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Treason In Defense of Slavery is the Ultimate Patriotism


From the description of a new biography of traitor in defense of slavery (although he privately opposed them both, Scout’s honor!) Robert E. Lee:

In Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, Michael Korda, the New York Times bestselling biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, and T. E. Lawrence, has written the first major biography of Lee in nearly twenty years, bringing to life America’s greatest and most iconic hero.

Really? The very greatest American hero? We can’t think of a single of the many Americans who have not rebelled against the American government in order to protect the right of wealthy whites to own black slaves who might be worthy of this honor? Martin Luther King? Abraham Lincoln? Willie Mays? The tailor who successfully hemmed the sleeves of my sports jacket last week? I figure we should get around to honoring confederate generals sometime well after we lionize the nation’s telemarketers. Although I might be willing to rank Lee above the people who created those DirectTV marionette ads. (Admittedly, this does seem to track with the definition of “American” that Republicans have been pushing for years — i.e. it would seem to exclude anyone who isn’t white, lives above the Mason-Dixon line, lives in a city, doesn’t have at least five possessions decorated with Confederate flags, etc.)

Whether this book is as terrible as the description suggests, I can’t say. It was excerpted in the Daily Beast, and while the content isn’t abominable the sub-headline certainly is. (Robert E. Lee “saved the union” by protecting slaveholders before the Civil War, doncha know. I guess it didn’t take.) Either Korda has been really badly served by various copy-writers or this book will be epically awful.

…via comments, Eric Foner’s review. 

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  • Walt

    If you call Lee “America’s greatest and most iconic hero”, you cannot, by definition, be a patriotic American. Somebody’s going to have to turn in their passport and driver’s license.

    Did you ever read Bill James’ argument for letting Shoeless Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame? This post reminded me of it a bit.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yeah, I was actually thinking of referencing that.

    • Link?

      • David M. Nieporent

        As I was about to post it after reading Scott’s post, before checking the comments and seeing that others already had, it’s this, from the original Historical Baseball Abstract:

        My own opinion as to whether or not Joe Jackson should be put in the Hall of Fame is that of course he should: it is only a question of priorities. I think there are some equally great players who should go first, like Billy Williams, Herman Long, Minnie Minoso, and Elroy Face. Then, too, the players of the nineteenth century have never really gotten their due — Ed McKean, Pete Browning, Harry Stovey and several others have been waiting a long time. The players of the Negro leagues committed no crime except their color; I think we would need to look closely at the credentials of several of those before we decide where Jackson fits in. You wouldn’t want the great stars of the thirties and forties, who are still living and can enjoy the honor, to pass away while waiting for the Hall of Fame to get done with the Black Sox, would you? And then there are some other players who should be considered strongly — Ron Santo, Ken Boyer, Larry Doby, Al Rosen, Roy Sievers, Vic Wertz, Lefty O’Doul, Sadaharu Oh; there should probably be better provisions made for people whose contributions to the game were not made on the field, like Grantland Rice, Barney Dreyfuss, Harry Pulliam, maybe Mrs. Babe Ruth and Mrs. Lou Gehrig, the guy who wrote Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Harry Caray. And, too, we do not want to forget the wonderful stars of the minor leagues, who brought baseball to most of the country before television and expansion — men like Ray Perry, Larry Gilbert, Jack Dunn and Nick Cullop. When they are in we can turn our attention to such worthwhile stars of our own memories as Roger Maris, Buddy Bell, Fred Hutchinson, Larry Bowa, Bill North, Omar Moreno and Duane Kuiper. And then, at last, when every honest ballplayer who ever played the game, at any level from Babe Ruth ball through the majors, when every coach, writer, umpire and organist who has helped to make baseball the wonderful game that it is rather than trying to destroy it with the poison of deceit, when each has been given his due, then I think we should hold our noses and make room for Joe Jackson to join the Hall of Fame. It is only right.

        • Hogan

          Thanks, David.

