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The Bloody Shirt: Terror after Appomattox
     

The Bloody Shirt: Terror after Appomattox

by Stephen Budiansky, Phil Gigante (Read by)
 

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From 1866 to 1876, more than three thousand free African Americans and their white allies were killed in cold blood by terrorist organizations in the South.

Over the years this fact would not only be forgotten, but a series of exculpatory myths would arise to cover the tracks of this orchestrated campaign of atrocity and violence. Little memory would persist of

Overview

From 1866 to 1876, more than three thousand free African Americans and their white allies were killed in cold blood by terrorist organizations in the South.

Over the years this fact would not only be forgotten, but a series of exculpatory myths would arise to cover the tracks of this orchestrated campaign of atrocity and violence. Little memory would persist of the simple truth: that a well-organized and directed terrorist movement, led by ex-Confederates who refused to accept the verdict of Appomattox and the enfranchisement of the freedmen, succeeded in overthrowing the freely elected representative governments of every Southern state.

Stephen Budiansky brings to life this largely forgotten but epochal chapter of American history through the intertwining lives of five courageous men who tried to stop the violence and keep the dream of freedom and liberty alive. They include James Longstreet, the ablest general of the Confederate army, who would be vilified and ostracized for insisting that the South must accept the terms of the victor and the enfranchisement of black men; Lewis Merrill of the 7th Cavalry, who fought the Klan in South Carolina; and Prince Rivers, who escaped from slavery, fought for the Union, became a state representative and magistrate, and died performing the same menial labor he had as a slave. Using letters and diaries left by these men as well as startlingly hateful diatribes published in Southern newspapers after the war, Budiansky proves beyond a doubt that terrorism is hardly new to America.

Editorial Reviews

William Grimes
If "Profiles in Courage" had not already been taken, it would have made the perfect title for this linked set of portraits honoring five men who risked everything to fight for the principles that had cost so many lives. It is an inspiring yet profoundly dispiriting story.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Budiansky has clearly done his research on this interesting and largely unknown history of the American South, detailing the origins of America's largest homegrown terrorist sect, the Ku Klux Klan. While the tales are often disturbing and naturally disquieting, they are important stories of real men that have waited decades to be told. Phil Gigante does his very best to insure they are given the appropriate respect they deserve. He offers a solid, unwavering reading that captures the raw brutality and extreme melancholy of the period of the South's reconstruction (1865-1876). Gigante's spellbinding narration is careful never to sound too sympathetic or editorialize, but presents the author's material in an unbiased and dispassionate voice, allowing the truth within to speak for itself. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 10). (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Serviceable overview of vigilante violence in the Reconstruction-era South and its victims. Historians have long observed that emancipation was a half-gesture: Scarcely any provision was made for the freed slaves, and it was all too easy for former owners to proclaim-as one of those who people military historian Budiansky's pages does-that freed slaves would not be paid wages for doing the same work as they did while in bondage. "You shall work for me as you have heretofore," the owner told the manumitted slaves, "and I will give you the same treatment you have always had, the same quantity and quality of food, and the same amount of clothing." The victorious federal government set to work with 40-acres-and-a-mule schemes, instituting Reconstruction and appointing military and civilian governors throughout the South, some of them black. Defeated Southerners mounted resistance through groups such as, most famously, the KKK. Other groups operated at the local level, as with one self-described "committee" that warned that an Englishman who rented Louisiana land to freedmen would be punished by being burned out: the gin house first, the rest of the place next. "If that don't break it up, we will break your neck," the committee warned. How the Englishman responded we do not know, but Budiansky (Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage, 2005, etc.) tracks the fortunes of several Reconstruction appointees, as well as those of the renowned Confederate general James Longstreet, who took time to remind the guerrillas that their cause had, in fact, been defeated, adding, "These issues expired upon the fields last occupied by the Confederatearmies. There they should have been buried." Longstreet's intercession did not make Reconstruction any easier-and, writes Budiansky, the general suffered terribly for having voiced such views. The Longstreet episode is one of the best in the book, which covers ground well discussed elsewhere in the historical literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781423351634
Publisher:
Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
01/24/2008
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.75(d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Budiansky is a journalist and military historian whose writings frequently appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic Monthly. His previous books include Her Majesty’s Spymaster, Air Power, and Battle of Wits. He lives in Virginia.

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