America's longest siege Charleston, slavery, and the slow march toward Civil War

Joseph Kelly, 1962-

Book - 2013

An account of the two hundred-year practice of slavery in Charleston examines its hotly contested debates and early slave rebellions through the Nullification crisis and the secession that sparked the Civil War.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 975.703/Kelly Checked In
New York, NY : The Overlook Press 2013.
Physical Description
384 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 359-375) and index.
Main Author
Joseph Kelly, 1962- (author)
  • The Stono Rebellion
  • The good slave trader
  • We the petty tyrants
  • We the aristocrats
  • The Denmark Vesey Rebellion
  • The first secession
  • The police state
  • The lost generation
  • War.
Review by Choice Review

Kelly (literature, College of Charleston) narrates three sieges that South Carolinians generally, and Charlestonians in particular, experienced during the Civil War era. First, he examines the self-imposed grip that slavery held over whites. The colony and young state's slave majority population reaped great economic profits for rice, indigo, and Sea Island cotton planters. But as whites' brutal responses to the 1739 Stono slave revolt and Denmark Vesey's 1822 slave conspiracy suggested, they lived in constant fear of bloody slave uprisings. Their evolving siege mentality over the need to maintain white supremacy took political form in white South Carolinians' championing of states' rights ideology, first in the form of nullification in the 1830s, then in full-blown secession in the 1850s. Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 pushed South Carolinians over the edge to disunion. From 1863 to 1865, the Union army laid siege to Charleston, South Carolina's crown jewel, and "the storm center of secession." Following the longest siege in modern military history, Charleston finally succumbed to Union forces on February 18, 1865. The third siege, according to Kelly, continues today as South Carolina demagogues resist federal law, seeking to nullify minority voting rights and health care reform. Summing Up: Recommended. For general readers and undergraduate collections. J. D. Smith University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Charleston, S.C., attempts to come to grips with the institution of slavery until the Union swoops in to solve the debate for it. Kelly, a professor of literature at the College of Charleston, examines the great ideological dispute that underpinned the Civil War by focusing on one town's long-running internal conflict regarding its moral distaste for and economic addiction to slave labor (Charleston was a major port for incoming slaves). Playing the Union's two-year siege of the city's harbor against what the author deems to be a far more disastrous siege-that of slavery on freedom-Kelly skillfully traces the development of the town's views on slavery while simultaneously relating attempts to break down or bulwark the institution. During the Great Awakening, preachers condemned slavery as morally reprehensible; others promoted it as a paternal form of mastery over supposedly appreciative, childlike slaves. Andrew Jackson ranked his slaves between his children and his horses. During the Civil War, Charleston finally-and futilely-banked on the " ‰positive good' theory of slavery" and its Christianizing effects. This localized history successfully avoids the pitfalls of regionalism, and is a valuable and lucid addition to the Civil War literature. 16 pages of illus. Agent: Molly Lyons, Joelle Delbourgo Associates. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Kelly (literature, Coll. of Charleston; Our Joyce) brings a literary sensibility to this vivid and engrossing study of slavery in and around one of its trading hubs, Charleston, SC, site of the first and longest Civil War siege and a hotbed of political, economic, religious, and moral debates about importing, owning, and trading slaves. The author explores the popular ideological arguments for and against slavery in the only American city (and state) in which black slaves outnumbered whites. Digging deeply into documentary evidence such as journals, letters, and printed public speeches to illuminate what both abolitionists and slave owners thought about using human capital to build wealth and maintain a power imbalance, Kelly frames the issue of slavery as a cultural battle within the South rather than of the South versus the North. Politically powerful pro-slavery "fire-eaters" such as John C. Calhoun and James Hammond claimed to use logic and reason in perpetuating the slave trade while painting abolitionists as dangerous idealists who failed to see that slavery was a "necessary evil" or even a "positive good." VERDICT Well written and finely detailed, Kelly's debut historical work is an important contribution to Southern antebellum history and is highly recommended to scholarly readers.--Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A tenacious chronicle of the pernicious construction of South Carolina's slave-driven political orthodoxy. Kelly (Literature/Coll. of Charleston) thoroughly demonstrates how the "slaveocracy" of the state repeatedly swept away any elements of good conscience, from Charleston's founding in 1670 through Reconstruction, in favor of "unchecked greed" and the status quo. When rice became the colony's first cash crop, the use of slaves to do the "backbreaking, miserable, dangerous" labor of clearing the swamps that the white indentured servants would not do provided the first rationale for the importation of Africans. The wealth was held by a few very rich families on vast plantations, creating an entrenched, incestuous oligarchy. While the other American colonies were rallying around the idea that "all men were created equal," the handful of powerful Lowcountry dynasties was anxious to get back to the work of making a profit after the Revolution, resuming the suspended slave trade thanks to cotton production while institutionalizing the notion of "paternalism" to render their slave-owning more palatable. The Denmark Vesey Rebellion of 1822 "burned all liberal sentiment" from the hearts of South Carolina whites, Kelly eloquently writes, making room for arguments for "perpetual slavery" as a necessary evil (and even, as a civilizing force on Africans, a "positive good"), encouraging politicians like Charleston Mayor James Hamilton Jr. to expel free blacks and instigate police-state measures. As vice president under President Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun cast his deciding vote against the tariff of 1828, thus spearheading the nullification movement, which would strengthen the sense of states' rights and justification for secession. Kelly delineates the ideological straitening for a "lost generation" headed for war. An elucidating study by a Charleston historian who sees the shadow of nullification still looming.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.