    • Shoeless Joe has a much better argument for the Hall of Fame than Lee has for being a great American hero.

      From the standpoint of one who grew up in Mississippi (a white), I have for some time thought Gen. Grant the obvious military hero of the Civil War era. If you drop the word “military,” we can debate Lincoln vs. Grant. I don’t see how Lee enters the discussion.

      • Aimai

        True, but I imagine they threw out the blurbs that said things like “You’d probably prefer a book about real, iconic heroes like Lincoln or Grant but we do have this horrible book about some asshole named Lee.”

      • The more I learn about Grant’s military actions, the more I respect him.

        • Alex Hall

          I can’t remember where, but I read an appraisal of Grant that described him as a general who would have been successful at any time in history. A general is always going to do well who can rapidly write clear and concise orders, keep his troops supplied under difficult conditions, coordinate well with naval forces, remain immune to panic when disaster looms, manage small battles and grand strategy, seize and keep the initiative, and who can direct operations to attain the right objectives.

          I find him fascinating. Without the war, he’d have lived out his life as a failure at everything but being a husband, a father, and a horseman. The last pro-civil rights president for most of a century was also the last president to have owned a slave.

          Although even there he comes off pretty well. Where Lee fought in the courts to avoid freeing the slaves that his father in law had willed to be emancipated within five years of his death (and sold the children born to them), Grant freed his one slave (probably a “present” from his father in law) despite being desperately poor.

          • drkrick

            The fact that he was the last post-Civil War President to try to deliver some portion of rights to the freed slaves has an awful lot to do with his military and political reputations. He wasn’t a great President by any means, but his routine listing as one of the 5 or so worst is another relic of Lost Cause revenge we should lose already.

          • tavella

            My father (amateur Civil War historian) always pointed out his ability to draft orders with such clarity and speed as the most underrated aspect of Grant, but I think some of the recent histories and biographies have focused on it. It really is an important gift. And yes, I think Grant would have succeeded in any period, at least if he wasn’t sunk by personality clashes.

        • daveNYC

          Unfortunately, Grant has managed to have his military reputation tarnished over the years. I’ve talked to no small chunk of people who think that he won the war by using Zapp Brannigan tactics (specific Futurama quote below). The South lost the war, but they freaking won pretty much every battle after that.

          Bruce Catton’s books, Grant Moves South and Grant Takes Command are most excellent.

          Fry: “I heard one time you single-handedly defeated a horde of rampaging somethings in the something something system”
          Brannigan: “Killbots? A trifle. It was simply a matter of outsmarting them.”
          Fry: “Wow, I never would’ve thought of that.”
          Brannigan: “You see, killbots have a preset kill limit. Knowing their weakness, I sent wave after wave of my own men at them until they reached their limit and shut down.”

  • rw970

    This blurb is out of context. Maybe the America referred to here is America Ferrera.

  • wjts

    HomerRobert, I don’t use the word ‘hero’ very often, but you are the greatest hero in American history.”

  • Aimai

    Christ, that’s just horrifying. There will never be enough centuries between us and that asshole for him to be remembered as other than a sanctimonious, slave owning, traitorous, bastard.

    • Frank

      Unlike that white slave owning American who’s on the face of America’s money. Now there’s a hero you can believe in.

      • Aimai

        At least he wasn’t a traitor.

        • George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and so forth

          We beg to differ, peasant.

        • George III

          At least he wasn’t a traitor.

          I beg to differ.

        • Porgie III

          All three of us beg to differ.

        • Murc

          ‘Course Washington was a traitor. All of the Founders were.

          This is why I generally say that I don’t have a problem with treason; the country was founded in a massive act of treason and rebellion. It’d be a bit hypocritical.

          But if you’re gonna commit treason, you’d better have a good reason, and “I’d like to own me some people” is a really bad one.

          • Treason against people who claim to rule by the “divine right of kings” or some other bullshit, I can totally get behind. But democratic elections are a more legitimate story about why you get to rule.

