Manassas: A Novel of the War

Manassas: A Novel of the War

Manassas: A Novel of the War

Manassas: A Novel of the War


Allan Montague, born on a Mississippi plantation about twenty years before the Civil War, has grown up with slavery and considers it natural. When his father moves to Boston for business and takes the boy with him, young Allan carries a knife given to him by his cousin to use in killing abolitionists.

The first abolitionist young Allan meets in Boston is Levi Coffin, the reputed founder of the Underground Railroad. In this first of many meetings with historical figures, Allan forms a friendship with Coffin, who eventually takes him to hear a speech by former slave Frederick Douglass. Douglass's powerful words cement Allan's transformation into an abolitionist -- a transformation that will lead him back to his Deep South home with the hope of freeing slaves and eventually back to the North and the fateful Battle of Manassas.


We owe a great deal to Upton Sinclair. The Jungle (1906), his best-known and now virtually his only known work, directed public attention to the inhuman conditions in meat-packing plants and to the poisonous products the packing trust was selling to the public. Because of the "muckrakers," as President Theodore Roosevelt ungratefully termed Sinclair and other literary crusaders, life and attitudes in the United States are quite different now from what they were in 1900.

But Sinclair had meant to do more. Improving sanitation and hygiene in our food is what the public and the Congress made of The Jungle; Sinclair had meant to improve conditions for the laborers in those foul, nightmarish plants--and ultimately transform the system that kept them powerless and poor. In Sinclair's proposed system, workers themselves would own and control the means of production. Where workers did not own those means, they were themselves owned and controlled. To put it another way, unless workers own the system, they are slaves.

This brings us to Manassas: A Novel of the War (1904), Sinclair's attack on the fundamental principle that Abraham Lincoln had phrased a half-century earlier as "You . . .

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