Friday, November 19, 2010

Found: The Lost Cause - Its Origins as a Phrase

By Don Shelton

Most of us have wondered at some point about the origin of the phrase “The Lost Cause”, or even why it is the title of this journal. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the use of “Lost Cause” to refer to the Confederacy’s bid for independence began in the 1860’s; indeed, by the time Sam Watkins published “Company Aytch” twenty years later he used the term with such familiarity and pride that it had obviously been an established part of the Southern lexicon for quite some time. The subtle but crucial transformation in usage happened almost immediately after the War—the struggle for Southern Independence was no longer “a lost cause” in the colloquial, but instead became “The Lost Cause” in reverential reflection on the idealism of defense of home and constitution from invasion—both physical invasion and invasion of philosophies repugnant to the agrarian, traditionalistic South and to the original intent of the Constitution. To stand against these invasions was seen as a victory unto itself; using “The Lost Cause” a backhanded way to recognize the military reality of defeat while saying that The Lost Cause was also The Right Cause to a Southern nation which placed honor above life itself—a conceptuality which is foreign to the modern mind saturated with Jerry Springer and Howard Stern.
Our Southern ancestors were also much better trained in literary allusion and historical reference than we are today. When Moses Ezekial created the Confederate monument at Arlington cemetery, he inscripted upon it the Latin phrase: “Victrix Causa Diis Placuit Sed Victa Caton” which translates to “The Victorious Cause was Pleasing to the gods, But the Lost Cause to Cato.” This is a quote from Lucan’s epic Pharsalia (Civil War) written about Julius Ceasar’s Roman civil war with Senator Pompey. The phrase doesn’t mean much, though, without knowing who Cato was. In his 1999 address given at the Arlington monument, Rev. Fr. Alister C. Anderson, Chaplain (Colonel) U.S. Army (Ret.) and Chaplain-in-Chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans explained:
You may remember that Julius Caesar made himself dictator of the Roman Empire for life and he marched against Pompey and the republican forces who resisted Caesar’s military and political grab for absolute control and power. Pompey was an admirer of Cato the Younger, who lived one hundred years earlier and was devoted to the principles and virtues of the early Roman Republic. Cato had one of the greatest reputations for honesty and incorruptibility of any man in ancient times, and his Stoicism put him above the graft, bribery and mad despotic ambition so prevalent in Roman politics of his day. Pompey’s army, however, was defeated by Caesar's legions at the Battle of Pharsalia in the Balkans, and Caesar went on to become what can be called the first of the Roman Emperors.
The Latin quote illustrates the truth of an historical and political continuum from the time of this ancient war to that of the War for Southern Independence. “Victrix Causa,” “the victorious cause”, referring to Julius Caesar’s inordinate ambition and his lust for total power and control, is compared with President Lincoln and the federal government’s desire for power to crush and destroy the South. Next we read “diis placuit” which translates “pleased the gods”. In this context, gods are with a small “g” and refer to the gods of mythology; the gods of money, power, war and domination, greed, hate, lust and ambition. Next we come to the noble climax of this quotation, “sed victa catoni” which translates “but the lost cause pleased Cato.” Here Lucan, the poet, refers to Pompey’s fight to retain the old conservative, traditional republican government of Rome. Even though Pompey was defeated by Caesar’s greater military power, his defeat, nevertheless, pleased the noble Cato. And here, of course, Cato represents the noble aims of the Southern Confederacy. The South fought politically to maintain the Constitution which had guided her safely for eighty-seven years. She merely wanted to be left alone and be governed by it.
In this context the use of “The Lost Cause” by Southerners becomes much more clear. The allusions to the virtuous cause of Pompey in fighting to save traditional values against overpowering tyranny would have instant appeal to Southerners, and taking into account Lucan’s Pharsalia would have been familiar reading to educated Southerners like Ezekial, this two thousand-year-old quote has to be considered the leading candidate as origin for usage of “The Lost Cause” term by Confederates.
The phrase has not, though, had universal acceptance among Southerners, with some feeling it to carry a negative or defeatist connotation; the most notable critic of the phrase was the renowned S. A. Cunningham, publisher of the original Confederate Veteran magazine. His criticism has been taken to heart by some in support of their disdain for usage of the phrase. In the December, 1902 issue of Confederate Veteran Cunningham called the term “detestable” in complaining that correspondents were using it in submitted articles. Cunningham said it “assuredly originated in the minds of prejudiced Northerners”. However, few people who quote Cunningham are aware that the original Confederate Veteran magazine and the original Lost Cause magazine were competing publications, and occasionally sparred with each other in print (as Stewart Cruickshank’s accompanying article will show). Taken in that light, it is possible that Cunningham’s criticisms may have had less than completely altruistic motivations (after all, Cunningham was a shrewd and experienced businessman), and such context should be taken into some consideration by those who base their dislike for the phrase solely on Cunningham. Ironically, a biography of Cunningham was published in 1994 and when it was reviewed by Book News Inc. the reviewer’s first sentence called Cunningham “a central figure in the Lost Cause movement in the post-Civil War South” and that quote now accompanies virtually every site listing the biography for sale. That a reviewer would use a term to describe a man who found it so detestable he refused to print it in his own magazine is a posthumous insult no one should have to suffer, especially a man who did so much for Confederate heritage as S. A. Cunningham.
When the Kentucky Division of the SCV was re-formed in 1983, choosing the name of a turn-of-the-century Confederate publication originating in the Bluegrass State as the title for the division newsletter seemed only natural to the division leadership (just as the national SCV had taken up the title for its magazine from Cunningham’s). While publication of The Lost Cause has been somewhat erratic in the twenty-two years since, the current magazine format is a serious effort by the Kentucky division to carry out the mission of the original publication: “to be a(n) illustrated journal of history”, both of our Kentucky Confederate ancestors, and our SCV today.
Originally published in the Spring 2005 issue of The Lost Cause.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Recounting of The Lost Cause, 1898-1904

