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

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The first narrative history of the Civil War told by the very people 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 The first narrative history of the Civil War told by the very people 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 hundreds of interviews, diaries, letters, and memoirs, here is the Civil War as seen from not only battlefields, capitals, and camps, but also slave quarters, kitchens, roadsides, farms, towns, and swamps. Speaking in a quintessentially American language of wit, candor, and biblical power, army cooks and launderers, runaways, teamsters, and gravediggers bring the war to vivid life. From slaves’ theories about the causes of the war to their frank assessments of such major 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 a transformative and engrossing vision of America’s Second Revolution.


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The first narrative history of the Civil War told by the very people 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 The first narrative history of the Civil War told by the very people 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 hundreds of interviews, diaries, letters, and memoirs, here is the Civil War as seen from not only battlefields, capitals, and camps, but also slave quarters, kitchens, roadsides, farms, towns, and swamps. Speaking in a quintessentially American language of wit, candor, and biblical power, army cooks and launderers, runaways, teamsters, and gravediggers bring the war to vivid life. From slaves’ theories about the causes of the war to their frank assessments of such major 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 a transformative and engrossing vision of America’s Second Revolution.

30 review for The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    A collection of quotes from former slaves with a focus on the Civil War. This one's been sitting on my tbr pile for a while now. February seemed a good month to read it. Glad I did. I learned some surprising insights that made it all worth it. The narrative is a bit disjointed at times since Andrew Ward is acting more as a compiler/editor than an author. It's quote after quote with a statement or two that mostly sets up a section or acts as a bridge of ideas when needed. Still, Ward relies on the A collection of quotes from former slaves with a focus on the Civil War. This one's been sitting on my tbr pile for a while now. February seemed a good month to read it. Glad I did. I learned some surprising insights that made it all worth it. The narrative is a bit disjointed at times since Andrew Ward is acting more as a compiler/editor than an author. It's quote after quote with a statement or two that mostly sets up a section or acts as a bridge of ideas when needed. Still, Ward relies on the former slaves' accounts without embellishment, so occasionally you get what feels like a non sequitur. Aside from that squibble, what you get are some tough-to-hear stories of humans being treated like chattel. The author's note at the end was one of the most useful and necessary I've ever read. It answered questions I didn't realize I'd been forming while reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I read Battle Cry of Freedom several months ago and felt immersed in the politics and battles of the Civil War. It was excellent and comprehensive to say the least. The Slaves' War, though, fills in a gap that was missing-- the point of view of the slaves. This book is told through slave narratives, so the result is a first person account of how the war affected black people as well as their masters who stayed home from the war. I found it fascinating to read the mixed feelings slaves had toward I read Battle Cry of Freedom several months ago and felt immersed in the politics and battles of the Civil War. It was excellent and comprehensive to say the least. The Slaves' War, though, fills in a gap that was missing-- the point of view of the slaves. This book is told through slave narratives, so the result is a first person account of how the war affected black people as well as their masters who stayed home from the war. I found it fascinating to read the mixed feelings slaves had toward their masters, toward the Yankees, and how they perceived the war as they saw soldiers plunder the plantations and heard rumors of emancipation. It was also heart-breaking to read how the war, as much as any other during slavery it seems, tore apart black families as slaves were "refugeed" to other parts of the south or sold as their masters tried to protect their "property."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robert Owen

