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Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner's Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause

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In a forceful but humane narrative, former soldier and head of the West Point history department Ty Seidule's Robert E. Lee and Me challenges the myths and lies of the Confederate legacy—and explores why some of this country’s oldest wounds have never healed. Ty Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee. From his southern childhood to his service in the U.S. Army, every part o In a forceful but humane narrative, former soldier and head of the West Point history department Ty Seidule's Robert E. Lee and Me challenges the myths and lies of the Confederate legacy—and explores why some of this country’s oldest wounds have never healed. Ty Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee. From his southern childhood to his service in the U.S. Army, every part of his life reinforced the Lost Cause myth: that Lee was the greatest man who ever lived, and that the Confederates were underdogs who lost the Civil War with honor. Now, as a retired brigadier general and Professor Emeritus of History at West Point, his view has radically changed. From a soldier, a scholar, and a southerner, Ty Seidule believes that American history demands a reckoning. In a unique blend of history and reflection, Seidule deconstructs the truth about the Confederacy—that its undisputed primary goal was the subjugation and enslavement of Black Americans—and directly challenges the idea of honoring those who labored to preserve that system and committed treason in their failed attempt to achieve it. Through the arc of Seidule’s own life, as well as the culture that formed him, he seeks a path to understanding why the facts of the Civil War have remained buried beneath layers of myth and even outright lies—and how they embody a cultural gulf that separates millions of Americans to this day. Part history lecture, part meditation on the Civil War and its fallout, and part memoir, Robert E. Lee and Me challenges the deeply-held legends and myths of the Confederacy—and provides a surprising interpretation of essential truths that our country still has a difficult time articulating and accepting.


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In a forceful but humane narrative, former soldier and head of the West Point history department Ty Seidule's Robert E. Lee and Me challenges the myths and lies of the Confederate legacy—and explores why some of this country’s oldest wounds have never healed. Ty Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee. From his southern childhood to his service in the U.S. Army, every part o In a forceful but humane narrative, former soldier and head of the West Point history department Ty Seidule's Robert E. Lee and Me challenges the myths and lies of the Confederate legacy—and explores why some of this country’s oldest wounds have never healed. Ty Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee. From his southern childhood to his service in the U.S. Army, every part of his life reinforced the Lost Cause myth: that Lee was the greatest man who ever lived, and that the Confederates were underdogs who lost the Civil War with honor. Now, as a retired brigadier general and Professor Emeritus of History at West Point, his view has radically changed. From a soldier, a scholar, and a southerner, Ty Seidule believes that American history demands a reckoning. In a unique blend of history and reflection, Seidule deconstructs the truth about the Confederacy—that its undisputed primary goal was the subjugation and enslavement of Black Americans—and directly challenges the idea of honoring those who labored to preserve that system and committed treason in their failed attempt to achieve it. Through the arc of Seidule’s own life, as well as the culture that formed him, he seeks a path to understanding why the facts of the Civil War have remained buried beneath layers of myth and even outright lies—and how they embody a cultural gulf that separates millions of Americans to this day. Part history lecture, part meditation on the Civil War and its fallout, and part memoir, Robert E. Lee and Me challenges the deeply-held legends and myths of the Confederacy—and provides a surprising interpretation of essential truths that our country still has a difficult time articulating and accepting.

30 review for Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner's Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause

