The Lost Cause of Centennial historiography

Gary Gallagher has (perhaps temporarily) given up his endless retelling of the Civil War master narrative - as seen in American Heritage magazine, 1961-1965 - to focus on historiography, specifically on debunking what is generally called Lost Cause history.

Perhaps he mistakes Lost Cause thinking for the last major threat to his view of the war. A pocket of resistance between his leaders - Nevins, Williams, Catton, and McPherson - and the enemy capital. Men, take that bunker and take no prisoners!

Now here comes Bill Blair and his Cities of the Dead, on the face of it, quite interesting: "[He] examines the turbulent history of Civil War commemorations in the South, the role these civic rituals played in Reconstruction politics and race relations, and their lasting impact on the way the war is remembered."

But you read the interview with Blair, and you understand that this is the lowest octane historiography available:
The Lost Cause was the title of a book by Sir Walter Scott. The term was used deliberately by Southerners right after the war, by 1866. They started this interpretation that basically said, "We didn't fight for slavery, we fought against overwhelming odds for state's rights. By the way, we were never defeated, we were just ground down by superior force." That was the mythology that persisted, and still persists.
My friend, every man who fought on either side started the war with an interpretation - they didn't gin one up in 1866 as a rationale for a four-year bender of which they had lost all memory. If you want to attack the Lost Cause as it emerged in the flurry of articles post-bellum, have at it. If you want to plumb the social origins of heritage pride, you need a different plan. Go to the letters of the men, to the camp and battlefield speeches of their officers, and to the daily editorials of the leading papers. Read the letters of the wives, the sermons of the clergy, the reports of consuls and visitors. Convince me that these sentiments were not internalized.

If Lost Cause intellectuals like Jubal Early created and then harnessed an inaccurate historiography onto the cart of pre-existing sentiment, get the sequence right. Distinguish the horse from the cart and try to understand which pulls which.

Centennial-school historians have a huge stable of their own to clean. Look inward, Bill Blair, and weigh your own assumptions and interpretations. Historiography must start with the individual historian's own mythology.