A review of James Tyrus Seidule's Robert E. Lee and Me
Published on the Abbeville Institute Blog, January 5, 2024
More than anybody else, Seidule, vice chair of the naming commission, is responsible for the desecration of Arlington National Cemetery
EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, I read a book that is so flawed, biased and outright wrong that I can hardly finish it. Such is the case with “Robert E. Lee and Me” by Tyrus Seidule. I have always sought to give those who disagree me a fair hearing. Occasionally I may even learn something. But in Mr. Seidule’s case, his book is nothing more than a vile anti-Southern rant.
What is even more odd, is that Mr. Seidule was raised in Virginia by a good Southern family. As a boy and young man he naturally and rightfully revered Robert E. Lee, who along with George Washington, are considered to be the two greatest men in American history.
Perhaps because Mr. Seidule was once a Southerner (he now resides with the Yankees in New York), he exhibits what psychoanalysts call a reaction formation against the South, particularly most white Southerners, who are little more than irredeemable racists in his assessment.
This book is little more than an exercise in virtue signaling. Certainly as an Army officer he was subject to the usual Defense Department “woke” ideology, and it appears that Seidule took the bait. Wokeness, along with virtue signaling and shutting up and following orders summarizes current DoD policy.
I have a particularly good understanding of the current mentality across all branches of the service. Unlike Seidule, I have served in every branch of the armed forces except for the Coast Guard. I was most impressed with the Marine Corps, who were definitely a cut above the rest. Seidule’s experience was limited to the Army.
At times, Seidule’s hate for the South practically leaps off the pages of his book. For someone who claims to be a historian, his arguments are extremely one-sided. He makes no attempt to present a rational and unbiased presentation. Mr. Seidule believes he was betrayed in his youth regarding his Southern heritage. His historical analysis is reduced to the simplistic believe that slavery is bad and the South had slaves, and slavery caused the war and thus the South is evil.
Of course, this is a completely false belief, as the North also had slaves and Yankee fortunes were made in the slave trade. The federal government made millions of dollars taxing slaves as property. During the excavation of a site in Manhattan, approximately 400 graves of slaves were discovered. Many of the skeletons showed evidence of severe abuse. Northern states, like Abe Lincoln’s Illinois, passed laws forbidding the entry of slaves into their state. Seidule’s belief that the Yankees were somehow the defender of the slaves is totally inaccurate.
Speaking of Lincoln, when he was a lawyer in Illinois, he represented a slave owner in a custody case to return his escaped slave. Lincoln also famously told Horace Greeley that if he could free all the slaves to save the Union, he would do so, or keep all slaves in bondage to save the Union he would do so. Lincoln’s ultimate “solution” to the slave problem was to deport the slaves. There’s compassion for you. Of course, Lincoln’s top general U.S. Grant kept slaves during the war. When ask why he didn’t free them, he allegedly replied, “Good help is so hard to come by these days!”
The northern history books are so biased that the fact of Lincoln being America’s greatest executioner is little known. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find that on December 26, 1862, Lincoln ordered the execution of 38 Sioux Indians in Minnesota. After “trials” lasting as little as five minutes and no legal representation, the 38 men were found guilty and hanged. This execution easily surpassed any lynchings in the South. Originally, the plan was to hang 303, but Lincoln feared disapproval from potential European allies.
Lincoln also famously told Frederick Douglass that whites and blacks could never live together as equals. He apparently was unaware that in the South whites and blacks lived and worked side by side. Many slaves were alarmed at the prospect of losing their homes and the care provided for them if the North won the war. Their fears were justified, as nearly one million slaves died in the years following the war due to starvation, disease and neglect. The incompetent federal government was entirely unprepared to care for the massive number of homeless slaves.
As most honest scholars believe, the cause of the War for Southern Independence (it was not a civil war, as the South was not seeking to overthrow the U.S. government, but rather peacefully withdraw from the Union) cannot simply be reduced to slavery, as Seidule believes. Like all wars, it was about power and greed on one side (Union) and fear and self-preservation on the other side (South).
Mr. Seidule makes a big point of the lynching in the South, certainly a great evil. But it is curious that he omits the lynchings in New York City during the NYC Draft Riots of 1863. Over 5 days at least 11 black men were lynched. Some estimates say that 1200 people were killed, many of them black. The riots were started by Irish-Americans, who resented being drafted for what they perceived was a war to free the slaves. So, lynchings were not exclusive to the South.
If they were not fighting for slavery, then what were Southerners fighting for? My ancestors were farmers in Tennessee who, like the majority of Southerners, did not own slaves. They fought in the Confederate Army in response to the Yankees invading their homeland. Resisting invaders is a perfectly honorable response. A true man cannot stand by while an army from another country invades his home. To do otherwise would be dishonorable. It is never treason to defend one’s home from invaders.
Volumes have been written about Union General Sherman’s war crimes against the Southern people, including the slaves. Sherman’s men raped and murdered many slaves on his forced march to the sea. When one of Sherman’s staff officers, Capt. Poe remarked to Sherman about all the dead women and children in the streets of Atlanta, Sherman remarked that it was a “beautiful sight.” Of the 400 buildings in Atlanta before Sherman’s arrival, only 40 were left standing. Robert E. Lee and his officers strictly avoided warfare against Yankee civilians. In contrast, if the South had won the war, Sherman and Lincoln would be rightly executed as war criminals.
