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Escape from slavery in the antebellum South evokes images of secretive flight on the Underground Railroad or bizarre efforts like that of Box Brown, who hid in a small shipping crate sent north. Taylor, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, teaches at the University of California, Davis. In this revealing and engrossing study, he illustrates that a great factor in the liberation of thousands of slaves was the policy and intervention of the British government and military. Taylor concentrates on the six decades between the American Revolution and the slave revolt of Nat Turner, and he focuses on the Chesapeake region of Virginia. The area is dotted with numerous rivers flowing to the bay, and here hundreds of slaves paddled out to British warships, especially during the War of 1812. British naval officers, through a combination of military practicality and, in some cases, antislavery sentiments, encouraged and facilitated their flight. This, of course, served to reinforce the slaveholders to view their slaves as internal enemies. This is a well-written and scrupulously researched examination of an important aspect of the struggle against American slavery.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist
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In this well-written and engaging history, Pulitzer and Bancroft Prize winner Taylor (history, Univ. of California, Davis) zeros in on slavery in Virginia, particularly during the War of 1812, in the process revealing both the glaring hypocrisy of the Founders' views on slavery and the lengths to which they went to ensure control of the enslaved population. In engaging prose, Taylor presents the dynamic, cogent argument that for Southerners, their chattel represented a dangerous "fifth column" that, given the opportunity, would carry their "networks and nocturnal expertise" to invaders "enhancing their capacity to wage war in the Chesapeake." During the War of 1812, an alarming number of the "internal enemy" flocked to British camps, allowing the British to conduct raids deep into the Southern countryside. Verdict This is an accessible narrative of great scholarship that, similar to Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles, takes a new and distinct look at a topic of persistent attention. Writing with an understanding of his subject that is stunning to behold, Taylor again shows why he is the dean of early American history. A great work for early American history buffs and anyone interested in the evolution of slavery in America.-Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Taylor's acclaimed The Civil War of 1812 (CH, Apr'11, 48-4685) depicted the war along the US-Canadian border as a conflict between immigrant groups, with Native Americans in the middle. His new work presents the southern sector as equally politicized and riddled with internal conflicts, but more significantly as an explosive segment in the long struggle between Chesapeake slaves and their owners. In the mid-1800s, England stationed ships along Virginia's shoreline, and slaves knew that the British Navy might provide refuge. After war erupted, British officers found the escapees useful partners: most were young men who led troops through the swamps at night back to their plantations to free relatives. Taylor (Univ. of California-Davis) emphasizes that the English decision in late 1813 to recruit freedmen as soldiers as well as guides made their 1814 campaign far more effective, culminating in the burning of Washington, DC, and the siege of Baltimore. In the end, thousands of freedmen found freedom in Canada or the Indies, and Virginians continued to fear the slaves who remained. Taylor adds the War of 1812 to the American Revolution in the long effort of slaves to escape the "land of the free." Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. D. R. Mandell Truman State University