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Bitter Fruits of Bondage: The Demise of Slavery and the Collapse of the Confederacy, 1861-1865 (Carter G. Woodson Institute Series) / Edition 1

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Overview

Bitter Fruits of Bondage is the late Armstead L. Robinson’s magnum opus, a controversial history that explodes orthodoxies on both sides of the historical debate over why the South lost the Civil War.

Recent studies, while conceding the importance of social factors in the unraveling of the Confederacy, still conclude that the South was defeated as a result of its losses on the battlefield, which in turn resulted largely from the superiority of Northern military manpower and industrial resources. Robinson contends that these factors were not decisive, that the process of social change initiated during the birth of Confederate nationalism undermined the social and cultural foundations of the southern way of life built on slavery, igniting class conflict that ultimately sapped white southerners of the will to go on.

In particular, simmering tensions between nonslaveholders and smallholding yeoman farmers on the one hand and wealthy slaveholding planters on the other undermined Confederate solidarity on both the home front and the battlefield. Through their desire to be free, slaves fanned the flames of discord. Confederate leaders were unable to reconcile political ideology with military realities, and, as a result, they lost control over the important Mississippi River Valley during the first two years of the war. The major Confederate defeats in 1863 at Vicksburg and Missionary Ridge were directly attributable to growing disenchantment based on class conflict over slavery.

Because the antebellum way of life proved unable to adapt successfully to the rigors of war, the South had to fight its struggle for nationhood against mounting odds. By synthesizing the results of unparalleled archival research, Robinson tells the story of how the war and slavery were intertwined, and how internal social conflict undermined the Confederacy in the end.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Over 25 years in the making, this long-awaited book is that rare creature that had an impact even before its birth. In a 1977 dissertation and in various iterations thereafter, the late Robinson made his case that the Confederacy was defeated from within because support for slavery eroded as slaves acted against the institution and non-slaveholding whites came to question it. This book, brought to final form by other historians from Robinson's drafts and notes, focuses on the Mississippi River valley region in charting the intersection of military actions, conscription demands, slaves' restiveness, crop failures, and yeomen farmers' chafing under political and social dominance by slaveholding planters. All these factors led to the collapse of the Confederacy, whose "nationalism" had a weaker foundation than other scholars have supposed. Robinson's book bears the burdens of an unfinished argument, and his postscript on the nature of nationalism entices more than it convinces. Also, many of Robinson's arguments already circulate as common coin among historians. Still, this book offers a powerful counterweight to those who would separate social dynamics from military history. Recommended for academic libraries.-Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813923093
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Series: Carter G. Woodson Institute Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Armstead L. Robinson, who died in 1995, was the founding director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. Joseph P. Reidy is Professor of History at Howard University. Barbara J. Fields is Professor of History at Columbia University.

University of Virginia Press

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Table of Contents

Armstead L. Robinson, historian of the Confederate States of America
Armstead L. Robinson, historian and discipline builder
Ch. 1 A "most un-civil war" : slavery and a separate nation 13
Ch. 2 "Playing thunder" : the impact of slavery on Confederate military strength 37
Ch. 3 "A people's contest"? : popular disaffection in the Confederacy 58
Ch. 4 "This war is our war, the cause is our cause" : aristocrats and common soldiers in Confederate camps 84
Ch. 5 The failure of Southern voluntarism and the collapse of the upper South frontier 104
Ch. 6 Invasion of the Heartland and the failure to achieve universal conscription 134
Ch. 7 In the wake of military occupation : disaffection, profiteering, slave unrest, and curbs on civil liberties 163
Ch. 8 "The carefully fostered hostility of class against class" : demoralization and the fall of Vicksburg 189
Ch. 9 "A war fought by the weak" : desertions, brigandage, counterinsurgency, anarchy, and the rise of an antiwar movement 220
Ch. 10 "Every man says that every other man ought to fight" : election losses and the debacle at Missionary Ridge 248
Epilogue : slavery and the death of the Southern revolution 272
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2005

    Bitterly disappointing Civil War work

    This long-awaited work proves disappointing to Civil War historians and buffs alike. Robinson contends that the Confederacy lost the war as much through demoralization at home due to the pending demise of slavery rather than the defeat on the battlefield, a supposition which easily collapses under the weight of historical fact. Less than ten percent of the men who fought for the South ever owned a slave, and neither did the vast majority of white southerners. Slavery was not the sole cause of the war and hardly a reason for people who did not own them, and thus were unaffected by either its existence or its demise, to fight in its defense. Taken against the fact that the Confederate government in its last year was willing to free slaves in return for fighting - which would have dismantled slavery, this allegation simply has no basis in reality. Virginia was the first state to ban the African slave trade and in 1859 the Virginia Legislature very narrowly defeated an amendment that would have ended the 'peculiar institution' in that state. When added to the fact that thousands of non-whites (including my grandfather and his Cherokee nation), including free and slave blacks also fought for the Confederacy, Robinso

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2005

    Extremely disappointing Civil War work

    This long-awaited work proves disappointing to Civil War historians and buffs alike. Robinson contends that the Confederacy lost the war as much through demoralization at home due to the pending demise of slavery rather than the defeat on the battlefield, a supposition which easily collapses under the weight of historical fact. Less than ten percent of the men who fought for the South ever owned a slave, and neither did the vast majority of white southerners. Slavery was not the sole cause of the war and hardly a reason for people who did not own them, and thus were unaffected by either its existence or its demise, to fight in its defense. Taken against the fact that the Confederate government in its last year was willing to free slaves in return for fighting - which would have dismantled slavery, this allegation simply has no basis in reality. Virginia was the first state to ban the African slave trade and in 1859 the Virginia Legislature very narrowly defeated an amendment that would have ended the 'peculiar institution' in that state. When added to the fact that thousands of non-whites (including my grandfather and his Cherokee nation), including free and slave blacks also fought for the Confederacy, Robinson's allegations are unfounded in real history. This book adds nothing to the student's understanding of the war and is based on supposition rather than historical fact.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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