By Stewart Cruickshank

In June of 1898 The Lost Cause began circulation from its offices at 328-338 W. Green Street in Louisville, Kentucky. The magazine was printed by the Courier-Journal Job Printing Company. Editor Ben La Bree, an entrepreneur, offered a year’s subscription for 75 cents and single copies for 10 cents.

The original masthead featured the Confederate Battle Flag with a broken staff imposed upon a black moon with 13 stars and the motto “Defeated but not dishonored”. A headliner regarding the War with Spain promised “This Journal will also contain a description of the battles and events of this war, fully illustrated with large Battle scenes, portraits, etc.” However, by the September issue the Spanish-American War had ended and this subject was no longer a feature.

The mission statement of The Lost Cause promised “An Illustrated Journal of History, devoted to the collection and preservation of the record of the late ‘Confederacy’ and to the recording of Humorous Anecdotes, Reminiscences, Deeds of Heroism, Terrible Hardships endured, Battles on Sea and Land and the noble Deeds Accomplished by the faithful and loyal Southern Women.”

A fire at the printing plant resulted in no issue being published in December of 1898. Publication resumed in January 1899. The June, 1899 issue was the last one to be edited by Ben La Bree. Due to a change in ownership no issue was circulated in July 1899.

The Lost Cause resumed publication in August. The new owners were the Albert Sidney Johnston Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Mrs. (General) Basil Duke was editor and Miss Florence Barlow the UDC chapter recording assistant secretary was the associate editor and manager.

This business venture of the Kentucky UDC placed it in direct competition with a rival publication produced by a former Confederate Army Sergeant Major, S. A. Cunningham, The Confederate Veteran. He was a veteran publisher who had learned some valuable lessons in the 1870’s competing for newspaper subscribers, and would be a strong competitor for the UDC to contend with.

A small ad in the August, 1899 issue revealed that over 1,500 subscriptions had expired with the August issue. “True Friends” were invited to re-subscribe to “Confederate History”.

The masthead was also changed to the one replicated in the previous issues of the modern-day version of The Lost Cause that we have been enjoying. The amended mission statement of the publication promised “A Confederate War Record”. “The Lost Cause is a monthly Illustrated Journal of History, devoted to the collection and preservation of the records of the Confederate States, Humorous Anecdotes Reminiscences, Deeds of Heroism, also devoted to the work and interest of the ‘Daughters of the Confederacy’”.

The Confederate Veteran, Cunningham’s publication, had by now become the largest distributor on the subject of the War Between the States. Cunningham was also the General Agent for the Jefferson Davis Monument Fund. The June 1899 issue of The Lost Cause featured “spicy reading” rebutting an editorial published in Cunningham’s magazine which had attacked the Financial Director of the Confederate Memorial Association, John C. Underwood. This feuding and debating was continued through the September 1899 issue.

The Lost Cause embraced marketing concepts in an effort to attract female subscribers. For example, a 100-piece Princess China Set was offered free to anyone who sent in 25 yearly subscriptions. Another ad revealed that “Every dollar made by The Lost Cause goes to help Confederate Veterans, their families, widows, and orphans. This fact ought to be sufficient to enlist the interest of every veteran, son and daughter.”

The April 1900 issue announced a price increase to one dollar yearly. A single issue remained ten cents. The yearly subscription included, for a limited time, an 8” x 12” silk Confederate Flag. A subscription agent sending six (later five) yearly subscribers received a silver Kentucky souvenir spoon.

The November 1901 issue announced that “The Lost Cause is owned, controlled and edited by women—Daughters of the Confederacy—who are as loyal to the Southern Cause and the Confederate Veterans as any soldier who bore arms. No ‘Yankee’, as has been maliciously reported (apparently a reference to Cunningham) has any connection whatever with this journal. The Veterans can trust their interest into our hands with the assurance that it will be well guarded with the same devotion and loyalty which characterized the women in the ‘60s.”