            • Emma in Sydney

              Elections that don’t include women or tinted persons aren’t all that democratic. Your elections don’t count until well into the twentieth century. If then.

              • timb

                We will agree to disagree. The enemy of the perfect is not the good, Emma.

              • drkrick

                A good deal more democratic than what England was running at the time, actually.

                • Emma in Sydney

                  Of course England was no better. But the US was not ACTUALLY democratic in any recognisable sense of the word. Accuracy is important.

            • Matthew Heath

              Also the Hanoverians weren’t really into divine right given how they got there. Actually, due to their various flavours of benign uselessness they weren’t much into ruling at all.

            • rea

              Treason against people who claim to rule by the “divine right of kings” or some other bullshit

              That theory was pretty much dead in the UK after 1688 . . .

              • Tristan

                Seriously, Americans: “Taxation without representation” is completely sufficient, you don’t need to make stuff up.

          • Aimai

            Uh…none dare call it treason. That’s the reason for the season.

          • I spent a day thinking about this and I’m still unsure.

            First, I thought maybe there were different qualities of treason. Eg colonies seem less integrated into the polity than component states. But that seemed like special pleading. (There’s some pull there. The traitor states had far more political participation in the US (indeed, hugely slanted in their favor) than the colonies had in thier own rule.) Also, I think patriots were a plurality of the electorate (I’ve no idea what the views of the slave or native populations’ views were) across and within the colonies. The confederacy was a minority across the nation and I’d bet within the confederate states if we count the slaves.

            Second, there’s who they were traitor against. Washington wasn’t a traitor against the US.

            Third, obviously, there’s the cause. I think there’s a reason why the catchphrase is “treason in defense of slavery”.

            Violating your oath for the sake if a huge evil compounds the wrong. Violating your oath for an arguable good or at least reasonable cause might balance or overwhelm the wrongdoing.

            In the end, I do agree that the mere being a raitor is not itself indicative of worthiness of condemnation.

            • Actually, Doc, the breakdown of support for the Patriots was 1/3rd of the population, 1/3rd who didn’t care, and 1/3rd who were Loyalists. One of the reasons the Patriots won was because many undecided switched to supporting the Patriot side, while many of the Loyalists left for England or Canada during or after the Revolutionary War.

              • Hey Sensei!

                I’m so glad you could take time from your busy commenting schedule to reply to me.

                Could you point me to your source? I’m absolutely no historian of the Revolution so I was just going from this bit of Wikipedia:

                In 2000 historian Robert Calhoon said the consensus of historians is that in the Thirteen Colonies between 40 and 45 percent of the white population supported the Patriots’ cause, between 15 and 20% supported the Loyalists, and the remainder were neutral or kept a low profile.[2] With a white population of about 2.5 million, that makes about 380,000 to 500,000 Loyalists. The great majority of them remained in America, since only about 80,000 Loyalists left the United States 1775-1783. They went to Canada, Britain, Florida or the West Indies, but some eventually returned.[3]

                But, as I said, I don’t know how far to trust that.

                • The estimate on the % of Loyalists may have been overstated, the whole thing started from a letter of John Adams which was referring to a different time period than the American Revolution in the first place when it was written in 1813.

                  I found this interesting:

                  Another small group in terms of percentage were the dedicated patriots, for whom there was no alternative but independence.

                  Which, to my mind, doesn’t mean 35 to 40%.

                  You may address me by my sacred name, Turdbird. I received my title in a secret ceremony somewhere in the former palace of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa.

                • I don’t know if I’m worthy to address you as “Turdbird”. How about “Teach”?

                  Thanks for the link. It was interesting. I agree that the diehards were were fewer (20%) but it seems that the 35-40% still might be reasonable at some point.

                  Of course, I guess the real question is what support was like when eg signing the declaration.

                  I guess I’m leaning back to the idea that treason per se isn’t the biggest deal compared to the other factors.

                • My sacred title means I don’t teach, but that I do.

                • I have so much to learn!

