Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 32%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 97%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (23) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $27.09   
  • Used (18) from $1.99   


When four young men, slaves on Edward Gorsuch's Maryland farm, escaped to rural Pennsylvania in 1849, the owner swore he'd bring them back. Two years later, Gorsuch lay dead outside the farmhouse in Christiana where he'd tracked them down, as his federal posse retreated pell-mell before the armed might of local blacks—and the impact of the most notorious act of resistance against the federal Fugitive Slave Law was about to be felt across a divided nation.
Bloody Dawn vividly tells this dramatic story of escape, manhunt, riot, and the ensuing trial, detailing its importance in heightening the tensions that led to the Civil War. Thomas Slaughter's engaging narrative captures the full complexity of events and personalities: The four men fled after they were detected stealing grain for resale off the farm; Gorsuch, far from a brutal taskmaster, had pledged to release all his slaves when they reached the age of twenty-eight, but he relentlessly pursued the escapees out of a sense of wounded honor; and the African-American community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that provided them refuge was already effectively organized for self-defense by a commanding former slave named William Parker. Slaughter paints a rich portrait of the ongoing struggles between local blacks and white kidnapping gangs, the climactic riot as neighbors responded to trumpet calls from the besieged runaway slaves, the escape to Canada of the central figures (aided by Frederick Douglass), and the government's urgent response (including the largest mass indictment for treason in our history)—leading to the trial for his life of a local white bystander accused of leading the rioting blacks. Slaughter not only draws out the great importance given to the riot in both the North and the South, but he uses legal records reaching back over half a century to uncover the thoughts of average people on race, slavery, and violence.
The Whiskey Rebellion, Slaughter's previous work of history, received widespread acclaim as "a vivid account" (The New York Times) and "an unusual combination of meticulous scholarship and engaging narrative" (The Philadelphia Inquirer). It was a selection of the History Book Club, and won both the National Historical Society Book Prize and the American Revolution Round Table Award. In Bloody Dawn, he once again weaves together the incisive insights of a professional historian with a gripping account of a dramatic moment in American history.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A compelling analysis of racial violence in pre-Civil War America as seen throgh the prism of the September 1851 riot in Christiana, Lancaster County, a very good storyteller....He neatly weaves together the threads of local, regional, and national ises to offer a persuasive account of the importance of the Christiana Riot in the coming Civil War....An eloquent and insightful story that is respectful of the past, yet speaks to our present concerns with clarity and conviction."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"Admirably researched....Slaughter...has reconstructed a sequence of events that goes to the heart of American slavery."—New York Review of Books

"Mr. Slaughter relates this story deftly, sifting the evidence with an eye observant of telling details and alert to embedded prejudices."—New Yorker

"An important, well-written book with a clearly stated point of view, one that can throw light on contemporary violence as well as on bloody incidents in the past."—Civil War History

"Slaughter's recounting of the events leading up to the riot, the fight itself, and its aftermath is excellent. He is at his best in weaving the intricacies that characterize American race relations into an engrossing stroy."—The Journal of Southern History

"Marshals impressive evidence that this racial conflict illustrated major patterns of racial, class, gender, political, legal, and regional differences during its time....Engages the reader's attention with the lives that it recreates and the author's intriguing interpretations."—History: Reviews of New Books

"Slaughter's book goes well beyond Jonathan Katz's Resistance at use the riot as a means of exploring the master-slave relationship, the significance of freedom for free blacks, and the nature of relations between black and white Northerners before the Civil War....He makes a further contribution with his imaginative and deeply probing readings of late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century Lancaster County newspapers and court records....Slaughter illuminates a domain of black poverty and race relations in the antebellum rural North of which we heretofore knew little, and...demonstrates the central, animating role that popular black activism played in the culture and politics of the pre-Civil War North....Compelling and timely."—American Historical Review

"A dramatic rendering of the confrontation between African Americans and Gorsuch's federal posse and of the treason trial that followed the incident."—Choice

"Tells the fascinating story of the Christiana Riot of 1851 with the sense of narrative and subtlety of texture that a reader expects from a first-rate novel but seldom finds in a work of history....Goes beyond unraveling the violent events in rural Pennsylvania that challenged the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. His exploration on pre-Civil War racism, free-black poverty, and rioting in the North casts new light on subjects too long neglected."—Bertram Wyatt-Brown, University of Florida

"A great history: a riveting story, full of fascinating characters, and a powerful evocation of the impending conflict of the sections and the perennial conflict of the races. But it is more than that: an unblinking insistence on the prevalence of violence in the lives of Americans, and an eloquent pondering of its causes and costs."—Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195046342
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Lexile: 1460L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Thomas P. Slaughter lives in Trenton, New Jersey, and is Professor of History at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction ix
1. The Escape 3
2. Black Images in White Minds 20
3. The Chase 43
4. The Riot 59
5. Aftermath 76
6. Stratagems 94
7. The Trial 112
8. Race, Violence, and Law 139
9. Race, Riots, and Law 164
Conclusion 182
Afterword 187
Abbreviations Used in the Notes 197
Notes 199
Index 241
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)