  1. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

    Imagine finding out everything you learned growing up was a lie, that the historical figure that you revered as a god and even ranked them higher than Jesus was actually a traitor to his country. Imagine believing a narrative of history that taught you all the wrong things about one of the most consequential wars in your nation’s history. All of this happened to West Point Professor Emeritus of History Ty Seidule. In Robert E. Lee and Me, Ty Seidule gives an unvarnished, no holds bar account of Imagine finding out everything you learned growing up was a lie, that the historical figure that you revered as a god and even ranked them higher than Jesus was actually a traitor to his country. Imagine believing a narrative of history that taught you all the wrong things about one of the most consequential wars in your nation’s history. All of this happened to West Point Professor Emeritus of History Ty Seidule. In Robert E. Lee and Me, Ty Seidule gives an unvarnished, no holds bar account of how he grew up learning about the Lost Cause Myth and venerating the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. This book is a history of Lee, the Lost Cause, and one White Southern Historian/Soldier’s reckoning with the legacy of White supremacy on his life and the life of America. Most of Ty Seidule’s life, from cradle to adulthood, revolved around honoring and revering Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy. Seidule developed a special attachment to Lee because they shared the same birthday. Seidule’s favorite childhood book taught him to revere Lee as a hero because he was against slavery even though in reality the pro-slavery Lee was actually fighting on the side of a confederation of states who were hoping to create a slave republic. In his book, Seidule takes the reader on a journey from his hometown in Alexandria, VA, to his adopted hometown of Monroe, GA, to his college days at Washington and Lee University, to his army days at Fort Bragg, and finally to his teaching days at West Point. In each location or institution, Seidule uncovers his and the nation’s racist past that promoted the Lost Cause and hid horrible tragedies inflicted on Black people. Seidule weaves in Lee’s biography as he tell his own story. In his chapter on Washington and Lee University, he tells of Lee’s second act after the Civil War as president of the university, but what’s actually interesting is the story of how parts of the university (specifically Lee Chapel) later became a shrine to Lee and the Confederacy. Seidule shows in vivid detail how some of the origins of the Lost Cause mythology came out of that chapel. When Seidule covers his own army days he writes that many military posts in the South are named after other traitorous Confederate soldiers (Fort Bragg, Benning, and Gordon to name a few). He is especially effective in this chapter when he uses the Confederates own words against them especially when they dealt with their views on slavery and Black people. Seidule does not hold back throughout the book, he shows the hypocrisy of the Army who honors White supremacists by naming forts after them. But it doesn’t stop with the forts. As towns and cities erected Confederate statues and monuments across the country, the Army also embraced symbols of the Confederacy during notable debates on integration in the 20th Century, Seidule provides thorough historical evidence to prove his points. His book ends by first covering West Point’s fascination with the Confederacy, which is another interesting story because the school was initially anti-Confederate during and immediately after the Civil War. Seidule provides superb historical analysis to explain why hatred of the Confederacy turn into reverence in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Second, Seidule concludes with a forceful reckoning with his former hero Robert E. Lee. He uses history and Lee’s own words to take down each of the stubborn Lost Cause Myths we have about Lee. One of those myths was that Lee “was born to make” the decision to join the Confederacy, he was not, he chose to do so. Seidule has given readers a powerful book that will challenge and hopefully encourage them to uncover the racist pasts of their own upbring. It will also challenge the Lost Cause myths we all were raised up on in regards to the Civil War and it will help to solidify the fact that Robert E. Lee was not a hero but a traitor to the United States. Robert E. Lee was not born to become a Confederate he was born to be a Union man. Ty Seidule, this Southern soldier and scholar who once revered Lee and the Confederacy but later learned the true history was born to write this book. He has done his nation a great service in writing this important work of nonfiction. Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Dr. Ty Seidule for a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on January 26, 2021. Review first published in Ballasts for the Mind: https://medium.com/ballasts-for-the-m...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    “The white southern myths created my identity. The problem is that the myths I learned were just flat-out, fundamentally wrong. ....The myths and lies I learned promoted a form of racial hierarchy and white supremacy.“ “[I] grew up thinking that before 1861 slaves were somehow not quite as human as white southerners that the enslaved only became real people after 1865. It pains me to write that I believed something so grotesque and immoral, but it’s worse to lie.” The author of this book was bor “The white southern myths created my identity. The problem is that the myths I learned were just flat-out, fundamentally wrong. ....The myths and lies I learned promoted a form of racial hierarchy and white supremacy.“ “[I] grew up thinking that before 1861 slaves were somehow not quite as human as white southerners that the enslaved only became real people after 1865. It pains me to write that I believed something so grotesque and immoral, but it’s worse to lie.” The author of this book was born in Virginia and also lived in other southern states. He grew up idolizing Robert E. Lee and graduated from Washington and Lee University. He was indoctrinated with the myth of the Lost Cause and a romanticized view of the south that refused to accept that the Civil War was fought to preserve slavery. However, after decades as an army officer and head of the history department at West Point he now realizes that Lee committed treason to preserve slavery. Lee and his family profited financially from slavery and he held racist views throughout his life. While most US Army officers (including the southern ones) remained loyal to their country, Lee was a traitor who abrogated his solemn oath, orchestrated the killing of many US Army soldiers and fought to keep millions in bondage. The author believes that by revealing his own misguided past and his evolution he can reach an audience still enthralled by Lee and the Lost Cause. Frankly, I doubt that those people (like the Daughters of the Confederacy) will read his book, but the book was interesting and I’m glad he is making an effort. I learned lots of details about the glorification of Lee and the southern officers whose names grace various forts. The continuing presence of Lee references at West Point is quite troubling. There is the Lee Housing area on Lee Road ending at Lee Gate. Lee Barracks was named in 1970. A painting of Lee in his Confederate uniform was hung at West Point shortly after Truman ordered the integration of the troops. This is not the first book I’ve read that concluded that Civil War monuments proliferated as a response to African American advances during Reconstruction or the civil rights movement. With respect to what to do about these monuments, the author feels that communities should “study the circumstances that led to their creation. Everyone must understand what those monuments represent. A monument tells historians more about who emplaced it than it does the figure memorialized.” I received a free copy of the ebook from the publisher. I also listened to the audiobook. The ebook has footnotes not included in the audiobook, but the audiobook has a bonus interview conducted by the historian Rick Atkinson with the author.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Donald Powell

