The Confederate Emancipation is an awful book. I suggest you read the attached Book review.
Charles Kelly Barrow
Cmdr, Army of Tennessee
"Focus on the Future Through Honoring the Past"
Book review you requested
Here it is unedited. It was published in the CV but I am not sure when. It has been a while since I reviewed, several years. MOC supports the book, actually I should say John Coski. Need I say more?
Book Review for Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War by Bruce Levine
Non-fiction, notes, bibliography, index, 252 pp., 2005. Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314, $29.95 plus shipping.
Major General Patrick R. Cleburne died on the battlefield at Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864 but not before causing several high-ranking individuals in the Confederate States of America to reconsider the country’s stance about the emancipation of slaves. Cleburne’s opinions expressed on that January night in 1864 were shocking to many. A seasoned war veteran who was superior on the battlefield, Cleburne saw the shortage of men that was critical to continue the South’s effort to preserve the Confederacy.
Patrick R. Cleburne was a native to County Cork Ireland and had served in the British Army during the potato famine in Ireland. After procuring his discharge from the British army, he set sail to America, hoping to find the “American Dream.” Eventually he settled in Helena, Arkansas where he studied and then practiced law. At the outbreak of the war, Cleburne joined and ultimately commanded the 15th Arkansas Infantry. By the time of his proposition, he had shown that he and his men were bold on the battlefield with their actions at Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge and Ringgold Gap. Ultimately Cleburne knew that by proposing this, his military career would end. Yet he planned to bring his proposal before the proper authorities “irrespective of any result to himself.” Capt. Irving Buck, Cleburne’s adjutant, discussed the proposal with Cleburne at length. In the dialogue, it was stated that in the event of a court martial, Cleburne would enlist in his old regiment as a private to serve the ranks. This Irish born General did not consider this proposal as a tool for his personal gain, nor did he bother himself with the potential negative outcome.
Major General Cleburne felt it was his duty to his adopted homeland, the South, to make this proposal before the proper persons. On January 2, 1864, Cleburne read his proposal, which was laid out like a practiced argument of an experienced lawyer, to General Johnston’s corps and division commanders. There were mixed emotions in the room afterwards. Maj. Gen. Walker went so far as to consider Cleburne’s idea as treason but he was unable to get the support of any senior officers for this accusation. Due to this, Walker forwarded a written copy of the proposal to President Jefferson Davis on January 12, 1864 without any accompanying endorsements. Upon receipt of the proposal, President Davis sent several letters to different individuals pertaining to this topic. Ultimately Davis places an official gag order on Cleburne. Johnston reports to Secretary Seddon, “
Despite the efforts to keep this within the small group of people, Cleburne’s proposal was made known to several prominent political leaders from various Confederate States, like Governor Henry Allen of Louisiana, Governor William Smith of Virginia and Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin. This debate would ultimately cause much discussion until the Confederate Congress would pass a law on March 13, 1865 to allow the enlistment of slaves to fight for the Confederacy, five months after the death of Cleburne on the battlefield in Franklin, Tennessee.
Many speculate why Major General Patrick R. Cleburne would make this proposal. Was it because he saw what an asset the free men of color already were in the Confederate Army? Or was it because he saw the need for the Confederate Government to recognize the slaves already in the Confederate Army working in many different facets? With the Confederate Act of April of 1862, blacks were given equal pay. The Confederate Army was integrated from the on-set of the war. This was not the case for the Union army. With the need of men to fill the ranks in the dwindling Confederate Army, Cleburne may have considered these facts before penning his proposal.
Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War by Bruce Levine explores this issue; however from a slanted viewpoint. The main thesis of this book as stated by the publisher in a synopsis is, “Since 1865, the Confederacy’s defenders have consistently denied that the goal of secession was to preserve slavery. Instead, they insist that the Confederacy was formed to assert southern independence, and they have pointed to the story of the ‘Confederate emancipation proclamation’ to help bolster their argument. Now Bruce Levine, Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shatters this theory with his new book Confederate Emancipation: Southern plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War.” This paragraph is left out of the front jacket of the book while the remainder of the summary is included.
Levine states that the Confederacy is trying to preserve slavery, but what he fails to inform the reader is that slavery is already preserved under the US Constitution. He also omits that Confederate Constitution forbids the importation of slaves. On every occasion, this author tries to persuade the reader that the War Between the States was fought only over slavery by using partial quotes from prominent individuals of the Southern Cause. By piecing together a few fragment phrases and not including the entire statement, he is able to manipulate many of the quotes.
The author omits numerous reputable sources pertaining to the topics, such as Mauriel Joslyn’s Meteor Shinning Brightly: Essays of Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, Walter Kennedy’s Myth of American Slavery, John Perry’s Myths & Realities of American Slavery: The True History of Slavery in America. In many cases Levine uses references that have been proven to be riddled with error or have a revisionist historical points of view. Some sources show the authors ineptness to research, but then he mars the interpretation.
Bruce Levine tries to observe history through the eyes of today instead of the eyes of yesterday. His study of the Southern emancipation proposal by Major General Cleburne and then finally the Confederate Act of March of 1865, which allowed slaves to officially fight for the Confederate states of America, is lacking in many areas. He ignores the fact that slaves and free men of color were already a part of the Confederate Army even if the Confederate Congress did not officially recognize them until March of 1865. It is like a politician today trying to state there are no illegal aliens in the United States and that the laws being proposed are for the ones that might potentially come over the boarder in the future.
The main thesis of this book is to show the Southern Cause in a negative light and to “shatter the theory” that states rights and economical issues are the cases of the war. The author does an exceptional job in this by influencing the reader with his style of writing. We can only hope that Mr. Levine is unsuccessful in sales of his book.
In conclusion, Major General Cleburne stated the following in his proposal, “Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too lat. We can give but a faint idea when we say that it means the loss of all we hold most sacred – slaves and all other personal property, lands, homesteads, liberty, justice, safety, pride, manhood. It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors…”
Written by Cassie A. Barrow