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At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis

At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis

by Shearer Davis Bowman
At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis

At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis

by Shearer Davis Bowman


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Why did eleven slave states secede from the Union in 1860-61? Why did the eighteen free states loyal to the Union deny the legitimacy of secession, and take concrete steps after Fort Sumter to subdue what President Abraham Lincoln deemed treasonous rebellion?

At the Precipice seeks to answer these and related questions by focusing on the different ways in which Americans, North and South, black and white, understood their interests, rights, and honor during the late antebellum years. Rather than give a narrative account of the crisis, Shearer Davis Bowman takes readers into the minds of the leading actors, examining the lives and thoughts of such key figures as Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan, Jefferson Davis, John Tyler, and Martin Van Buren. Bowman also provides an especially vivid glimpse into what less famous men and women in both sections thought about themselves and the political, social, and cultural worlds in which they lived, and how their thoughts informed their actions in the secession period. Intriguingly, secessionists and Unionists alike glorified the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, yet they interpreted those sacred documents in markedly different ways and held very different notions of what constituted "American" values.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807895672
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 10/04/2010
Series: Littlefield History of the Civil War Era
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 392
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Shearer Davis Bowman is an associate professor in history at the University of Kentucky. He is author of Masters and Lords: Mid-19th-Century U.S. Planters and Prussian Junkers.

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From the Publisher

Bowman examines the dissolution of the Union—surely the most important crisis in American history—from a variety of angles and perspectives. This is a very original, even arresting account that makes us rethink how we should consider secession and the breakup of the American republic. It is required reading for students of the Civil War crisis.—William A. Link, author of Roots of Secession: Slavery and Politics in Antebellum Virginia

There have been many books about the secession crisis—but nearly all of them have focused on the political brinksmanship and military chest-thumping that led to disunion and war. Bowman widens the lens and provides a thoroughly original, comprehensive, and gripping story of how a more complex tapestry of Americans North and South, male and female, black and white, famous and unknown, dealt with this unprecedented challenge to their national and local identities. The result adds much to the scholarship of the Great Secession winter—and sheds welcome new light on long-neglected themes.—Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861

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