Ty Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee. From his southern childhood to his service in the U.S. Army, 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. Now, as a retired brigadier general and Professor Emeritus of History at West Point, his view has radically changed. From a soldier, a scholar, and a southerner, Ty Seidule believes that American history demands a reckoning. In a unique blend of history and reflection, Seidule deconstructs the truth about the Confederacy.
Therein lies a main myth of the 'Lost Cause' — that the Confederacy wasn’t really about slavery — that Ty Seidule brilliantly and brutally deconstructs in his eminently readable Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause. Seidule, who spent over 30 years in the US Army and taught for many years at West Point (and is now at Hamilton College, my alma mater), is not only an excellent historian, but a native Southerner and former believer of these myths. The book benefits from both his professional and personal experiences, as he offers not only a history of Lee but an autobiography of sorts, weaving together these narratives to offer a powerful, necessary and timely rebuke of the Confederacy and those who still venerate it ... Seidule’s prose is unsparing ... [Seidule] has written an extraordinary book that, by chronicling our darkest American moments, offers hope that we might one day see greater light.
When debate about the property seizure reached the U.S. Senate, Charles Sumner, who led that body’s anti-slavery forces, railed against the slaveholding Confederate general, saying: 'I hand him over to the avenging pen of history.' That pen has now been wielded to dazzling effect by Ty Seidule in Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause. Few others could write this book with such sterling credibility. Only a man of the South, a Virginian, and a soldier with a Ph.D. in history could so persuasively mount the case against a national hero, and label him a traitor ... stunning book ... Ty Seidule writes with the passion of a convert who’s seen the light and needs to shine it for other to save them from 'the lies and tropes' that blinded him for so many years. Robert E. Lee and Me is a cri de coeur, one man’s journey to humanity and his salvation from the pernicious lies of white supremacy.
[Seidule's] new book, Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause, offers hope that those who attempt to set the record straight about racism in the United States will indeed be listened to and believed ... Despite its very personal pathos, the book does not simply knock [Seidule's] boyhood idol off the pedestal; rather, it gives an uncompromising, searing, and full-throated indictment of a historically misrepresented man and myth, along with the many institutions that have given currency to all of it through the years ... In his conclusion, Seidule has one hope and one bit of wisdom. The hope: 'that the Lost Cause will not infect my grandchildren.' The key, he believes, is historical knowledge. 'The only way to prevent a racist future,' he writes, 'is to first understand our racist past.'