    A book offering hope for some enlightenment. The author, with deep humility and contrition, starts with his veneration of Robert E. Lee as a child and young man. He becomes a PhD professor of history at West Point. The book documents the creation and perpetuation of the "lost cause" theory of the War of Rebellion. He documents the horrors of the results of that myth. Then, he reveals, through his scholarship, how he came to see the lie of fake news we were all regularly served for generations ab A book offering hope for some enlightenment. The author, with deep humility and contrition, starts with his veneration of Robert E. Lee as a child and young man. He becomes a PhD professor of history at West Point. The book documents the creation and perpetuation of the "lost cause" theory of the War of Rebellion. He documents the horrors of the results of that myth. Then, he reveals, through his scholarship, how he came to see the lie of fake news we were all regularly served for generations about the war. I have seen Lee as a traitor guilty of treason for many years. I did not have the southern upbringing of the author but was clearly influenced by the myths and propaganda about him. It was a great relief and augury of better things to read this book from this author with the level of truth and clarity he uses. I was intrigued when I saw the book, recently released, on Amazon. I read many, many reviews which panned the book and had to read it. The persons who gave those one, two and three star reviews, many without posting their names, are the reason this book is so important. People like them are the problem of today's society, culture and government, with economic and foreign policy implications. They are like the people who routinely turn the book covers around on the book racks at my local Fred Meyer (Kroger) store when the book is about President Obama or Vice President Harris. Sick, sick sad people. They need education, help and pity, as they are our problem.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    On January 6, 2021, the US Capitol was marred by an invasion of a mixture of Trumpists, military militias, white supremacists, and a collection of other conspiracy toting insurrectionists. What was very disconcerting for me apart from the violence is how these individuals wrapped themselves in a flag – the Confederate flag. During the Civil War, the Confederate flag never reached the Capitol, now 150 years later it was proudly carried by numerous thugs and treasonous persons who threatened to ha On January 6, 2021, the US Capitol was marred by an invasion of a mixture of Trumpists, military militias, white supremacists, and a collection of other conspiracy toting insurrectionists. What was very disconcerting for me apart from the violence is how these individuals wrapped themselves in a flag – the Confederate flag. During the Civil War, the Confederate flag never reached the Capitol, now 150 years later it was proudly carried by numerous thugs and treasonous persons who threatened to hang the Vice President and kill the Speaker of the House. These events resonated with me further as I read retired Brigadier General Ty Seidule’s new book, ROBERT E. LEE AND ME: A SOUTHERNER’S RECKONING WITH THE MYTH OF A LOST CAUSE as he grapples with his personal history from growing up in the south and being acculturated with false premises that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, tariffs, economics, Lincoln’s racism, or government overreach. Seidule takes the reader on his own journey of discovery as he passed through college, a thirty year career in the military, and finally as head of the History Department at West Point. During that sojourn he came to realize that he was raised as a southern gentleman whose education and socialization was built around certain myths and outright lies concerning the causes of the Civil War. Seidule’s voyage raises a number of disconcerting issues that are currently bedeviling the American body politic and society – the negation of facts. Seidule gave a lecture that went viral in which he argued that the war between the states that resulted in more deaths than any war the United States has ever fought, but the Civil War saw Americans killing Americans. The author argued that the war was fought over slavery. The result was a nasty response through emails, letters, and personal comments, some of which were quite threatening. Seidule was incredulous and proceeded to reexamine his life’s passage to try and examine how his historical research forced him to confront his past and explain how he has undergone his own reeducation. Throughout the narrative Seidule is obsessed with facts and truth as he tries to understand how he was duped for so many years. To understand the author’s past, it is important to delve into his hero worship of Robert E. Lee as a boy and later as a young man. He saw Lee as a brilliant general even in defeat as he possessed a “noble aura” about him. Even in defeat at Gettysburg Seidule saw “an opportunity to showcase Lee’s true character and his standing as a gentleman.” Seidule later realized that the reason he idolized Lee and the Confederacy was because the culture in which he grew up worshipped Lee and as they proclaimed their racism. Lee was seen as the most dignified man in history, but Seidule would come to realize that “the United States fought against a rebel force that would not accept the results of a democratic election and chose armed rebellion.” After carefully reviewing the most impactful books he read as a young man Seidule focuses on Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND in trying to understand his own brainwashing. Mitchell’s novel and David Selznick’s film of the same name created the lens that millions of people saw the Civil War and helped perpetuate the “Lost Cause myth.” Despite their defeat Confederate leaders remained unrepentant. Soon they would create a new narrative to justify racial control and white supremacy. Seidule argues that “The Lost Cause became a movement, an ideology, a myth, even a civil religion that would unite first the white south and eventually the nation around the meaning of the Civil War.” The Lost Cause produced a flawed memory; a lie that formed the ideological foundation for white supremacy, Jim Crow laws, which employed violence and terror to maintain a drastically unequal and segregated society. The Lost Cause myth argued that white southerners fought for many reasons – protective tariffs, states’ rights, freedom, the agrarian dream, defense, etc. etc., but none of those who espoused the myth mentioned slavery. The problem is that the facts all point to the Confederate states seceding to protect and expand their peculiar institution. The Lost Cause brings about secondary myths to support the overall argument. First, the “obedient servant or happy slave myth,” living on a plantation they loved and that took care of them. The reality was that the plantation was nothing more than a slave labor farm. The second myth was that the southern cause was doomed from the outset because the Yankees had more money, material, and manpower – might over right. A third myth is that Reconstruction was a failure as African Americans weren’t ready for freedom, the vote, or holding high office. Seidule examines all aspects of the Lost Cause myth and debunks them all by presenting actual historical events and movements. The Lost Cause would serve as the ideological underpinnings for a violently racist society. Seidule admits that it took him decades to come to the realization that his entire educational, socialization, and cultural upbringing was based on a lie. Seidule emerged from his “intellectual bubble” with the burden of guilt that he needed to undo. The narrative is a searing account of Seidule’s upbringing and education corrected by historical facts. He transports the reader to Alexandria, Va., Walton County, Ga, and Lexington, Va. describing his own education juxtaposed against the places where he grew up and became a “southern gentleman.” Seidule zeroes in Alexandria, Va. and Walton, Ga. as his hometowns resorted to beatings, lynching’s, outright murder, the closing of public schools to avoid integration, and denying African Americans the right to vote even in cities and towns where they were the majority all designed to maintain the white supremacist south. But the author never knew about the history of these places and in a number of instances things that transpired during his lifetime. However, as Seidule attended college at Washington and Lee University and was exposed to research and goes through a period of self-condemnation as to how he could have been so ignorant. He unearths numerous racist actions and events following the Civil War and Reconstruction well into the 20th century. After examining the history of Alexandria and Walton County he could reach only one conclusion – both homes were part of the southern racial police state which was an integral part of creating and maintaining a white supremacist culture in the south. Seidule integrates numerous historical examples of the violence perpetrated against African Americans and how little the white power structure responded despite Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Ka., the 1964 Civil Rights Act, President Truman’s Civil Rights Commission, etc. Seidule blends his own ignorance of racism and violence with historical facts throughout his life’s journey. The most fascinating recounting deals with Robert E. Lee’s role at Washington and Lee University and how he was elevated to deity status in the universities chapel and mausoleum all designed to focus on the education of a Christian gentlemen for students and viewing Lee as the godlike embodiment of what student strove to become. All aspects of the university through the 1980s were endemic to the belief in the myths surrounding the Civil War. Once Seidule came to realize the truth he engaged in a self-imposed guilt by trying to cleanse his own past and educate others as to how the Lost Cause myth came about and how to rectify it. Seidule’s frustrations are many as he recounts how ten US Army forts are named after southern officers who fought and committed treason against their country, fostered supremacist racial beliefs, owned slaves and worked to deny African Americans the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the constitution after the Civil War. Names like Braxton Bragg, John Brown Gordon, A.P. Hill, George Pickett, Leonides Polk, Henry L. Benning, John Bell Hood, Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, and of course Robert E. Lee, all men who fought and committed treason to preserve slavery as they killed American soldiers, but their names remain on the signage as you enter these posts, despite the current legislation to try and remove them from military installations. Even as Seidule experienced his own military career he was confronted with the Confederate myths in the US Army. Once he began to teach military history at West Point, he did his best to set the historical record straight, particularly how and why portraits and monuments to Lee proliferated at West Point in the 20th century. He passionately believes the only way to correct the past was to try and make sure the Lost Cause myth did not infect his grandchildren – the tool that needed to be relied upon is historical knowledge. The past does not have to control us, especially if we understand it. Once must commend the author’s journey of discovery and attempts to rectify his past. My only criticism is that at times the narrative is somewhat repetitive, but his overall argument that Lee is guilty of treason in support of a racist regime is dead on. His story is a microcosm of a larger portrait that has imbued the south for over 150 years. If by some “miracle” instead of reducing the study of history and government at educational institutions, we would fund and increase opportunities for more classes the divide that infects America today might be lessened. But, with terms like “fake news,” conspiracy theories involving 9/11, arguing that wildfires are caused by Jewish laser beams, Sandy Hook and Parkland murders did not occur, and QAnon members in the House of Representatives who refuse to give up their weapons on the House floor – as a result I am not encouraged. One final thought. Seidule states that the Confederacy was formed in reaction to the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. They would go on to fight a war because they felt the election would destroy slavery. From this war sprang the Lost Cause myth, a form of “fake news.” Today we have a segment of the population that believes that the election of Joe Biden was stolen from them and it resulted in conspiracy theories that led to the attack on the capitol. What did the opponents of the 1860 and 2020 election results have in common – White Supremacy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Athena (OneReadingNurse)