                  How about “Doer”? I confess that it’s going to take tine for me to work up to “Turdbird”. Indeed, I feel as if I should not fully spell out such a sacred title. “T-rdb-rd”? (Wow, that wreaked havoc with autocorrect.)

  • Some Guy

    America’s Greatest and most Iconic hero is obviously Dave Thomas.
    What spurious research!

    • PSP

      You incorrect. It is obviously Johnny Cash.

    • Barry Freed

      Pere Ubu, right? I could go with that.

      • joe from Lowell

        Nah, the guy who founded Wendy’s.

    • rm

      Mr. Rogers. Johnny Cash is a close second.

      Actually Harriet Tubman is the most badass hero in American history, but the “iconic” part restricts us to popular celebrity-type figures.

  • Vance Maverick

    Somebody’s been mischievizing Wikipedia again.

    Michael Korda married first wife Carolyn Keese in 1958, and had one offspring, Chris, who later led the controversial Church of Euthanasia.

    Chris Korda (born 1962) is the leader of the Church of Euthanasia,[1] antinatalist,[2] techno musician and software developer (of Mixere, Whorld, and FFRend). Korda is a cross-gendered vegetarian and the only progeny of Simon & Schuster editor and author, Michael Korda.

    Offspring, or progeny? Which expresses greater distaste?

    • Malaclypse

      You must admit that “Abortion: Safe, Legal, Mandatory” was a great slogan, though.

      • cpinva

        the bumper sticker made a great conversation starter at church picnics.

    • Manny Kant

      The Church of Euthanasia is apparently, er, real? Sort of?

  • Malaclypse

    But Libertarian theory assures me that the Free Market ™ punishes racist shithead corporations.

  • Warren Terra

    (Admittedly, this does seem to track with the definition of “American” that Republicans have been pushing for years — i.e. it would seem to exclude anyone who isn’t white, lives above the Mason-Dixon line, lives in a city, doesn’t have at least five possessions decorated with Confederate flags, etc.)

    See also NBC’s Meeting America

  • It’s clear Korda doesn’t remember Benedict Arnold.

    • Warren Terra
      • cpinva

        brooks was a poser. now Arnold, he was an American hero!

        • Bill Murray

          Saratoga was a very important battle

          • rea

            Not to mention Valcour Island.

            And Congress didn’t treat him very well, but still.

            • timb

              Congress treated almost all of them poorly

        • steverinoCT

          Sitting here in Groton, CT about a mile from Fort Griswold, which was captured by Arnold’s British troops while he watched from across the river in New London. New London was in flames at the time, thanks again to his troops.

          Ft. Griswold’s defender, Col. Ledyard, surrendered his sword to his victor and was promptly stabbed and killed with it. The nearby town of Ledyard, named for him, has its HS teams, the Colonels, with its mascot a stereotypical Southern Colonel:


          Thus neatly tying this irrelevancy back into the thread.

          • rm

            That’s really too bad about that mascot. A wasted opportunity.

  • CaptBackslap, YOLO Edition

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who despises those DirecTV ads. Besides being ugly and unpleasant, they’re just unsettling (I don’t think they intended us to ponder who’s literally pulling the strings, but it’s inevitable after a few viewings).

  • cleter

    Robert E. Lee killed more Americans than Hitler. Screw that guy.

    • Barry Freed

      Yup. And way more than Osama bin Laden.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    As someone noted on one of the Memorial Day Posts, Arlington National Cemetary really is the perfect tribute to what Lee stood for. It’s a shame that Neo-Confederates have so owned his reputation since the end of the Late Unpleasantness.

    • Malaclypse

      When did the Unpleasantness end? Why was I not told?

      • cpinva

        “When did the Unpleasantness end? Why was I not told?”

        it hasn’t. down here, it lies just (barely) below the surface.

    • Warren Terra

      But remember, Lee was such a verified Southern Gentleman that after the war he didn’t insist on digging up the countless dead soldiers and reclaiming his land, which he totally would have gotten away with without some vet or some casualty’s family member taking personal issue.

