As I read this moving memoir of a historian who grew up with an alternative vision of the Civil War, I thought about the life of the Apostle Paul. Paul, or Saul, before his name change, believed the vision of Moses and centuries of Old Testament traditions were undergoing revisionist history from followers of Jesus who began proclaiming a story about some crucified, heretical rabbi. Only an intervention from the resurrected Savior changed Saul’s “lost cause” into a better story.
Seidule, a retired professor of history at West Point Military Academy, grew up as a Southerner and learned the history of the Confederacy from family, friends, and the institutions that impressed on him that the South didn’t lose the Civil War. From the book’s marketing copy: “From his southern childhood to his service in the U.S., 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.”
In fact, the title “civil war” was never mentioned during his formative years as a military kid who was taught history at several high schools. When his wife challenged his historical formation, he began asking questions about why his version of history was not matching up with actual history. On his profound journey, he is confronted with the seductive forming power of “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell and outrage of school desegregation in the South during the 1960s. Seidule’s crisp, vulnerable writing keeps the reader engaged.
This thought-provoking book is great for personal reflection and for small groups. (St. Martin’s Press)
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