“Impressively researched.” The Christian Science Monitor
“Thoroughly researched…fills in some much-needed background to the complicated relations that…mixed racism, fear and anger on one side with a unquenchable yearning for freedom on the other.” The Washington Times
“Engrossing…Smith's exhaustive research reveals that black sailors played a significant if unheralded role in virtually all of the U.S. Navy's successes…an important, lucid, often startling work of scholarship.” The Dallas Morning News
“Smith's long years of research and wide knowledge of this conflict has enabled him to focus on some of the remarkable stories of men and their families…illustrates clearly the plight of American slaves as they desperately struggled to gain their freedom and the lies, deception and deviousness their owners used to deny it.” Kirkus Reviews
“Crisply told...Smith's first-rate study is a gripping tale of the evolution of race relations in early America.” Publishers Weekly
“The history of black servicemen long antedates the Civil War. In the Anglo-American War of 1812, both sides recruited black Americans as soldiers; the British offered freedom to American slaves who would fight for them. Gene Allen Smith's account, scrupulously researched in both British and U.S. sources, sheds new light on many aspects of that conflict, including the little-known 'Patriot War' in Florida. Personal narratives of heroic individuals add to the story a sense of immediacy. Scholars, military history buffs, and students of the black experience will all find a reading of interest here.” Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.
“Gene Smith's new book sheds considerable light on the role of blacks, slave and free alike, during the War of 1812. This is essential reading for all students of the war as well as for anyone interested in American race relations or U.S. military history.” Don Hickey, author of The War of 1812
“In The Slaves' Gamble, Gene Allen Smith richly details the lives of enslaved people struggling for freedom through an array of strategies in a complex war. Thoroughly researched and wide-ranging, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian frontier, and from the sunny Caribbean to dank Dartmoor Prison, this superb book illuminates the plight, courage, and resourcefulness of African Americans in the early republic.” Alan Taylor, author of The Civil War of 1812
“Gene Allen Smith captures with scholarly thoroughness the dilemma of patriotism that enslaved African-Americans struggled with during the War of 1812 and the range of their responses.” Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, author of A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons
Smith (History/Texas Christian Univ.; Thomas ap Catesby Jones: Commodore of Manifest Destiny, 2000, etc.) explains the War of 1812 from the viewpoint of the slaves who served both sides in the hope of attaining their freedom. There were also many free blacks who, for the most part, joined the American side in order to fortify their cities. Although whites were loath to give them guns, those few that gained commissions fought in battles that changed the course of the war. The author shows the important roles that all blacks, not necessarily just slaves, played in the war. The slaves gambled their lives in escaping to join the British; recapture would bring horrific punishment. Smith's long years of research and wide knowledge of this conflict has enabled him to focus on some of the remarkable stories of men and their families who fled to the English side. The British, fighting Napoleon at the same time, hoped to supplement their meager forces with slaves, who were promised freedom to serve as soldiers and valuable guides. Any slave who made it to British property was guaranteed freedom. Of 5,000 escaped slaves, only 500 became soldiers, but the records show they were fearless fighters and served in almost every theater of the war, from Canada and Michigan to the Chesapeake Bay. The author holds no great love for Andrew Jackson, who promised freedom and monetary and land rewards to slaves who joined the American forces--he had no intention of honoring that promise. Smith illustrates clearly the plight of American slaves as they desperately struggled to gain their freedom and the lies, deception and deviousness their owners used to deny it.