Many of our neighbors in East Cobb were born, raised, and educated outside of the south. They may not know how the biggest loser in the Civil War got to be a dead celebrity in Georgia.
My mother learned of this uniquely southern fixation when she came south in 1943. The civil war was a chapter in her high school history book in Michigan. In the south it was more than an obsession, more than a way of life, it was life itself. In this life, the war had not been lost. It wasn’t even over.
The north had its history, victories, heroes, and monuments, and then moved on. The south with its inflated egos, illusions of nobility, and supposedly high moral values had just wasted hundreds of thousands of southern lives and destroyed their economy to protect its evil slave based economy. This reality could not be true. The south went into hyper denial to protect their tender psyches and immediately after the war a new reality was created and time and progress stood still for over a century.
The south created its own parallel history (they won the war or would have if it was an even fight), they had better heroes, (Robert E. Lee was the best general since Alexander the Great, more noble than king Arthur, and the best man since Jesus), and then there is their monument, Stone Mountain, the home of Klan rallies.
Churchill may have said that “history is written by the victors” but he was not familiar with the south. The South Carolina legislature mentioned more than a dozen times that slavery was the reason for session and the attack on Ft. Sumter just before the war. After their loss in the war, the reason for the war changed to something more elegant and defensible than man exploiting his fellow man. Thinly disguised excuses for slavery, state’s rights and economic differences, became the common justifications in southern academic discussions and then into their history books, textbooks, and culture. To dispute this faux history would be heresy, so these lies became the southern reality.
The Marietta Daily Journal does not have an obsession about the civil war. They think they are honoring the memory, glory, values, and heroes of the region.
The civil war was elevated in the south to a grand crusade fought by brave Christian underdogs against the unwashed, uneducated castoff hordes of Europe. The south was led by the finest man our American civilization had produced. Noble causes require noble leaders. The southern history of Robert E. Lee is a library of many volumes. They made him out to be more saint than human. This man of unequaled nobility and grace routed the evil Yankees again and again till he surrendered.
Alan T. Nolan’s wrote “Lee Considered”. Nolan said that Lee had never been considered historically in an honest, accurate, and factual way in the first place. If Lee had been treated fairly but in an incomplete way, Nolan might have written a book titled, “Lee Reconsidered”. So Nolan was left to look honestly as a historian for the first time. With this impartial look at Lee the fictional hero became a puny human. The myth was exposed but what southerner would ever read this book of blasphemy?