Wednesday, March 8, 2017

New Acquisitions to My Library

The interstate slave trade has received a high level of attention from scholars over the last ten to fifteen years. A Troublesome Commerce: The Transformation of the Interstate Slave Trade, by Robert H. Gudmestad (LSU Press, 2003), is a study that I had previously somehow overlooked. Attempting to understand the effect that the commodification of human beings had to all of those involved in the institution of slavery is an important step in comprehending the South's slave society as a whole.

The removal of Native Americans from what became the Old Southwest and the "Cotton Kingdom" had dire repercussions not only on the exiled Indians, but also for those that repopulated that lands. Creek Paths and Federal Road: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South, by Angela Pulley Hudson  (UNC Press, 2010), shows the influence that Native American and federal post routes of travel had on the development of the region that would grow to become one of the wealthiest with the rise of cotton.

We often forget that there were serious attempts to avert conflict between the North and South before Fort Sumter. The Peace that Almost Was: The Forgotten Story of the 1861 Washington Peace Conference and the Final Attempt to Avert the Civil War, by Mark Tooley (Nelson Books, 2015), takes an in-depth look at the platforms and the players in this drama with so much at stake.

Placing a monetary value on a human being is something so foreign to us in the twenty-first century that we naturally recoil in disgust at the thought. However, the institution of slavery was built and sustained on that very concept. Enslaved people were valued on their looks, health, skills, age, gender, and a host of other traits. The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation, by Daina Ramey Berry (Beacon Press, 2017), examines valuing the full life cycle of black bodies to even beyond their deaths with a look at the trade in African American cadavers for medical training schools. 

William Blair's Virginia's Private War: Feeding the Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 1861-1865 (Oxford University Press, 1998), is another of the seemingly endless list of books that I find from time to time and wonder how I've not come across previously. Scholars who focus on state and local studies are providing us with greater insights into how the Civil War was experienced differently in different places and how the various people of those places responded to the demands placed upon them by a the war.

What did the "Rebel Yell" sound like? Sure, we have recordings of aged veterans giving their best impression at reunions years after the war, but what did that vocal expression really sound like in the fury of combat and coming from thousands of young throats and with deadly intentions in mind? Maybe even more important is, what significance have Southerners placed on the rebel yell since the firing stopped in 1865? How has the rebel yell continued to live on and been appropriated by later generations? Hopefully reading The Rebel Yell: A Cultural History, by Craig A. Warren (University of Alabama Press, 2014) will provide answers to many of these questions that I have, and make me think about others.

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