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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Important Contribution to this Period in American History
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...
Published on December 18, 2005 by David Montgomery

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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I bought this is a present for my brother and he really likes it.
Published 1 month ago by Daniel


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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Important Contribution to this Period in American History, December 18, 2005
By 
David Montgomery (Beaufort, North Carolina) - See all my reviews
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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. Lee and others also saw the eventual necessity of strengthening the Confederate armies' fighting forces with the added promise of emancipation. As Levine discusses, just how they were going to induce these slaves to fight for a cause that had in part fought to protect slavery as well as convincing stubborn slave owners who refused to entertain the notion of allowing their `property' to fight for their cause, was another difficult challenge many had not considered.

The Confederate government became a late convert to the necessity of arming black troops, and even when it did, it did so half-heartedly, enacting weak legislation. The resistance to black recruitment was loud and forceful on the part of those who wanted to protect slavery and white supremacy. Even the calls by Cleburne, Lee, Benjamin, and others were not motivated by some belief that blacks should be or were entitled to equal rights under the law. Slaves themselves questioned the motivations of these leaders who were belatedly offering them freedom if they would fight, but not offering this same freedom to their wives and children. Point in fact, many blacks saw this as an act of desperation and doubted the sincerity of their masters and others who were offering these promises.

Slavery was not only a stain on the South but the entire nation. And while conditions in the South, such as its climate and lack of an industrial base favored slavery's existence and continuation, racism and the belief that blacks were inferior was prevalent throughout the country at that time. Levine's book is very provocative and has much to offer to the seemingly endless studies already written on this period in American history.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book and assess the evidence for yourself, December 3, 2010
By 
M. S. Bugher (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellgent, balanced and thought provoking, February 15, 2007
This review is from: Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (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. Using letters, speeches and newspapers, the author has the participants to tell the story. Both sides have a fair, complete presentation of the issues as they see them. Congressional debates, Administration bills and the compromises result in a badly flawed law that is to little to late. Acceptance of Black Confederates by the Army of Northern Virginia is a sub issue that stymied CSA leaders and required multiple meetings. Even Robert E. Lee is subject to questions, when he endorses this idea.

A second and equally important story line is slavery and the war. Starting in 1863, the advances of Union armies end slavery with no requirements on or restrictions for blacks. Information to slaves was restricted but it was impossible to hide the realities of war. Coupled with the absence of white males, modifications where made in the treatment of slaves and the expectations of owners. In the end, Confederate emancipation was inferior to that offered by the North. The slaves understood this and took sides based on that.

Not fully developed is the refusal of slave owners to provide slaves to the Confederacy. Lee's letters and newspaper stories highlight the "rich man's war, poor man's fight" that has only been hinted at in Civil War history. This idea, like Southern loyalists, strikes at the heart of the Lost Cause Myth. The second item that is not fully developed is the large number of black men that "fought" the war with Confederate armies as teamsters, orderlies, cooks and servants, an idea striking at the heart of the Politically Correct Myth. The book gives a short but honest account of both groups, whetting our appetite for more.

This is a very intelligently written, carefully considered, fair presentation of the subject. Reading this book will challenge what you think and know.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the South Lost the War and Won the Peace, March 29, 2008
By 
ROBIN MCCALL "LTC (Ret.) Robin McCall" (Chula Vista, California United States) - See all my reviews
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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. Through propaganda and political efforts, they convinced the United States to remove their soldiers from the South. This allowed them to resume their stranglehold on the South. Southern historians and politicians painted a picture of failed Reconstruction, while falsely claiming that plantations were not just benign, but actually education systems for slaves. All of these efforts allowed the South to re-subjugate African-Americans, using their cheap labor for "King Cotton" and other agricultural efforts.

This book is easy to read and well worth the effort, particularly if you believe that the Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery, not states rights. Well into the latter half of the 20th century, southern states were still teaching that it was over states rights, not slavery. Hopefully, they have started to step up to the reality of what actually happened.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hold off on building momuments to all those Black Confederates...., June 29, 2014
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This review is from: Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (Paperback)
Bruce Levine takes an episode in the Civil War (the subtitle spells it out: "Southern plans to free and arm slaves during the Civil War"), which for years was used to prove the loyalty of slaves to their masters and simultaneously that the Civil War wasn't about slavery to prove that both of these were a lie. For years after the downfall of Radical Reconstruction, a totally fictitious view of the Civil War and Reconstruction dominated what people in this country were taught about it. It took the Civil Rights/Black Power Movement to force a change in this. Those like Levine who are writing the best books on the turning point in US history are people who were inspired by that movement.

It's a short readable book that I strongly recommend.

Also essential reading: Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States); another Bruce Levine book The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South; Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877; Racism, Revolution, Reaction, 1861-1877: The Rise and Fall of Radical Reconstruction; The Strange Career of Jim Crow; All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw; Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution; Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power.

