Was the Southern view of the ACW the more accepted version in the past?

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,642
Republika Srpska
So, I'm pretty sure most of the posters here are familiar with the Southern view of the American Civil War, but for those that aren't here are some main points:
1. the South didn't fight for slavery
2. the South only lost because the North had more resources
3. the Southern soldier was more valiant than his Northern counterpart
4. the Reconstruction was a period in which the North oppressed the South

Now, I have noticed that this view was actually much more accepted, at least in popular culture, than the view of the ACW that is accepted today. Popular films like Gone with the Wind and The Birth of a Nation presented a view favourable to the Confederacy, there was a lot of effort by the organizations like the United Daughters to erect statues and other monuments dedicated to the Confederacy. I have also read that many Northerners accepted the Southern view because it made reconciliation easier. There were also numerous battle reunions in which the valor of the Southerners was praised.
 
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Jun 2013
505
Connecticut
Absolutely, positively the Southern view was the accepted view of the CW beginning during Reconstruction. Douglas Egerton (The Wars of Reconstruction, 2014) said that a dangerous trend developed with the outpouring of sentimental novels and fictionalized memoirs that “romanticized” the slave South. More people read these short novels than read Dunning-school boring histories.

These novels, loved in the North & South, showed benevolent masters, happy slaves on beautiful plantations. The sons went off to defend their homes against the oppressive barbarians. James Battle Avirett was famous for this.

David Blight (Race & Reunion, 2001)said “By 1880, South had been ‘glorified by disaster’ as though its ruins had become America’s classical past, a terrible and fascinating civilization that multitudes wished to redeem and admire because it was lost.” Yes, failed evil is enticing and fascinating.

Blight also mentions the plantation tradition that took over literature during Reconstruction. John Esten Cooke and Thomas Nelson Page were popular because they told of the “good life” through the voices of old-time plantation slaves complete with their dialect, e.g. marse, mistis, unka Billy, ol’Eb’neezer, etc.

One dissenting author was Albion Tourgee who, in 1888, lamented that the Confderate soldier has become the hero in American literature. This literature was uniquely Southern in type and distinctly rebel in sympathy.

All this fit in perfectly with the Lost Cause.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,586
Dispargum
Another factor was that after the war many former leaders of the Confederacy were unemployed or under employed and had plenty of time to write memoirs. Northern leaders usually went on to have bigger and better careers. Far fewer memoirs were written by Northerners. Confederates were motivated to explain away their failure. The North's victory didn't really need a justification. It certainly made for less interesting reading.
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,431
Another factor was that after the war many former leaders of the Confederacy were unemployed or under employed and had plenty of time to write memoirs. Northern leaders usually went on to have bigger and better careers. Far fewer memoirs were written by Northerners. Confederates were motivated to explain away their failure. The North's victory didn't really need a justification. It certainly made for less interesting reading.
This may account for the myth that the Confederacy outfought the Union and only lost because of superior resources.
 

David Vagamundo

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
4,439
Atlanta, Georgia USA
All of what you say in your initial post is true, Maki. By 1920 or so, the US had swallowed the southern propaganda. Birth of A Nation was even shown in Woodrow Wilson’s White House! It didn’t hurt the southern cause that most whites in the US, north and south, were terribly racist. It also didn’t hurt the cause that the Democratic Party needed the votes of southern whites, who were even more racist than the average white American.
 
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