Andrew Ward The Slave War Analysis

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Of late Civil War historians have succeeded in balancing the attention they give to battle front and home front: it has become common fare not only to examine the relationship between civilians at home and the rank and file on the battlefield. In so doing groups previously marginalized or excluded from the battlefield and political salons now enjoy a more prominent place in accounts of the Civil War. Andrew Ward 's The Slaves’ War: The Civil War in the Words of the Slaves is a natural development in the ongoing effort to present the broadest picture of the nation 's major and most defining military conflict.

Ward’s goal is not merely to retell the familiar story of the war; instead, he attempts to shift both our vantage point and our …show more content…

Everywhere the war was discussed, fought, analyzed, re-analyzed, cheered and damned, the enslaved were there or thereabout. As Ward makes clear, like the institution that imprisoned them, the enslaved were an integral part of life in the South, an inextricable component of all the southern institutions—public and private. Intimately linked to the soldiers, sailors, and politicians of all ranks, the enslaved were a constant presence, witnessing much of everything that was said or read aloud. And, once fed into the infamous “slave grapevine,” the black community learned about the discussions taking place in the “Big House,” in the corridors of power, and around military campfires. Never the mere objects about which two mighty, white armies fought, seen through the eyes of the bondmen and women, the Civil War becomes in some ways a different war. The moral basis on which we have come to interpret the conflict becomes decidedly more complex and morally …show more content…

Ward goes out even further on a limb in deciding to exclude the troublesome but pervasive “N” word. Wishing to shed “more light than heat” he writes that in expunging the word he removes “one more layer of fog, one more level of static, through which to learn about slavery and the war” (305). Ward justifies this troublesome intrusion on the grounds on the same grounds he uses for cleaning up the dialect of slave testimonies. There is much to admire in a work that seeks to put front and center the slaves’ perspective, voice, ideology, and ultimately, analysis, of what is still the major war and defining era in American history--the Civil War. The Slaves ' War is a fine book that broadens and deepens the historical canvass of the war. It will serve as a useful accompaniment to more traditional accounts of the American Civil War history.

Larry E. Hudson, Jr. is a professor of history at the University of Rochester. He is the author of "To Have and to Hold": Slave Work and Family Life in Antebellum South Carolina (1997), and edited Working Toward Freedom: Slave Society and Domestic Economy in the American South (1994). His current project examines the industrial activities of black Southerners during the Civil

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