Despite the fact that more material is available than ever before, most of what is taught about the Russian Revolution is as much a lie as what used to be taught about this period in American history. This will change with the growth of a genuine communist movement in this country. For starters I suggest reading History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky published by Pathfinder Pr (1980) and The Revolution Betrayed.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing New, But A Good Debunker of Myth, April 10, 2007
By 
TEK (Lawrence, KS USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (Paperback)
This is an interesting book insofar as Levine is addressing those who have, in his view, taken as fact some of the historical falsehoods that are derived from the "Lost Cause" cult. Namely he is concerned with debunking the views held by some that: (1) thousands of blacks and slaves fought for the Confederacy; (2) blacks and slaves were cooperative in relation to the Confederate war effort; (3) the Civil War was not about slavery. Unfortunately, those who are members of the Lost Cause cult aren't easily persuaded of their foolishness no matter the weight of evidence presented to them (and Levine does have a plethora of evidence; two of his chapters have over 140 endnotes), so I doubt very much that this book will have the impact Levine desires.

The result, in my mind, is that Levine thus ends up preaching to the choir. Unless you're a member of the Lost Cause cult you will probably not find anything in this book that is particularly surprising. Levine shows that even though some Confederates (emphasis on the "some") did initiate a policy to enlist slaves into the Army, the results were pathetic. Only a couple of companies around Richmond were ever organized, totaling some few dozen troops - not the hundreds of thousands as advertised. Slave owners were unwilling to give up there slaves. In fact, owners seemed more willing to see their own children die on the battlefield than to see their slaves given over to the army for the purpose of bolstering the army's strength. Even if owners had been willing to give up there slaves, countless testimonies show that the slaves understood the desperate status of the Confederate war effort by early 1865 and were not going to fight for the South.

This book would make for a great secondary resource for those doing research projects on the topic. The book is full of source material. Nevertheless, this book is probably too dry for the average layman, especially when one considers the lack of novelty in the conclusions. Lost Cause perpetuators need to be rebuffed, but when historians pick up that task when writing a book the result seems to be a work that simply states the obvious.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable, richly sourced and well-organized., September 30, 2014
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This highly readable, richly sourced and well-organized work is the definative account of the political, economic and military forces that shaped the Confederacy's decision, in the last days of the war, to enlist Negro slaves as infantry soldiers. A very simplified summary is that the leaders of the Confederacy knew by 1864 that slavery was destined to end anyway; that slavery already had ended throughout the vast swaths of the South that had fallen under Union control; and that the desperate hope was to salvage a peace under which the plantation aristocracy would continue to dominate the political life of the South. The latter would ensure, if not slavery, the "next best" arrangement, a system of Negro servitude and peonage, backed up by suitable laws and law courts. Levine draws important connections between this last idea and the "black laws" that unregenerate Southern state legislatures passed immediately after the war, and also connections with the post-Reconstruction, Jim Crow period. The Confederate emancipation debates are thus seen as setting the cornerstone of the postwar political thought of Southern elites. The work is so well grounded in the primary sources that its key conclusions are very unlikely to be overturned.

The one-star reviews found here originate with stubbornly ignorant neo-Confederates, and they should be ignored.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Study With Far-Reaching Implications, November 4, 2013
This review is from: Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (Paperback)
Confederate Emancipation is an excellent, detailed study of the various plans to save the Confederacy and its plantation economics in some form or another by freeing and arming some slaves. The book's major strength is to show that those advocating these plans were not Southern abolitionists, but were instead individuals with a vision of something like the segregationist regime that eventually came into being. The book is a must-read for anyone who is a student of either the Civil War, Reconstruction, or the origins of Jim Crow.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My issue here is with the reviewers of this book., August 23, 2011
By 
Daniel Mckenzie (5404 Admiral Doyle RD Pensacola, FL 32506) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (Paperback)
I was recommended this book by David Blight, while listening to his Yale Civil War history course he brought up Levine so I looked further and found this book. I'm going to preface this by saying that I really did enjoy the exhaustive research that Bruce Levine showed. There is no doubt that the arguments he put forward have some merit, he clearly articulates his point. I may have ended his book with a different opinion than Levine by the end of the book but in no way does the research seem apocryphal. What does seem apocryphal instead is all this fervor in this reviews section taking a side on whether the civil war was "all about slavery" or whether it was "all about states rights". These issues of this time did not exist in a vacuum, history does not exist in a vacuum, and more importantly people do not exist in a vacuum. If this book is anything it is an exhaustive research on a very short window in history during a time period where future was not certain. If there is anything to show about these reviews of this book it is that our pride on both sides of this debate in some case matches and exceeds the vigor of the racism of the time period of this book.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The last word, October 25, 2007
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This review is from: Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (Paperback)
Levine's concise, trenchant work should slam the door on the Orwellian apostles of neo-Confederate revisionism. Black Confederates? Contented slaves? Levine buries the reader with an avalanche of well-researched historical fact that upon reaching his conclusion, only the lobotomized could continue to argue that the Confederacy didn't fight for property in man. Whereas neo-Confederates use occurrences of paternalism as "evidence" of the CSA's fight for "freedom" against the Yankee "oppressor," Levine uses a wide lens to look at the whole South and places slavery and the Confederacy in context. Is it original? Not really; but it is timely and powerfully argued, and (hopefully) ends the academic debate about the true nature of "black Confederates" and "contented" slaves.
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