Edward A. Pollard

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Edward A. Pollard
BornFebruary 27, 1832
DiedDecember 17, 1872(1872-12-17) (aged 40)
EducationUniversity of Virginia
College of William and Mary
Political partyDemocratic

Edward Alfred Pollard (February 27, 1832 – December 17, 1872) was a Virginian journalist and author. Pollard was a Confederate sympathizer during the American Civil War and wrote several books on the causes and events of the conflict.

Pollard is most famous for authoring The Lost Cause in 1866, followed up by The Lost Cause Regained in 1868; these two works, both written after the war, gave two different descriptions of the causes of the war and the nature of southern society. The earlier work saw the war as being between two opposing ways of organizing society and saw slavery as a key part of the nobility of the South and a key basis of the difference between the societies; the latter work argued that the primary reason for Secession was not slavery but the preservation of state sovereignty, although he clearly supported the institution of slavery.[1]

The Lost Cause and The Lost Cause Regained both advocated for the supremacy of the white race, supported the relegation of blacks to a second class status, and accused the U.S. government of alleged excesses committed during and after the war.[2] However, The Lost Cause Regained reflected much of Pollards post-1867 writing in attempting to reconcile former pro-Confederacy ideas with new realities and supported patriotism and free-labor Unionism.

Early life and education[edit]

Edward Alfred Pollard was born on February 27, 1832 on the Oakridge Plantation in Nelson County, Virginia, he graduated at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1849. He then studied the Law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia as well as in Baltimore, where he was admitted to the bar.


He worked for a newspaper in California until 1855, he later wrote that his time in California convinced him that free-labor societies were a competitive war of all against all, a philosophy which he used in his justifications of slave society.[3] From 1857 to 1861, he was clerk of the United States House Committee on the Judiciary.

During the American Civil War, he was one of the principal editors of the Richmond Examiner (along with Robert William Hughes), which supported the Confederate States of America, but was hostile to President Jefferson Davis. In 1864, he sailed for England, but the vessel on which he sailed was captured as a blockade runner, and he was confined in Fort Warren in Boston Harbor from 29 May until 12 August, when he was paroled. In December of that year, he was placed in close confinement at Fort Monroe by order of the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, but was soon again paroled by General B. F. Butler. In January, he proceeded to Richmond, Virginia to be exchanged there for Albert D. Richardson (1833–1869), a well-known correspondent of the New York Tribune, who, however, had escaped before Pollard arrived.

He wrote several books. For example, in 1859, he advocated reopening the slave trade in Black Diamonds Gathered in the Darkey Homes of the South, he also rejected the idea that slavery improved the slaves and that slavery should gradually fade away.[4] Pollard was strongly in favor of secession and during the war continued to write about slave society and Union depredations. After the Union forces occupied Richmond in 1865, he was arrested for continuing to publish pro-Confederate and pro-slavery writings, and he decried emancipation as the North's ultimate war crime.

In 1866, Pollard published his most famous work, The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates; this book saw the war as a contest between "two nations of opposite civilizations" that had been different since colonial times. As opposed to the Puritan North, the Cavalier South had developed a "feudal" society based on slave labor, which "established in the South a peculiar and noble type of civilization." Slavery "inculcated notions of chivalry," "polished the manners" of slaveholders, and relieved the “demands of physical labor,” thus affording the "opportunity for extraordinary culture.” Pollard worried that defeat in the war might cause the South to "lose its moral and intellectual distinctiveness as a people, and cease to assert its well-known superiourity in civilization."[5]

In 1867 he wrote that the rebellion would re-open and be successful,[6] but the realities of reconstruction forced Pollard to reconsider, and Republican political gains in late 1867 led him to believe that southern Democrats should not stand aside from politics in the 1868 election, he began to think of the Civil War as a constitutional contest rather than an ideological contest of opposing social systems, and began to support President Johnson as a defender of constitutional liberty. In similar tones, he began speaking of pre-war states-rights advocates such as John C. Calhoun as Unionists who sought only their constitutional rights and not secession.[7]

In 1868, he urged the necessity of white supremacy during Reconstruction in The Lost Cause Regained, which was written as a Democratic campaign document,[8] he otherwise wrote that Johnson's programs were right, and that secession was not a legal act.[9] In that book, he no longer supported former President Jefferson Davis, instead attacking him for being ineffective and ignorant,[10] and a year later he wrote a scathing biography of Davis entitled The Life of Jefferson Davis. In this book he criticized many other political and military leaders of the Confederacy as well, he wrote that the southern way of life had contributed largely to the defeat. Jack Maddex Jr. writes that Pollard found it hard to navigate inconsistencies between his new-found pro-Union white supremacist position and a pro-Confederate position he also attempted to hold, and after his biography of Davis, the Confederacy was no longer a main topic in Pollard's writings.[11]

Meanwhile, he also edited a weekly paper in Richmond, Virginia from 1867 to 1869. Moreover, he conducted the Political Pamphlet there during the presidential campaign of 1868.

Pollard continued to change his opinions. By the early 1870s, Pollard wrote in favor of northern capitalism and thrift, limited civil rights legislation, and black suffrage, he supported segregation, but opposed the Ku Klux Klan, and shortly before his death wrote that by 1860, slavery had "completed its historic mission and its continuance would have been an inexcusable oppression."[12]


He died on December 17, 1872 in Lynchburg, Virginia, at 40, he was buried in the cemetery of the Oakridge Plantation in Nelson County, Virginia.[13]


  • Black Diamonds Gathered in the Darkey Homes of the South (1859).
  • The Southern History of the War; 3 vols.:
    • First Year of the War, with B. M. DeWitt, 1862
    • Second Year of the War, 1864
    • Third Year of the War, 1864
  • Southern History of the Civil War; 4 vols. The Blue & The Gray Press:
    • First Year, Volume 1 (No publication date given)
    • Second Year, Volume 2 (No publication date given)
    • Third Year, Volume 3 (No publication date given)
    • Fourth Year, Volume 4 (No publication date given)
  • Observations in the North: Eight Months in Prison and on Parole (1865).
  • The Lost Cause (1866).
  • Lee and His Lieutenants (1867).
  • The Lost Cause Regained (1868).
  • The Life of Jefferson Davis (1869).
  • The Virginia Tourist (1870).


  1. ^ Pollard, Edward Alfred. The Lost Cause Regained /. New York :, 1868.
  2. ^ “The Lost Cause.” The Sun (1837-1989). August 13, 1866.
  3. ^ Maddex, 596
  4. ^ Maddex, 596
  5. ^ Edward A. Pollard, The Lost Cause; A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates (New York: E. B. Treat and Company, 1866), 47, 50, 51, 751.
  6. ^ Maddex, 599
  7. ^ Maddex, 600
  8. ^ Maddex, 603, 601
  9. ^ Maddex, 602
  10. ^ Maddex, 601
  11. ^ Maddex, 609
  12. ^ Maddex, 611
  13. ^ Maddex, 7, 78.
  • Maddex, Jack P. The Reconstruction of Edward A. Pollard: A Rebel's Conversion to Postbellum Unionism. The James Sprunt Studies in History and Political Science, volume 54. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1974.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pollard, Edward Albert" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.