The Black Experience in the Civil War South
by Stephen V. Ash
March 2010, 127pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98524-0
$64, £48, 56€, A87
eBook Available: 978-0-313-04204-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Large numbers of slaves worked for the Confederate war effort as wagon drivers, munitions factory workers, and officers’ body servants. But contrary to popular wisdom, the number that actually bore arms for the Confederacy was negligible. Truths such as this make for fascinating reading as they reveal the reality of being a Southern black during this pivotal era.

The first book of its kind to appear in a generation, this comprehensive study details the experiences of the black men, women, and children who lived in the South during the traumatic time of secession and civil war.

The Black Experience in the Civil War South is the first comprehensive study of the Southern black wartime experience to appear in a generation. Incorporating the most recent scholarship, this thematically organized book does justice to the richness of its subject, looking at the lives of blacks in the Confederate states and the nonseceding Southern states; at blacks on farms and plantations and in towns and cities; at blacks employed in industry and the military; and at black men, women, and children.

Drawing on memoirs, autobiographies, and other original source materials, the author details the experiences of blacks who took up residence in Union “contraband camps” and on free-labor plantations and those who enlisted in the Union army. He introduces individuals who escaped from slavery, as well as the small minority of Southern blacks who were free when the war began. Most significantly, this revealing study deals not only with those who gained freedom during the war, but those whose freedom came only after the conflict’s end.


  • A helpful introduction provides background on Southern blacks before the war and on how slavery was maintained
  • Photographs of black Southerners in the Civil War years illustrate the various aspects of their wartime experience
  • A bibliographical essay discusses other studies of the black Civil War experience for readers who want to explore the subject further
Stephen V. Ash is professor of history at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN. His published works include When the Yankees Came: Conflict and Chaos in the Occupied South, 1861-1865; A Year in the South: Four Lives in 1865; and Firebrand of Liberty: The Story of Two Black Regiments That Changed the Course of the Civil War.


"... this is an ideal primer for a college-level US history survey. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate collections."—Choice, January 1, 2011

"Encompassing erudition deserving of a wide audience of scholars and students, The Black Experience in the Civil War South is a fine continuance of the scholarly trend of slavery studies focused on slaves, not masters. African American emancipation destablized the Confederacy and wreaked the greatest change on the peculiar institution since the invention of the cotton gin."—Journal of American History, December 1, 2010

"Ash succeeds both in summarizing major developments and in offering the 'fresh look' promised by the series."—The Journal of Southern History, November 1, 2011

"Stephen V. Ash has produced a concise, lively account of the experiences of African Americans in the slave states during the Civil War. Covering topics ranging from war work to emancipation, he shows how the great political and military events so well known to most Americans reached down into the lives of a common people who craved freedom above all else. Once again, Ash, one of our finest Civil War historians, proves that he is a master story teller as well as a conscientious researcher. He has given scholars, students and buffs an excellent starting point for understanding this essential aspect of our nation’s great drama."—Paul A. Cimbala, Professor, Department of History, Fordham University
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