    There is no possible way to bring my blog review over to GoodReads due to the photos, quotes, video links, and more.... So I will leave this here along with my brief takeaways. Hours of work and i am extremely proud of this blog post https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/01/0... My takeaways are briefly: 1) very long chapters if he is gearing this book towards layreaders 2) a good book for people who want to be angry right now. I found his anger/passion off putting as a historical reader 3) while I agree There is no possible way to bring my blog review over to GoodReads due to the photos, quotes, video links, and more.... So I will leave this here along with my brief takeaways. Hours of work and i am extremely proud of this blog post https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/01/0... My takeaways are briefly: 1) very long chapters if he is gearing this book towards layreaders 2) a good book for people who want to be angry right now. I found his anger/passion off putting as a historical reader 3) while I agree with him, I think he left a LOT of facts out in order to make the confederates look more like bumbling cartoon villains. The Union blundered too. Until the final chapter he does not mention one positive Lee accomplishment so that the whole Myth just seems frankly stupid to those without a historical background, maybe he is thinking everyone will stop before that? I would honestly put the 7th chapter 2nd then go about debunking the myth, since the 7th chapter ends with Lee's poor decisions and post war racism 4) even Humphrey's frontal assault and subsequent massive one sided slaughter at Maryse Hill is only painted in a positive light 5) better summary of lynching history, segregation and reconstruction than the actual war - I mean maybe give layreadera some scope of the supplies and hardships of both sides before driving to the bottom line that none of it matters in the end I'm not saying he's wrong and i think this is a good book for people who want more information (and to be mad) about the lost cause myths, racism, and monuments, but I would probably recommend a neutral civil war history book along side it. I also don't believe that fuelling anger with anger is a great way to educate the (frankly) probably middle class white people reading the book Glad I read it though, very glad

