The author, Ty Seidule, is a professor of history at West Point. That gives him real cache when he says the southern states lost the Civil War but won the battle for the narrative that followed. The South, he argues, maintains a perception that the war was over “states rights,” that the north won only because of overwhelming financial resources and personnel (the north also used unfair tactics, they claim), and that the really brave and heroic military commanders were southerners, most notably, Robert E. Lee.
Seidule was raised in the south and growing up wanted nothing more than to become an upstanding southern Christian gentleman in the mold of Lee. Gentelmanliness was another myth of the Lost Cause, that southern life before the Civil War was best depicted in Gone With the Wind: iced tea sipped quaintly on the wide porches of antebellum plantations by women in wide skirts attended by chivalrous men.
As Seidule makes clear in his introduction, the more research he has done, the more shocked he is by the effectiveness of southern propaganda. Plantations are nothing more than enslaved labor work camps. The Civil War followed a free and fair election that displeased the south so much, they started an insurrection and fought a bloody war against the United States Army. From that perspective, no southerner deserves a statue or recognition of any kind, and yet as he digs into the records, he sees that enslaved girls and women were subjected to sexual violence at will by southern gentlemen, and for decades, onto today, black men and women face an unfair electoral and judicial system of terrifying efficiency.
His point is made early enough in the book that reading the whole thing may not be necessary. Worse still, at the very opening, he admits that southerners wedded to Lost Cause mythology have rarely if ever been persuaded to change their perceptions when presented with facts.