    In “The Slaves’ War” Andrew Ward uses various former slave narratives to add vibrancy to a tale recounting the major arcs of the Civil War. As the attempt is noble and the history, important, I wish that I could say that I enjoyed this book more than I actually did. Structurally, Ward lays out principal events of the war as the framework to which dozens of former slaves are summoned and given brief moments to share their testimony. From this effort, Ward teases an interesting, multi-faceted pict In “The Slaves’ War” Andrew Ward uses various former slave narratives to add vibrancy to a tale recounting the major arcs of the Civil War. As the attempt is noble and the history, important, I wish that I could say that I enjoyed this book more than I actually did. Structurally, Ward lays out principal events of the war as the framework to which dozens of former slaves are summoned and given brief moments to share their testimony. From this effort, Ward teases an interesting, multi-faceted picture of Southern American society caught in the surreal web of war. What was most interesting, I thought, was that in selecting the various themes and then giving the various actors their moments on stage to share their recollections, Ward’s book shatters any inclination to think of slaves as a monolith by summoning different, often contradictory slave perspectives to the same events. In one account, Yankee troops are well-mannered liberators, while in another, they are monsters. In one account, masters are “kind” while in another, they are petulant and cruel. This is, of course, what common sense and any understanding of human nature would predict to be the case, yet in laying his story out as he did, former slaves are liberated from the tendency to think of them as a dreary mass of common interests, and instead, emerge as unique and individual human beings, each with their own perspectives, attitudes, hopes and worries. The problem I had with “The Slaves’ War” was that as a Civil War history it was too abridged to add meaningfully to my understanding of the conflict or the events surrounding it while as a social narrative, the book’s micro-episodic structure left me feeling as though there was more that I should know about each of the narrators that Ward summons to tell his tale. One after another, Ward calls the various narrators forth from the shadows of obscurity to share their tales, and then summarily dismisses them back to the shadows again and he moves onto the next. There is a sense that each of these people had more to tell…..that their lives, rich and unique, were far more than the brief slivers they were allowed to share within the forced context Ward’s framework. I guess I just found myself wanting to know more about them, and becoming frustrated that I could not. The book adds texture to history’s tapestry, yet for as valuable as that texture is, there seems something unholy…..disrespectful about absorbing that texture by briefly pausing to examine just a few random threads.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The Slaves' War does two very important things; firstly, it takes the Civil War and shatters any romanticism surrounding it. It wasn't romantic, it was an apocalypse. Secondly, it takes the institution of slavery and personalizes it. In this book slavery is not background to the Civil War. Instead, former slaves who lived through the Civil War are put front and center, and they tell us about the war through their eyes. The result is a first person account of the war, slavery, and Reconstruction The Slaves' War does two very important things; firstly, it takes the Civil War and shatters any romanticism surrounding it. It wasn't romantic, it was an apocalypse. Secondly, it takes the institution of slavery and personalizes it. In this book slavery is not background to the Civil War. Instead, former slaves who lived through the Civil War are put front and center, and they tell us about the war through their eyes. The result is a first person account of the war, slavery, and Reconstruction that is far more real and relevant than what gets printed in the history books. If one wants to understand the Civil War's impact on the homefront, if one wants to witness the birth of Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement, if one wants insight into the roots of the social problems that afflict African American communities, then this book is where one should start reading. The audiobook was excellently narrated by Richard Allen.

  5. 5 out of 5

    James (JD) Dittes

    A comprehensive look at the war from slaves' perspectives. As an American literature teacher, I'm so grateful to have this resource for my lessons on slavery and the Civil War. The book is about 60% quotes, and Ward's prose is spare, meant only to connect the dots and introduce the ideas. The book focuses unblinkingly on some of the problems faced by slaves during that time. Those who escaped often ended up in disease-ridden "Contraband Camps." Others were "refugeed" away from the front lines to A comprehensive look at the war from slaves' perspectives. As an American literature teacher, I'm so grateful to have this resource for my lessons on slavery and the Civil War. The book is about 60% quotes, and Ward's prose is spare, meant only to connect the dots and introduce the ideas. The book focuses unblinkingly on some of the problems faced by slaves during that time. Those who escaped often ended up in disease-ridden "Contraband Camps." Others were "refugeed" away from the front lines to places where they could still be bought and sold. My favorite chapter is the final one, "I Got My Own Again," which describes the efforts of slaves to reunite their families after the war. I've already re-read it twice, and I look forward to many more.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Belser

    This was very good. Of course, any book of history which relies on interviews given years after, can be problematic. However, the author realizes the potential pitfalls and inaccuracies of eyewitness accounts and memory and acknowledges them. Like, any good book of history, this shows that one can’t lump all experiences of a group of people together. Slaves during the war had a multitude of experiences and had a multitude of feelings about slavery, the war, and the Union. Slaves encountered both This was very good. Of course, any book of history which relies on interviews given years after, can be problematic. However, the author realizes the potential pitfalls and inaccuracies of eyewitness accounts and memory and acknowledges them. Like, any good book of history, this shows that one can’t lump all experiences of a group of people together. Slaves during the war had a multitude of experiences and had a multitude of feelings about slavery, the war, and the Union. Slaves encountered both empathetic and hostile Union troops. Some cared for their masters. Many longed for revenge against cruel masters. The book also shows the difficulty of slaves starting from scratch after emancipation against many obstacles based on racism.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Allen

