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The Bloody Shirt: Terror After the Civil War Paperback – Bargain Price, December 30, 2008

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From Publishers Weekly

Journalist and military historian Budiansky (Her Majesty's Spymaster) pulls no punches in this hard-hitting examination of the most sordid aspects of Reconstruction in the South from 1865 to 1876. The brutal war of terrorist violence that he surveys certainly has not escaped the history books. But this worthy effort goes a long way toward highlighting the most venal aspects of how, in the 10 years after the Civil War, the white Southern power structure managed to erect the Jim Crow laws that for nearly a century legalized many aspects of racial discrimination. Budiansky also highlights men and women of courage, idealism, rectitude, and vision who confronted the establishment: Pennsylvania-born U.S. Army major Lewis Merrill, who fought the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina; Prince Rivers, a former slave and Union army Colored Troop sergeant who became a state legislator and trial judge in South Carolina; and Maine-born Adelbert Ames, a Union general who served as Mississippi's provisional military governor. Budiansky brings the unpleasant details of the era alive in a smoothly written narrative. (Jan. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“If ‘Profiles in Courage’ had not already been taken, it would have made the perfect title for this linked set of portraits honoring five men who risked everything to fight for the principles that had cost so many lives.”
The New York Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (December 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452290163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452290167
  • ASIN: B002HREL86
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,822,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Budiansky is a writer, historian, and journalist, the author of 14 books about military and intelligence history, science, and the natural world. He is a former editor and writer at U.S. News & World Report and The Atlantic and the former Washington Editor of the scientific journal Nature. He lives on a small farm in northern Virginia.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on February 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of the abiding misconceptions about the American Civil War is that the opposing armies parted with dignity, mutual respect, and even a certain degree of amiability at war's end. Joshua Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top, famously writes that he ordered his men to salute the brave Confederate soldiers who laid down their arms at Appomattox. Thus began the myth of a happy ending.

But historians have long recognized that civil wars are especially violent and acrimonious, and even after peace accords are signed, aftershocks of rage and recrimination continue. Given its horrible bloodletting, it would be strange if the American Civil War were an exception to this general rule. Author Stephen Budiansky, in one of the most horrifying books I've ever read, documents the decade following Appomattox and concludes two things: the war didn't really end in 1865, and the North didn't achieve the victory it thought it did.

When the "official" war ended, die-hard Confederates and secessionists seethed with anger and a stubborn refusal to submit. John Richard Dennett, a young "Nation" reporter who traveled through the South for 8 months after the war ended, concluded that nearly every Southerner he encountered was convinced that the emancipation of the slaves had reversed the natural order of things, and would eventually mean that an "inferior" race, bolstered by Republican carpetbaggers, would dominate a "superior" one. Given that a black revolt was one of the antebellum South's worst nightmares, this post-war conviction was a powerful incentive to violence.
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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By colinwoodward on March 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Budiansky has written a popular history of the Reconstruction era. His is no easy task, as Reconstruction falls far behind the Civil War as a subject of popular interest, despite their closeness on the historical timeline, and despite the fact that many of the Civil War's main players (such as James Longstreet, who's featured here) were very active in both. "The Bloody Shirt" is a well-researched and well-written account that focuses on several individuals and events rather than try to examine the period as a whole. The author explores Reconstruction in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina--the Deep South states that were the heart of the large plantation economy.

The main problem I had with the book was its emphasis on description rather than analysis. It reads like dispatches from the Reconstruction "front." That's fine, to a point, but at times it is more a string of primary sources than a monograph. Very often, letters and newspaper editorials, frequently printed whole, are left to speak for themselves. Much of this information could've been boiled down--and more importantly, should've been commented upon. For example, at one point, one Southern newspaper makes reference to "Colfax." Those familiar with the Reconstruction period will know this means the "Colfax Massacre" of 1873, which happened in Louisiana (if one wants to read about that, he/she can read the recent book "Redemption" by Nicholas Lemann).

Most importantly, the book lacks sufficient political context. The last portions of the book deal with the infamous Hamburg massacre (or, as Democrats fashioned it, the Hamburg "riot") in South Carolina. Budiansky unfortunately, doesn't give us much context about Reconstruction politics in that state.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Rosenblum on June 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stephen Budiansky has written an interesting account of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. Budiansky reminds us that from 1865 until 1877 the United States essentially fought an insurgency in the American South. And the sad fact is, that the United States lost the insurgency to the Confederacy.

The Bloody Shirt is not a straightforward history of the era but rather follows the lives and careers of several people involved in this insurgency. Through these people's stories we gain an understanding of the wider insurgency and the mistakes made by the Union which allowed the Confederacy to overturn the gains won in the Civil War and continue on their way of life.

The book focuses on people like; Albert Morgan, who was assigned as a soldier to police the Reconstruction South and later became a state senator from Mississippi, Lewis Merrill who commanded troops in reconstruction South Carolina, Adelbert Ames, also a soldier, who became the appointed governor of Mississippi, and Prince Rivers, a former slave who fought for the Union and became a county magistrate in South Carolina. Also making an appearance is General James Longstreet, the brilliant Confederate commander who later became a Republican and advocated the Union cause.

These men confront the enormously difficult challenge of trying to change a hostile culture. This culture, which could not bring itself to admit wrongdoing or guilt in any of its activities, resisted the attempt to enfranchise the black population with the rights of citizenship granted to them under the 14th 15th and 16th amendments to the Constitution.

What is lost to most modern Americans is the fact that this was truly a violent insurgency.
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