The Internal Enemy

The Internal Enemy

Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832

Book - 2013
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Drawn from new sources, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian presents a narrative that recreates the events that inspired hundreds of slaves to pressure British admirals into becoming liberators by using their intimate knowledge of the countryside to transform the war.
Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton & Company, [2013]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393073713
0393073718
Branch Call Number: 975.503 TAYLOR
Characteristics: xiii, 605 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

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IndyPL_JordanH May 26, 2020

Far from a moral outlier of early American history, slavery defined much of the era popularly associated with the "best" of the American character. Far from it, the era was defined by partisan fights between the southern slave system and the "free" system of the north. While many of these regional contests have traditionally been studied apart from the issue of slavery, or with slavery as only one of the issues in dispute, Taylor shows that fear of slave rebellions and foreign armies using slaves against their masters drove much of Virginia's response to the new constitutional government. Slave owners in Virginia had no faith that the federal government had the capability, let alone the will, to protect their human chattel. In times of war, such as the War of 1812, Virginians knew the enslaved peoples they used for economic gain would be used against them; despite southern characterizations to the contrary, slavery was dehumanizing and news of potential liberation spread quickly, leading many living around the Chesapeake bay to seek freedom in the form of British naval vessels. Many of these newly liberated men joined the Colonial Marines of the British Navy, a force feared in Virginia because the former slaves knew the countryside and its plantations well. This knowledge was leveraged by British commanders, resulting in enormous economic upheaval in Virginia and a southern mistrust of the federal government that would see its culmination in the Civil War, when another group of freed black men marched through the south as part of an invasion force. Essential reading.

RickUWS Dec 04, 2013

This important book is an amazing account for any student of southern or Civil War history, by a professor at the University of Virginia. I grew up steeped in "ole Virginny" lore and history and hold bachelor's and doctor's degrees from U.Va., and 90% of what Prof. Taylor recounts is new and revelatory to me. Never mind that it is wordy and over-documented and deserved better editing, it is essential reading for someone seeking to understand the South's in general and Virginia's in particular mindset leaving the War of 1812 and leading to the pre-war period. I came away at least understanding where they were coming from in their adamant defense of slavery.

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