A War That Never Goes Away

More than the Revolution, more than the Constitutional Convention, it was the crucial test of the American nation. The author of Battle Cry of Freedom, the most successful recent book on the subject, explains why the issues that fired the Civil War are as urgent in 1990 as they were in 1861.

McPherson’s Basic Reading List

 

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The Strange Fate Of The Black Loyalists

Thousands of them sided with Great Britain, only to become the wandering children of the American Revolution

IN THE EARLY summer of 1775 the rebeb of Virginia evicted their royalist governor, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, from his capital at Williamsburg and drove him to refuge aboard a British warship. With only three hundred Royal Marines at his disposal, Dunmore lit upon a controversial recruiting stratagem.Read more »

Southern Women & The Indispensable Myth

How the mistress of the plantation became a slave

“WE’RE USED to living around ‘em. You Northerners aren’t. You don’t know anything about ‘em.” This is or was the allpurpose utterance of white Southerners about blacks. Everybody from Jefferson Davis to Strom Thurmond has said it, in some version, at one time or another. Turned on its obverse, the old saw means, “You can’t know how bad they are.Read more »

The Slaves Freed

PRESIDENT LINCOLN MOVES AT LAST
Influence of “Advanced Republicans” Seen as Crucial to the Outcome
THE UNION UNITED STILL
THE PRESIDENT’S TACT & COURAGE
HE WAITED ON THE PROPER HOUR
JUBILATION AMONG THE BLACKS
They Stand Ready to Defend With Arms the Rights Thus Gained
NEW LIGHT SHED ON THE PARTICULARS OF THE GREAT DRAMA

When the cold, fastidious Mississippian rose to speak, a hush fell over the crowded Senate chamber. It was January 21, 1861, and Jefferson Davis and four other senators from the Deep South were here this day to announce their resignations. Over the winter, five Southern states had seceded from the Union, contending that Abraham Lincoln’s election as President doomed the white man’s South, that Lincoln and his fellow Republicans were abolitionist fanatics out to eradicate slavery and plunge Dixie into racial chaos.Read more »

The Man In The Middle

THE BLACK SLAVE DRIVER

Wise planters of the ante-bellum South never relaxed their search for talent among their slaves. The ambitious, intelligent, and proficient were winnowed out and recruited for positions of trust and responsibility. These privileged bondsmen—artisans, house servants, foremen—served as intermediaries between the master and the slave community; they exercised considerable power; they learned vital skills of survival in a complex, often hostile world.Read more »

The Paradox Of Dartmoor Prison

While some American captives languished, others conducted a flourishing market—and a huge black sailor organized everything

Stark, mist-enshrouded Dartmoor prison has long held a fascination for those interested in British crime. Since 1850 many of England’s most notorious criminals have been condemned to labor on the bleak Devonshire moor seventeen miles from Plymouth, and crime enthusiasts and novelists have found the cold, lonely prison an exotic subject. However, for the generation that lived through the War of 1812 Dartmoor held a far different reputation.Read more »

Terror in New York—1741

Was there really a conspiracy to burn the town?

In January, 1708, a Mr. William Hallett, Jr., of Newton, Long Island, was murdered in his sleep with his pregnant wife and his five children. Two of Hallett’s slaves, an Indian man and a Negro woman, were tried for the crime and found guilty. They and two alleged accomplices, both blacks, were executed, being “put to all the torment possible for a terror to others,” according to a contemporary newspaper account. The Negro woman was burned alive at the stake.Read more »

Children Of Darkness

Sure that he was divinely appointed, Nat Turner led fellow slaves in a bloody attempt to overthrow their masters

Until August, 1831, most Americans had never heard of Virginia’s Southampton County, an isolated, impoverished neighborhood located along the border in the southeastern part of the state. It was mostly a small farming area, with cotton fields and apple orchards dotting the flat, wooded landscape. The farmers were singularly fond of their apple crops: from them they made a potent apple brandy, one of the major sources of pleasure in this hardscrabble region.Read more »

The Unexpected Mrs. Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe, an extraordinary member of an extraordinary family, always claimed that God wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin

She had been brought up to make herself useful. And always it suited her. Read more »