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    A much needed, brutally honest look at the Marble Man and Confederate iconography. The author takes us through his life living in the shadow of Robert E. Lee. Along the way we confront many unpleasant truths about America's past. The author argues that Lee should be vilified as a traitor, not elevated as a secular saint. Although I didn't agree with all of the author's conclusions, this book fills a valuable gap in the history of the Lost Cause. An excellent effort. A much needed, brutally honest look at the Marble Man and Confederate iconography. The author takes us through his life living in the shadow of Robert E. Lee. Along the way we confront many unpleasant truths about America's past. The author argues that Lee should be vilified as a traitor, not elevated as a secular saint. Although I didn't agree with all of the author's conclusions, this book fills a valuable gap in the history of the Lost Cause. An excellent effort.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rock

    Just to note- In Lee’s era there was much more loyalty to one’s state than exists generally today. Therefore, Lee’s choice to remain loyal to Virginia isn’t as radical then as now. As anyone should know upon a minimal analysis, the current emphasis on judging historical figures based upon current mores and understanding does not always accurately interpret the subjects character and today’s reader should be honest enough to question whether or not he or she would be more enlightened if he or she Just to note- In Lee’s era there was much more loyalty to one’s state than exists generally today. Therefore, Lee’s choice to remain loyal to Virginia isn’t as radical then as now. As anyone should know upon a minimal analysis, the current emphasis on judging historical figures based upon current mores and understanding does not always accurately interpret the subjects character and today’s reader should be honest enough to question whether or not he or she would be more enlightened if he or she lived during the relevant past era.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    If Robert E. Lee takes precedence over Jesus in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee College, how can that be justified? The justification is over a century of misinformation, outright lies, and massaging the truth to make Lee into the ultimate hero, perpetually resplendent because of inherited wealth, who answered the call of slaveholders to fight against America and lose a war. And in losing the war, the South has created a warped narrative about noble men fighting against a monolithic America If Robert E. Lee takes precedence over Jesus in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee College, how can that be justified? The justification is over a century of misinformation, outright lies, and massaging the truth to make Lee into the ultimate hero, perpetually resplendent because of inherited wealth, who answered the call of slaveholders to fight against America and lose a war. And in losing the war, the South has created a warped narrative about noble men fighting against a monolithic American army with the resources to win, thus making all the Confederate generals heroes for losing. Ty Seidule grew up believing in Robert E. Lee and the Lost Cause, until, years into his teaching career at West Point, he started to notice cracks in the narrative. Robert E. Lee and Me is a dissection of Lost Cause narrative, taken geographically by the places that Seidule grew up. Alexandria: birthplace of Robert E. Lee, which Seidule was raised to be proud of, while omitting Alexandria's carve-out from the District of Columbia to secure its place as a slave trading hub, its immediate occupation in the Civil War, complicity in Jim Crow law, and the early African-American resistance to segregation. None of these things have plaques or mentions in the history of Alexandria, and Seidule learned them as an adult. The same with Monroe, Alabama and its history of lynching. The same with Gone With the Wind and its wildly skewed narrative of slave owners fallen on hard times. Seidule explains the hidden histories, the things that were actually happening while the "slaves were happy and the Civil War was unfair to us" myth was being spun. And at West Point, which Seidule is committed to and honors well, after forty years of keeping Confederate memorials out because the Confederates forsook their oaths and killed American soldiers, Confederate worship has been sneaking in: most of the Confederate monuments at West Point coincide with moments of increased integration at West Point. Seidule writes a convincing, damning argument about Robert E. Lee and the Lost Cause. Absolutely must read. I deeply appreciate winning an ARC. Thank you, Goodreads!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carol Townsend

    Finally last night opened up this book!. Oh My Goodness, what a fantastic read. My first 'real' history book. I just love it. This book is really going to be a hit. Great author, smooth reading. Finally last night opened up this book!. Oh My Goodness, what a fantastic read. My first 'real' history book. I just love it. This book is really going to be a hit. Great author, smooth reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    La Crosse County Library

    I saw the author on CBS Sunday Morning. It was intriguing how it all came about. He grew up and was educated as a "Southern gentleman" but eventually discovered how wrong the whole "Lost Cause of the Confederacy" myth was. Once he learned the truth about Lee and the South, his whole mode of teaching changed. I saw the author on CBS Sunday Morning. It was intriguing how it all came about. He grew up and was educated as a "Southern gentleman" but eventually discovered how wrong the whole "Lost Cause of the Confederacy" myth was. Once he learned the truth about Lee and the South, his whole mode of teaching changed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan Morris

