. it is malleable. how are we doing? go ahead. >> if woodward's "burden of southern history" places the guilt of slavery, succession, and the death of 750,000 young men on southern society, why is
the confederate battle flag the most recognized symbol of southern history and ideology celebrated instead of being associated with that guilt? >> again, i call our attention to john cosby's excellent book on the topic. and what he argues very convincingly is that the flag took on different means at different people and it was used. and it was a malleable symbol. so one person can hold the confederate flag and say it is simply heritage, not hate, right? saying i'm remembering my lineage, i'm remembering my family. another person can hold a flag and say to me it is about federalism and i think that federal government should have a light hand and the state should have a heavier hand. >> i would say during the civil war, just speaking to the confederate flag issue, the flag obviously begins as a symbol of the nation. take the flag into battle, men that die under that flag and men who are from that same community.
and now that flag is drenched in blood. it becomes a sacred emblem. it takes on a different meaning. again, helping us, i hope, to complicate why the confederacy against incredible odds maintained impressive class cohesion for much of the war. lots of explanations. but the confederate flag itself becomes a sacred object and because it was an object on the battlefield. i think we have time for one more? ashley, go ahead. one more. >> this is a combination of two different questions concerning rape in the civil war. how does the lost cause respond to the rape of former slaves by confederate troops, and conversely, how does it handle the issue of rape against southern women by union soldiers? >> most writings are silent on that topic. at least memoirs.
certainly public talks. just thinking off the top of my head. >> i've looked at a lot of cases where men on the union side the court-martial doesn't exist for the confederate side, union soldiers who were convicted of rape. in one instance in 1864, a patrick, a marshall of the army of the potomac, he was so concerned about the propaganda that the confederates were using against the north that african american soldiers had been let loose, and they of course were raping white women, that he wanted to make a point after a black soldier had been convicted of raping -- possibly raping, committing sexual violence against a white woman. he went to such great lengths that -- the soldier's name was william johnson. he had johnson's scaffolding placed on the trenches in petersburg in full view of the confederate lines.
of course the confederates didn't know what they were doing. confederates thought the yankees were hanging a spy so they shelled the area. a few white union soldiers were killed. white flag went up. they explained to the confederates in fact this was a black soldier convicted of rape. patrick, he choreographed this to the very end. he brought in two photographers. if you go to william frazeito's book, "grant and lee," he is a graduate here. it's a fantastic book. those photographs are taken of johnson hanging from the scaffolding. and then that image was made into a picture for "harper's weekly." it was a huge picture so it was in the public discourse. they weren't hiding it. one final point about this, it completely backfired for patrick. because what he discovered is -- one, i've looked at this very, very intensely. there's only one small article about this in the confederate papers. i thought the confederates would play this up everywhere. they didn't do it. some slaves who ran away from the confederate lines came to
patrick and they said, when they had johnson on the scaffolding, that the confederates pointed across the lines and they said to the black slaves, to the laborers, this is what the yankees do to slaves. this is what they do to african-americans. and so patrick's attempt to try to send a message that would infiltrate the public discourse of the confederacy. didn't work at all. so there was some discussion of it. does it emerge in the lost cause? >> birth of the nation. >> birth of the nation. i don't know why i didn't think of that. one of the two most important films made to propagate the lost cause, enormously important film. there are scenes of attempted rape there but in the case of "birth of a nation," it is the black rapist endangering the purity of virginal white south carolina woman. that's their best example. >> also "gone with the wind."
she's attacked. >> she's the yankee on the staircase. >> did scarlet shoot her? >> scarlet shoots him. >> thank you very much. [ applause ] american history tv airs on c-span3 every weekend telling the american story through events, interviews and visits to historic locations. this month american history tv is in prime time to introduce you to programs you could see every weekend on c-span3. our features include lectures in history, visits to college classrooms across the country to hear lectures by top history professors. american artifacts takes a look at treasures at u.s. historic sites, museums and archives. reel america revealing the 20th century through archival films and news reels.