      • Hogan

        His wife’s land. Oh wait, same thing; he was also a patriarchal bastard.

      • chancery

        Of course his son Custis did pretty more just that, won in the Supreme Court, and was bought out by Congress.

        • chancery

          “much,” not “more”

  • somethingblue

    Joe the Plumber is still alive, so probably not eligible for this?

    • cpinva

      I’m perfectly willing to have someone off him, and find out.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    Greil Marcus said it well: “What is this shit?”

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    I was watching an Antique Roadshow last weekend from Richmond, VA and of course many of the items brought in were Civil War (Confederate) in nature. One guy had a painting of his great-grandfather in his Union uniform and then another of him in his Rebel garb. The expert who was there to do the assessment of value made a remark something like “so he swore his allegiance to one uniform then abandoned it to wear another” and you could almost see the word “traitor” on the tip of his tongue. But he played just nice enough to be respectful of the painting’s owner and his grand-daddy’s service.

    • cpinva

      here’s the thing about the descendants of confederate soldiers, the fact that great-great-great grand daddy fought to sustain an institution so horribly wrong as slavery is abhorrent, even to them. so, to make it seem better, they continue to use stuff like “state’s rights”, as what he was really fighting for. of course, when you ask which state’s right in particular he was fighting for, their brain goes off the rails.

      this whole “state’s rights” farce has been perpetuated by the school textbook industry, because of texas, who buys one hell of a lot of school textbooks, and that’s how they wanted it portrayed, the gallant “Lost Cause”.

      • Vance Maverick

        It’s the mirror image of the compulsion to “preserve the Union”, except that there’s abundant evidence that lots of Northerners signed up to fight for precisely that cause.

        • Vance Maverick


      • JoyfulA

        Didn’t state’s rights die forever with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850?

        • MAJeff

          Not the states’ rights that matter, apparently.

        • Megalon

          The Fugitive Slave Act proves what an absolute lie “States Rights” always was. They used the power of the federal government to protect slavery when ever they could. It was only after others started using it for the opposite purpose they suddenly remembered the sacred rights of the states and hating “overbearing” government.

      • Paddy O’Rorke

        Ask them why they are not flying great great grand pappy’s regimental flag or brigade colors – if they insist it is all about honoring family, valor and martial brotherhood – instead of the the Virginians’ flag.

        • I don’t know what textbooks your using, but most of the ones I’ve used in my US history surveys for HS students are absolutely clear about slavery being the cause of the Civil War.

          • drkrick

            That’s great, but most of my native Virginian neighbors are pretty clear about what they were taught in HS, and that wasn’t it.

      • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks

        the fact that great-great-great grand daddy fought to sustain an institution so horribly wrong as slavery is abhorrent, even to them.

        Nah, the “states’ rights” shit is just marketing. Plenty of Republicans would be happy to bring back slavery.

    • drkrick

      I cut them some slack about great-grandpappy. The people who made the decision to secede left no doubt about their motivations in the various secession declarations, speeches and other artifacts, but the motivation of the individual soldiers and officers are more varied – everything from conscription, peer pressure, general sense of adventure (that got knocked out the smart ones pretty quickly) or just a desire to get out of whatever podunk town they’d lived in their whole lives were pretty common – a lot more common than true belief in the politician’s war objectives for both armies, I’d think.

  • navarro

    i personally believe the confederate battle flag is the moral equivalent of the nazi flag and should be tossed forever onto the ash heap of history along side each other never to be regarded as anything other than symbols of the depths to which humanity can plunge. as a 9th or 10th generation native of the south and an 8th generation native of texas i do not fit in very well with the majority of the white folks who form a large portion of my milieu. whewn my mother told me some years ago that i qualified to join the sons of the confederacy i told here i would as soon register to belong to the sons of the schutstaffel as i would have my name associated with the army of the enslaving south. robert e. lee is worth reading about in terms of the civil war or as a study of stunted nobility turned to a wretched cause but as an example of an american hero? never!