    This is an excellent, thought-provoking book. Except for the military service, i am similar to the author - Virginia native, taught to admire Lee above most others, a graduate of W & L, and now coming to terms with the lies and whitewashed history of the Civil War that I have been taught, starting with the 4th grade Virginia History textbook I recall from the 1970’s. I was certainly uncomfortable at times reading this, it it is vital that we look at our past honestly and work to heal the racial This is an excellent, thought-provoking book. Except for the military service, i am similar to the author - Virginia native, taught to admire Lee above most others, a graduate of W & L, and now coming to terms with the lies and whitewashed history of the Civil War that I have been taught, starting with the 4th grade Virginia History textbook I recall from the 1970’s. I was certainly uncomfortable at times reading this, it it is vital that we look at our past honestly and work to heal the racial divisions in our country. I was lucky enough to get an advance reader’s copy of this from St. Martin’s Press, and recommend this wholeheartedly. (Own)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Hill

    I was highly disappointed with this book. I won't leave a long review here, but this entire book felt like a waste of time. I do not recommend this one at all. I was highly disappointed with this book. I won't leave a long review here, but this entire book felt like a waste of time. I do not recommend this one at all.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    This is a page-turner that will teach you new things about the Civil War, the 20th century, and today by using real, primary evidence. Questions I had while reading: who writes our history? When does it get recorded? And most importantly, is the recounting of history serving a purpose other than truthfully recalling the past?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Very honest book. Being a Civil War buff, I never understood how those in the southern states could hero worship traitors to this country. This book gave me their perspective.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    A fascinating and enlightening read. I think it should be read in addition to other materials about the civil war, but it provides a different view I haven't heard much of before. A fascinating and enlightening read. I think it should be read in addition to other materials about the civil war, but it provides a different view I haven't heard much of before.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 thoughts soon.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Jacobsen

    This was such an eye-opening read about the lost cause generation. This book is a personal narrative wrapped in an incredibly important history lesson: Robert E. Lee was a traitor who killed his fellow Americans. Thank you NetGalley for an ARC.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Richards

    It seems all the negative reviews come from people with a partiKKKular worldview.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Thanks so much from one VA Southern to another. I grew up in Richmond showing out of town guest beautiful Monument Ave . I didnt even think about WHY they were put up. I drove from MA, where I presently live, to see them come down. Hope Lee comes down before I die. BUT we can’t stop at statues. We need to repair what we have done to Black people for 400 years- discrimination in Education, housing,zoning,transportation , wealth, legislation. Many books out there, but 2 you may not have heard about Thanks so much from one VA Southern to another. I grew up in Richmond showing out of town guest beautiful Monument Ave . I didnt even think about WHY they were put up. I drove from MA, where I presently live, to see them come down. Hope Lee comes down before I die. BUT we can’t stop at statues. We need to repair what we have done to Black people for 400 years- discrimination in Education, housing,zoning,transportation , wealth, legislation. Many books out there, but 2 you may not have heard about are The Black tax. By Shawn Rochester And Ben Campbell’s Richmond’s Unhealed History

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is worth the read just for the chapter on Gone with the Wind. I appreciated the author's honesty, and I found it relatable as someone who grew up in the South. This is worth the read just for the chapter on Gone with the Wind. I appreciated the author's honesty, and I found it relatable as someone who grew up in the South.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Machata

    Forget about this excellent book...look at the reviews. Few books in recent times get as many 5 star and 1 star reviews. The reviews mirror America's split...those clinging to our white supremacist legacy and those who would repudiate our repugnant racial history. Bottom line- you can go from embracing the corrupt narrative that Robert E Lee led a valiant army fighting for states' rights to understanding that Lee was a traitor who fought to defend slavery. Well done. Forget about this excellent book...look at the reviews. Few books in recent times get as many 5 star and 1 star reviews. The reviews mirror America's split...those clinging to our white supremacist legacy and those who would repudiate our repugnant racial history. Bottom line- you can go from embracing the corrupt narrative that Robert E Lee led a valiant army fighting for states' rights to understanding that Lee was a traitor who fought to defend slavery. Well done.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bobby