    I saw Ward on the Daily Show, and thought the premise of the book was interesting, so I got it via interlibrary loan. It's sort of oddly constructed; he tells the story of the war in chronological order, by stitching together quotes from former slaves. Reading the first chapter, I was suddenly reminded of the street scene in the movie "Fallen" where the demon transfers from one person to the next in a long series. That's how the narrative feels, jumping from one former slave's recollections to t I saw Ward on the Daily Show, and thought the premise of the book was interesting, so I got it via interlibrary loan. It's sort of oddly constructed; he tells the story of the war in chronological order, by stitching together quotes from former slaves. Reading the first chapter, I was suddenly reminded of the street scene in the movie "Fallen" where the demon transfers from one person to the next in a long series. That's how the narrative feels, jumping from one former slave's recollections to the next, often several times within a paragraph. It's growing on me, though. The authenticity of the experiences gives the book a feeling of power. Ward said on the Daily Show that he tried to let the slaves speak for themselves. As with other collections of narratives by former slaves, it's always a little unsettling to read the ones who are nostalgic for slavery, or identify with their former masters. Ward, despite his effort at even-handedness, organizes each chapter so that those "collaborationist" narratives are offset by others at the end of the chapter who excoriate the masters and rejoice in their freedom. And, as Ward points out, many of the interviewers back in the 20s and 30s were upper-class Southern whites, with whom former slaves in the Jim Crow South may not have been completely candid. Anyway, it's the Civil War glimpsed through a door left ajar, by the people who had the most at stake. Worthwhile.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Trudy

    This is a very valuable history book, based on oral stories of former enslaved people. They were often privy to intimate knowledge on the white masters, even as the latter tried to hide information from them. Their descriptions on how Southerners --and often Union army members too-- acted during the years of the war, definitely breaks much of the prevailing "knowledge" about the topic. True, it is mostly tragic and painful, but also, sometimes funny and even joyful. There is one scene that stick This is a very valuable history book, based on oral stories of former enslaved people. They were often privy to intimate knowledge on the white masters, even as the latter tried to hide information from them. Their descriptions on how Southerners --and often Union army members too-- acted during the years of the war, definitely breaks much of the prevailing "knowledge" about the topic. True, it is mostly tragic and painful, but also, sometimes funny and even joyful. There is one scene that sticks in my mind, the white mistress and her daughters running after their departing newly-freed former slaves, crying and screaming "But we don't know how to cook! We can dress our hair! What are we going to do?" And the number of former slave-owners who basically just break down crying and throwing up --when not becoming murderously angry-- when they are forced to free those they had seen, until then, as their "chattel". The unique standpoint gave the enslaved the opportunity to witness the often absurd, as well as pathologically cruel, behaviors of their masters. In a few cases, however, the enslaved and the masters had forged an emotional bond, however unequal, and those cases are interesting too. I can imagine how a creative person would be able to create several novels out of this one! Reality is often stranger than fiction. Read it!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I think this book is valuable, as it organizes a bunch of information in a way that that it hadn't been organized before. All the narratives of the formerly enslaved people had been published before, but nobody had collected the pieces that were during the Civil War and organized them by area and sequence. It gives an interesting slice of experiences. There was a lot I didn't love about the book. I'm not a military buff; the book would be best for someone who is interested in the wartime strateg I think this book is valuable, as it organizes a bunch of information in a way that that it hadn't been organized before. All the narratives of the formerly enslaved people had been published before, but nobody had collected the pieces that were during the Civil War and organized them by area and sequence. It gives an interesting slice of experiences. There was a lot I didn't love about the book. I'm not a military buff; the book would be best for someone who is interested in the wartime strategy, each of the battles, each of the fronts, and the overall progression of events. The book is choppy; individual's narratives are rarely more than a paragraph, so you don't feel like you're getting to know the person, and sometimes it's hard to remember if a person has been introduced previously. The author does list all the people in the back of the book, with short notes about each, which I might have referred to while reading if I'd noticed. The book includes what seemed to me like too many people saying positive things about their "owners." Sure enough, in the Author's Note at the end, he mentions that for many of the interviews, the subject didn't know what the interviewer's angle was, and played it cautious because of possible repercussions. Much of the material came from the WPA interviews in the 1920s and 30s, and he explains that some of the interviewers were indeed Southern racists (polite ones, I assume). He also notes that for many of those interviews, the text was edited to use stereotyped dialect. There was a lot of blood and trauma, including hellish scenes all on the battlefield. Not light reading, but very informative.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Vaughan

