Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865

Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865

by James Oakes


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Winner of the Lincoln Prize

"Oakes brilliantly succeeds in [clarifying] the aims of the war with a wholly new perspective." —David Brion Davis, New York Review of Books

Freedom National is a groundbreaking history of emancipation that joins the political initiatives of Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress with the courageous actions of Union soldiers and runaway slaves in the South. It shatters the widespread conviction that the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually, when it became a military necessity, a war to end slavery. These two aims—"Liberty and Union, one and inseparable"—were intertwined in Republican policy from the very start of the war.

By summer 1861 the federal government invoked military authority to begin freeing slaves, immediately and without slaveholder compensation, as they fled to Union lines in the disloyal South. In the loyal Border States the Republicans tried coaxing officials into gradual abolition with promises of compensation and the colonization abroad of freed blacks. James Oakes shows that Lincoln’s landmark 1863 proclamation marked neither the beginning nor the end of emancipation: it triggered a more aggressive phase of military emancipation, sending Union soldiers onto plantations to entice slaves away and enlist the men in the army. But slavery proved deeply entrenched, with slaveholders determined to re-enslave freedmen left behind the shifting Union lines. Lincoln feared that the war could end in Union victory with slavery still intact. The Thirteenth Amendment that so succinctly abolished slavery was no formality: it was the final act in a saga of immense war, social upheaval, and determined political leadership.

Fresh and compelling, this magisterial history offers a new understanding of the death of slavery and the rebirth of a nation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393347753
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 01/06/2014
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 587,823
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

James Oakes is the author of several acclaimed books on slavery and the Civil War. His history of emancipation, Freedom National, won the Lincoln Prize and was longlisted for the National Book Award. He is Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

What People are Saying About This

Eric Foner

This remarkable book offers the best account ever written of the complex historical process known as emancipation. The story is dramatic and compelling, and no one interested in the American Civil War or the fate of slavery can afford to ignore it.

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Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
f5 More than 1 year ago
Well written accounting of how Northern/Abolitionist legislators took advantage of succession/Civil War to quickly end slavery in the U.S. forever. Read in conjunction with "Dark Bargain" by Lawrence Goldstone which outlines how slavery was accepted in the Constitution in 1787 and "Fall of the House of Dixie" by Bruce Levine which shows how the disloyal slave states brought the end of slavery on themselves by suceeding from the Union. All three books provide great insight in the origin, operation and end of slavery in the U.S. They make for really great historical reading. I say this as someone who is generally more interested in military history than government, but found all three fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A mindblowing history of the legal aspects of abolition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago