The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy

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Overview

For nearly a quarter of a century, Pulitzer Prize nominee William C. Davis has been one of our best writers on the Civil War. His books—including Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol; Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour; and "A Government of Our Own": The Making of the Confederacy—have garnered numerous awards and enlightened and entertained an avid readership. The Cause Lost extends that tradition of excellence with provocative new insights into the myths and realities of an endlessly fascinating subject.

In these pages, Davis brings into sharp focus the facts and fictions of the South's victories and defeats, its tenacious struggle to legitimize its cause and defeat an overpowering enemy, and its ultimate loss of will. He debunks long-standing legends, offers irrefutable evidence explaining Confederate actions, and contemplates the idealism, naiveté, folly, and courage of the military leadership and would-be founding fathers.

Among the most misunderstood, Davis contends, was Jefferson Davis. Often branded as enigmatic and incompetent, the Confederate president was simply a decent and committed leader whose mistakes were magnified by the war's extraordinary demands. Davis scrutinizes Jefferson Davis' relationship with his generals-most of whom were unproved talents or cronies with proven deficiencies-and reveals why only Robert E. Lee succeeded in winning Davis' confidence through flattery, persuasion, and a sense of responsibility. He also examines the myths and memories of the nearly deified Stonewall Jackson and John C. Breckinridge, the only effective Confederate secretary of war.

Davis also illustrates why the cause of the war—a subject of long-standing controversy—boils down to the single issue of slavery; why Southerners, ninety percent of whom didn't own slaves, were willing to join in the battle to defend their homeland; how the personalities, tactics, and styles of the armies in the turbulent West differed greatly from those in the East; what real or perceived turning points influenced Southern decision making; and how mythology and misinterpretations have been perpetuated through biography, history, literature, and film.

Revealing the Confederacy's myths for what they really are, Davis nevertheless illustrates how much those myths inform our understanding of the Civil War and its place in Southern and American culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a series of essays (some previously published) dealing with various aspects of the Civil War, Davis (The American Frontier) provides new insights into some of the myths and realities of the war. The essays on Jefferson Davis look at his leadership and his relations with his generals, especially Robert E. Lee, while those on Stonewall Jackson and Breckenridge correct a lot of the myths that have been written since the end of the war. The author also examines the Confederate armies in the West, blaming their losses on poor leadership and lack of support from the Confederate government, and illustrates why slavery was the single issue of the war though 90 percent of the participants from the South did not own slaves. Davis helps clear away misconceptions about the Civil War and gives the reader a clearer insight into problems that affected the South.-- W. Walter Wicker, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston (Ret.)
Library Journal
In a series of essays (some previously published) dealing with various aspects of the Civil War, Davis (The American Frontier) provides new insights into some of the myths and realities of the war. The essays on Jefferson Davis look at his leadership and his relations with his generals, especially Robert E. Lee, while those on Stonewall Jackson and Breckenridge correct a lot of the myths that have been written since the end of the war. The author also examines the Confederate armies in the West, blaming their losses on poor leadership and lack of support from the Confederate government, and illustrates why slavery was the single issue of the war though 90 percent of the participants from the South did not own slaves. Davis helps clear away misconceptions about the Civil War and gives the reader a clearer insight into problems that affected the South.-- W. Walter Wicker, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston (Ret.)
Lesley J. Gordon
...[A] lively, highly readable, but occasionally vexing book by one of the field's most prolific authors. -- Mississippi Quarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700612543
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 2/19/2003
  • Series: Modern War Studies Series
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 8.08 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction

Part One: Jefferson Davis and His Generals

1. Jefferson Davis: The Mystery of the Myth

2. Davis, Johnston, and Beauregard: The Tripple Play That Crippled the Confederacy

3. Davis and Lee: Partnership for Success

Part Two: Forgotten Wars

4. The Siege of Charleston

5. A Different Kind of War: Fighting in the West

6. Forgotten Wars: The Confederate Trans-Mississippi

Part Three: Excuses, Turning Points, and Defeats

7. Lost Will, Lost Causes

8. The Turning Point That Wasn't: The Confederates and the Election of 1864

9. John C. Breckinridge and Confederate Defeat

Part Four: The Confederacy in Myth and Posterity

10. Stonewall Jackson in Myth and Memory

11. Myths and Realities of the Confederacy

12. The Civil War and the Confederacy in Cinema

Notes

Index

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