    • But…but…but…what about those Lynyrd Skynyrd albums I collected as a teenager? Can I still keep them in the box in Mom’s garage?


    • Biscuits

      I had two grandfathers both from Missouri who fought on opposing sides during (and before, it was after all Missouri), the civil war. Union grandpa was killed in Mississippi and I have a copy of the newspaper clipping giving an account of his death. We also have his daguerreotype taken of him in full uniform. It is so cool! His wife and children made their way across the Oregon trail soon after his death. Can you blame her? Confederate grandfather survived and made the same trip not long after the war. Funny thing is these two families married and now there’s a whole bunch of them buried in the same cemetery in Ryderwood, Washington. Apparently, a good number of people from Missouri up and left after the war, both my families included. They would have liked to kill one another in Missouri.

      • My TX great-great-grandfather fought for the TX Rifles, until there was an arrears of pay for two weeks, at which time he deserted. It was the first sign of intelligence on that side of the family that we have documentation for.

  • Has Michael Korda ever become a U.S. citizen? He grew up in England and it is possible that he has no real idea who American heroes really are. He may not have proof read what is publicist wrote, either.

    • cpinva

      gee, you’d think, in all his research for the book, he might just have noticed a trend, with respect to Lee. unless, of course, he had unpaid interns doing his research for him. as mom & dad always say, you gets what you pays for.

      • Doris Kearns Goodwin

        I pay my interns the full minimum wage.

        • Jonah Goldberg


      • herr doktor bimler

        unless, of course, he had unpaid interns doing his research for him
        “Treason in defense of unpaid internship” doesn’t have the same ring.

      • rm

        You mean graduate students?

    • Vance Maverick

      His citizenship doesn’t matter. If you’re going to intervene on a live cultural-political matters, in effect taking sides, you’re going to be judged in that context. If the book had been written by (let’s say) Vivien Leigh, we’d still receive it that way.

  • Bill Murray

    Look at what’s happened to Lee,
    He can’t believe it himself.
    Suddenly he’s up on top of the world,
    It should’ve been somebody else.

    Believe it or not,
    Lee’s walking on air.
    He never thought he could feel so free-.
    Flying away on Clouds of Glory.
    Who could it be?
    Believe it or not it’s just Lee.

    • KmCO

      Pick up the phone, Mike Korda. I know you’re screening my calls.

      • Hogan

        Oh well done.

  • JustRuss

    Lee may be the Confederacy’s greatest hero, but by definition that makes him an American traitor. You can’t renounce your citizenship and take up arms against America then be called an American hero. Korda’s an idiot or a very dishonest revisionist.

  • Michael Confoy
  • lnthga

    While “Treason in defense of slavery” is a pretty catchy phrase, I’m not so sure about the “defense” part of it. However, all I can come up with it is “Treason in an effort to spread the blight of human bondage across the entire continent” and I don’t think that’s going to sell much popcorn.

    • Theophrastus Bombastus von Hoenhenheim den Sidste

      Peoples’ eyes glaze over when I get started on “The Noble Crusade to Carry the Sword of Justice against the Treasonous Slave Beating Hypocrites of the South.”

      • Porlock Junior

        @Theophrastus Bombastus von Hoenhenheim den Sidste –

        Operation Southern Freedom

        • JustRuss

          Where’s the Like button?

    • Toberdog

      Treason in promotion of slavery?

    • dmsilev

      You could go with the original, “[w]ould amount to a perpetual covenant of war against every people, tribe, and state owning a foot of land between here and Tierra del Fuego”.

      (At-the-time Republican description of the Crittenden Compromise [sic], via McPhereson’s _Battle Cry of Freedom_)

  • sleepyirv

    He must be giving Lee quite a few extra credit points for the Mexican-American War.

    • Quartermaster Ulysses S. Grant

      But I rode through downtown Monterrey on the side of my horse while being shot at! That’s gotta count for something!

