Veteran Civil War historian Davis, expanding on themes delineated in his earlier books (A Government of Our Own, 1994,...

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THE CAUSE LOST: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy

Veteran Civil War historian Davis, expanding on themes delineated in his earlier books (A Government of Our Own, 1994, etc.), outlines the myths and distortions that have traditionally prevented Americans from seeing the Confederacy in its true light. In doing so, Davis looks beyond the war in Virginia, the focus of attention for most Civil War historians. Jefferson Davis, the author argues, was woefully unsuited by temperament to be the Confederate president: He, Joe Johnston, and Pierre Beauregard were locked throughout the war in a cycle of blame, recrimination, and calumny that helped doom the critical Western war. In contrast, the close partnership between Davis and Lee ultimately prolonged the war in the East because Davis meddled less, wholeheartedly supported Lee's strategy, and attempted to keep his army well supplied. The author analyzes at length the critical war in the West, which he argues has never received its due recognition. He also contests a number of explanations for Southern defeat, arguing that the South's collapse was largely due to a loss of the will to fight, economic deprivation, and an escalating series of military defeats. Davis also argues that a McClellan victory in the election of 1864 wouldn't really have been a significant turning point in the war, as contemporaries (like Lincoln) feared and historians have argued. McClellan, he asserts, was committed to winning the war and would not have taken office until March 1865, a month before the war actually ended. Davis also looks at the self-conscious (and misleading) manner in which former Confederates molded their image for posterity, transforming figures like Stonewall Jackson into demigods and creating a heroic myth that pervades the treatment of the Civil War in film and literature. A fine analysis of the way in which myth-making can distort history.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1996

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kansas

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996