    The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves UNABRIDGED By Andrew Ward Narrated by Richard Allen 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 19th-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 The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves UNABRIDGED By Andrew Ward Narrated by Richard Allen 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 19th-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. ©2008 Andrew Ward; (P)2008 Tantor This is such a good book that comes to me from a new direction...that of the slaves and freemen. I have relatives that fought in the war between the states. (that is the way my mother says it..."There was nothing civil about it!" she says very forcefully.) I think I am happier that I got this as an audio book as the reader has a has just the right voice for it. Maybe this is the right time for people to hear these voices. To hear the words of people we didn't hear from in school. Consider it well, my friends.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    Really cool book. The author did research and presents stories, facts, folklore and detailed battle accounts about the civil war arena with first hand accounts from former slaves. This book gives detailed accounts of how the slaves and the owners family huddled together and lived together in fear while the 'men' were off at battle. It recounts narratives from virtual witnesses to history who were present when key battle decisions were made. It delves into mans cruelty to man and leaves you prayi Really cool book. The author did research and presents stories, facts, folklore and detailed battle accounts about the civil war arena with first hand accounts from former slaves. This book gives detailed accounts of how the slaves and the owners family huddled together and lived together in fear while the 'men' were off at battle. It recounts narratives from virtual witnesses to history who were present when key battle decisions were made. It delves into mans cruelty to man and leaves you praying that nothing like this will never happen to or in our country again. It is a superb read although unless you are in graduate school there is no way you can read the entire book cover to cover in a single setting. This is a book that you have to come back to over and over again especially if you have any interest in the Civil War. I took a break from this book for a while and ventured over to short stories by Ambrose Bierce and monthly copies of the Civil War Times. The book clearly deserves a place on the shelf of any Civil War buff black or white, educator or student. There is something here for everyone to take away in pursuit of understanding the human spirit and condition.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

    Amazing. I recommend. It's fascinating to see the war from the point of view of the slave. This is just a collection of letters by slaves -- or dictacted from their words -- but I wrong the book by saying "just" a collection. It's a wonderful collection. Edited snappily. Quick read. Having slaves remember the war, and talk about how they didn't dare go out into the woods at night after a big battle because the vultures just couldn't hold everything they had eaten the day before.... Lord..... Some Amazing. I recommend. It's fascinating to see the war from the point of view of the slave. This is just a collection of letters by slaves -- or dictacted from their words -- but I wrong the book by saying "just" a collection. It's a wonderful collection. Edited snappily. Quick read. Having slaves remember the war, and talk about how they didn't dare go out into the woods at night after a big battle because the vultures just couldn't hold everything they had eaten the day before.... Lord..... Some powerful stuff here.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Demetria

    Reading the actual words of slaves about their thoughts during the Civil War is fascinating. There are a lot of enlightening, sad and sometimes even funny tidbits that make the book worth reading. Honestly, it was a little difficult to read though because the flow of the book is very jerky and erratic due to the fact that the majority of the book is derived from piecemeal interviews. It is worth the read though.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chaz

    Bottom-up history...just the way I like it...reads like a piece of music and not structured thematically. GIves one a panaroma from the people that counted the most, the enslaved. Terrible, as in inciting "terror" in some parts. Good read, perhaps necessary given today's racial tensions in the country. Bottom-up history...just the way I like it...reads like a piece of music and not structured thematically. GIves one a panaroma from the people that counted the most, the enslaved. Terrible, as in inciting "terror" in some parts. Good read, perhaps necessary given today's racial tensions in the country.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Fascinating, well-researched collection of firsthand accounts. All primary sources woven together by an excellent writer. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Fascinating, well-researched collection of firsthand accounts. All primary sources woven together by an excellent writer. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    Excellent. New insights re slavery & emancipation from the slaves' viewpoint. Also knew the author in HS. Excellent. New insights re slavery & emancipation from the slaves' viewpoint. Also knew the author in HS.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Genevieve

