America’s Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March Toward Civil War

Joseph Kelly. Overlook/Duckworth, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59020-719-2
Charleston, S.C., attempts to come to grips with the institution of slavery until the Union swoops in to solve the debate for it. Kelly, a professor of literature at the College of Charleston, examines the great ideological dispute that underpinned the Civil War by focusing on one town’s long-running internal conflict regarding its moral distaste for and economic addiction to slave labor (Charleston was a major port for incoming slaves). Playing the Union’s two-year siege of the city’s harbor against what the author deems to be a far more disastrous siege—that of slavery on freedom—Kelly skillfully traces the development of the town’s views on slavery while simultaneously relating attempts to break down or bulwark the institution. During the Great Awakening, preachers condemned slavery as morally reprehensible; others promoted it as a paternal form of mastery over supposedly appreciative, childlike slaves. Andrew Jackson ranked his slaves between his children and his horses. During the Civil War, Charleston finally—and futilely—banked on the “ ‘positive good’ theory of slavery” and its Christianizing effects. This localized history successfully avoids the pitfalls of regionalism, and is a valuable and lucid addition to the Civil War literature. 16 pages of illus. Agent: Molly Lyons, Joelle Delbourgo Associates. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/27/2013
Release date: 06/27/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4683-1025-2
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-4683-0892-1
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