      (sigh) I knew racing against Andrew Johnson’s carriage through Central Park would bite me in the ass.

  • Lee Rudolph

    Clouds of Glory of course evokes Wordsworth (though I don’t know if the author has another antecedent in mind), and reminds me of Ambrose Bierce’s observation about a slightly later line in the poem, that whereas “Heaven lies about us in our infancy”, the world begins to lie about us pretty soon thereafter.

    In Lee’s case, the lies have been to his credit.

  • BobS

    The War of Treason in Defense of Slavery. I like it.

  • Ann Outhouse

    Because what the world clearly needs is yet another apologist pop biography of Lee from a non-historian pop writer trying to sell the Lee-was-a-complicated-self-contradiction bullshit to his tote bagger audience.

    See also Roy Blount Jr.

    • Lee Rudolph

      Roy Blount Jr.? Author of the immortal couplet,

      The neighborhood store is all out of broccoli,

      ? THAT Roy Blount, Jr.?

      Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

  • KeithOK

    I think Lincoln is also more iconic.

  • felonious monk

    The part of the blurb I really like is,’positioning him finally as the symbolic martyr-hero of the Southern Cause.’ To be a martyr, don’t you have to, y’know, die for the cause, not years later of natural causes?

    I nominate Stonewall Jackson as the real symbolic martyr-hero of the Southern Cause: shot by his own side in a fog of confusion while doing something stupid sounds about right.

    • somethingblue

      “University administrator” seems like a natural career move for a retired war criminal.

      There are, of course, people who’ve done it the other way round.

      • rm


        Y’know, Condi is in so many ways an interesting character, it’s really a shame about that lying-to-start-a-pointless-war thing.

        • So many of the decisions that were made by the people in that administration seem as though they had their basis in the crippled emotional state of the participants.

          • rm

            Yeah, but she is one who I can imagine having done better, unlike Dick and Donald and G.W. who were never no count for nothing. Those guys had no potential except for evil; she is more a tragic screw-up.

  • So-in-so

    Anyone else surprised that 49 comments in no Neo-confederate has shown up to tell us how wrong we have it, Lee and the heroic Southern cause defending themselves and their slaves I mean family from the mean old Yankees?

    • Malaclypse

      Jennie must have taken his meds.

      • So-in-so

        I thought they maintained spec ops trolls specifically to roll out when any blog or forum was insufficiently respectful of the Lost Cause. Did the last few ACW mentions not bring out some previously unknown trolls to play?

  • He met my ancestors in the Pennsylvania Reserves at Gettysburg. The rest, as they say, is history.

    • Hogan

      The rest, as they say, is history him getting his ass handed to him.

      My small tribute to your ancestors.

      • “In my opinion, the Yankees had something to do with it.”

      • CD

        +1. That was a near thing.

        • drkrick

          To say the least. If Jackson had been there on the first day to translate his vague musings into actionable orders, we’d be speaking English today. Or something like that.

  • Jay B.

    The Foner review was somewhat respectful but overall critical of the book, but in no way was it relayed that Korda thought Lee was THE iconic American hero — something which Foner would have pummeled into dust. Which means it HAS to be awful copy written by someone in the publishing house. My guess was that “The Confederate States of America’s greatest hero” (which he was, IMO, which is like saying gangrene is the greatest infection of course) was cut down to America’s by a witless copy editor.

    Otherwise, there’s a slavery apologist at HarperCollins. Is that where Adam Bellows ended up?

    • MattT

      I’d assume it’s just straight up marketing. Lost cause morons have to be the primary buyers for generic Lee popular history/biography #42,317.

      • Aimai

        I just bought a history of Rabies so there might be a market for “America’s most iconic form of gangrene.”

        • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks

          Aimai, was it this book?

          • Barry Freed

            That looks good.

    • C

      I was surprised at how much Foner pulled his punches. I recently had a long evening chatting with him, and the man has only gotten more direct as he retires. I’m going to assume the book is not as bad as the publisher’s synopsis, otherwise I think Foner would have roasted him alive.

