Why this book?
This epic study traces the destruction of slavery throughout the United States during the Civil War. James Oakes argues, provocatively, that the Civil War did not “become” a war against slavery, as most scholars maintain. Instead, Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans were committed to a war against slavery right from the start. Oakes roots Union emancipation policy in the prewar struggles over slavery, as that institution became an all-consuming issue in national politics. Once hostilities commenced, and as enslaved persons responded by seeking shelter behind Union military lines, Republicans were ready to put their emancipationist views into practice. I may not necessarily agree with Oakes’s argument, but his book is a monumental achievement and essential reading on the topic.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
Freedom National is a groundbreaking history of emancipation that joins the political initiatives of Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress with the courageous actions of Union soldiers and runaway slaves in the South. It shatters the widespread conviction that the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually, when it became a military necessity, a war to end slavery. These two aims-"Liberty and Union, one and inseparable"-were intertwined in Republican policy from the very start of the war.
By summer 1861 the federal government invoked military authority to begin freeing slaves, immediately and…