Seidule fails to appreciate that you cannot fairly judge the past by modern-day standards. By today’s standards, all whites in the 1860’s, North and South, were racists; even Saint Abraham. We must look to the past and learn from it, not judge it. We never have all the information. Of course, for the “Wokester” who is merely virtue signaling, facts are not particularly important. So many lies have been told about the War that the facts are often obscured.
Seidule criticized the South’s secession as an “armed rebellion.” Of course that’s exactly what the colonies did when fighting the British Empire. The United States was born from armed rebellion, so it was nothing new in 1861. A fundamental disagreement between Yankee sympathizers like Seidule and true Southerners was expressed by President Jefferson Davis, who said, “We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for independence …”
Several times Seidule makes a point of saying that “Lee and his comrades killed more U.S. Army soldiers than any other enemy, ever.” But he fails to mention that Lincoln and Grant killed more Confederate States of America soldiers than any other enemy, ever.
Seidule also insists numerous times that Lee committed treason. This simplistic statement is of course totally false. At this time in American history, a man’s first loyalty was to his state; in Lee’s case Virginia. Loyalty to the United States was purely secondary. No true Virginian could be expected to raise his hand against his home state and his family.
It was not until Lincoln’s time that the states were permanently diminished and the all-powerful federal government that we labor under today came into existence. The author appears angry that while the North won the war, the South has won the peace. Yankees by the millions have escaped the cold, inhospitable North to enjoy the warm, friendly South.
Seidule doesn’t seem to understand that each of the 13 states entered into an agreement to form an alliance, the United States of America. There was never an understanding that this was a perpetual union. A state could leave the union as easily as it entered. In fact, several New England states threatened to leave the Union in the early 1800’s and even refused to support the War of 1812. So were these New England states plotting treason? Of course not! The South has never had any problem with Yankee states leaving the Union, especially since they such disagreeable people.
There is no surprise that Washington and Lee University gave Seidule a standing ovation for his speech dishonoring Robert E. Lee and the South. University faculties have succumbed to Wokeism, weak minded liberalism, virtue signaling and white guilt. There is a move to rename Washington and Lee, which Seidule heartily supports. My suggestion is “Woke University.” Southerners should no longer consider attending a school that despises its heritage.
While our country is far from perfect, it is certainly true that African Americans fare much better than their African brothers in countries like Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria and Ghana, to name a few. This is a simple fact of life that has nothing to do with racism. Today’s African Americans owe much to the sacrifices of their slave ancestors. America has made great strides toward racial equality. We are not perfect and never will be.
Mr. Seidule recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal (Aug 26-27, 2023) attempting to further his cause, even resorting to the use of exclamation marks. He also proudly refers to his appointment as vice chair of the “naming commission,” which was tasked by the Department of Defense to remove all references to the Confederacy at DoD installations. The main outcome of this so-called commission’s actions was to insult and inflame Southerners. But this is of course typical of Yankees, who excel at telling others how they should think.
Seidule and I will never agree, and that’s fine. Unlike Yankees, I have no compulsion to force my beliefs upon other people. As for me, I will soon have raised five sons and a daughter who have been taught to honor their Southern heritage, and especially the great American hero, Robert E. Lee. My children will teach their sons and daughters and so on down the line. Millions of Southerners feel as I do, so Mr. Seidule, your cause and your misguided book are doomed to failure.
Publisher's Note, by Gene Kizer, Jr. - My friend, Dr. Joe Haines, a medical doctor in North Carolina, has written an outstanding review of Seidule's Robert E. Lee and Me. The review was published January 5, 2024 on the Abbeville Institute Blog.
The naming commission's report on the Confederate Memorial was leftist politics at its worse and not history.
See my article "Naming commission's report on the Confederate Memorial is a historical FRAUD," August 29, 2023.
Traditionally, 44% of our military was recruited in the South because military service was once revered in the South.
Because of Woke hatemongers like Seidule for whom political hatred knows no bounds, recruiting is way down across the board. It is past being a national security threat.
The healthy pipelines of recruits from the most patriotic places like the South have now been damaged by Woke ideology like DEI and Seidule's monument hatred.
We now have the smallest military since World War II yet are facing wars all over the globe, but Seidule hated the Confederate Memorial and his hatred is the most important thing to him and his career. The country be damned.
Seidule wrote in Robert E. Lee and Me on Page 162:
Of the thousands of monuments around the country to the Confederacy, the one in Arlington National Cemetery angers me the most. Every year, the commander in chief sends a wreath, ensuring the Confederate monument receives all the prestige of the U.S. government. That's why it riles me so much. . . .i
Seidule then admits that the Confederate Memorial stands for reconciliation, and he, himself, regrets that:
I know both political parties and white citizens in the North and South brought the country back together after the tremendous bloodletting and destruction of the Civil War. The posts named for Confederate officers during World War I also served to knit white America back together as it fought a common foe. And it worked, but we must recognize that reconciliation came at a steep and horrifying cost. African Americans paid the price with lynching, Jim Crow segregation, and the loss of the franchise. The price for white reconciliation remains far too high. (Bold emphasis added.)ii
About Nikki Haley, I am from Charleston, South Carolina and lived through Haley's reign of terror down here. I can tell you she is a RHINO who was enthusiastically supported by leftists in New Hampshire recently though she still got trounced by Trump.
Haley is EXACTLY the same as fake Indian Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Both are desecrators of the history of people who are better than they could ever be.
When Haley stands in front of a mirror, Elizabeth Warren looks back.
i Ty Seidule, Robert E. Lee and Me, A Southerner's Reckoning with the Myth of the Lst Cause (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2020), 162.