  • hickes01

    Isn’t today “Jefferson Davis Day” in Alabama? So depressing.

    • Today is also the anniversary of the day that Lou Gerhig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hell of a coincidence.

      • somethingblue

        Like rain on your wedding day.

        • The prophet Nostradumbass

          Isn’t it ironical?

      • LosGatosCA

        Especially since Gehrig didn’t die of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

        That’s like a Sharknado on your wedding day.

        “You mean I’m gonna die?”

        “Most definitely. But you do get to have a disease you don’t have named after you.”

        “Well then, my bucket list is complete.”

  • Shwell Thanksh

    For some definition of “save”, Lee “saved” the Union.

    Paging Peter Arnett, you’re wanted on the red phone.

  • uncle rameau

    this was a topic on Tom Ashbrook’s On Point recently, and the matter of fact defence of Lee as a noble and heroic figure was dumbfounding. People who objected in the tones found here in comments were dismissed as shrill and unworthy. Maybe it was my post operative loopiness but it was very jarring to listen to.

    • Marek

      Yeah, I heard that show. It was very strange. “Lee was so loyal! He felt such strong loyalty to Virginia, which is what mattered then!”

      The (correct but banal) point was made that we shouldn’t judge historical figures by today’s standards. Fine: by the standards of 1861, he was a traitor and a slaver.

    • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks

      Yeah, that sounds like an Ashbrook show.

  • Joe

    Foner’s discussion of Lee after the war, including his committee testimony, is important. His review suggests the book is okay, but lacking in some key points. People can enjoy those extended battle sections though like some sort of war porn.

    Longstreet was more of a “hero” after the war on that front, from what I can tell. Even w/o the fictional account that had him lead the forces against Germany invading the US c. 1900.

  • That entire blurb is a doozy. Calling a man who died of a stroke/pneumonia in his bed at the age of 63 a martyr is especially twee.

    But do authors normally write them? I’ve come across so many that were obviously written by someone who hadn’t read the book that I don’t read them at all.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      I wouldn’t think an author was any more likely to write their own blurbs than newspaper reporters write their headlines. this is a sales pitch aimed at the re-enactors and lost cause-rs

      all that said I read Korda’s version of U S Grant’s life and it was a serviceable book for someone who didn’t want to read one of those doorstop biographies

    • CD

      Really. What does a white man have to *do* to get punished?

      • Tucker

        Start a war under false pretenses? Oh wait….

  • The object is to sell books, of course, truth be damned. I think Scott pretty well identifies the target audience for that blurb.

    Looking for a book written by a professional historian featuring long, gripping battle sequences that gives Lee his due as a military leader but that’s it? I recommend Richard Slotkin’s The Long Road to Antietam. Besides not glorifying Lee, it has the additional virtue of showing up McClellan as the magnificent asshole he was.

    • timb

      Every book does the latter. I sometimes to think of what an uglier country we would have if President McClellan had won that ’64 election

      • drkrick

        It would certainly be smaller.

  • Oh, as for the myth of Lee, well, it helped he looked the part so well, but I’ve always thought the movie Gettysburg took that on (to a degree). Martin Sheen’s Lee looks the part, acts the part, has qualities that make him right for the part, but still has a touch of weakness and vanity that makes him suspect in the part. Add Tom Berenger’s Longstreet’s growing doubts and horror and it’s really something of a subversive portrait. Pickett’s Charge becomes emblematic of the Southern Cause—thousands of men sacrificed for the vanity and ambitions of old aristocrats. I’ve never seen Gods and Generals so I don’t know if Duvall’s Lee undid that.

    On the other hand, one of the most stirring moments in Lincoln for me was Jared Harris’ entrance as Grant. The second he appeared I wanted to jump up and point at the screen, yelling, “That’s HIM!” The scene between him and DDL on the porch broke my heart for both men.

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