America's Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March Toward Civil Warby Joseph Kelly
In 1863, Union forces surrounded the city of Charleston. Their vice-like grip on the harbor would hold the city hostage for nearly two years, becoming the longest siege in the history of modern warfare. But for almost two centuries prior, a singular ideology forged among the headstrong citizens of Charleston had laid a different sort of siege to the entire… See more details below
In 1863, Union forces surrounded the city of Charleston. Their vice-like grip on the harbor would hold the city hostage for nearly two years, becoming the longest siege in the history of modern warfare. But for almost two centuries prior, a singular ideology forged among the headstrong citizens of Charleston had laid a different sort of siege to the entire American South--the promulgation of brutal, deplorable, and immensely profitable institution of slavery.
In America's Longest Siege, Joseph Kelly examines the nation's long struggle with its "peculiar institution" through the hotly contested debates in the city at the center of the slave trade. From the earliest slave rebellions to the Nullification crisis to the final, tragic act of secession that doomed both the city and the South as a whole, Kelly captures the toxic mix of nationalism, paternalism, and unprecedented wealth that made Charleston the focus of the nationwide debate over slavery. Kelly also explores the dissenters who tried--and ultimately failed--to stop the oncoming Civil War.
Exhaustingly researched and also compulsively readable, America's Longest Siege offers an insightful new take on the war and the culture that made it inevitable.
"By placing Charleston at the epicenter of his study, Kelly's eminently readable history is in the company of a number of books that are devoted to exploring the peculiarity of South Carolina's antebellum politics. Throughout, Kelly's literary sensibilities are on display and he regularly humanizes such historical events." —Civil War Book Review
"Kelly brings a literary sensibility to this vivid and engrossing study of slavery in and around one of its trading hubs, Charleston, SC, site of the first and longest Civil War siege and a hotbed of political, economic, religious, and moral debates about importing, owning, and trading slaves. Well written and finely detailed, Kelly’s debut historical work is an important contribution to Southern antebellum history and is highly recommended to scholarly readers." —Library Journal
Advance praise for America's Longest Siege:
"An elucidating study by a Charleston historian who sees the shadow of nullification still looming." Kirkus Review
"Joseph Kelly's compelling new book, America's Longest Siege, vividly and accurately portrays Charleston as 'ground zero' in America's long struggle over slavery." Robert N. Rosen, author of Confederate Charleston and A Short History of Charleston
"Joseph Kelly has written a provocative and multilayered analysis of the siege mentality in Charleston and the South prior to the Civil War. Kelly, a professor of literature and American studies, brings a literary sensibility to the craft of history writing, and the result is a joy to read. In addition to the military aspects of siege during the years of civil war, America's Longest Siege addresses the siege of Africans and the siege of rhetoric, especially the ideological arguments of economic self-interest versus enlightened human rights. Original and illuminating, this book tackles profound questions of power and manipulation. This thoughtful and rewarding study should be taken seriously by scholars and enjoyed by general readers. It is an essential contribution to American history." -—Orville Vernon Burton, Professor of History, Clemson University, and author of The Age of Lincoln
Kelly (literature, Coll. of Charleston; Our Joyce) brings a literary sensibility to this vivid and engrossing study of slavery in and around one of its trading hubs, Charleston, SC, site of the first and longest Civil War siege and a hotbed of political, economic, religious, and moral debates about importing, owning, and trading slaves. The author explores the popular ideological arguments for and against slavery in the only American city (and state) in which black slaves outnumbered whites. Digging deeply into documentary evidence such as journals, letters, and printed public speeches to illuminate what both abolitionists and slave owners thought about using human capital to build wealth and maintain a power imbalance, Kelly frames the issue of slavery as a cultural battle within the South rather than of the South versus the North. Politically powerful pro-slavery "fire-eaters" such as John C. Calhoun and James Hammond claimed to use logic and reason in perpetuating the slave trade while painting abolitionists as dangerous idealists who failed to see that slavery was a "necessary evil" or even a "positive good." VERDICT Well written and finely detailed, Kelly's debut historical work is an important contribution to Southern antebellum history and is highly recommended to scholarly readers.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
- The Overlook Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.48(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.28(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
What People are saying about this
“A tenacious chronicle of the pernicious construction of South Carolina’s slave-driven political orthodoxy.”—Kirkus Reviews
“An important contribution to Southern antebellum history . . . Highly recommended.” —Library Journal
“Vividly and accurately portrays Charleston as ‘ground zero’ in America’s long struggle over slavery.”—Robert N. Rosen, author of Confederate Charleston and A Short History of Charleston
Meet the Author
Joseph Kelly is a professor of literature at the College of Charleston and a member of the American Studies Association. He is the author of Our Joyce and the editor of W. W. Norton's Seagull Readers series. His historical writing has appeared in the Journal of Social History and other publications. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
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