    This is a collection of personal narratives of people who were enslaved at the time of the Civil War. The author selected the stories and descriptions (some very short, some long) and organized them by topic, but his commentary is sparse. He seems to try to get out of the way and let the stories speak for themselves. That was the right choice I think. For me, learning about the Civil War from the perspective of dozens of African-Americans was eye-opening. Many stories were horrifying, most were This is a collection of personal narratives of people who were enslaved at the time of the Civil War. The author selected the stories and descriptions (some very short, some long) and organized them by topic, but his commentary is sparse. He seems to try to get out of the way and let the stories speak for themselves. That was the right choice I think. For me, learning about the Civil War from the perspective of dozens of African-Americans was eye-opening. Many stories were horrifying, most were interesting, some were astonishing, and a few were inspiring. Don't skip the author's note at the end, where he discusses the source material and the limitations of the interviews. In small doses, this book was fascinating. But I'm giving it 3 stars instead of 4 or 5 because the overall arc of the narrative didn't work -- at least not for me. It became tedious, and I simultaneously acknowledged that the material was interesting but wished that I had reached the end already. In fairness, I think part of the problem was that I listened to it as an audiobook (and I had a hard time with the narrator's voice). I probably would have liked it better as a print book, read little by little, perhaps by topic.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Clifford

    You really should have a good working understanding of the civil war chronology and battle flow to follow the timeline and put the comments into perspective when reading this book. It does cover the wide range of reactions from the ex-slaves and gives a good understanding of the complexity and wide variety of relationships between slaves and owners just before and during the civil war.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Toller

    I got this on audio from the local library. Really enjoyed hearing about the Civil War from the perspective of former slaves. The author did a very good job of presenting the words of the former slaves. A very interesting book and it definitely increased my knowledge of the Civil War. Highly recommend this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steven Yenzer

    As one of the few books on this subject, The Slaves' War is an important record, and Ward's scholarship is important. However, I found the presentation a little lacking; after awhile it just felt like a litany of quotes (which it was). As one of the few books on this subject, The Slaves' War is an important record, and Ward's scholarship is important. However, I found the presentation a little lacking; after awhile it just felt like a litany of quotes (which it was).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Diane Sugars

    This was an interesting book, but I did struggle reading it. It read like it was a million different short stories. It was very hard to get to know the characters because this book was written in so many snippets of the slaves stories.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Fascinating view into the Civil War on the ground. The mixture of stories is dismaying and a pale reflection of the chaos felt by those that lived through it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    John

    Fascinating book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    It was informative, but read something like a textbook.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joe Skladanowski

    It's rare for historians to tell THE PEOPLE'S history. This book does just that, and it does it superbly. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to read from a perspective I've never heard before. It's rare for historians to tell THE PEOPLE'S history. This book does just that, and it does it superbly. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to read from a perspective I've never heard before.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    A little dry at times, but overall, a fascinating look at the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction in the words of former slaves. Some interesting tidbits: There is a picture of Custer with his old friend, now his prisoner, Lt. James Barroll Washington, CSA, George Washington's great-great-grandnephew. I wonder what Washington would have said were he still alive. Lincoln set the slaves free and then got assassinated for doing it just as President William McKinley would be assassinated afte A little dry at times, but overall, a fascinating look at the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction in the words of former slaves. Some interesting tidbits: There is a picture of Custer with his old friend, now his prisoner, Lt. James Barroll Washington, CSA, George Washington's great-great-grandnephew. I wonder what Washington would have said were he still alive. Lincoln set the slaves free and then got assassinated for doing it just as President William McKinley would be assassinated after the Spanish-American War for trying to get black people "a slave pension". (p. 251) -- Belle Garland Myers Caruthers Former slaves were divided in their opinion of Abraham Lincoln. Some said Grant freed the slaves and some thought of Lincoln as "God's emissary". Slaves were freed, but then what? After the initial joy, they didn't know what to do. Most could not read or write and all of a sudden they were expected to move off their owners plantations and magically find work on their own. "Over the decades that followed the Civil War, the freedoms former slaves had gained would be constricted to the point of suffocation, until their descdendants found themselves trapped in a mutation of the Peculiar Institution: a white supremacist snare of poverty, fraud, debt, terror and disenfranchisement." -- author The one positive thing to come out of this was that long-lost fathers, mothers, children and grandchildren turned up at their past master's gates to retrieve their kin meaning families were finally reunited. During the war, one of General Lee's servants, Jim Parke, had spent much of the war digging out forts for the Yankees along the south end of Lee's plantation in Arlington. After the war, Parke was ordered to dig two graves on his master's grounds, and thus Parke had the distinction of digging the first two graves (one for blue and one for gray) in what would become Arlington National Cemetery. There was one part of the cemetery, however, that few visited or even knew about. But Parke remembered. "During the Civil War", he told a visitor before his death in 1929, "we buried the colored men in a special place near the flats. 'Contraband' they called them: Negroes that were following the armies. We put them all there together," he said, "and they there yet." -- Jim Parke You have to wonder what would have happened had Lincoln lived. How would the course of this history be different?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Full of fascinating personalities, this book. The range of experience of the former slaves and freedmen and -women whose quoted words form most of the book's text are so diverse, each having experienced the war in a different place and from a slightly different perspective, each having different responses to the events they saw or heard about, and each with different hopes for the outcome. The book's final chapter is heartbreaking - many former slaves having found life after the war almost as co Full of fascinating personalities, this book. The range of experience of the former slaves and freedmen and -women whose quoted words form most of the book's text are so diverse, each having experienced the war in a different place and from a slightly different perspective, each having different responses to the events they saw or heard about, and each with different hopes for the outcome. The book's final chapter is heartbreaking - many former slaves having found life after the war almost as constrained as before. The author's note (at the end) on how the narratives were gathered is interesting - most were full interviews conducted by WPA workers in the 30s; the the author explains how the interviews may have been skewed by the interviewers' own bias, and how Ward (the author) dealt with this & other issues as he chose excerpts to use in "re-knitting" the story into the single chronological narrative of this book. The Slaves' War" does not offer a comprehensive history of the Civil War. It offers highly individual voices, retelling their remembrances, experiences, hardships, hopes, pains, accomplishments; telling how they participated and how they were influenced by the war, along with a bit of their lives immediately after war and slavery ended. For part of the the after-story, I recommend Buried in the Bitter Waters The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Just A. Bean

