Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pg. 69: Stephen Budiansky's "The Bloody Shirt"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Stephen Budiansky's The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox.

About the book, from the publisher:
An intimate and gripping look at terrorist violence during the Reconstruction era

Between 1867, when the defeated South was forced to establish new state governments that fully represented both black and white citizens, and 1877, when the last of these governments was overthrown, more than three thousand African Americans and their white allies were killed by terrorist violence. That violence was spread by roving vigilantes connected only by ideology, and by the hateful invective printed in widely read newspapers and pamphlets. Amid all the chaos, however, some men and women struggled to establish a “New South” in which former slaves would have new rights and a new prosperity would be shared by all. In his vivid, fast-paced narrative of the era now known as Reconstruction, Stephen Budiansky illuminates the lives of five remarkable men — two Union officers, a Confederate general, a Northern entrepreneur, and a former slave — whose idealism in the face of overwhelming hatred would not be matched for nearly a century. The Bloody Shirt is a story of violence, racism, division, and heroism that sheds new light on a crucial time in America’s history.
Among the early acclaim for The Bloody Shirt:
"[An] impassioned account of Southern resistance to Reconstruction.…If 'Profiles in Courage' had not already been taken, it would have made the perfect title for this linked set of portraits honoring five men who risked everything to fight for the principles that had cost so many lives.... Drawing heavily on the letters and dispatches of his main figures, as well as newspaper excerpts directly inserted into the text in a manner that recalls the documentaries of Ken Burns, [Budiansky] plunges the reader into the chaos of Reconstruction and the terrifying guerrilla war waged by embittered Southerners desperate to assert white supremacy."
--William Grimes, New York Times

"Journalist and military historian Budiansky (Her Majesty's Spymaster) pulls no punches in this hard-hitting examination of the most sordid aspects of Reconstruction in the South from 1865 to 1876. The “brutal war of terrorist violence” that he surveys certainly has not escaped the history books. But this worthy effort goes a long way toward highlighting the most venal aspects of how, in the 10 years after the Civil War, the white Southern power structure managed to erect the Jim Crow laws that for nearly a century legalized many aspects of racial discrimination. Budiansky also highlights “men and women of courage, idealism, rectitude, and vision” who confronted the establishment: Pennsylvania-born U.S. Army major Lewis Merrill, who fought the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina; Prince Rivers, a former slave and Union army Colored Troop sergeant who became a state legislator and trial judge in South Carolina; and Maine-born Adelbert Ames, a Union general who served as Mississippi's provisional military governor. Budiansky brings the unpleasant details of the era alive in a smoothly written narrative."
--Publishers Weekly

"Writing in a crisp, engaging style, Budiansky presents his readers with a sequence of episodes from the careers of his protagonists, creating an impressionistic portrait of the life and death of the fledgling civilian governments. The result reads like a finely crafted novel.…The times have never been more propitious for a book that endeavors to explain…how it was that the United States 'could win such a terrible war and lose the ensuing peace.'"
--Joseph Pierro, Civil War Times
Learn more about The Bloody Shirt and its author at Stephen Budiansky's website.

Budiansky has written about military and intelligence history, science, and the natural world. His twelve books include include Her Majesty’s Spymaster, Battle of Wits, Air Power, The Nature of Horses, and The Truth About Dogs.

Read about Budiansky's list of the five best books about the post-Civil War period.

The Page 69 Test: The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox.

--Marshal Zeringue