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The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812 Hardcover – January 22, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Impressively researched.” ―The Christian Science Monitor

“Thoroughly researched…fills in some much-needed background to the complicated relations that…mixed racism, fear and anger on one side with a unquenchable yearning for freedom on the other.” ―The Washington Times

“Engrossing…Smith's exhaustive research reveals that black sailors played a significant if unheralded role in virtually all of the U.S. Navy's successes…an important, lucid, often startling work of scholarship.” ―The Dallas Morning News

“Smith's long years of research and wide knowledge of this conflict has enabled him to focus on some of the remarkable stories of men and their families…illustrates clearly the plight of American slaves as they desperately struggled to gain their freedom and the lies, deception and deviousness their owners used to deny it.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Crisply told...Smith's first-rate study is a gripping tale of the evolution of race relations in early America.” ―Publishers Weekly

“The history of black servicemen long antedates the Civil War. In the Anglo-American War of 1812, both sides recruited black Americans as soldiers; the British offered freedom to American slaves who would fight for them. Gene Allen Smith's account, scrupulously researched in both British and U.S. sources, sheds new light on many aspects of that conflict, including the little-known 'Patriot War' in Florida. Personal narratives of heroic individuals add to the story a sense of immediacy. Scholars, military history buffs, and students of the black experience will all find a reading of interest here.” ―Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.

“Gene Smith's new book sheds considerable light on the role of blacks, slave and free alike, during the War of 1812. This is essential reading for all students of the war as well as for anyone interested in American race relations or U.S. military history.” ―Don Hickey, author of The War of 1812

“In The Slaves' Gamble, Gene Allen Smith richly details the lives of enslaved people struggling for freedom through an array of strategies in a complex war. Thoroughly researched and wide-ranging, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian frontier, and from the sunny Caribbean to dank Dartmoor Prison, this superb book illuminates the plight, courage, and resourcefulness of African Americans in the early republic.” ―Alan Taylor, author of The Civil War of 1812

“Gene Allen Smith captures with scholarly thoroughness the dilemma of patriotism that enslaved African-Americans struggled with during the War of 1812 and the range of their responses.” ―Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, author of A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons

About the Author

Gene Allen Smith is a professor of History and the director of the Center for Texas Studies at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. The author of numerous books, he is also the curator of History at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Smith has received research awards from TCU and Montana State University-Billings, as well as fellowships from the Henry E. Huntington Library, the Virginia Historical Society, the US Department of the Navy, the US Military Academy at West Point, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (January 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230342086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230342088
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,289,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The title and subtitle of this book are somewhat incorrect. The gamble of choosing sides applied to freemen as well as slaves, and as the author relates, these activities actually started well before the War of 1812. This is an important book that describes the choices faced by African Americans (when that is they had a choice) as to whether to take up arms or serve in other capacities in the conflicts from early in the seventeenth century up through the War of 1812.

Early on, the author shows how not long after the first Europeans arrived in the New World, and not long after they had started bringing in black slaves, those slaves were employed to protect their masters from Native American incursions and attacks by other European nations. As some slaves became freemen, they were also sometimes called upon to serve. Yet many white colonists were against the arming of slaves or even "colored" freemen. The American Revolution made this issue even more critical. Many American leaders were slave holders and resisted any calls to recruit slaves or black freemen, but manpower shortages often forced their hands. Yet after the war, promises of freedom offered for military service were often forgotten and laws passed to restrict black participation in militias or other military areas.

As tension mounted between the United States and Great Britain in the early years of the nineteenth century, British and Indian incursions into the Old Northwest states of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois brought pressure upon the political leaders to once again call upon black slaves and freemen to take up arms to provide defense for these areas.
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Format: Hardcover
The war of 1812 is considered much less significant and is not as well taught in schools as the Revolution. In other words this war seems something as an after thought. Dr. Smith brings this part of American history more to light.

Dr. Smith is a history professor at Texas Christian University and a history curator at the Fort Worth Museim of Science and History. He was a speaker at this Fort Worth museum, spoke about his book, signed and autographed copies. He has also spoken about other eras in American History at the museum.

An interesting fact which I never knew is that many slaves were leaving Canada to go to the northern states where there was no slavery at that time and place. This is one of many interesting facts. White Carolinians used blacks to defeat Native Americans in the past, then provided Indians with ammunition, guns, and ways to capture escaped slaves, thereby turning one disenfranched group against another. This is another interesting fact of history and well documented. The northern states abolished slavery, the south did not. Slaves fled to the north to get away from slavery.

Blacks served in almost all battles. There were black regiments, few gained noteriety, few served as officers. There were free black communities in large cities, run away slaves fled to these cities and also blended into marroon communities, assimilated with Native Americans, enlisted in the British Navy, did many ways to get away from being slaves. Surprisingly the British offered slaves a way to become free by joining up with British forces. Slave owners would lease their slaves to those needing help, then keep the slaves salaries.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Peter Denison, Charles Ball, Prince William, and especially Jordan B. Noble are four reasons why you should read this new book "The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812" by Gene Allen Smith. Great story-telling skills and extensive research in multiple archives and museums have produced this focused study on the role of African Americans in the War of 1812. Smith discusses British strategies, American attitudes, and the various options faced by slaves and free blacks throughout the conflict. Each of us might well have a favorite personality. I found Jordan Bankston Noble a captivating character. Born in 1800, Noble served as a drummer boy at the Battle of New Orleans. Then, he also fought in the Seminole War, the Mexican War, and was a combatant on both sides during the Civil War. He died in New Orleans in 1890, having witnessed many changes during his 90 years. This book provides a unique perspective on many of the key events of this "Forgotten Conflict" and provides an opportunity to expand one's view of the War of 1812.
Dr. Jim McConnell, Secretary, Michigan War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission
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Format: Kindle Edition
An interesting examinination of the issue of slavery during the early years of the republic. Written in an interesting and informal style, the book is composed of a number of anecdotes and biographies of black men and their families and their participation in the War of 1812.
Some unexpected facts that I wasn't aware of was that slavery was permitted in Canada but not in Michigan at this time, so a number of escaped slaves came over the border from Canada to find their freedom. Later, after slavery was abolished in Canada, many slaves left the US through Michigan for safety in Windsor.
This book also incuded information about the war in the southern states, particularly in the British Colonies of East and West Florida, and the impact of the war on the entire Caribbean and Spanish possessions.
The profuse use of footnotes allows other researchers to locate and explore the primary and secondary sources used by the author, and this is the mark of a good historian.
A recommended book for any collection of the War of 1812, and also of American History, Black History, or the American Civil War. This is also an interesting book for British history, as it describes the war with the US as part of their global war of the period, and stirkes to the issues concerning the British Empire, Canada and the United States.
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