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The False Cause

Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory
Adam H. Domby

BUY Cloth · 272 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813943763 · $29.95 · Feb 2020
BUY Ebook · 272 pp. · ISBN 9780813943770 · $29.95 · Feb 2020

The Lost Cause ideology that emerged after the Civil War and flourished in the early twentieth century in essence sought to recast a struggle to perpetuate slavery as a heroic defense of the South. As Adam Domby reveals here, 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 Confederate army as one of history’s greatest, 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 of 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 American Civil War

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. While a case study of North Carolina, 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

From street names to local politics to tourist attractions around the Lowcountry, the institution of slavery is arguably the single-most-significant historical theme still affecting Charleston, now a city which attracts millions of visitors each year and thousands of new residents each month. A just-released book by College of Charleston history professor Adam H. Domby examines the fallacies of the Confederate narrative which still define how many people see our diverse, growing state.

Charleston City Paper

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.

Society for U.S. Intellectual History

The False Cause is full of thoroughly entertaining stories thatgrab readers' attention and make them think about the lies of theLost Cause and how pervasive that narrative has been throughout UShistory. Domby concludes this work by calling on his fellowhistorians to carefully and thoughtfully engage with the public withthe hope of curtailing these dangerous fabrications, because we "havethe ability to call attention to how the past has been used andmanipulated." Judging by his Twitter feed, Domby is leadingby example.


Domby provides the most extensive discussion of the role of white supremacy in the Lost Cause that we have.... The False Cause makes an important contribution to current public debates over that history and the continued use of Confederate symbols.

Civil War Book Review

It is a measure of how valuable this book is on North Carolina, that itintensifies the need for a comprehensive look at the legacy of lies ennobling the CivilWar. Truth, it has been said, is the first casualty in war. It is time for historians to tendto the still-walking wounded.

North Carolina Historical Review

This is an important book that should be read widely by scholars, students, and activists who seek to counter the myths of white supremacy in our research, our classrooms, and in our in public spaces.

Slavery & Abolition

The] impact of [Domby's] narrative is devastatingly powerful.... Domby never directly advocatesthe wholesale removal of Confederate statues, but few historians—or white southerners—who read this essential book, as they should, can look at them in the same way again.

Harold Holzer · Journal of American History

In The False Cause, Domby not only debunks the lies at the heart of the Lost Cause, but also exposes their intent.... [He] disentangles this expansive network of untruths through an examination of monuments, histories, and pension records...A thoroughly engaging read....Domby pleads with his fellow historians to undo these fabrications through careful research and public engagement. With The False Cause, Domby puts himself on the front lines of this effort.

The Civil War Monitor

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