The False Cause
Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory
Lost Cause ideology that emerged after the Civil War and flourished in the early twentieth century sought to recast a struggle to perpetuate a slaveholding culture as a heroic defense of the South. As Adam Domby reveals in his new book, this was not only an insidious goal; it was founded on falsehoods. The False Cause focuses on North Carolina to examine the role of lies and exaggeration in the creation of the Lost Cause narrative. In the process the book shows how these lies have long obscured the past and been used to buttress white supremacy in ways that resonate to this day.
Domby explores how fabricated narratives about the war’s cause, Reconstruction, and slavery—as expounded at monument dedications and political rallies—were crucial to Jim Crow. He questions the persistent myth of the Confederacy as one of history’s greatest armies, revealing a convenient disregard of deserters, dissent, and Unionism, and exposes how pension fraud facilitated a myth of unwavering support of the Confederacy among nearly all white Southerners. Domby shows how the dubious concept of “black Confederates” was spun from a small number of elderly and indigent African American North Carolinians who got pensions by presenting themselves as “loyal slaves.” The book concludes with a penetrating examination on how the Lost Cause narrative and the lies on which it is based continue to haunt the country today and still work to maintain racial inequality.
"A fascinating, original, and highly readable book that makes a meaningful contribution to understanding the Lost Cause and Civil War memory."
David Silkenat, University of Edinburgh, author of Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the Civil War
Table of Contents
1. Rewriting the Past in Stone: Monuments, North Carolina Politics, and Jim Crow, 1890–1929
2. Inventing Confederates: Creating Heroes to Maintain White Supremacy, 1900–1951
3. The Loyal Deserters: Confederate Pension Fraud in Civil War Memory, 1901–1940
4. Playing the Faithful Slave: Pensions for Ex-Slaves and Free People of Color, 1905–1951
5. The Soldiers Who Weren’t: How Loyal Slaves Became “Black Confederates,” 1910–2018
Epilogue: Why the Lost Cause Still Needs to Lose
"In The False Cause, Adam Domby has written a highly-readable and pointed assessment of the South’s postwar narratives about the Civil War, veterans, and slavery itself. He makes a compelling case that the Lost Cause, a narrative based on misrepresentation and, in some instances, outright lies, provided the justification for white supremacy, veterans' pensions, and African American disenfranchisement. [...] This book is a valuable addition to the historical literature on how the post-Civil War South reinvented itself and why, to this day, we still contend with the Lost Cause revisionism of the southern past."
Karen L. Cox, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, author of Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture
"That The False Cause was released and has gained so much attention with the debate over monuments intensifying makes sense, as the origins of the book itself have to do with the fight over the 'Silent Sam' memorial on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Yet I suspect the book will be useful for years to come, both as a primer to think about the crafting of the Lost Cause narrative, and to spark deeper discussions about how communities shape—and reshape—public memory for political, social, and cultural causes."