Magazine article Army

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

Magazine article Army

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

Article excerpt

Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War. Bruce Levine. Oxford University Press. 252 pages; photographs; index; $29.95.

To the outside observer of the time, the American Civil War must have seemed a most unlikely event. Both sides spoke the same language, worshiped the same God and neither coveted the other's land. They observed the same holidays, shared the same history, and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were heroes to both North and South.

The only issue of substance that they didn't see eye to eye on was slavery.

By the mid-1800s the wealthy southern plantation owners were isolated and under pressure from both the Europeans and the Congress of the United States to end slavery. And with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the slaveholding class of the South believed that the only way to preserve their "peculiar institution" was to secede from the union and form a new country, a country where slavery had constitutional protection.

So why, after having seceded from the union and gone to war to protect the institution of slavery, would the Confederacy abandon the original purpose of the struggle?

The answer to that and many other questions about Southern plans to free and arm slaves during the Civil War are explained in Bruce Levine's incisive new book.

Recognizing that the Confederacy was outnumbered and outgunned from the start, a few individuals suggested arming the slaves as early as the spring of 1861. …

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