    Who better to explore the myth of the Lost Cause than a white Army officer who grew up in Virginia, went to Washington and Lee university, taught history at West Point, and grew up idolizing Lee? Ty Seidule’s book is part memoir and part critical assessment of the history many Americans grew up believing. He demonstrates that Lee should be condemned, not memorialized and that he was a traitor, not a hero. If there is anyone equipped to make this argument, it is this author, and the argument he m Who better to explore the myth of the Lost Cause than a white Army officer who grew up in Virginia, went to Washington and Lee university, taught history at West Point, and grew up idolizing Lee? Ty Seidule’s book is part memoir and part critical assessment of the history many Americans grew up believing. He demonstrates that Lee should be condemned, not memorialized and that he was a traitor, not a hero. If there is anyone equipped to make this argument, it is this author, and the argument he makes is compelling.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Twenty-five years ago, I served on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower with a guy from Virginia. He was a good man: smart, funny, polite; I really liked him. He and I got to talking about history a good bit, and this is what he told me: It wasn't 'the Civil War,' it was "the War of Northern Aggression," and it wasn't actually fought over slavery, it was an issue of states's rights. Robert E. Lee what the greatest general in the history of mankind, and the only reason the South lost was that the N Twenty-five years ago, I served on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower with a guy from Virginia. He was a good man: smart, funny, polite; I really liked him. He and I got to talking about history a good bit, and this is what he told me: It wasn't 'the Civil War,' it was "the War of Northern Aggression," and it wasn't actually fought over slavery, it was an issue of states's rights. Robert E. Lee what the greatest general in the history of mankind, and the only reason the South lost was that the North had more men and material. I don't remember him telling me that slaves were actually happier and better off in bondage, but I suspect that he entertained that thought. The gentleman--and, again, a good guy-- was one of many Southerners I served with in the United States Navy, and they all believed some variation of what I've written above. The history people are taught in the South, and the historical culture in which they live, is that of 'The Lost Cause' of the Confederacy. Southern pride, noble soldiers, and honorable officers fighting to protect the South's way of life from bullying Yankees. Fast forward to 2015, in Charleston SC, where one Dylan Roof murders a bunch of African-American people at a Bible study in a state where the Confederate flag flies proudly over the state capital. Fast forward to 2017 and the unpleasantness in Charlottesville. Fast forward again to January, 2021, and the sight of a man who breached the US Capital and marched along the hallways bearing a Confederate Battle Flag. Recall President Donald Trump refusing to sign the National Defense Act in November, 2020, because he objected to the names of US Army bases being changed from those of Confederate generals to something less...what's the word? Controversial? Why arethere so many monuments--including one in Arlington National Cemetery--commemorating the Confederacy? Why are so many schools and buildings and streets named after Confederates? Why was their a statue of Robert E. Lee in our nation's capital--the same one attacked by seditious men and women who, like the Confederates from the 1860s, simply refused to accept the result of a Presidential election? The past, as William Faulkner said, isn't dead. It isn't even the past. The author of this book is a Virginian, a 35 year full-bird Army colonel, and a historian who teaches at West Point. He describes his own upbringing in the South, his veneration of Robert E. Lee, his formation at Washington and Lee University (where Less is buried), and his experiences teaching at West Point where Lee, and other Confederates, are honored. The author traces the history of the post-war myth of the Lost Cause, the beginning of the cult of Robert E. Lee, and the influence of all of this mythology on the South to this day, as well as the attempts to reconcile white Southerners to white Northerners. Black Americans, is seems, didn't really get to weigh in. The book is honest, self-critical, and fascinating. I learned a lot that I didn't know. But here is what I already knew, and what I told my friend on Ike many, many years ago: Lee, and his fellow officers, were traitors. They broke their vows as officers in the United States military, made rebellion against a duly elected government, caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American military personnel, and did it all for slavery. Read that again: for the perpetuation of human slavery. That's what the Civil War (or maybe we can call it the War of Racist Traitors?) was about. Lee's own words, and his own actions, damn him. He was no hero. He was an oath-breaking, slave holding traitor. As were many of his fellows. Full stop. We still deal with the repercussions of the War of the Rebellion today, 150+ years later. Even today, the former Confederate states are filled with...let's be polite and say Southerners in all their glory and pride. I lived in the panhandle of FL for sixth months, and I had the opportunity to visit Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana during my time there. It is an interesting place, for sure: beautiful girls, religious zealotry, extreme poverty, and violence and ignorance. A different world that staid old New England. In the final analysis, it may be that our cultures really are just too different to mesh together. Perhaps the United States should (peacefully) break into parts so that those whose world views are so at odds can stop hating each other and go about their business untroubled by "those people": Yankees, Red Necks, Hillbillies, city folk, whatever. In the long run, it just may be for the best.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mobeme53 Branson

    I am giving this a four but I wish that I could divide it into two, five for the importance of the message and two for editing. I have lived in The South the past five years and have come face-to-face with the myth of the Confederate Lost Cause. I did not realize how widespread the lies about the Civil War and the reverence given to Confederate commanders, especially Robert E. Lee was. The authors premise, which is very well documented, is that Lee and his ilk were traitors and have no reason to I am giving this a four but I wish that I could divide it into two, five for the importance of the message and two for editing. I have lived in The South the past five years and have come face-to-face with the myth of the Confederate Lost Cause. I did not realize how widespread the lies about the Civil War and the reverence given to Confederate commanders, especially Robert E. Lee was. The authors premise, which is very well documented, is that Lee and his ilk were traitors and have no reason to be celebrated and honored in the way that they have been. I was amazed to learn that Washington and Lee collage was renamed to include Lee's name many years after the Civil War and is still to this day. Also, the complicity of presidents in perpetuating the lie by advocating honors to the very people who killed US citizens and seceded from the US is appalling. These include Teddy and FD Roosevelt down to Richard Nixon. He also outlines convincedly the way the South has turned things around to make the Confederate leaders seem like hero's. This in no small part has led to the Jim Crow laws and the continuing White Supremacy we see today. I am heartened to see that movement is being made to remove Confederate monuments and to rename bases that are named for them. It is shocking to learn that as recent as the 1990's monuments were still being erected to these men who were traitors to the oath they took to the United States of America. Those who argue that we are erasing "history" when removing them are really saying that we need to continue to perpetuate the lie that the Civil War was about anything but the preservation of Slavery. The author presents clear and compelling evidence that keeping people enslaved was THE reason for the war, not States Rights as the lie would have you believe. Unfortunately, this book could have used some serious editing. Many points are made over and over in the exact same language. I understand that it was a revelation to the author that a man he head revered growing up was in fact a traitor but there is only so many times that can be repeated until it becomes redundant. This may have been better as an extended essay rather that stretching it out to a full book. That being said it is worth it to sift through the extra words to absorb the message. I was also struck with the parallels to what is happening with the rise of White Supremacy today; shocking but not surprising.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    There’s no saint like a reformed sinner, and Ty Seidule proves the maxim. This book is amazing. Robert E Lee and Me isn’t some cutesy title designed to gain attention. As Seidule makes clear, he worshiped Lee as a boy, starting with his childhood book Meet Robert E Lee. And with that admission he opens up an entirely new way to understand the US of today. Seidule’s journey from young southern boy to unquestioning young soldier to gobsmacked by guilt as he is challenged by his wife to a crusader There’s no saint like a reformed sinner, and Ty Seidule proves the maxim. This book is amazing. Robert E Lee and Me isn’t some cutesy title designed to gain attention. As Seidule makes clear, he worshiped Lee as a boy, starting with his childhood book Meet Robert E Lee. And with that admission he opens up an entirely new way to understand the US of today. Seidule’s journey from young southern boy to unquestioning young soldier to gobsmacked by guilt as he is challenged by his wife to a crusader for truth and justice is a continual revelation. It’s a strong dose of tough love accompanied by loathing of self and neighbors and politicians, from hundreds of years ago to yesterday. There’s hope and despair and lynchings and pride and Gone with the Wind and George Floyd and Harry Truman. But the constant through the narrative is R E Lee, and the myth of the educated Christian gentleman and of the Lost Cause. Seidule’s remorseless deconstruction of Lee in the closing chapters is a tonic. It’s relentless and factual. It’s conclusion is impossible to deny if you open your mind just a sliver. Never having seen the Confederacy as romantic or positive, I was looking forward to his verdict on Lee. Its precision is stunning. The retired author has been tapped by the Biden administration’s defense department to participate on the commission for renaming government facilities, a task which has occupied much of his thought and work for years. I cannot recommend this too strongly. Seidule is a fine writer and narrator and his book could not be more timely.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kennedy

