Embattled Freedom: Journeys Through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps

Amy Murrell Taylor. Univ. of North Carolina, $34.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4696-4362-5
American popular culture often depicts enslaved African-Americans during the Civil War as either remaining loyally on plantations or running away to join the Union Army, but, in this excellent work, Taylor illuminates a very different experience had by hundreds of thousands of people. Aware that “if freedom was going to come during the Civil War, it was not going to come directly to them,” many slaves made their way to Union lines and often to slave refugee camps. Taylor focuses on the experiences of a few refugees: Edward and Emma Whitehurst, who established a small store in the ruins of Hampton, Va.; Eliza Bogan, who struggled to survive in a camp in Helena, Ark., awaiting her soldier husband’s return and the rescue of her enslaved children; and the preacher Gabriel Burdett, who could in a Kentucky camp “worship openly and freely in a way he never could while enslaved.” Gracefully written and exhaustively researched, Taylor’s book offers the reader a vivid and convincing narrative of these slave refugee camps as “an elemental part of the story of slavery’s destruction in the United States,” one that deserves a broad readership among not only Civil War enthusiasts but anyone interested in the history of race and slavery in the United States. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/29/2018
Release date: 11/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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