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Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195147626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195147629
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,687,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"Brilliantly researched and persuasively argued.... Levine delivers what ought to be a death blow to the still-popular refrain in Lost Cause rhetoric that the war had never been fought for slavery."--David W. Blight, Washington Post Book World


"Thoughtful, authoriitative, and convincing.... No one since Robert F. Durden has examined this broader issue with the kind of systematic and detailed attention that Bruce Levine provides in this slim but elegant book."--Civil War Times


"Having fought for nearly four years to keep their bondsmen in slavery, many Southern whites experienced what amounted to a deathbed conversion to the idea of freeing and arming them to fight for the Confederacy. As Bruce Levine shows in this important book, the idea was unlikely to become reality even if Appomattox had not intervened to end the experiment before it fairly started. Disentangling myth from history, Confederate Emancipation deepens our understanding of the Civil War."--James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom


"This is the little known, but vastly significant story of race at the crisis-point of the Confederacy. In clear and compelling tones, Levine sets out a history of the Civil War era through the words and actions of southerners pushed to the point of desperation, and hoping that slave soldiers might save the slavery-based southern way of life. This is historical detective work and analysis at its very best. The image of the Civil War South is transformed forever." --James O. Horton, co-author of Slavery and the Making of America


"The Civil War produced few more ironic episodes than the Confederacy's debate about whether to arm and liberate enslaved African Americans. Bruce Levine's welcome study illuminates the conditions that gave rise to the debate, the forces arrayed in favor and against the idea, and the ultimate failure of those who saw black men as the key to establishing a white slaveholding republic. This book, which reminds us again of the war's immense complexity, deserves to attract the widest possible audience." --Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War


"Throughout history, slaves have been armed in defense of their masters, often exchanging freedom for military service. The inability of the Southern Confederacy to do so until its doom was sealed reveals, perhaps as nothing else, the essence of Southern nationalism. In telling the full story of the Confederacy's failure to mobilize slaves in its defense, Bruce Levine brilliantly reveals the essence of Confederate nationality." --Ira Berlin, author of Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves


From the Publisher

"Having fought for nearly four years to keep their bondsmen in slavery, many Southern whites experienced what amounted to a deathbed conversion to the idea of freeing and arming them to fight for the Confederacy. As Bruce Levine shows in this important book, the idea was unlikely to become reality even if Appomattox had not intervened to end the experiment before it fairly started. Disentangling myth from history, Confederate Emancipation deepens our understanding of the Civil War."--James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

"This is the little known, but vastly significant story of race at the crisis-point of the Confederacy. In clear and compelling tones, Levine sets out a history of the Civil War era through the words and actions of southerners pushed to the point of desperation, and hoping that slave soldiers might save the slavery-based southern way of life. This is historical detective work and analysis at its very best. The image of the Civil War South is transformed forever."--James O. Horton, co-author of Slavery and the Making of America

"The Civil War produced few more ironic episodes than the Confederacy's debate about whether to arm and liberate enslaved African Americans. Bruce Levine's welcome study illuminates the conditions that gave rise to the debate, the forces arrayed in favor and against the idea, and the ultimate failure of those who saw black men as the key to establishing a white slaveholding republic. This book, which reminds us again of the war's immense complexity, deserves to attract the widest possible audience."--Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War

"Throughout history, slaves have been armed in defense of their masters, often exchanging freedom for military service. The inability of the Southern Confederacy to do so until its doom was sealed reveals, perhaps as nothing else, the essence of Southern nationalism. In telling the full story of the Confederacy's failure to mobilize slaves in its defense, Bruce Levine brilliantly reveals the essence of Confederate nationality."--Ira Berlin, author of Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves


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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By David Montgomery on December 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Bruce Levine provides an informative and very readable study of the Confederacy's efforts to arm slaves and even provide for their emancipation in return for joining the Confederate armies. His book focuses on the circumstances that led to the debate on arming black troops, who some of the players were in these debates, and what motivations led to the eventual acceptance on the part of the South's military and political leaders to implement this strategy late in the war.

The circumstances that led to the eventual implementation of arming black troops to fight for the South boiled down to a simple military reality: the South needed the man power. As Levine pointed out, only those leaders who had the foresight and understood the realities of the situation voiced support for or at least acknowledged the fact that new measures needed to be taken to stem the decline of the South's deteriorating military and political survival. Even up until the very end, many Southern politicians, and especially the planter class, refused to entertain the idea of sending their slaves to fight. These same people were very willing to send their own sons off to war, yet couldn't spare their slaves, who were still considered their property.

