In May 1866, just a year after the Civil War ended, Memphis erupted in a three-day spasm of racial violence that saw whites rampage through the city's black neighborhoods. By the time the fires consuming black churches and schools were put out, forty-six freed slaves had been murdered. Congress, furious at this and other evidence of white resistance in the conquered South, launched what is now called Radical Reconstruction, policies to ensure the freedom of the region's four million blacks-and one of the most remarkable experiments in American history.
Stephen V. Ash's A Massacre in Memphis is a portrait of a Southern city that opens an entirely new view onto the Civil War, slavery, and its aftermath. A momentous national event, the riot is also remarkable for being "one of the best-documented episodes of the American nineteenth century." Yet Ash is the first to mine the sources available to full effect. Bringing postwar Memphis, Tennessee to vivid life, he takes us among newly arrived Yankees, former Rebels, boisterous Irish immigrants, and striving freed people, and shows how Americans of the period worked, prayed, expressed their politics, and imagined the future. And how they died: Ash's harrowing and profoundly moving present-tense narration of the riot has the immediacy of the best journalism.
Told with nuance, grace, and a quiet moral passion, A Massacre in Memphis is Civil War-era history like no other.
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.
East Tennessee newspaper editor and Methodist preacher William G. "Parson" Brownlow, a man of fervent principles and combative temperament, gained fame during the secession crisis as a staunch, outspoken southern unionist. Unlike most southern unionists, however, Brownlow refused to renounce his loyalty to the Union after the Civil War broke out. He continued to write editorial tirades against the Confederacy until forcibly silenced by southern authorities. Arrested, jailed, and ultimately banished to the North, Brownlow continued his war of words against the Confederacy through speaking tours and through the publication in 1862 of Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession; with a Narrative of Personal Adventures Among the Rebels -- a best-selling but ill-organized hodgepodge of his editorials, speeches, letters, and commentary. Secessionists and Other Scoundrels, a collection of selected excerpts from Brownlow's original, offers an accessible and powerful explication of the parson's unionism and a moving narrative of his travails under Confederate rule, without sacrificing the vitriolic prose and scathing wit for which he was celebrated -- and denounced.
In these pages the inimitable parson is at his best. By turns sarcastic, angry, high-minded, informative, compassionate, and droll, he forthrightly proclaims his convictions and excoriates his foes. Every sentence exemplifies the motto that adorned the masthead of his newspaper, the Knoxville Whig: "Cry aloud and spare not." In an informative introduction, editor Stephen V. Ash places the excerpts in context by sketching Brownlow's career, summarizing his historical significance, and discussing the history of the book itself. Civil War scholars and enthusiasts will welcome Secessionists and Other Scoundrels as an exciting and entertaining opportunity to be reintroduced to one of the era's most colorful and controversial characters.