The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves

The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves

by Andrew Ward, Richard Allen voc
     
 

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This is the first narrative of the Civil War told by the very people that it freed.

Groundbreaking, compelling, and poignant, The Slaves' War delivers an unprecedented vision of the nation's bloodiest conflict. An acclaimed historian of nineteenth-century and African American history, Andrew Ward gives us the first narrative of the Civil War told from

Overview

This is the first narrative of the Civil War told by the very people that it freed.

Groundbreaking, compelling, and poignant, The Slaves' War delivers an unprecedented vision of the nation's bloodiest conflict. An acclaimed historian of nineteenth-century and African American history, Andrew Ward gives us the first narrative of the Civil War told from the perspective of those whose destiny it decided. Woven together from interviews, diaries, letters, and memoirs, here is the Civil War as seen not only from battlefields and camps but also from slave quarters, kitchens, roadsides, and fields. Speaking in a quintessentially American language of biblical power and intensity, body servants, army cooks and launderers, runaways, teamsters, and gravediggers bring the war to life. From slaves' theories about the war's causes to their frank assessments of such figures as Lincoln, Davis, Lee, and Grant; from their searing memories of the carnage of battle to their often startling attitudes toward masters and liberators alike; and from their initial jubilation at the Yankee invasion of the slave South to the crushing disappointment of freedom's promise unfulfilled, The Slaves' War is an engrossing vision of America's Second Revolution.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A riveting book about the most important event in our history, from the perspective of those most affected by its outcome.... An antidote to all the mythologizing that has over the years smothered this moral tale." —Ken Burns
Publishers Weekly

In Ward's groundbreaking history, the Civil War is recounted from the previously silent victims that it most directly affected: the slaves themselves. Through hundreds of interviews, diaries, letters and memoirs, Ward offers an entirely new perspective of the war and firm-voiced Richard Allen presents the material with tremendous passion. Allen reads at a solid pace, letting every word seep in so that by the end of the book, the outrageous tragedy of slavery saturates each listener. With believable and realistic shifts in tone and dialect, Allen displays his inherent storytelling talent by furthering the previously silenced voices of slaves. A truly compelling listening experience that demands repeated listenings. A Houghton Mifflin hardcover. (July)

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Library Journal

Journalist and author Ward (River Run Red) offers something new in the oft-plowed field of Civil War studies-namely, a book that gives blacks who lived through and remembered the experience their own voice. Ward draws heavily but astutely on the roughly 2000 ex-slave interviews conducted by the WPA in the 1930s but also uses ex-slave autobiographies, oral histories conducted by black colleges and others, and wartime letters and personal accounts by blacks-all to follow the slaves and then freedpeople as they variously protected or sabotaged their master's property, ran away to freedom or stayed on to work what they thought were their own fields, sought to repair families rent by sale in bondage and by the upheavals of war, served with their masters in war, and observed the old South going with the wind. The sometimes contradictory responses of slaves and ex-slaves to the meaning of slavery, the war, and freedom will surprise readers expecting a one-note chorus of complaint and anger. The slaves' war was a tangle of expectations, actions, and obligations as they sorted through how best to survive and be true to themselves. If Ward sometimes overstates the uniqueness of his own work, he never underestimates or exaggerates the collected wisdom of those slaves who knew the war in ways that turn its history and memory inside out and upside down. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/15/08.]
—Randall M. Miller

Kirkus Reviews
A Civil War history created out of slaves' narratives. Veteran historian Ward (River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War, 2005, etc.) takes his material from memoirs, letters, diaries and interviews with former slaves, created during and after the war. They provide a rarely seen perspective on one of the key events in African-American history. Ward notes in a preface the heterogeneous nature of his sources. Some are bare-bones accounts, others wildly embellished, still others eloquent and moving. Some narrators claim to have seen Lincoln traveling the South in disguise before the war began. On the other hand, we get such eyewitness accounts as Jim Parke, Robert E. Lee's 18-year-old servant, recalling his master's agony over whether to resign his U.S. Army commission and fight for Virginia. The author generally pays more attention to the narratives of civilian slaves than to the better-documented accounts of men who took up arms. As the war began, many slaves were at first elated, thinking they would soon be freed; cold reality sank in with early Confederate battlefield successes. The slaves' grapevine revealed the extent of their masters' lies by bringing news of such important events as the Emancipation Proclamation. Some jubilant slaves mobbed the Union troops that came their way, certain they were now free. Others, Ward notes, were afraid to assert their freedom too quickly. Some were still being sold in the late days of the war. Freedom, when it came, did little to ease the lot of those still in the Deep South. The author shows the course of the entire war, giving equal weight to the neglected Western front. Except for standardizing the more blatant renditionsof slave dialect, he quotes these accounts essentially as they were written down. A fresh angle and a wealth of material that will be unfamiliar even to avid buffs. Agent: Ellen Levine/Trident Media Group

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400156146
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
07/01/2008
Edition description:
MP3 - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A riveting book about the most important event in our history, from the perspective of those most affected by its outcome.... An antidote to all the mythologizing that has over the years smothered this moral tale.” —-Ken Burns

Meet the Author

Richard Allen is a five-time Audie-nominated narrator whose work has been acknowledged on the Best Audiobooks Lists for Audiofile and Library Journal.

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