Adam H. Domby
, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Charleston, has written a rigorous analysis of American political memory as it connects to the Civil War and long shadow of the Confederacy. The False Cause: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory
(University of Virginia Press, 2020) unpacks a variety of threads all connected to the Lost Cause ideology, and all based on falsehoods. These dimensions of the ideology include Domby’s examination of the history of dishonest claims to confederate pensions by white veterans, and also the accusations of fraud associated with claims made by former slaves and free people of color for much smaller pensions.
The False Cause
digs into the historical claims made about the heroics demonstrated on the battlefield during the Civil War. In this context, The False Cause
unpacks the myth that the Confederate army was one of the best ever, and these heroic claims, many of which were made at least forty years after the war itself, are not the only heroic assertions made in context of the Lost Cause ideology. Domby also explores the “soldiers who weren’t” – the enslaved individuals who were compelled to accompany their masters to war, and were then transformed, within this constructed political memory, into Black Confederates, which is yet another myth within the ideology. The book begins with an extremely topical component of the Lost Cause ideology and political memory, the monuments to confederate soldiers that were built long after the war, and that have become contemporary political lightning rods. Through all of these cases, Domby weaves the thread of how each particular area was used to buttress white supremacy and to re-narrate or re-cast the Civil War itself and those who engaged in it. Issues of white masculinity and grievance are embedded within the mythology and are also unpacked in context of these heroic declarations. This is an important historical examination that leads the reader through the facts and the subsequently created mythologies, which continue to shape and impact American politics and historical understandings.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics
(University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America
(Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).