Lost Cause Nostalgia Revisited

This video was originally posted to YouTube back in 2009, but it still packs a punch. It is perfect for generating a discussion in a high school or college level class on the Civil War that addresses memory.

30 comments… add one
  • And the comments section is perfect for elementary and junior high level discussion.

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    • The comments section is also worth exploring in a classroom setting.

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  • I was angry during the beginning, with my own internal commentary, such as “at the price of the suffering of others.” On my family tombstones it says CSA, and I still experience a momentary reflexive reverence at the image for Lee, followed by sadness for how “good” people can commit horrors. I think this is the meaning of Original Sin. We believe our own mythology and commit horrors.

    I cannot be nostalgic.

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    • Well if “good” people commit horrors, then the logical conclusion is they are not good people.

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      • Or maybe it’s a fundamental mistake to assume that people are binary to begin with.

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      • Thank you, Andy Hall, that is it exactly. Also, we consider ourselves to be “good” people, but future generations may question (to take only one example) how we could have been to selfish as to destroy the environment for future generations.

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        • I have a collateral ancestor about who my written a number of times, Lawrence Daffan, a former Confederate soldier who went on to lead what in many ways was an exemplary and very successful life. But he was also a Klansman during Reconstruction, and there is no way to make that a positive thing or to rationalize it away. It just is, and we have to take it all, good and bad, as part of the whole. We don’t do them (or ourselves) any favors by pretending otherwise.

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  • “On my family tombstones it says CSA, and I still experience a momentary reflexive reverence at the image for Lee”

    On my family tombstones it says “US Army” and I am immensely proud to have served (over a century later of course) in the force that destroyed the CSA and ended slavery. When I walk an old battlefield I am filled with reverence for the men who fought there. When I visit Arlington cemetery, I have a bit of – I suppose schadenfreud is the right word – for the fact that Lee’s slave plantation was taken over to become what is for me the most revered site in the USA, and that black American soldiers from the civil war rest there.

    The hell with Lee and all the rest of the confederate leadership. They committed the most horrible acts of treason and terrorism ever seen in the USA. They should have been tried and imprisoned for the rest of their lives.

    We also need to separate the idea of the confederacy from the idea of the south. It is possible to love the south and hate the confederacy. Neoconfederates are among us still, but it makes me a little crazy when people say or write “the south” when they mean “the confederacy”. People assert things about “southerners” when they mean “supporters of the confederacy” or “white southerners”.

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    • Good point, Stan. Presumably at least 4 million residents of the South weren’t fans of the Confederacy.

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    • Stan, I do not disagree with you. Perhaps I did not explain myself well. I was expressing sadness that I can even momentarily be hooked by this BS. I had thought my final line made that clear, but I guess not.

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      • I’m sorry I misinterpreted your remark.

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        • And I am sorry if I was not clear enough on such a loaded and potentially divisive topic. I appreciate your acknowledgment.

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  • I was the kind of kid that brought home stray dogs and defended lost causes – the consummate gladiator ready in the waiting. This video would have wrecked havoc on my over developed romantic approach to life at the time, especially when it takes its abrupt turn into reality. Actually, to be honest, I was watching with an inexcusable amount of passivity (not enough caffeine?) so that when the “message” changed, it felt like someone forced a gear change from 2nd to 5th — gray matter sprockets flying. I would have wondered why it was that I found the romantic version of the South so palatable, which for my usual ‘defend the underdog’ persona, should have made the video’s initial message immediately repulsive. Indeed, I believe that the video – with its mixed message – continues to be an excellent teaching tool for those of us who will never outgrow our “student” status.

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  • I found it overly simplistic and filled with the excessive “superiority” speech of non-nuanced, “an answer is not expected from your type” kind of stuff. Sure, the song makes me want to puke…but that is a stylistic thing. As for its value as a teaching tool, it has none. A conversation can not begin from the standpoint of…”I am better and you are stupid”…which is what the creator of this piece wanted to get across here. The war, the personal reasons for fighting in it, the political reasons for waging it are all highly complex issues worthy of thoughtful, reasoned discussion. Any historian that wants to paint all confederate soldiers as slave-owning racists is as blind as any gaped-tooth flagger in the south.

    This on-going conversation deserves better.

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    • I didn’t share it under the assumption that it offered a neutral or objective point of view. It’s value as a classroom conversation starter is that it does push a certain perspective.

      Any historian that wants to paint all confederate soldiers as slave-owning racists is as blind as any gaped-tooth flagger in the south.

      I have no idea if the creator of this video is a historian.

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      • Kevin,

        I did not mean to imply that you used this video as a neutral or objective point of view. Nor do I think you know the author. I recognize that you were putting it here to gives us something to view and discuss and my evaluation is born from that. I respect your work and hope I did not present an assumption that you are a lazy historian.

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        • Not at all. As always I just wanted to clarify my position. Thanks, Patrick.

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    • Patrick,

      It is pretty hard to have a conversation with people who reject facts. There are all kinds of things to talk about concerning the Civil War era, but when people refuse to accept that slavery played the central role in causing the conflict or that Jefferson Davis started the war by ordering the attack on Ft. Sumter, facts which are well documented, you cannot have a conversation.

      Then when you explore why those people refuse to accept those facts and what drives them, you realize it really does not involve the actual Civil War as much as it involves their modern political ideology. Then you begin to see the role that racism plays in that modern political ideology.

      It is pretty hard to have a discussion about history when the other person is not interested in history beyond sustaining their ideology.