    Fascinating companion to other civil war reading, but I wouldn't listen to it on its own as it really only sketches in the greater context. That is to leave room to highlight the slave voices, and it's as it should be, but I think one would feel a bit lost just reading this. The voices themselves are great. At times I thought it would have been more coherent to follow four or five people through the whole war, instead of getting different voices for each topic or period, though we do run into som Fascinating companion to other civil war reading, but I wouldn't listen to it on its own as it really only sketches in the greater context. That is to leave room to highlight the slave voices, and it's as it should be, but I think one would feel a bit lost just reading this. The voices themselves are great. At times I thought it would have been more coherent to follow four or five people through the whole war, instead of getting different voices for each topic or period, though we do run into some people multiple times. The counterpoint is that the sheer amount of characters and stories led to a wonderful diversity of opinion. That's probably the most interesting part of the book. The opinions of slaves and even freedmen seem to be held up as monolithic so much of the time, by both sides, and listening to the discussion and outright disagreement between individuals was really interesting. I appreciated the afterword about how the interviews were collected, and the methods used for choosing stories. I had no idea about the WPA recording project in the 1930s, so that was a wonderful bonus bit of history. This book really benefited by being read aloud by someone with a strong feel for regional accents and dialects. I enjoyed the same reader on Midnight to Dawn as well. He also sings bits of poems and songs, and has a lovely voice.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    This was not what I expected from the cover flap nor from an interview with the author. During the interview words such as "homefront" and "civilian" were used. However, the book spent more time discussing the troop movements with slave narrative entries included to describe the troop movements. Very little was included about the homefront or those left in slavery. The book was ok, some of the writing a little less than I'd have expected from a multi-published author. I would recommend the book This was not what I expected from the cover flap nor from an interview with the author. During the interview words such as "homefront" and "civilian" were used. However, the book spent more time discussing the troop movements with slave narrative entries included to describe the troop movements. Very little was included about the homefront or those left in slavery. The book was ok, some of the writing a little less than I'd have expected from a multi-published author. I would recommend the book for a general overview of the war and the slaves' (particularly the men who ran away or were sent to fight), lives during the time. But don't expect any great new revelation that you would not get from reading the actual narratives.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I like rounding out my history with narratives, diaries, etc..of the un-famous people who were at the scene when possible. This was a horrible time and it certainly was a painful read. What humans could do to each other and sadly still happens in some countries just makes me incredibly depressed. It was interesting to hear that some slaves actually were against being liberated. Either they didn’t have it so bad or they were totally brainwashed by their “Masters”. I agree with other reviews of th I like rounding out my history with narratives, diaries, etc..of the un-famous people who were at the scene when possible. This was a horrible time and it certainly was a painful read. What humans could do to each other and sadly still happens in some countries just makes me incredibly depressed. It was interesting to hear that some slaves actually were against being liberated. Either they didn’t have it so bad or they were totally brainwashed by their “Masters”. I agree with other reviews of this book, that there was more to these stories than was shared. Not that I have the heart to know more.

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