The continuing sparing between the Nashville Tennessee published Confederate Veteran and the Louisville Kentucky published Lost Cause is also apparent in the following statements: The Lost Cause has the advantage over other similar publications in having access to historical matter and over 20 thousand cuts illustrative of Confederate history that no other publishing house possesses. This collection represents the work of one man for 30 years and an expenditure of over $100,000.00”

The April 1902 issue also stated that “The Lost Cause is the only journal published in the United States that is purely Confederate. No matter how Southern an article may be unless it relates in some way or has some bearing upon the Confederacy or its organizations we reject it. There are other Southern Journals but The Lost Cause is the only purely Confederate Journal.” The ladies of the UDC were apparently quite unafraid to mix things up with Cunningham.

However, the financial obligations had to take their priority. In a small ad that issue it was stated that an agent sending in four subscriptions would receive one year free. However, “credit would not be welcomed”. Later that year $50.00 cash was offered to anyone providing 100 subscriptions.

The July, 1902 issue was not printed. No reason was given. Publication resumed in August 1902. Beginning in October of that year an ongoing series which listed by state the “Regiments and Battalions of Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Engineers (including Indians) and their Field Officers in the Confederate States Army 1861-1865” was undertaken. This outstanding series was not completed though, as the final chapters of this tale will reveal.

The April, 1903 issue was not printed. Again no reason was given. Publication resumed in May. The September issue revealed that Mrs. Duke had gone abroad and would no longer be associated with the journal. Miss Barlow was now the Editor and Proprietor. She often traveled to various UDC and UCV camps speaking about Southern chivalry and the mission of The Lost Cause. A small ad stated that “those indebted to The Lost Cause for past years subscriptions will please remit. We can not keep up the good work we are doing without collecting what is due us.”

In January, 1904 the bargain rate of fifty cents for one year was offered. The March issue was delayed due to a printer’s strike at the publishing house. The Lost Cause ceased publication with the April, 1904 issue. Miss Barlow announced that ownership would be transferred to Mrs. J. T. McCutchen of Jackson, Tennessee. With that announcement a chapter in Kentucky publishing of Confederate history came to an end.

Today The Lost Cause has returned as the “Journal of the Kentucky Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans”. Your subscription and advertising support to The Lost Cause will continue the mission of honoring and remembering Kentucky Confederate history started years ago by Ben La Bree, Mrs. Duke and Miss Barlow.

Originally published in the Spring, 2005 The Lost Cause

Friday, November 5, 2010

UDC Beats Vandy

We’re not talking about a sporting event; shortly before going to press we received the powerful news that the ladies of the Tennessee United Daughters of the Confederacy had beaten Vanderbilt University’s attempt to get the courts to overturn contract law to satisfy their political correctness.

In 2002 Vanderbilt announced that the dormitory named “Confederate Memorial Hall” would have the word “Confederate” stricken from its name and inscription out of “sensitivity”. Unfortunately for Vandy, the UDC had donated $50,000 toward the construction of the building with the contractual agreement for the “Confederate Memorial Hall” name. The UDC filed suit to protect the name. The Chancery court sided with Vanderbilt, ruling that the emotions associated with the word “Confederate” were too much to inflict upon students no matter what the contract from the 1930’s said.

However, the appeals court judged otherwise. The panel ruled that basic contract law cannot be ignored, and that Vandy had to either let the name stay, or compensate the UDC for the $50,000 it raised to help pay for the dormitory. The appeals court sent back to the Chancery court the task of determining what $50,000 in 1930’s dollars is worth today, but some estimates were in the range of $700,000.

The other option for Vanderbilt would be to appeal to the Tennessee State Supreme Court; legal representatives for Vandy indicated that decision had not yet been made.

The SCV donated $10,000 in 2002 for the UDC’s legal costs in the suit; then Heritage Defense Chief for the SCV Allen Sullivant called the donation one of the best things done by the SCV during his term.

Beyond merely ruling in the UDC’s favor, one judge wrote a 23-page concurring opinion in which he scathed Vandy for their political correctness and ignorance of history; “A great majority of those who fought in the Confederate armies owned no slaves. Their homeland was invaded, and they rose up in defense of their homes and their farms,” wrote judge William B. Cain. “They fought the unequal struggle until nearly half their enlisted strength was crippled or beneath the sod. The dormitory is a memorial to them…”

Judge Cain went on to say, “It is to the memory of these men that Confederate Memorial Hall was built and, to that end and at great personal sacrifice in the midst of the Great Depression, that the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised and contributed to Peabody College (Vanderbilt’s predecessor) more than one-third of the total cost of the construction of the dormitory.”

Common sense still exists in the Tennessee judiciary, and hopefully this costly lesson learned by Vanderbilt will serve as a warning to other institutions which somehow mistakenly think they are above the law in their fanatical pursuit of political correctness.

Originally published in the Spring, 2005 The Lost Cause