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    • Your reaction is very interesting: seeing a desire to dictate when what I noted about the second part is that the text comprised a lot of questions. The thing I noted about the first part was that the pictures showed the wealth of the Confederacy with no hint of where it came from, and no look-in from whites who didn’t own plantations or, mostly, command Confederate soldiers. And the number of little white girls in the pictures is interesting. Are they merely symbolizing innocence and piety or is there a hint of “these are the pure white flowers that we must protect from the scary black people”?
      I’m with Kevin. I think this is a very interesting conversation starter.

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  • QUOTE: “And the number of little white girls in the pictures is interesting. Are they merely symbolizing innocence and piety or is there a hint of “these are the pure white flowers that we must protect from the scary black people”?”

    Oh, wow: I must be asleep at the wheel. I just thought that the pictures were done up with family appeal, much like adding puppies to Christmas cards: it amps up the warm fuzzies. I guess my analytical skills are not up to par when it comes to Lost Cause propaganda.

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    • Women played a crucial role in the formation of the Lost Cause narrative and they figured prominently in it as unwavering supporters of the Confederacy. A good place to start on this is Caroline Janney’s book on the Ladies Memorial Asssociation.

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      • As usual, thank you very much for the educational tip. I have been trying to piece together the whole ball of wax of confederate history revision from the Lost Cause to the current Confederate Heritage. I think I took on a little too much at once.

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        • Shoshana, Perhaps even more ‘too much’ but there is a fascinating book, Confederate reckoning’ by Stephanie McCurry. It details the ‘soldiers’ wives revolt’ in the South. Additionally, it adds up the details of the revolt against Confederate authority, both civil and military by Black people. Some readers have blogged that it is repetitive in their reviews, and I too saw her ‘start over’ when reaching into conditions state by state during the war. But, that said, finding out about Mary Jackson and Mary Jamieson of Richmond is worth the money spent. The chapter, ‘Women, Numerous and Armed’ is a good place to start. The voices of ordinary women are brought to the fore beyond the patriotic letters to loved ones in the armed forces that we all familiar with.

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          • Quote:The voices of ordinary women are brought to the fore beyond the patriotic letters to loved ones in the armed forces that we all familiar with.

            I thought that I had sussed out most of the old canards weighing down my progress in CW study, but they keeping popping up like….moles. Thus far, I have not really given the topic of contributions by women during the Civil War other than statues erected by the UDC & the writings of Mildred Lewis Rutherford, and yes: patriotic letters to loved ones.

            I need to start a new book list: Women & the Civil War.

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      • Although it deals with memory only tangentially, I enjoyed “Civil wars: Women and the crisis of Southetn nationalism” by George Rable. I subtitle this “or, why it’s taken us so long to get this far”. Interesting counterpoint to Faust’s “Mothers of invention”.

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    • “Oh, wow: I must be asleep at the wheel. I just thought that the pictures were done up with family appeal, much like adding puppies to Christmas cards: it amps up the warm fuzzies.”

      That’s probably more correct. While the racial interpretation is interesting, most of these paintings are from the late 20th Century, after that kind of thinking had become taboo. These are either by Mort Kunstler or someone like him, and they reek of that Thomas Kinkade / Hallmark style that was all the rage in the 1980s.

      I doubt that the painters were coding white supremacist messages into the work, although they might have let internalized bias slip in unawares. So why are there more little girls than black people? Because when you’re trying to imply that slavery wasn’t the cause of the war, the very sight of slaves is problematic (so they leave them out of the picture, literally).

      The goal of most Neo-Confederates is not to support white supremacy, but rather to remove it from the Civil War narrative. I believe them when they say they’re not racist …. or at least I take them at their word, since mind-reading scanners haven’t been invented yet.

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  • I will reinvigorate the discussion (maybe) by climbing out of the slight ditch my ‘expert reading reference’ dug. The topic of this thread is not so much ‘women during the war, but how did Southern (American) women create and/or control the meaning of the Civil War through the cult of nostalgia. I just saw Cox’s book, ‘Dixie’s Daughters’, which, as an aside, sheds light on how prevalent ‘peace societies’ were before WW I, which saw a lot of draft evasion. But I am thinking of ‘This Republic of Suffering’ by Faust. He brings up the society ladies who went to Washington to gain funding for the re- interment of Confederate dead. But as is the author’s style, he does not turn the picture around to shed light on Congress’s refusal; led, I suppose by Radical Republicans. I speak of the flood of stories of White on Black terror that filled the newspapers; reports from the Freedman’s Associations, journalists, and Reconstruction activists. Is there more info on the men who participated in these discussions? Was a quid pro quo offered? Its a gender studies topic to consider any efforts that were made to get the upper class southern ladies to speak out on the race issue. There were, after all, the Northern Abolitionist women to make common cause with. And to tie back in with my book recommendation, ‘Confederate Reckoning’, is it at all plausible to think they would have contacted the ring leaders of, say, the ‘Bread and Blood/Peace riots of 1863? Mary Jackson and Mary Jamieson of Richmond were natural leaders, but of the lower classes.

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    • Just as a point of clarification, Drew Gilpin Faust is a woman.

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      • Thank you. Ah, a dollop of my crass Yankee nature does intrude itself now and then. My learning curve has been steep as of late, and the stacks of books on Reconstruction, The Readjustors, etc. inevitably leaves behind important data. I realize an author decides to bite off a chunk of history and chew and out comes a book. But what do you think of the ANALOGY of modern mind ‘social think’ regarding cars with Black people before they were ‘people’?

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