The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861
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The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861

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It is one of the great questions of American history-why did the Southern states bolt from the Union and help precipitate the Civil War? Now, acclaimed historian William W. Freehling offers a new answer, in the final volume of his monumental history The Road to Disunion. Here is history in the grand manner, a powerful narrative peopled with dozens of memorable portraits, telling this important story with skill and relish. Freehling highlights all the key moments on the road to war, including the violence in Bleeding Kansas, Preston Brooks's beating of Charles Sumner in the Senate chambers, the Dred Scott Decision, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, and much more. As Freehling shows, the election of Abraham Lincoln sparked a political crisis, but at first most Southerners took a cautious approach, willing to wait and see what Lincoln would do-especially, whether he would take any antagonistic measures against the South. But at this moment, the extreme fringe in the South took charge, first in South Carolina and Mississippi, but then throughout the lower South, sounding the drum roll for secession. Indeed, The Road to Disunion is the first book to fully document how this decided minority of Southern hotspurs took hold of the secessionist issue and, aided by a series of fortuitous events, drove the South out of the Union. Freehling provides compelling profiles of the leaders of this movement-many of them members of the South Carolina elite. Throughout the narrative, he evokes a world of fascinating characters and places as he captures the drama of one of America's most important-and least understood-stories. The long-awaited sequel to the award-winning Secessionists at Bay, which was hailed as "the most important history of the Old South ever published," this volume concludes a major contribution to our understanding of the Civil War. A compelling, vivid portrait of the final years of the antebellum South, The Road to Disunion will stand as an important history of its subject.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 624 pages
  • 157.5 x 238.8 x 50.8mm | 997.91g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 54-46 halftones, 8 maps
  • 0195058151
  • 9780195058154
  • 1,445,228

About William W. Freehling

William W. Freehling is one of the most distinguished American historians of the Civil War era. He is Singletary Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at the University of Kentucky and Senior Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He is the author of Prelude to Civil War, which won a Bancroft Prize, The Road to Disunion, Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, and The South vs. the South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War.show more

Review quote

A hard-nosed and dramatic account of how the nation split in 1861. * David Waldstreicher, The Boston Globe * By untangling the knotted relationship between the despotism of African American enslavement and the egalitarianism of white democracy, William Freehling brilliantly illuminates the politics that drove the white South and the nation to Civil War. * Ira Berlin, University of Maryland * William Freehling brings to a climax his story of southerners alienation from the Union with an epic volume. He interweaves trenchant analysis of the large forces at play with a narrative that honors the human, the dramatic, and the contingent. His South is plural and divided, its course towards revolution shaped by the clash between democratic processes and the despotism of slavery, and by the urgings of an aggressive separatist minority. Deeply researched and absorbingly written, Secessionists Triumphant is the work of an outstanding historian at the height of his powers. * Richard Carwardine, author of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power * Secessionists Triumphant is outstanding, history at its best, illuminating one of the most crucial moments in our national experience, and at the same time showing how sane men and women who thought they had their own best interests at heart, could willingly indeed for some gleefully race to their destruction. * William C. Davis, History Book Club * In richer detail than any previous study, William Freehling explains how a secessionist minority, even in the lower South before 1860, exploited sectional tensions to forge a majority for disunion. Fearful that slavery might erode and eventually crumble, they went on the offensive to force wavering moderates into the secessionist fold and then to provoke a showdown at Fort Sumter. Freehling makes clear that it was indeed a war of Southern aggression. * James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom * William Freehling's long-awaited second volume of The Road to Disunion is a brilliant and indispensable reinterpretation of the causes of the Civil War. With much original insight, Freehling skillfully fuses impersonal economic and political forces with the crucial contingencies that help to explain what can still be seen as the central event in American history. * David Brion Davis, author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World * A masterful, dramatic, breathtakingly detailed narrative. * The Baltimore Sun * This sure-to-be-lasting work-studded with pen portraits and consistently astute in its appraisal of the subtle cultural and geographic variations in the region-adds crucial layers to scholarship on the origins of America's bloodiest conflict. * The Atlantic Monthly * Freehling follows up his highly praised Secessionists at Bay, 1776- 1854 in this exhaustive, scholarly look at the collisions between the lofty American goals of freedom and democracy and the strong desire of Southern slave owners and their supporters to subvert those ideals by defending whites enslavement of blacks. ..A good deal of the book focuses on differences of opinion on secession throughout the South, and includes a sharp analysis of the generally underappreciated role of the pro-slavery, pro-secessionist "fire-eaters," such as William Lowndes Yancey and Preston Smith Brooks Like its predecessor, this volume is an important work that will appeal mainly to scholars and students of the Civil War. * Publishers Weekly * Splendid, painstaking account...and so a work of history reaches into the past to illuminate the present. It is light we need, and we owe Freehling a debt for shedding it. * Washington Post * The adjective 'magisterial' has been badly overused and devalued of late, but if it properly describes anyone's work, it certainly does Freehling's. The completion of this project is a genuinely monumental achievement. * Bruce Levine, Civil War Book Review *show more

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