    Only about 10 years ago, after reading a biography of Lee did I realize that not everyone thought of him as a hero. It seems stupid now, but growing up in the south, you are fed this myth of the lost cause and Lee’s honorable position even if you don’t knowingly digest it. The author really shows the extent to which these beliefs are held. I knew vaguely of naming army forts after Confederate soldiers, but didn’t realize the extent of it. While changing the names would obviously be hard, there a Only about 10 years ago, after reading a biography of Lee did I realize that not everyone thought of him as a hero. It seems stupid now, but growing up in the south, you are fed this myth of the lost cause and Lee’s honorable position even if you don’t knowingly digest it. The author really shows the extent to which these beliefs are held. I knew vaguely of naming army forts after Confederate soldiers, but didn’t realize the extent of it. While changing the names would obviously be hard, there are plenty of heroic actual US Army soldiers to chose from. Seidule tracks the increase in glory given to Lee along side the rise in integration and representation of Blacks. The author discusses how everything he believed was wrong. His journey reflects that of many of us who grew up in the south. My grandmother called it the War Between the States. The Civil War may have ended over 150 years ago, but it’s repercussions shape today’s society.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paul Womack

    Quite an engaging and a very fine read of an important subject. Like the author, I am a Southerner, and emotionally attached to the myth of Lee. It is important for historical study to challenge us, educate us, and help transform us. Along with Isobel Wilkerson’s book, “Caste”, this work will have much importance for me in understanding why my ancestors were Conferderates and how it is we internalize the romance. I am much appreciative for Dr. Seidule’s honest reflections.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark Ferguson

    Do not be confused. This is not a history book, rather the journey of a historian coming to grips with how he had accepted the Lost Cause Mythology and the canonization of Robert E Lee as southern saint, if not messiah. The facts of history are well documented yet the myths have been become so deeply rooted they threaten to choke out the truth. The states in secession made it clear slavery was their cause. Lee’s decision to violate his oath as an officer was not the norm of senior southern offic Do not be confused. This is not a history book, rather the journey of a historian coming to grips with how he had accepted the Lost Cause Mythology and the canonization of Robert E Lee as southern saint, if not messiah. The facts of history are well documented yet the myths have been become so deeply rooted they threaten to choke out the truth. The states in secession made it clear slavery was their cause. Lee’s decision to violate his oath as an officer was not the norm of senior southern officers. Lee unlike most senior officers was wealthy from slaves. Unfortunately I suspect those receptive to the book will be those who have grown past the Lost Cause lie and those embracing it will reject it without reading it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    William K. Burton

    This book should be read by anyone interested in the Civil War and aftermath. I can identify with the author’s evolution as I have faced a similar self reflective moment. I am a Civil War buff and a graduate of the author’s alma mater. Over the years, I have modified my view of Lee and his history. This book is very direct. Not all who read it will agree with it, but the facts speak for themselves.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mickey Mantle

    The author is repetitive and preachy.....and is self aware enough to admit it. The book is powerful. The author comes to grips with the entire foundation of ideas which he was raised to believe were truths. He rejects those ideas as false. The work has a "Come to Jesus" type feel. The author is repetitive and preachy.....and is self aware enough to admit it. The book is powerful. The author comes to grips with the entire foundation of ideas which he was raised to believe were truths. He rejects those ideas as false. The work has a "Come to Jesus" type feel.

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