Many military and political figures had stressed the point that arming black troops and even offering freedom was the only way to continue the war effort. Among these individuals were Patrick Cleburne, Robert E. Lee, Judah Benjamin (who served in various Confederate cabinet positions) and others. Cleburne gained the most attention for his letter of support, an idea rejected by Jefferson Davis and many other politicians at the time.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. S. Bugher on December 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No wonder this book makes Lost Causers so mad; by describing the Confederacy's late and ineffective efforts to recruit slaves into its armies, Levine simultaneously shows both how central slavery was to the Confederacy's economic, political and social systems (and how it was thus the central cause of the Civil War) and how much slaves did to seek their freedom and destroy the system from within.
Levine offers an immense mass of evidence; there are 164 pages of clear, lively argument (with fascinating sketches of some of the main players), but the notes take up 52 pages and the list of sources, 18. The sources are particularly interesting: most are Confederates in the army, government and newspaper editorials talking about the issue at the time, and afterwards.
There's also a thought-provoking section that places the attempt at Confederate emancipation in context with successful efforts at top-down reform in other countries: Germany, Japan and Russia. And another that traces the links from supporters of Confederate emancipation, such as Cleburne, with the South's post-Reconstruction efforts to keep as much control of black labour as possible (Jim Crow).
This book is a fine addition to my Civil War library; I urge others to read it, and consider the evidence for themselves.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
When this book first came out, I had little interest in reading it. Titles like this usually indicate an author with an agenda. The book becomes their soapbox and they inflict a shrill partisan speech on the poor reader. In a classic case of judging a book by its' cover, I rejected it at once. At the Sarasota Civil War Seminar, this book was listed as one of the most important books of 2006 by a panel of authors. Based on their recommendation, I picked up the book to try to read it. Historians can read things that will induce a coma in an active five-year old.

The panel understated how good the book is. Anything dealing with race and the Confederacy is a highly charged and subject for both the Lost Cause Myth and Politically Correct Myth of the war. Bruce Levine reports without taking sides, providing a balanced account. In addition, he is has a very readable style, free of jargon, informative and interesting. The result is an intelligent, thoughtful book that is comprehensive and stimulating.

This is the story of conflicting ideas and basic assumptions being tested by the realities of war. America was sure that Blacks could not be soldiers. The South was sure that slavery was the best condition for both races. The realities of war caused the Union to create the U.S.C.T., enlisting thousands of Blacks. The South, with a smaller white population, first instituted conscription to fill her armies. Still with smaller armies, by 1863 people started talking about using slaves to make up the difference. In 1865, a few Black men were enlisted after a gut wrenching debate over independence, slavery, society and race.

How the idea develops from outright rejection through cautious acceptance to national policy is the heart of the book.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful By ROBIN MCCALL on March 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bruce Levine's book, Confederate Emancipation, helps to explain why the South lost the Civil War, and won the peace that followed. This is an excellent addition to any college course on the Civil War, because it fills in many of the blanks left by K-12 education on the same subject. Southern slaves were unhappy with their lives and their masters, and their masters were frequently unhappy with the Confederacy, particularly if it meant giving up their slaves for free. By the time the bulk of Confederate leaders decided to free their slaves, in order to make them Confederate soldiers, it was too late to do them any good.

Levine points out that many intelligent Confederate leaders, military and civilian, were not only anti-slavery, but they were also in favor of offering slaves their freedom to serve in the military. This book shows the initial Confederate reluctance changing by late 1863, as the South got more desperate. Unfortunately, it also shows that the bulk of southerners were so supportive of slavery, or the feeling that slaves were inferior, that they could not agree to arm slaves until it was too late. Southern elites were finally convinced, when they realized that they could either free the slaves and win the war, or not free them and lose the war. If they lost the war, they realized their slaves might actually become their masters, but if they won the war, they would still be able to control this source of cheap labor. Although the South did not win the war, they found a way to keep their source of cheap labor in another 100 years of virtual bondage. They turned defeat into victory.

After the Civil War, many southerners portrayed the Reconstruction Period (run by Yankees and African Americans) as a rape of the South.
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